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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 29 March 2010

Business, Innovation and Skills

Intellectual Property Office (Performance Targets 2010-11)

The Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (Mr. David Lammy): I have tasked the Intellectual Property Office with managing and shaping an intellectual property system which encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of rights holders and the public, provides support to businesses on managing and exploiting their intellectual property, and stimulates economic growth.

I have set the Intellectual Property Office the following targets for 2010-11:

Post Office

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr. Pat McFadden): The Post Office is one of this country's oldest institutions, but the Government believe it still has a vital role to play in today's society, and in the future.

In December 2009, the Government published a consultation on Post Office banking, setting out its vision for banking at the Post Office based around four
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values: universal; accessible; trusted and sustainable. The scale of the response showed a clear desire for the Post Office to do more.

The Government response to the consultation, which is being published today, sets out the expanded role we want the Post Office to play:

The document also sets out new measures on mortgages, access to business banking, and a Post Office current account which would be available in all of its 11,500 branches. These new products will add to the wide range of banking products and services already on offer at the Post Office-credit cards, insurance, loans, foreign currency, and savings.

The measures the Government are taking mark a step change in banking at the Post Office. They also demonstrate the Government's ongoing commitment to the Post Office network. A commitment the Government are backing up with £180 million of new Government funding for the network for 2011-12, beyond the £1.7 billion that is already being invested from 2007 to 2011.

Copies of the Government's response to the consultation will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The consultation document will also be accessible online on the Department's website.

Cabinet Office

Civil Service (Management Functions) Act 1992 (Delegations/Authorisations)

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith): During 2009, delegations were made to the Department for Energy and Climate Change and to the head of the home civil service.

Delegations/authorisations are made subject to the condition that recipients comply with the provisions of the "Civil Service Management Code" as amended from time to time. Copies of the "Civil Service Management Code" are available in the Library of the House and electronically at:



Tax Information Exchange - Belize

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) was signed with Belize in London on 25 March 2010.

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The text of the TIEA 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.

2008 Credit Guarantee Scheme (Contingent Liability)

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): The credit guarantee scheme (CGS) was introduced as part of a package of measures to support the stability of the banking system and to protect savers and depositors. The scheme makes available, to eligible institutions, a Government guarantee of new short and medium-term debt issuance of up to three years' maturity.

As announced at the pre-Budget report in 2009, the CGS closed for new issuance on 28 February 2010. In consequence, the maximum amount currently outstanding represents the maximum contingent liability under scheme rules. On 24 March 2010 issuance stood at £125 billion. HM Treasury is therefore notifying a revision to the contingent liability to the maximum currently outstanding to reflect this and in addition is publishing a short report providing details of scheme use on 29 March 2010 on the Debt Management Office's website.

Children, Schools and Families

"Safer Children in a Digital World" (Progress Review)

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I am writing today to Professor Tanya Byron in response to her review of the progress made on improving children's digital safety since the publication of her 2008 review, "Safer Children in a Digital World".

The pace of technological change since Professor Byron's 2008 review has been rapid. In recognition of this, in December 2009 I asked Professor Byron to review progress in keeping children safe when using new technology and report to the Government by the end of March. I am grateful to Professor Byron for the inclusive, consultative approach which she has taken-including meeting hon. Members-and for her thoughtful analysis and conclusions which are, as ever, balanced, insightful and informed throughout by the voices and interests of children, young people and families.

Professor Byron's report celebrates the world-leading precedent which has been set by the establishment of a UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the important advances that have been made, particularly around raising public awareness of how to keep children safe online and teaching children how to stay safe through improved digital safety education. As we move forward, Professor Byron is clear that the priority must be to deliver, without delay, what was set out in the UKCCIS strategy last December. She also makes recommendations on how we should respond to the developments that have taken place since her 2008 review alongside a set of helpful recommendations to improve the workings of UKCCIS.

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I welcome Professor Byron's report and, because UKCCIS was founded on the principle of shared responsibility, I agree with her recommendation that the UKCCIS executive board should decide on the best way to address her recommendations. The Home Secretary and I are therefore writing today to the UKCCIS executive board asking them to consider the report and agree a response covering all of the recommendations by 31 July 2010.

I have placed copies of Professor Byron's report, my letter responding to her and the letter to the UKCCIS executive board in the Libraries of both Houses. They are also available online at www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview.

Communities and Local Government

Seaside Economies

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. John Denham): The "Strategy for Seaside Success: securing the future of seaside economies" was launched on Thursday 25 March.

