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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Business, Innovation and Skills

Companies House

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Ian Lucas): I have set Companies House the following targets for the year 2010-11:





UK Space Agency

The Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (Mr. David Lammy): My noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, has today made the following statement:

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Debt Relief Orders

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Ian Lucas): We are today launching a consultation about personal insolvency. Specifically, we are asking whether we should amend the eligibility criteria relating to debt relief orders (DROs) in order to allow access to those people who are currently excluded because they have pension rights based on a small current pension valuation that they cannot draw down for some years.

DROs were introduced in April 2009 following research that identified that there were people in long-term debt difficulties who had nothing to offer their creditors and who could not afford to make themselves bankrupt. Delivered in partnership with the professional debt advice sector, DROs provide low-cost easy access to debt relief for those overwhelmed by relatively low levels of unmanageable debt. They are designed to provide a fresh start for the most vulnerable people trapped in debt.

There are strict eligibility criteria of assets less than £300, debts of no more than £15,000 and surplus income of less than £50 per month. But because a pension is treated as an asset, some people who would otherwise qualify find themselves unable to apply for a DRO
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because they have pension rights based on a pension that has a low current valuation. This consultation examines a number of options designed to make the system fairer for these people. In particular, we propose asking whether a pension should not count towards the value of assets provided that the current valuation is no more than either £1,000 or £5,000 or £10,000; and/or where the individual cannot draw down the pension for at least five years or 10 years. We also intend to ask whether there should be an additional requirement that the pension scheme must be one that is approved by HMRC.

I am placing copies of the consultation paper in the Libraries of both Houses.

We intend to actively engage with stakeholders throughout the consultation and welcome views on whether the proposals will deliver a workable solution that provides greater access to vulnerable debtors. The consultation will close on 23 June 2010.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009

The Minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs (Kevin Brennan): My noble Friend the Minister for Postal Affairs and Employment Relations, Lord Young of Norwood Green, has today made the following statement:



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 16 March 2010. The following items were on the agenda:

Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) Directive

The presidency deferred agreement on the AIFM Directive to a later Council meeting at the UK's request. The Government have made clear that the presidency's text is not acceptable in its current form, and believe that postponing agreement will provide an opportunity for further work on the draft directive to ensure proportionate regulation that operates effectively and properly strengthens the system, while realising the benefits of the EU single market. The directive broadly aims to establish a secure and harmonised EU framework for monitoring and supervising the risks that alternative investment fund managers pose to their investors, counterparties, other financial markets and financial stability more generally; and permit them, subject to compliance with certain requirements, to provide services and market their funds across the internal market.

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VAT Invoicing Directive

ECOFIN agreed a general approach on proposals put forward by the Commission on the VAT Invoicing Directive. The UK supports the proposals, which aim to simplify and modernise electronic VAT invoicing, further harmonise general invoicing rules and reduce the burden on businesses. The directive will be adopted once the European Parliament has given its opinion.

Stability and Growth Pact: follow-up on Greece

The Council held an exchange of views on the basis of a Commission report that follows up the Council decision of 16 February 2010, giving notice to Greece to take measures for the deficit reduction judged necessary in order to remedy the situation of excessive deficit. Measures taken by the Greek authorities have been a combination of fiscal measures and structural reforms and include the announcements from the Greek authorities on 3 March of a further €4.8 billion in austerity measures. ECOFIN concluded that Greece is appropriately implementing the Council decision and stability programme, and that announced measures appear sufficient to safeguard 2010 budgetary targets provided that they are implemented effectively, fully and in a timely manner.

Preparation for the European Council

a) Europe 2020

ECOFIN agreed Council conclusions following the publication of the Commission communication on Europe 2020-a European strategy for smart sustainable and inclusive growth. The UK believes that the strategy should be focused on delivering strong, sustainable and balanced growth. After 25 and 26 March spring European Council, further work will be carried out by ECOFIN and other sectoral councils before returning to European Council for final agreement in June.

b) Exit strategies

The Council adopted two sets of Council conclusions, one on exit strategies in the financial sector, and one on the phasing out of temporary measures in labour and product markets. These will feed into further discussions at European Council.

c) Climate change finance

ECOFIN adopted Council conclusions on the economic and financial aspects of climate change. The UK believes it will be important to maintain the EU's ambition post-Copenhagen, especially on the financial commitments made, and also hopes that the EU will issue support for work by the high level advisory group on climate finance, which will meet for the first time in London later this month, co-chaired by the Prime Minister.

Budget guidelines for 2011

The Council adopted a statement on its priorities and budgetary policy, which will serve as a reference throughout the budgetary process to come. The UK is content with the guidelines, which reflect the need for budgetary discipline in a time of fiscal constraint.

Children, Schools and Families

Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults

The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Dawn Primarolo): I am today publishing two consultation documents as part of reviews of elements of the vetting
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and barring scheme as recommended by Sir Roger Singleton, the Government's chief adviser on the safety of children, in his recent report "Drawing the Line".

The first seeks views on a review of the statutory requirements, and the Government's advice, for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosures for safeguarding purposes on those who work with vulnerable groups, when they are already registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

The second seeks views on a review of whether there is a continuing need for the separate class of work with different requirements, defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 as "controlled activity".

I am also today publishing for consultation a revised version of the guidance "Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education". This is the key safeguarding guidance for schools, and has been revised largely to take account of the implementation of the vetting and barring scheme under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Changes are also included in response to "Keeping our School Safe", Sir Roger Singleton's review of safeguarding arrangements in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools in England. The consultation also seeks views from the education sector on whether CRB checks should be required or recommended where an individual is registered with the ISA.

These consultations are available to download from: www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations. Views are sought by 15 June 2010.

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