The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A new protocol to the Double Taxation Convention with Belgium was signed on 24 June 2009. The text of the protocol has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Shahid Malik): I should like to inform the House that, in the light of our review of national procurement in the fire and rescue service (FRS) in England, we propose to make a number of changes affecting Firebuy Ltd, the professional buying organisation for the service.
Firebuy Ltd was established as a non-departmental public body on 30 March 2006 to deliver the 2005-08 national procurement strategy for the FRS. Within the current arrangements, Firebuy has been effective in establishing national fire-specific procurement for vehicles and equipment and has delivered benefits for the service.
There is a continuing need to drive procurement efficiency at a national level in the FRS, particularly in the light of targets for collaborative procurement set by the Governments operational efficiency programme and we believe that a national procurement body represents the best way to deliver fire-specific collaborative procurement. This will be reflected in the revised national procurement strategy, which we intend to publish in July, taking account of responses to the consultation last year and the recommendations of the operational efficiency programme.
However, going forward there is a need to consider the future role and structure of the body delivering FRS national procurement, particularly given that the Department must also make longer term provision for managing ongoing FiReControl and Firelink contracts. We propose, therefore, that Firebuys functions should in future be carried out within a larger organisation, integrating national procurement with the management of the service contracts for the Fire And Resilience programme (Firelink, FiReControl and New Dimension). Firebuy already performs this function in respect of New Dimension. More detailed proposals for in-service management of the Fire and Resilience programme will be set out in a consultation paper, which we will publish shortly.
I am grateful to the current chair and board of Firebuy for the work they have done and for agreeing to have had their terms of office extended to November 2009 while the review was under way. A new board for the NDPB will be required from that date to reflect the new role of the organisation. Recruitment of the board will commence in the summer of 2009, including representation from the key stakeholders.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): I am writing to update the House about the recent Energy Council in Luxembourg on 12 June. The UK was represented by Andy Lebrecht, the UKs Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.
As expected, the Council discussed and agreed the Commissions proposal for a revision of the Council Directive on Oil Stocking (Council Document 15910/08). The directive will align the EU to International Energy Agency regulations, and increase the EUs resilience to disruptions in oil supply.
This was followed by a report from the presidency on progress on the three energy efficiency directives currently being negotiated by the Council and Parliament. These are related specifically to Labelling (Council Document 15906/08), Tyres (Council Document 15920/08), and Buildings (Council Document 15929/08).
Finally, the Commission and presidency presented information on a number of developments in EU external energy relations, including those with Russia, Ukraine, the Energy Community Treaty, OPEC, and the G8.
Over lunch, Ministers had the first opportunity to discuss the potential location of the agency for the co-operation of energy regulators which will be established by the third package of legislation on the EUs internal energy market. Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia have all put themselves forwards as candidates. As all received roughly equal support from member states, further discussions will now take place.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): An ambitious international agreement to tackle climate change will affect everyone in the UK, and is vital for our future security and prosperity. I am today publishing a pamphletthe Road to Copenhagenaimed at raising public awareness of the international negotiations which culminate later this year at Copenhagen, and the key issues being debated. In addition, the pamphlet provides practical advice for people on the actions they can take in their own lives to reduce their own carbon footprint and make a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions. I will be making arrangements for the pamphlet to be widely disseminated. Tomorrow I will be publishing a detailed document explaining the UKs aims for the Copenhagen negotiations.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The Prime Minister has approved the appointment of Will Day as the new chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). This part-time appointment will take effect on 27 July when Jonathan Porritt steps down after nine years as chair.
Will Day has a strong background in international development. He is the former chief executive of Care International and has spent a significant amount of his career based in Africa. In the UK he has held many roles, including: chairman of BBC Children in Need, external adviser to the BBC Corporate Social Responsibility Board and non-executive director of South Kent NHS Hospitals Trust.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I have set the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the following performance targets for 2009-10.
To provide high standard of services to the satisfaction of customers. Measured through weighted average of customer response to post-contract survey that covers seven aspects of service quality. Incorporates project delivery metrics.
To enhance scientific capability and reputation, using indicators grouped around research, wider dissemination and use of our science, and scientific capability. Measures include customer surveys, numbers of peer reviewed scientific papers and investment in new science.
