ECOFIN will discuss proposed amendments to the Savings Tax Directive to tackle cross-border tax evasion on savings income, by automatic exchange of information. This and the following items have strong links to the international transparency agenda, including work by the G20 on tax havens and non-co-operative jurisdictions under the UK's G20 presidency in 2009.
The Recovery Directive is aimed at improving existing procedures for recovery of direct and indirect tax debts, including on income tax, VAT, excise duties and EU agricultural levies. The Government support the extended provisions, which will reduce the opportunities for businesses and individuals to escape paying tax that is legally due in one member state, by moving to another member state.
ECOFIN will seek a general approach on this directive, which will improve exchange of information and bring the EU into line with OECD standards by removing the right to refuse information on grounds of bank secrecy. The Government support these goals.
ECOFIN will discuss the draft anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein, and a negotiating mandate for anti-fraud agreements with Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland and San Marino. The proposed agreements provide for exchange of information to international standards in administrative and criminal matters in the tax field and related areas.
ECOFIN will agree a set of conclusions on a report by the Commission's statistics agency into the quality of official statistics in Greece. This follows a request from the November 2009 ECOFIN for the Commission to examine the issues regarding the Greek Government deficit and debt statistics. The Government support the taking of prompt action to rectify the situation in Greece.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ian Pearson): The Treasury has today published a revised draft of the Code for Fiscal Stability, updated to reflect the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister for Housing (John Healey): During the passage of the Planning Act in November 2008, the Government committed to carry out a review to establish the nature and extent of development on garden land. We said that if the evidence confirmed a problem we would look at how best to remedy the situation, provided that any changes should not have the effect of undermining our policy objectives on housing.
I am today publishing the independent research and review carried out by Kingston University, and I can also announce changes I am making today to strengthen national policy advice, making it clearer that the powers to take the decisions on whether to grant applications for development on gardens rest firmly in the hands of local authorities.
The research finds that problems with inappropriate building on back gardens is not a widespread, national or growing problem, and that local authorities can deal successfully with unwanted applications for garden development through the development of specific local policies. The report also finds that the planning inspectorate supports around four out of five of the decisions made by local authorities on such land-especially where local policies are in place.
Based on the conclusions of this independent report, I believe a blanket ban on back garden development-which no local authority advocated-would be wrong, as these are precisely the types of decisions that are best taken locally within an effective planning system that is responsive to the specifics of an area.
However, I do recognise that more needs to be done to reinforce the current policy position and encourage local authorities to take seriously the concerns of communities if development on gardens is a particular concern. So I am today announcing that the Government are strengthening Planning Policy Statement 3 to make clear it that there is no presumption that land that is previously developed is suitable for development, or that all of the curtilage should be developed.
This is an important development, as it reinforces the PPS3 message that local authorities are best placed to consider whether different types of land are suitable for housing. PPS3 retains a focus on brownfield land, where this is suitable for housing.
Local authorities need to be able to defend decisions on any planning application, whether for garden land or otherwise, based on established strong local policies. The report finds that a very small number of the authorities reviewed as part of the work had local policies on back garden development. I have therefore asked the Government's chief planner to write to every local
authority in England today to remind them about the issues they should take into account when considering the use of garden land for development and whether or not this is a local problem for their area.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Quentin Davies): On the 18 December 2009 the Ministry of Defence signed the next programmed critical phase to its incremental contract to deliver the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) Programme which is placed with its delivery partner, the Atlas Consortium. The contract amendment to include DII Increment 3a is worth around £540 million and the cost of ownership of the whole DII programme remains unchanged at £7.1 billion.
DII Increment 3a will provide a further 42,000 computer terminals operating in the restricted and secret domains at the remaining MOD permanent sites, replacing outdated legacy IT systems with improved capability to meet the current and future threats to the UK and its allies. Increment 3a will provide enhanced capability to around 60,000 personnel, notably within the RAF, at Joint Helicopter Command and at other defence locations.
DII is the largest defence IT programme of its type in the world and is already delivering operational benefits to the UK's front-line troops and to the wider Department. Once delivered in full, DII will provide a single, secure and coherent IT infrastructure across the whole of defence, providing support to some 300,000 users, using around 140,000 computer terminals. Through delivery, DII will ensure essential IT operational capability is maintained and enhanced to meet the challenges defence must be prepared for. The overall DII contract currently runs to 2015.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I will today place copies of the consultation document setting out the Government's proposed strategy for Inland Waterways of England and Wales-"Waterways for Everyone" in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy of the consultation document and details of how to respond to the consultation can be found on DEFRA's website at:
"Waterways for Everyone" sets out the Governments proposals for an updated strategy for the inland waterways of England and Wales. This builds on the Government's
2000 strategy "Waterways for Tomorrow" and sets out our approach to further enhance the public benefits provided by our inland waterways through widening the involvement of stakeholders and potential beneficiaries in the management and development of the waterways.
