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I have also today published a paper setting out the Government's response to the May 2009 consultation "Further consultation on termination provisions in the
Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended)". The response paper sets out the reasons for the Government's decisions not to transfer the "fact finding" role of county courts to residential property tribunals in respect of termination cases involving a breach of an agreement, or a claim that the resident of the park home is no longer occupying it as his only or main residence, but to do so in respect of claims relating to the detrimental condition of the home to the amenity of the site. A copy of the response paper has been placed in the Library of the House and is available on the Communities and Local Government website at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/ terminationprovisionsresponse
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. John Denham): On 28 October I committed to reporting on the future development of Local Spending Reports. That report is being published today on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/localpublicexpenditure. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.
Our aim is to deliver better public services which also offer increased value for money. In order to do that, we need to ensure that information about how public money is spent is clear, accessible and useful. This will make it easier for service providers, potential providers, and citizens themselves to look at how that money is being spent, identify evidence of duplication or waste, develop alternative solutions and hold service providers to account. More fundamentally, ensuring that citizens have the information they need about public organisations is essential to empower communities, make sure their voice is heard, and that they have control over the services they receive.
Local Spending Reports are an important part of the way in which we will increase the transparency, visibility and accountability of local public spending. They help ensure that local authorities, their partners, and citizens have easy access to the information they need about public spending in their area, all in one place. The first Local Spending Report was published in April 2009, when we committed to developing these reports further.
The report we are publishing today sets out how we plan to make Local Spending Reports more useful and informative, by increasing the range of information they cover; and more practical and accessible, by ensuring that Local Spending Reports can be viewed by anyone on the web in a broader context of quality, performance, efficiency and value for money. They will form part of the Local Data Exchange which Communities and Local Government is developing as a way for local authorities to better share information among each other and with their partners and citizens. It also sets out how we will ensure that Local Spending Reports offer value for money and are not overly costly or burdensome for local authorities and their partners.
Local Spending Reports are just one element of our ambitions to make sure that citizens are better informed about the services in their area and how they are performing. Since the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 became law, there have been other important developments which will complement and strengthen how they work-
first, the Government's wider work to make public data available to common standards on the internet, led by Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt; secondly, our proposals to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to scrutinise local public spending; and thirdly, the development of Total Place, where local authorities bring together all the partners responsible for public spending in an area, challenging how that money is being spent. Most recently, "Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government" set out a plan to drive up standards by strengthening the role of citizens and civic society, to free up public services by recasting the relationship between the centre and the frontline, and to streamline the centre of Government, saving money for sharper delivery. Local Spending Reports are one step towards these broader goals.
The next Local Spending Report will contain more up-to-date data, across a wider range of sources. In the new year, I will publish a consultation paper to discuss the issues with organisations who will be affected by the arrangements. We also want to make sure that the next Local Spending Report easily links across to the sources of the original data wherever possible, so that those interested in the detail of the report can quickly find out more. This will make Local Spending Reports more "alive": easier to use and more valuable to the user. My intention is to publish the next Local Spending Report (after the consultation) in the summer 2010.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): On 24 April 2009, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) launched a 12-week public consultation on the Government's proposed policy to promote high standards of conduct in the Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) industry internationally.
Our overarching aims are to (a) promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally; and (b) reduce the risk that PMSC activities might give rise to human rights or international humanitarian law concerns, assist internal repression, or provoke or prolong internal or regional tensions.
Our preferred option involves promoting high standards of behaviour by the industry in the UK through a code of conduct, agreed with and monitored by the Government, using our leverage as a key buyer to raise standards, together with an international agreement on standards covering all aspects of PMSC operation and organisation worldwide.
We received 25 responses to the consultation. The FCO is today publishing on its website a summary of responses to the consultation, including a Government response to the contributions. We will be able to integrate many of the suggestions into our follow-up work.
The following key findings emerged: (a) there was no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the Government's preferred option of promoting high standards of conduct internationally was not the best way of meeting achieving
our aims and (b) the appropriateness and capacity of a trade association to combine the compliance auditing and monitoring of a code of conduct with trade promotion activities would require careful consideration.
The Government remain convinced that their preferred approach is the most viable option, but accept that further work remains to be done in certain respects. Specifically, we will now take forward work in consultation with the industry, non-governmental organisations and others to determine detailed arrangements for the effective monitoring/auditing of compliance with a code of conduct. We will aim to publish our thinking on the way ahead, taking into account this work and the key findings of the consultation, by March 2010.
The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): The NHS Operating Framework for 2010-11 was published today. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
The NHS Operating Framework for 2010-11 describes a stable financial settlement to operate within and makes clear what the NHS needs to do to deliver the priorities agreed as part of the comprehensive spending review 2007, and be in the best possible position to move into the new Spending Review period beyond 2011.
improving standards of cleanliness and tackling healthcare associated infections;
improving access to care through the achievement of the 18-week referral to treatment pledge and improving access to GP services, including at evenings and at weekends;
improving the health of adults and children and reducing health inequalities, by focusing on improving care for cancer and stroke, and paying particular attention to children's health, and maternity and neonatal services;
improving patient and staff experience, satisfaction and engagement;
and preparing to respond in a state of emergency, such as an outbreak of pandemic influenza.
In addition to the national priorities, primary care trusts (PCTs) need to continue to improve at understanding the particular needs of their local populations and take concrete steps to address them. In order to meet their own local needs, PCTs will need to work in step with local government through local area agreements that focus on improving health and well-being.
