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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 11 October 2010

Cabinet Office

Government Efficiency Review

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): On 13 August, Sir Philip Green was commissioned by the Prime Minister to conduct an external review of Government efficiency. Sir Philip submitted his findings and recommendations to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury and me on 7 October. We are grateful to Sir Philip and his team from Arcadia for the time and effort they have taken to produce their recommendations. Their findings clearly demonstrate the scale of inefficiency and waste present in the system today. It is clear that there is a huge opportunity and a real willingness on behalf of civil servants to take on the important task of delivering efficiency. We welcome the sense of urgency that Sir Philip has brought to this work and are looking at how we can best take forward key recommendations. The review will be placed on the Cabinet Office website.

Communities and Local Government

Conference Adjournment 2010

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I would like to update hon. Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department during the Conference Adjournment 2010.


The Department is continuing its commitment to deliver transparent and open government. Ahead of the requirement in November for all central Government Departments to publish monthly details of spend over £25,000, my Department has published the details of its spend over £500 for the first quarter of 2010-11 and for 2008-09. This follows the publication, in August, of 2009-10 spending details.

We have been working with the Local Government Association on measures to increase transparency in councils including new guidance from the LGA detailing best practice for putting council spending and senior salary information online. Over 60 councils have already published the details of their spend over £500 ahead of their January deadline.

On 29 September my Department published for consultation a proposed new statutory code of recommended practice on local authority publicity. The proposals are intended to stop taxpayers' money being squandered on town hall newspapers or hired lobbyists. An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy helping local people scrutinise and hold elected councillors to account. The proposed new rules around council publicity will restrict council newspapers to four times a year. The proposed code will also guard against councils using public funds to hire
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lobbyists to campaign. A copy of the proposed code has been placed in the House of Commons Library. Subject to the consultation, I intend before the end of the year to seek parliamentary approval to the proposed code, after which it will come into force.

Supporting local people

When times are tough Government have a duty to treat the public fairly. The Exchequer Secretary and I confirmed on 23 September that the Government would not carry out a council tax revaluation in England during the lifetime of this Parliament. An unnecessary and expensive revaluation could lead to increased council tax bills. Taxpayers now know there will be no unexpected council tax revaluation hikes in the next five years.

A local authority breakdown of the property attribute information collected on people's homes, including number of bedrooms, patios, value significant gardens and scenic views, has also been published in the interests of transparency to make the public aware of the datasets that have been gathered under the last Government.

In addition, an independent data protection audit of the Valuation Office Agency's (VOA) council tax database is to be carried out to make sure people's privacy is protected when the agency assesses properties and stores data. This is in keeping with the coalition's desire to defend civil liberties, and to restore the rights of individuals.

On 1 October small business rate relief doubled for over half a million small businesses for one year as part of the Government's emergency budget commitments to help invest in growth. This means 345,000 businesses will pay no rates at all. We have also announced a package of practical advice and training for traditional market traders, to support existing markets and help potential enterprising traders get started.

Changes to rules contained in the Mortgage Repossessions (Protection of Tenants etc) Act 2010 have increased protections for tenants who face having their home repossessed through no fault of their own. For the first time tenants will be able to attend the repossession court hearing and judges will be able to take their situation into account and delay repossessions proceedings by up to two months.

We are changing the way in which parish councils can make payments. Currently parish councils make payments through cheques that must be counter-signed by two members of the council, changes will mean that they will be able to use modern banking methods such as electronic banking. This will save time and benefit many small private companies who will get paid faster.


The Department is continuing to push power and control down away from the centre.

The announcement of plans to introduce legislation to scrap the housing revenue account and replace it with a system allowing councils to keep the rents and receipts from right to buy sales that they collect was made on 5 October. This will give councils greater financial freedom to meet the housing needs of their local communities.

The Government are committed to freeing up councils and cutting red tape. We have launched a consultation setting out our plans to streamline the current three sets of regulations and orders covering tree preservation orders in England into one document. The change has the potential to save local councils more than £500,000
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in administration costs each year. The new regulations will reduce paperwork, simplify the process of protecting trees and provide a fairer, more straightforward and effective system for tree preservation.

Decentralisation and pooling budgets

We have already set out plans to decentralise power to individuals, neighbourhoods, front-line professionals and local institutions.

Individuals are being put in charge of their lives through personal budgets, for example on adult social care and childcare, or choice, such as which hospital to use or over who runs the police.

Community groups and neighbourhoods will be in charge of planning and responsible for delivering more and more public services. Public sector professionals will be using their judgment over how best to run services, for example with GPs in control of commissioning and heads running schools.

Local government will have a general power of competence and increased freedom to run services free from central diktat, with hundreds of targets already abolished and over £1 billion of ring-fenced funding already removed in 2010-11-with much more to be removed through the spending review.

Moving forward, our goal is to see the public sector operate in a much more unified way to maximise the resource available to us to tackle social problems. That means getting different organisations and agencies to work together in a way that simply has not happened in the past.