"Waterways for Everyone" also demonstrates the valuable contribution that the inland waterways can make to a wide range of public policy objectives. These include place making and shaping, climate change mitigation and sustainable transport, health, well-being, recreation and sport, tourism and business development and developing fairer, stronger and more active communities.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): Safeguarding vulnerable adults who are at risk of harm sits at the heart of Government. Those who need safeguarding help are often elderly and frail, living on their own in the community, or without much family support in care homes; they are often people with physical or learning disabilities, and people with mental health needs at risk of suffering harm both in institutions and in the community. It is to these and to many others that Government have a duty of safeguarding.
Safeguarding encompasses three key concepts: protection, justice and empowerment. Government have an important role in the protection of members of the public from harm-before harm has happened and after it has happened. This includes ensuring that services and support are delivered in ways that are high quality and safe. Government have an important role in facilitating justice where vulnerable adults become the victims of crime; and finally, Government have a role in the empowerment of people at risk: to empower them to recognise, avoid and stop harm; to empower them to make decisions based on informed choices, to balance taking risks with quality of life decisions; and to empower people if they have been harmed, to heal and to live with self-confidence and self determination.
"No Secrets: Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse" was Government guidance on safeguarding, issued in 2000. In 2008-09 a national consultation exercise was held, in which some 12,000 people took part. Many sent us detailed responses; others wrote us very personal letters about their own experiences. Safeguarding partnerships met and discussed many of the 100 questions we posed; they debated and analysed and explored the issues with commitment, with passion and with dedication. Rarely have so many different professionals-social workers, police officers, nurses, housing officers, lawyers and voluntary sector workers-all responded to the same consultation. We are grateful to all who responded and we have listened carefully to the views expressed. A summary of responses was published on 17 July 2009. This written ministerial statement sets out the Government's programme of actions in response to the consultation.
There were a number of key messages from the consultation. These included that stronger national leadership was needed, that local arrangements should
be placed on a statutory basis; and that revision and updating is needed to the "No Secrets" guidance. Our plans respond to all these points.
Around 3,000 people participated in the consultation as members of the public, as users of social care and health care, including some who had suffered abuse in some form. Of the wide-ranging views expressed, first and foremost was that the voice of vulnerable people needed to be heard much more than it currently is. Vulnerable people wanted to be heard in safeguarding policy and practice and in situations where they were victims of harm. We will reflect these views very carefully in developing our response.
First, the Government will establish an Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults. This group will include Ministers from the Department of Health, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, the Attorney-General's Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Inter-Departmental Ministerial group will demonstrate Government commitment to the issue of safeguarding vulnerable adults; provide national leadership; co-ordinate Government policy and set the framework for effective local arrangements. We plan to have the first meeting in March. The IDMG will have three roles. It will:
i) determine policy and work priorities for the forthcoming year;
ii) provide a strategic and co-ordination role; and
iii) provide public and parliamentary advocacy for this policy area.
Local Safeguarding Adults Boards bring together the key agencies that have a part to play in safeguarding-particularly social services, the national health service and the police, but also other organisations. They are one of the main drivers in effective safeguarding arrangements founded on effective partnership and joint working. An effective board provides clear leadership and helps individual organisations develop complementary safeguarding and empowerment strategies.
Safeguarding Adults Boards exist in many parts of the country, but they are not mandatory and their effectiveness is variable. A key message from the consultation was that local leadership and scrutiny of safeguarding needs to be improved and strengthened. The Government will therefore introduce legislation to put Safeguarding Adults Boards on a statutory footing, to ensure that effective leadership and co-ordination in this important area is assured for all vulnerable people wherever they live.
We will produce in the autumn, new, comprehensive, multi-agency guidance to set out clearly the roles and responsibilities for all those involved in safeguarding vulnerable adults. This will be built on and bring together targeted guidance and support materials, which will be developed in the coming months, including:
a guide to the law on safeguarding, to help professionals understand and effectively use the range of legal powers that can prevent and deal with harm-including the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Fraud Act, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
targeted guidance and toolkits for specific professionals, including general practitioners, nurses, housing staff and police officers; and
the Association of Chief Police Officers has set up a working group under the umbrella of the economic crime portfolio to lead a programme of work to improve our response to financial crime against vulnerable adults. Work is currently underway to complete an intelligence assessment with additional work to follow to further aid those involved at the frontline.
Finally, I wish to thank those on the advisory group and those in the local safeguarding partnerships who have helped us in this review of safeguarding. We will continue to draw on the expertise and views of relevant organisations and stakeholders, through a newly convened advisory board, as we develop the full programme of work to see through the plan of action announced today.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): The Home Office has today published the Government's response to the consultation on the new code of practice for alcohol retailers. The consultation ran from May to August 2009 and invited responses from the public, the licensed trade, enforcement agencies and health bodies. More than 7,000 responses were received from across a range of respondents and independently analysed.
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