The aim of the strategy is to help ensure our seaside towns have the help they need to build on their heritage and take advantage of the new opportunities to develop strong economies and communities for the future. While many seaside towns have had to confront particular economic challenges in recent years, seaside towns have unique histories and retain a special place in the development of modern Britain.

A renewed interest in these places, coupled with new possibilities to develop and use low-carbon economies and tap into the global digital economy, provides an excellent opportunity for seaside towns to become great places to live, work and visit.

This strategy builds on support the Government have given to seaside towns since 1997 through a range of mainstream policies, together with targeted support to some of the most deprived seaside authorities.

We have given councils more powers to tackle their own problems locally, through devolution, while the regional development agencies have given seaside towns significant support to promote economic development. The Northwest Development Agency has invested over £200 million in its seaside towns, and over £86 million has been invested in coastal areas by the East of England Development Agency.

The Government's Sea Change initiative has put £38 million into improving seaside town infrastructure in 32 seaside areas since 2008. The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided over £234 million to 864 projects in English seaside reports to support their regeneration. Over £99 million has been targeted on 21 of the most deprived seaside resorts through the Working Neighbourhoods Fund and New Deal For Communities.

The new cross-Government strategy is directed at key areas where action is most needed. The package of support it outlines includes:

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Seaside towns face complex economic and social issues so this strategy will evolve. It will help to ensure all our seaside towns to reach the standards of the best and become year-round economies that flourish and grow in the 21st century.

I have placed copies of the strategy in the Library of the House.


Armed Forces Equipment

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Further to my statements to the House on 22 and 25 March, Official Report, columns 3WS and 54WS, I am pleased to announce the next steps on a number of projects that will deliver vital equipment and support, particularly to the Royal Air Force (RAF), and will help sustain the aerospace and weapons sectors of the UK's defence industry. These announcements build on the package of adjustments to the defence programme I announced to the House on 15 December 2009, Official Report, column 801 and the emerging thinking on defence as set out in the Green Paper that leads in to the strategic defence review (SDR).

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has entered into an interim partnering agreement with MBDA (UK) Ltd to take forward the Government's strategy for the UK's complex weapons sector as originally set out in the defence industrial strategy. The agreement builds on the successful team complex weapons assessment phase that commenced in July 2008. As part of the agreement, the MOD has placed a contract valued at some £330 million to demonstrate and manufacture both the fire
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shadow loitering munition which will be able to be used in operations by the British Army in Afghanistan and, using a development of the current Brimstone anti-armour weapon, the second element of the selective precision effects at range (SPEAR) programme for use by the RAF on Harrier GR9 and Tornado GR4 including on current operations. The contract also includes further work on the future local area air defence system and on future components of the SPEAR programme.

This partnered approach is designed to meet the armed forces' requirements through a modular family of weapons, with the agreement providing greater overall flexibility to meet evolving requirements, permitting shorter development times, and achieving significant efficiencies through life. It will also ensure the UK has continued access to industrial skills and capabilities that are critical for the ongoing provision of cutting edge complex weapons for our armed forces. The agreement represents a further significant investment in the United Kingdom's high technology industry and its wider supply chain, and helps to sustain the UK's key complex weapons skills base.

I am also pleased to announce that this week we will sign a £120 million contract with BAE Systems for the in-service support of the Hawk T Mk2 (the advanced jet trainer), which will provide a modern fast jet training capability for the RAF. This contracted logistic support arrangement will see BAE Systems responsible not only for the number of aircraft made available for training flights but also for ensuring that the aircraft are able to carry out the training mission effectively, and covers all aspects of support including on base maintenance, fleet management, spares management and re-provisioning, repair and all other ancillary activities needed to provide the required aircraft availability out to 31 March 2014. This contract is sufficiently flexible to continue to deliver value for money for defence should the strategic defence review identify changes in the fast jet training requirement. Altogether the contract will sustain over a 100 jobs at BAE Systems and its subcontractors, Babcock Defence Division and Rolls Royce (all at RAF Valley in Anglesey).

We are making excellent progress towards delivery of the 22 new Chinook I announced in December. The decision to buy more Chinooks is a reflection of operational experience over the past 20 years, especially more recently in Afghanistan where the aircraft has proven its value to commanders time and again. I am pleased to inform the House that a contract was signed with Boeing on 23 March, just three months after my announcement, for initial design and long-lead manufacture work, which will protect the critical path to delivery of the first 10 aircraft in 2012 and 2013. This demonstrates our commitment to delivering more capability to the front line as quickly as possible.

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