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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 1 July 2010

Cabinet Office

Ministerial Responsibilities

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The new "List of Ministerial Responsibilities" has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be sent to each hon. Member's office in this House.

The list can also be accessed on the Cabinet Office website at:


Armoured Vehicle Contract

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff) : I am pleased to announce a major contract award in favour of General Dynamics (UK) for the prototyping and demonstration of a new armoured combat vehicle intended to replace the existing combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked) (CVR(T)). This award represents a major step towards equipping the British Army with a fleet of new highly capable, modern specialist tracked combat vehicles, able to conduct a wide range of military tasks representative of both current and anticipated operational scenarios. Initially this contract will focus on an improved reconnaissance variant called Scout but will also demonstrate a common base platform which will be the basis for other essential variants, and offer logistical commonality and benefit.

We have chosen a tracked vehicle design, that builds upon a mature platform already in service with other European nations, but which offers growth to meet the UK's current and anticipated requirements over the next 30 years. As a result, the specialist vehicle family will benefit from increased protection, modern systems, improved fire power and, importantly, greater survivability over existing vehicles, and will be optimised for deployment world wide.

GDUK is based near Newport, Gwent, where the main programme management team will be situated; their proposed manufacturing solution has a high UK content (over 70%) with many UK-based subcontractors involved. Skills required are largely high-value engineering design skills, which will help sustain and develop the UK defence engineering sector.

This contract only commits MOD to the demonstration phase at this time. Commitment to full production will not happen until around the middle of this decade, when sufficient evidence has been gathered from the trialling of prototypes and other demonstration work to ensure the vehicle designs are optimised and fully fit
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for purpose. This second decision point also allows SDSR to inform whole fleet numbers, based on the future size and shape of the British Army, before the major investment decision is taken.

The award of this contract, to progress the replacement of the current CVR (T) fleet, demonstrates commitment to long-term equipment planning for the Army. This will be welcome news to our soldiers.


Quality Accounts

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): This Government's ambition is for health outcomes-and our national health service-to be as good as any in the world. To achieve this, the NHS will need to focus on providing high-quality care, led by empowered clinicians, with the patient at the centre of the service. The NHS, free of bureaucratic interference and the tick-box culture, will make quality improvement the central principle along the entire care pathway, integrated with a reformed social care service.

A quality account is an annual report to the public from providers of NHS healthcare services about the quality of their services. It allows clinicians to demonstrate their commitment to continuous, evidence-based quality improvement. By making boards and leaders of healthcare organisations visibly accountable for service quality, in the same way that they are responsible for finances, quality accounts put what matters to patients at the heart of the NHS.

Quality accounts require boards and leaders of healthcare organisations to review quality across all of the healthcare services they offer, and to identify objectives for continuous quality improvement that meet the needs of the public they serve. They are therefore a tool to empower providers and patients to produce the best possible outcomes of care.

The first quality accounts-for providers of acute national health services-have now been published. They are available from the providers themselves, and from the www.nhs.uk website.

We want staff, patients and the wider public to read their local providers' quality accounts, and then make their views known to the boards and leaders of those providers. The public's input to their local quality accounts has demonstrated a great willingness to get involved-which provides a clear spur for boards of provider organisations to focus their attention on improving patient care.

This is a step towards focusing the NHS on continuous quality improvement, and allowing patients to see the information they need to make an informed judgment about that commitment to quality improvement. More needs to be done to standardise our definition, measurement and reporting of service quality-along lines that clinicians will recognise as evidence-based and be accountable for. We need to drive up the range and quality of information published, to enable patients to exercise choice. Quality accounts help with this transformation.

For the future, quality accounts will evolve to reflect the Government's aim of developing a new culture of leadership and responsibility across the NHS. Following
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a formal evaluation over the summer, we will consult on how the potential of quality accounts can be better realised, including by:

Proposals will be consulted on in the autumn, with updated regulations and guidance to follow later in the year.

H1N1 Pandemic

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): I have today placed a copy of the report of the independently chaired review of the United Kingdom response to the 2009 H1N1 ("swine flu") pandemic in the Library of the House. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. The review was jointly commissioned, and the chair appointed, by all four of the UK Health Ministers in March 2010. Dame Deirdre Hine chaired the review.

The four UK Health Ministers set up this independent review with a remit to review the appropriateness and effectiveness of the UK strategy for responding domestically to the swine flu pandemic, and make recommendations for any future influenza pandemic. The review was not asked to comment on operational matters.

I would like to thank Dame Deirdre Hine and her team for their work and I welcome her report and recommendations. I will take these into account, alongside financial and operation considerations, and other research evidence, when reviewing our future pandemic plans in the national framework for responding to an influenza pandemic.

I would like to express the Government's thanks to everyone who has assisted and advised on the response to the swine flu pandemic.

