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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Communities and Local Government

Previously Developed Land (Density)

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): I am today implementing the commitments made in the coalition agreement to decentralise the planning system by giving local authorities the freedom to prevent overdevelopment of neighbourhoods and "garden grabbing".

The impact of the old policy approach, set out in planning policy statement 3, is that the combination of a national target for brownfield land, alongside the definition of gardens as brownfield land, has meant local authorities feeling forced into granting planning permission for unwanted development on garden land-simply to maintain the brownfield target.

To bring an end to these detrimental effects, we are today therefore removing gardens from the definition of previously developed land in planning policy statement 3.

We are also removing the requirement upon local authorities to have regard to the national minimum density for housing set out in paragraph 47 of PPS3. This policy has resulted in local authorities not having enough flexibility to set density ranges that suit the local needs in their areas-particularly for family houses.

I am today re-issuing planning policy statement 3: Housing (PPS3) with the following changes:

Together these changes put power back in the hands of local authorities and communities to take the decisions that are best for them, and decide for themselves the best locations and types of development in their areas.

This reissued policy document sets out the Secretary of State's policy on previously developed land and housing density. Local planning authorities and the planning inspectorate are expected to have regard to the policy in preparing development plans and, where relevant, to take it into account as a material consideration when determining planning applications.

Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

United Kingdom Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I have decided to appoint Sir Andrew Burns as the "United Kingdom envoy for post-Holocaust issues".

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As a signatory to the declaration of the Stockholm international forum on the Holocaust the UK is committed to promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research, both at home and abroad. Sir Andrew will lead the UK's efforts in this field, drawing together activity from across Government and provide a clearer UK international profile, presence and influence. Sir Andrew's work will include driving forward implementation of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust era assets, resolving outstanding issues related to property and art restitution and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of discussions on the vital work of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and of the International Tracing Service.

Over the last few years the UK has taken an increasingly active approach to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. For the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this work has included leading the UK delegations to meetings of the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and of the International Tracing Service. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have also represented the Government in discussions on property restitution and Holocaust era assets, frequently with support from other Government Departments.

This has worked well to date. But I am concerned that the UK is not taking the leading role it should in these international discussions or best representing the interests of the many Holocaust victims and their families in the UK affected by these issues. For this reason, and in order to drive a more coherent and strategic approach to our work, I have appointed Sir Andrew. He will add a new impetus to the Government's post-Holocaust work, drawing on his considerable experience as chair of the executive committee of the Anglo-Israel Association and previously Her Majesty's ambassador to Israel.

Home Department

G6 Meeting

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The informal G6 group of Ministers of the Interior from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK held their most recent meeting in Varese, Italy on 28 to 29 May. Italy currently holds the presidency of the G6 group and the meeting was chaired by the Italian Minister for the Interior, Roberto Maroni.

The meeting was divided into three working sessions over two days, all of which were attended by G6 Ministers of the Interior, with the additional guest attendance of the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, the US Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security, David Heyman, the French Immigration Minister, Eric Besson, and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.

The first working session considered Europe's approach to the management of migration from outside the EEA. Ministers also considered factors driving illegal immigration and the importance of international co-operation in combating criminal groups involved in illegal immigration and human trafficking. There was a discussion around
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ensuring that an increased focus on tackling illegal immigration should not come at the expense of vulnerable groups' human rights, and of the importance of raising awareness of the positive contribution of legal immigration to society. The Home Secretary underlined the importance of evidence-based practical co-operation between EU member states and of work with source and transit countries upstream, rather than a reliance on new EU legislation.

The second session focused on the issue of organised crime. Ministers considered the increasing flexibility and diversification of organised criminals who take advantage of global trends and opportunities. The Italian Minister for the Interior gave a presentation on Italian methods for targeting illegal assets. Ministers discussed the promotion of a more joined-up approach between European States, EU Agencies and third countries in order to tackle this trans-national threat. In addition, Ministers considered methods of tackling money laundering and ensuring online child protection.

At the third session Ministers considered counter-terrorism. The importance of strengthening international co-operation was discussed, with particular focus on the relationship between Europe and the US. Discussion also centred upon the value of dialogue with third countries and the benefit of engaging and supporting countries in tackling violent extremism. At an operational level, discussion focused on the strengthening of aviation security, including the sharing of air passenger information, and on work into the threat posed by radicalisation.

In addition to the three plenary sessions, Italy gave a video presentation of its arrangements for handling serious road traffic accidents. The Home Secretary also held separate bilateral meetings with all of the other heads of delegation.

The next meeting of the G6 is expected to be held in Poland in the second half of this year.

English Language Requirement

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I wish to inform the House that I am today announcing the introduction of a new English language requirement for migrants applying to come to or stay in the UK as a spouse. Changes to the immigration rules will be laid before Parliament to bring this policy into effect in the autumn.