The NHS must meet the needs of its patients and their families, the expectations of the public and the aspirations of its staff. At all times, the NHS must be safe, effective, personalised and fair. The more responsive and personalised the NHS gets, the better the care it will provide and the more confidence the health service will inspire.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I am pleased to announce that the stabilisation unit has now recruited over 1,000 high quality individuals with the right skills and experience to deploy and help rebuild countries emerging from conflict. They come from both the public and private sectors, including 200 civil servants. This delivers the commitment made by the Prime Minister last year in his launch of the national security strategy.
The stabilisation unit currently deploys 70 civilians and 35 police officers either in hostile environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and DRC, or on secondment to international peace-building missions such as Kosovo and Georgia. These trained and experienced individuals are making a valuable contribution to improving security, governance and promoting peace in countries affected by violent conflict. This has been most evident in Helmand province in Afghanistan where the unit's ability to find high quality personnel willing to work in the forward operating bases has been a major factor in the success of the UK-led provincial reconstruction team in expanding the reach of the Government of Afghanistan to the majority of the population.
The creation of the 1,000 strong civilian stabilisation capacity will enable the unit to increase the number of civilians deployed at any one time up to 200 if required. The unit is also working with UK police forces in increasing the number of serving senior ranking police officers who are able to deploy.
This enhancement of the stabilisation unit's capability is one of a number of ways in which DFID, FCO and MOD are strengthening the unit. It is also increasing its ability to support cross-Government planning and identify and disseminate lessons relating to conflict.
The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Recently, it has faced additional challenges, including a chronic humanitarian situation and the impact of the global economic downturn.
Despite these additional challenges, the Government of Ethiopia continue to make impressive progress in expanding the availability and quality of health, education, water, sanitation and agriculture services across Ethiopia, with support from international donors. Progress in these areas is building the foundations for faster growth
and greater food security. The UK helps support this progress through the protection of basic services (PBS) programme, alongside complementary activities.
provide an extra 150,000 trained teachers
get 2.8 million more children in school
train 6,000 new health workers
equip 1,280 health centres with emergency obstetric care
vaccinate 4 million babies against killer diseases
make sure that 400,000 more children survive to the age of five; and
provide access to water for 6 million more households.
We are aware of allegations that some aid provided through the Ethiopian authorities-including through PBS-is being distorted at the local level for political purposes. We take all allegations of this nature very seriously. PBS was deliberately designed to include a range of rigorous checks, including regular financial and impact audits, surveys of the intended beneficiaries to check our support is reaching them, field visits, and evaluations to monitor progress.
In addition to these in-built safeguards in PBS, we have raised our concerns with Prime Minister Meles and are taking additional steps to make sure that our aid is being used for its intended purpose. These steps include jointly commissioning work to look for any evidence of systemic or widespread distortion within PBS and the other programmes concerned.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The Government have today decided not to opt in to the European Commission's proposed regulation on succession and wills. This means the UK will not be bound by this regulation.
Hundreds of thousands of UK citizens live and work in other EU member states, and millions of others enjoy holidays in the EU. The diversity of rules and systems that apply to succession in different member states can make for considerable complications where a person owns property across borders. In principle therefore, efforts to simplify and clarify the rules that apply to international successions could produce huge benefits for UK citizens, and the Government are strongly supportive of the project in principle. However, there are potentially significant problems identified with the proposal that the EU Commission has published. These were set out in a public consultation document, copies of which are available in the Libraries of both Houses.
That consultation document highlighted two key problems. The first, and most difficult of those, was "clawback", which describes a legal mechanism where gifts made during a person's lifetime can be recouped after their death. The introduction of this concept into the UK could create major practical difficulties, particularly for the recipients of such gifts including charities.
The second key concern was the proposal's reliance on "habitual residence" as the sole connecting factor, that is, the factor of a person's circumstances which determines when the regulation's other rules apply. Using "habitual residence" in isolation in this way could mean that the relatives of anyone who lived abroad for a relatively short period of time and then died there, would find their estate was subject to a law with which they had no real connection. That could lead to unforeseen and unfair outcomes.
The Ministry of Justice's recent public consultation confirmed that these issues are widely considered to be of very significant concern. A report of that consultation will be published in due course.
The Government have concluded that the potential benefits of this proposal are outweighed by the risks and have therefore decided that the best course of action is not to opt in to the proposal and the UK will therefore not be bound by the outcome.
The Government intend, however, to engage fully with the forthcoming negotiations between member states on this proposal, with the aim of removing the points that currently cause concern and to deliver further improvements for citizens with links and assets in more than one country. If that can be achieved, the Government could then decide to seek to adopt the final regulation. That will be considered and consulted upon as appropriate at that time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): My noble friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement.
Following a consultation process, the Government intend to introduce a number of reforms that aim to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2.1 billion currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most.
The reforms are outlined in the Government's response to the consultation paper "Legal Aid: Funding Reforms", which the Ministry of Justice will be publishing later today. The reforms are intended to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget and include changes that rationalise payment structures.
The reforms will:
Contain the cost of legal aid representation at police stations by reducing police station fees in the most expensive and oversubscribed areas.
Reform the current fee arrangements that remunerate litigators for preparation for committal hearings. Litigators will be paid a fixed fee for committals, which will be paid as part of the litigators graduated fee scheme.
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