To demonstrate financial sustainability through sound operational financial management and appropriate investment in CEFAS future, including the delivery of CEFAS transformation plan. Measured through achieving an audited break-even result in 2009-10.
To deliver £0.5 million of effectiveness gains, generated through a combination of non-DEFRA income growth, improvements in project effectiveness and reduced overhead costs.
To demonstrate a healthy and safe working environment, together with progress towards being an exemplar for sustainable development, through a range of indicators.
To respect and help the agencys people to develop. Measured by an annual questionnaire to staff, using a weighted scale for the eight survey categories.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I have today placed in the House Library copies of an update report detailing the progress the Government have made in implementing the recommendations contained in Sir Michael Pitts report on the 2007 summer floods. A copy of the report is also on the DEFRA web site at: www.defra.gov.uk/environ/fcd/floods07.htm
Significant progress has been made. We have published a draft Flood and Water Management Bill for consultation, and will develop firm legislative proposals in the light of comments from Parliament and consultees. However, in advance of the Bill becoming law, we have taken immediate action to help communities at risk of flooding. Since the summer 2007 floods we have for example:
Increased Government funding from £600 million in 2007-8 to a forecast of £780 million for 2010-11, with an additional £20 million brought forward into this years budgets to allow an early start to projects that will benefit 27,000 homes when complete.
Completed 85 flood defence schemes, protecting nearly 58,000 additional homes in England. Operating authorities are currently on course to exceed delivery targets and provide better protection to 160,000 homes over the three years to March 2011.
Signed up 136,000 additional people to receive flood warnings in England and Wales.
Set up a £7.7 million flood forecasting centre, jointly run by the Environment Agency and Met Office, which is already providing important services to local authorities and emergency responders, helping them to be better prepared for potential flooding.
Announced a £5 million grant scheme for householders for property-level flood protection like air bricks and door boards. I am announcing today the results of the first round of this scheme which will provide greater flood protection to nearly 600 households in England.
Announced funding for 27 places for local authority participants in the existing Environment Agency foundation degree programmes and other local flood risk management training. This will help ensure that local communities have the expertise they need to help them protect themselves from flooding.
Provided the first allocations to six local authorities from the £15 million funding allocated to help the highest priority areas manage surface water flood risk. Progress on implementing the first tranche as well as next steps on the remaining funds will be announced later this summer.
Announced £1 million funding for three projects to demonstrate how land management change and working with natural processes can help protect against flooding.
Published a long-term investment strategy, the Environment Agencys assessment of the costs and benefits of investment over the next 25 years given the latest projections of climate change. I am keen to encourage a public debate on how future funding needs are best met.
Published a new policy statement on appraisal of flood and coastal erosion risk management, to ensure better value for money in the investment decisions made.
The Government have today announced that around 99 per cent. of those displaced by the summer 2007 floods are now back in their homes. We sympathise with those who for whatever reason have not yet been able to return and are committed to ensuring the remaining families get back into their homes as soon as possible.
The Pitt progress report explains how we will complete implementation of Sir Michaels recommendations, with target dates. The risk of flooding remains and last weeks publication of the UKCP09 climate projections underlines how it will increase in the future as a result of
climate change. The Government remain determined to make this country better able to anticipate and deal with the impacts of flooding. I will continue to keep the House informed of progress through future progress reports, the next of which will be due around the turn of the year.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Fitzpatrick): The 2008-09 annual report and accounts for the Central Science Laboratory was laid before Parliament today.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): I am pleased to announce that the 2008-09 annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament today. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power introduced to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit criminal cash.
The report gives the appointed persons opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act.
From 1 April 2008 to the end of March 2009 over £106 million in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under powers in the Act. The seizures are subject to further investigation, and the cash is subject to further judicially approved detention, before forfeiture in the magistrates court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): In conjunction with the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will today publish the summary of responses form the Youth Crime Action Plan consultation.
We received 86 responses, which are summarised in the document, with an outline of the initial Government response to the issues raised. In due course we will report progress on delivering the commitments in the YCAP, and next steps.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): Today I have deposited copies of the Freedom of Information Act 2000Fourth Annual Report on the operation of the Freedom of Information Act in Central Government 2008 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and are available on the internet at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/freedomof informationquarterly.htm
Today I have also deposited copies of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Statistics on implementation in Central Government: QlJanuary - March 2009 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
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