International Development

Turks and Caicos Islands

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): Following the last Government's statement about the situation in TCI in October 2009, I would like to update the House. The financial situation in TCI has worsened to the point where it was not possible for its Government to meet their June financial commitments, including payment of public sector salaries. Without immediate UK support, TCI would fall further into economic crisis.

Following discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I have decided to provide a temporary package of financial support. This support is conditional on the TCI Government strengthening their capacity and systems to manage their public finances, and balancing their budget within the next three years. We are finalising the details of the package, which we want to put in place together with commercial lenders over the coming months. We intend these arrangements to be at or near zero cost to Her Majesty's Government over the medium term.

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In order to address the immediate shortfall, we last week agreed a short-term loan of up to £10 million to help meet unavoidable commitments including staff salaries for the police, health and education services. This loan will be repaid in full as soon as the package outlined above is in place. Our aim is to restore and firmly embed the principles of sound financial management, sustainable development and good governance. This should help rebuild confidence in TCI and its ability to manage its public finances.


EU Transport Council

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I attended the second Transport Council of the Spanish presidency in Luxembourg on 24 June.

The Council adopted a decision to sign a protocol amending the 2007 Air Transport Agreement with the United States. I noted the UK's support for the decision and that we would look forward to further co-operation and reform in the future under the mechanisms set down in the agreement, particularly with regard to the liberalisation of investment opportunities in airline operators. The protocol itself was signed by the presidency on behalf of the EU, by Ministers on behalf of the member states, and by the US ambassador to Luxembourg and the US Assistant Transportation Secretary for Aviation on behalf of the US.

The Commission updated Ministers on the work requested by the extraordinary Transport Council on 4 May on the topic of the volcanic ash cloud. The Commission reported that there was ongoing technical work in refining the limit values that would provide a definition of a safe environment for flying and on adopting new mechanisms and approaches for co-ordinating action at the EU level. Guidance had been produced on how passenger rights legislation should be applied and work was ongoing with respect to a European mobility plan. In respect of state aid, the Commission noted that the treaty opens the possibility for member states to compensate airlines, but to date no member state had in fact made a formal request for state aid clearance, nor had any draft proposals been presented to the Commission. I noted that more technical work was needed to refine limit values and that there was a need to maintain pressure in order to establish safe tolerance levels. I further noted that there was an opportunity to pool efforts for conducting research flights. Although we acknowledged the losses suffered by business as a result of this event, I indicated that in current circumstances, with constrained budgets, the UK would not wish to raise expectations that financial assistance would be forthcoming. While passenger protection during the closure of airspace was vital, I asked the Commission to review Regulation 261/2004, on passenger rights, in light of the European Court of Justice decision of November 2009 which has resulted in some perverse and disproportionate consequences with respect to the financial impact on airlines of having to compensate passengers for delayed flights.

Council conclusions were adopted unanimously on the Commission's Urban Mobility Action Plan, which sets out a framework of initiatives to promote integrated
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policies and optimise urban mobility. The conclusions support the development of sustainable urban mobility policies, while maintaining the principle of subsidiarity.

The presidency noted that the European Council had recently agreed its Europe 2020 strategy for growth, and invited views on how transport could contribute to the strategy. The Commission stated that, although it did not feature prominently in the Europe 2020 package, transport was important for growth, and the strategy provided a suitable basis for the Commission to take forward its work on transport. A White Paper would be forthcoming before the end of the year which would include views on intelligent transport systems, multi-modality, and alternative sources of funding. I noted that the UK's overarching national objectives for transport were to support economic growth and contribute to the 2020 carbon reduction targets. Additionally, I stressed the importance of having competitive transport services, and the need to avoid excessive regulatory burdens on business.

Following the Detroit terrorist incident at the end of 2009, the Commission presented its communication on the use of security scanners at EU airports. I stated that EU restrictions which currently prevented the effective and efficient use of security scanners needed to be
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removed and urged the Commission to bring forward the necessary legislative proposals to facilitate this, in order to allow scanners to be used as a primary method of screening at UK airports.

The Commission informed the Council of the adoption of the Galileo Action Plan in June and that the focus would now be on co-ordination of efforts, with regulatory proposals only being bought forward if necessary.

During a further discussion on the Galileo programme, I informed Ministers that, following the success of a joint bid with France to host the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre, the UK would be withdrawing its bid to host the Galileo Supervisory Authority and would instead support the bid of the Czech Republic to host this entity in Prague. I also informed Ministers that the UK would not support any additional funding requests for the Galileo programme, within the current financial perspective.

The Commission announced that it intended to withdraw the proposal to exclude self-employed drivers from the scope of the 2002 Road Transport Working Time Directive following the recent rejection of the proposals by the European Parliament. With support from the other delegations, I urged the Commission to continue with efforts to seek a compromise solution with the Parliament.

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