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Police Reform

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am today setting out some further details of the Government's approach to police reform. Policing governance has become distorted and over-
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centralised in recent years and the Government are committed to ensuring that accountability and transparency are firmly at the heart of policing.

The first step for reform must be the return of proper operational responsibility to chief constables and their teams and that for this to work effectively there needs to be a redesign of the current performance landscape. The police service needs more freedom from central control-fewer centrally driven targets and less intervention and interference from Government. That is why I am announcing that we are abolishing the centrally imposed target on police forces to improve public confidence and we will scrap the policing pledge. Police forces need to be accountable instead to their communities.

To achieve greater accountability, the public need better information about their police and about local crime. This is why we will make sure that crime data are published at a level that allows the public to see what is happening on their streets, enabling the public to hold the police and other local agencies to account for how they are dealing with problems in their area. We will also require police forces to hold regular "beat meetings" to provide residents with the opportunity to put forward their concerns and hold the police to account.

In the future, the establishment of a directly elected individual at force level, setting the force budget, agreeing the local strategic plan, playing a role in wider questions of community safety and appointing-and if necessary removing-the local chief constable, will strengthen local accountability for policing. We will publish further details on our reform of policing later in the summer, which will assist our discussions with the public and our partners, and inform the Government's preparations for the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in the autumn.


Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): The Department for Transport has today issued a consultation document on proposals to empower examiners from VOSA with powers to stop commercial vehicles for inspection throughout Great Britain. At present their powers are restricted to England and Wales.

The new powers will help them to ensure that commercial vehicles and their drivers comply with road traffic law. Similar minor additions will be made to Northern Ireland legislation where no comparable powers already exist in relation to the stopping powers for the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) staff.

I have placed copies of the document in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

The Work Programme

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): Today the Government begin the first stage of their reform to deliver a 21st century welfare system.

The coalition Government are committed to fighting poverty, supporting the most vulnerable and helping people break the cycle of benefit dependency that has blighted some communities.

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We want to establish a system of employment support that treats people with the dignity they deserve.

As announced in the coalition agreement we will radically simplify the back-to- work system by ending the complexity of the previous decade and replacing current schemes with a new Work programme.

The Work programme will provide a coherent package of support for people out of work, regardless of the barriers they face or the benefits they claim.

The Government will look to investors from the private, public and voluntary sectors to provide this support.

This week we will be releasing an advert setting out the parameters of a commercial framework and encouraging private, public and voluntary sector organisations to bid to be part of it.

Once in the framework organisations will compete to supply employment support.

The framework arrangement means we will be able to contract for employment support in a faster, flexible and more efficient way than the current system allows.

It also means Government can be more responsive to economic conditions and local need, which will enable us to let larger, longer contracts, encouraging greater investment and creating the circumstances for a proper rate of return for investors and meaningful social return for the taxpayer.

The Work programme will also provide help for the thousands on incapacity benefits who are able to work.

There are 2.6 million people claiming incapacity benefits.

The Government are committed to providing unconditional support for very sick and disabled people within that group.

But there are people claiming incapacity benefits that can work, and want to work, with our help they will be able to.

In the autumn, starting in Burnley and Aberdeen, we will ask incapacity benefit claimants to attend a work capability assessment. The rest of the country will follow, with reviews taking place when the normal benefit review is due.

The work capability assessment is designed to measure whether someone is able to work. It also allows us to recognise those who need additional support and ensure they get unconditional help.

To this end, we will take forward recommendations to treat people waiting for or between courses of chemotherapy in the same way as those already receiving it.

We will also extend the criteria for people with severe disability due to mental health conditions, meaning fewer very sick people will be asked to attend an assessment.

We will also establish an independent review as required by the Welfare Reform Act 2007, a concession forced on the previous Government jointly by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

The coalition amendment established an independent review, which Professor Malcolm Harrington has agreed to lead, to scrutinise the assessment process. This will ensure people are treated fairly and assessments are transparent. The report will be completed by the end of the year.

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These reforms are not just about getting people who are able to work into a job.

These reforms are the first steps towards tackling one of the key drivers of poverty and breaking the intergenerational cycle of worklessness and disadvantage.

Today the coalition Government take a firm but fair hold of the welfare system. This approach will bring
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about transformational change in the benefits system, helping people leave benefits and work towards a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

We have produced a guide to the framework and copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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