Non-European migrants joining a British citizen or non-European national settled in the UK will have to demonstrate a basic command of English in order to be considered for a visa. The rules will apply to spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, same sex partners, fiancés and proposed civil partners, and will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK, as well as visa applicants overseas.

The Government believe that speaking English should be a pre-requisite for those wishing to settle here. This new English requirement for spouses will help promote the economic well-being of the UK, for example by encouraging integration and protecting public services. It will assist in removing cultural barriers, broaden opportunities for migrants and help to ensure that they are equipped to play a full part in British life.

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This is only the first step. We are reviewing English language requirements across the immigration system with a view to tightening the rules further in the future. We will inform the House of our conclusions in due course.

Today's announcement is one of a range of new measures the Government will be taking to ensure that immigration is properly controlled for the benefit of the UK. These include an annual limit on non-EEA migrants coming to the UK to live and work and measures to minimise abuse of the immigration system, for example via student routes.


Equality Act 2010 (Seafarers)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): On 30 November 2009, the previous Government published draft affirmative regulations showing how they proposed to apply part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 to seafarers. The draft regulations were silent on the practice of differential pay for seafarers recruited abroad and therefore, if they had been approved by Parliament in their published form, the practice of differential pay for seafarers recruited abroad would have ended.

Those who are likely to be affected by the final regulations were invited to submit evidence-based financial estimates of the likely impact of either:

The then Government subsequently announced that a review of the evidence submitted would be commissioned.

Today I am publishing the findings of the review commissioned by the previous Government, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the DFT website (www.dft.gov.uk).

The issues raised by those who submitted evidence are important and the Government wish to provide interested parties with the opportunity to comment on this review of evidence before reaching conclusions on how to proceed. I am therefore inviting comments on this review over the next two weeks. I am especially keen to hear from those parties who previously submitted evidence.

Once I have considered the matter further, I will report back to Parliament.


Time for Training (Medical Education England Report)

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): "Time for Training", the independent review of the impact of the European working time directive on the quality of medical training is being launched today by
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Medical Education England. A copy has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote office.

In response to concerns about the impact of the directive on the training of junior doctors working in the national health service, the then Secretary of State asked Medical Education England last year to commission an independent review. I want to thank Professor Sir John Temple for his report and Medical Education England for their advice in helping to bring together complementary perspectives to issues affecting the quality of patient services and training.

The objective of post-graduate medical training is to produce fully qualified specialists who are able to provide high quality and safe patient care. Experience in delivering service is an integral part of training for a junior doctor but the provision of service is not the primary purpose of post-graduate medical training. Sir John's review challenges the service and medical profession to think afresh about the approach to training the next generation of hospital specialists in ways that will provide better patient care and well-trained professionals.

The findings in this report underline the importance of the coalition agreement commitment to limit the impact of the directive in the context of United Kingdom health services. "Time for Training" identifies ways in which safe care and high-quality training are capable of being achieved in the service. It also highlights the immediate difficulties created for trainees and for the service, especially in providing out-of-hours and weekend emergency patient care, in places where there is not yet the structure, support or flexibility of working practices needed to comply with the directive and the restrictive interpretations of the directive by the European Court of Justice.

I will support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in taking a robust approach to future negotiations on the revision of the directive, including maintenance of the opt-out.
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We will not go back to the past with tired doctors working excessive hours, but the way the directive now applies is clearly unsatisfactory and is causing great problems for health services across Europe. These difficulties are clearly reflected in the evidence from junior doctors that the implementation of the 48-hour week EWTD has impacted adversely on training and has been accompanied by unwelcome imposition of shift practices. Sir John's report reinforces my determination to support efforts to resolve these difficulties and be ready to work constructively with the European Commission and other member states on radical, creative approaches to gain additional flexibilities.

Professor Sir John Temple's findings demonstrate that far more can be done now by the service and the medical profession to improve medical training by changing working practices and taking greater advantage of the big increase in the number of consultants working in the national health service. I welcome his recommendations that the New Deal contract for junior doctors should be better aligned with the structures under the directive and that the consultant contract and job planning should incentivise consultants to support trainees and continuity of training. Continuity of patient care, of course, rests with the consultant who is responsible for the patient.

I have asked Medical Education England to consider with the profession, the service and medical Royal Colleges, how best to implement training practices that will support these aspirations. This will include reviewing the appropriate service component for medical specialty training with individual colleges and specialty associations, and advising NHS employers in their discussions on ways to realign and simplify New Deal working arrangements. I will continue to seek advice from Medical Education England on other matters to improve training, including development of a strategy for technology-enhanced learning and take-up of simulation training, and on the future structure of post-graduate medical education.

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