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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 26 June 2009

Business, Innovation and Skills

Learning and Skills Council (FE Capital Programme)

The Minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs (Kevin Brennan): The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is announcing today a shortlist of 13 further education building projects which are proceeding to the next stage of development. The 13 projects announced today have been prioritised from over 180 projects submitted to the LSC as part of the latest round of the FE capital programme.

The LSC has been working in close consultation with the sector to use transparent and objective criteria to inject funds where they will have greatest impact for learners, employers and communities, to get building work started quickly, and to get best value for the taxpayer.

The LSC examined all projects which are ready to proceed quickly and then applied the following criteria: the education and skills impact; contribution to local economic and regeneration priorities; co-dependency (for example, where there is significant leverage of third party funding or another important project that is dependent on the college project); the current condition of the estate; and value for money.

The 13 colleges will now be asked by the LSC to make cost reductions to their initial project plans, to maximise borrowing within prudent limits, and to examine other possible sources of funds, while at the same time maintaining the planned project benefit for future learners and enabling construction to proceed rapidly. The aim of the LSC is to deliver best value for money for the taxpayer and to fund the maximum possible number of projects.

The 13 colleges are:

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Discussions between these colleges and the Learning and Skills Council will take place as a matter of urgency. All 13 colleges will receive funding only if the overall cost is reduced. The reductions required are significant but manageable.

For colleges which have not been selected to proceed this year, the next steps start this autumn when the Learning and Skills Council will further consult with the sector to agree a robust, fair and transparent process for prioritising the capital investment programme for the next spending review period starting in 2011-12. The size and scope of the programme will depend on the outcome of the next spending review.

Many colleges have incurred development costs for projects which will not now be going ahead in the short term. The Learning and Skills Council has a contingency fund to mitigate the impact of potential aborted costs on the financial health of colleges. This will be limited to those appropriately incurred within the terms of the capital programme.

The investment announced today will have a significant beneficial impact on the colleges, their learners and on local communities.

Budget 2009 announced an additional £300 million of capital investment in further education as part of a fiscal stimulus package which has enabled a number of projects to be funded this year. This Government have an excellent record on investment in FE capital and since 2001, 700 projects—at nearly 330 colleges across England—have been funded.

Mistakes were made by the Learning and Skills Council in carrying out the FE capital programme. In April of this year, Sir Andrew Foster completed an independent report on how this whole situation arose. He concluded that “a good policy has been compromised by the manner of its implementation”. There is now new leadership to the organisation and measures in place to ensure that there will be no repeat of those mistakes as the programme moves forward.

The Government remain committed to the FE capital investment programme, and this will continue into the next spending review. The Learning and Skills Council will in the meantime help colleges whose projects are not proceeding in the short term to draw up a revised estates strategy and to examine other possible sources of finance such as collective approaches to private financing and borrowing.


Double Taxation Agreement (United Kingdom and Qatar)

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A Double Taxation Agreement with the State of Qatar was signed on 25 June 2009. The text of the agreement 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.

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Energy and Climate Change

Road to Copenhagen

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): I am today publishing the “Road to Copenhagen” (Cm 7659), setting out the Government’s priorities for the forthcoming international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

The Copenhagen summit is a critical moment in the fight against dangerous climate change. Climate change is a global problem, with direct consequences for the future prosperity and security of the United Kingdom. It can only be addressed through a comprehensive global agreement between all countries represented at the Copenhagen conference.

To show ambition matching the science, an agreement must aim to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees celsius, the point beyond which the risks of dangerous climate change become greater. It must be effective, driving low carbon investment and with monitoring of outcomes to ensure commitments made are kept to, and it must be fair, particularly in helping the poorest countries adapt to the consequences of climate change.

To achieve these goals, the Government’s priorities for the Copenhagen agreement are:

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With our EU partners, the Government will be working intensively over the next six months to press for a global agreement which reflects these priorities, including through the negotiations under the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC); full participation in the major economies forum convened by the United States Government; the G8; and the G20.

Copies of the “Road to Copenhagen” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

State Visit: President of the Republic of India

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I am pleased to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has invited the President of the Republic of India, Her Excellency Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, to pay a state visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday 27 October to Thursday 29 October 2009. The visit will further the close relations that exist between the United Kingdom and the Republic of India.

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