We are putting in place national welfare to work and offender rehabilitation schemes, operating on a payment by results basis. But we do not just want that important support to be done by central Government-local government should be involved too, putting its own funding and expertise into developing enhanced programmes to work alongside the core work that we are doing nationwide.

We will put local councils in the driving seat to join up public services, pooling resources across the public sector to tackle social problems. We want elected mayors to trail-blaze such initiatives, not least since elected mayors in our cities will be embraced by the public if they have real power. So we will create the opportunity for mayors to bring together different devolved budgets and pool them with our national payment-by-results systems. Together, mayors will be able to help design services specifically targeted at the hardest-to-help families. They will be able to add their own budgets-social services, care, housing, health improvement-to the national programmes. This will give local communities the power to change lives, and help save money at the same time. I would expect to make a further announcement to the House in due course.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

European Union Bill (Sovereignty)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): The coalition programme for Government said that the Government would examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill affirming that ultimate authority remains with Parliament.

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The common law is already clear on this. Parliament is sovereign. EU law has effect in the UK because-and solely because-Parliament wills that it should. Parliament chose to pass the European Communities Act 1972. That was the act of a sovereign Parliament.

The Government have explored how to ensure that this fundamental principle of parliamentary sovereignty is upheld in relation to EU law. We have assessed whether the common law provides sufficient ongoing and unassailable protection for that principle. Our assessment is that to date, case law has upheld that principle. But we have decided to put the matter beyond speculation by placing this principle on a statutory footing.

In the autumn, the Government will legislate to underline that what a sovereign Parliament can do, a sovereign Parliament can always undo. A clause to this effect will be included in the European Union Bill.

This clause will not alter the existing UK legal order on a day to day basis in relation to EU law. And it will be in line with the practice of other member states, like Germany. Although they have a different constitutional framework, they have given effect to EU law through a sovereign Act.

Global Abolition of the Death Penalty

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Jeremy Browne): I wish to make the House aware that I will publicly launch HMG's strategy on global abolition of the death penalty at an event in the FCO today to mark the world day and European day against the death penalty.

This strategy sets out the UK's policy on the death penalty, and identifies three goals to support our overarching objective of global abolition. First we will aim to further increase the number of abolitionist countries, or countries with a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Secondly we want to secure further restrictions on the use of the death penalty in retentionist countries and reductions in the numbers of executions, and thirdly we will aim to ensure that EU minimum standards on the death penalty, such as fair trial rights and non-execution of juveniles, are met in countries which retain the death penalty.

Promoting human rights and democracy is a priority for the UK. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle because we believe it undermines human dignity; there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value; and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.

A copy of the strategy will be placed in the Library of the House and published on the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk) by 12 October.


National Dementia Strategy

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): The Government published a new outcomes focused implementation plan for the National Dementia Strategy on 28 September 2010. "Quality outcomes for people with dementia: building on the work of the National Dementia Strategy" has been placed in
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the Library and copies are available to hon. Members in the Vote Office. The document is also available electronically at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Aboutus/Features/DH_119830.

Raising the quality of care for people with dementia and their carers is a major priority under this Government. The key purpose of "Quality outcomes for people with dementia: building on the work of the National Dementia Strategy" is to set out for health and social care localities and their delivery partners:

"Living well with Dementia-A National Dementia Strategy"(1) was launched in February 2009 following an extensive consultation process, with the aim of improving the quality of care for people with dementia and their carers. It is a five-year strategy containing 17 objectives to transform dementia services. Some £150 million has been made available to primary care trusts in the first two years-£60 million in 2009-10 and £90 million in 2010-11-to implement the strategy, but without a ring-fence on the funding or targets. Alongside delivery of the strategy, work is under way to implement the recommendations of Professor Sube Banerjee's report into the over-prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs for people with dementia(2). Professor Banerjee's report has been placed in the Library and is available at:

"Quality outcomes for people with dementia: building on the work of the National Dementia Strategy" provides an implementation plan that reflects the principles of the White Paper "Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS"(3), the consultation document "Liberating the NHS: Transparency in outcomes - a framework for the NHS"(4) and the current economic and political landscape, where the Department's role is more enabling and less directive.

The new implementation plan identifies four priority objectives for the Department's work during 2010-11 to support local delivery of the strategy. These areas provide a real focus on activities that are likely to have the greatest impact on improving quality outcomes for people with dementia and their carers. The four priority objectives are:

The Government have commissioned a national audit of dementia services, which is establishing the provision of dementia services across the country. The audit will provide local NHS and social care organisations with a measure of their progress in key areas including the use of senior clinical leads for dementia in hospitals, establishment of memory services, reducing the use of anti-psychotic medication and expenditure on dementia services, so that they can drive forward action to accelerate improvements in dementia care. The initial results are expected by the end of the year.

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The revised NHS operating framework for 2010-11 highlights that the NHS and its partners must give a greater priority to dementia. Local organisations will be expected to publish how they are delivering on quality outcomes so that they can be held to account by local people. This expectation along with the data generated by the national audit will create much greater transparency.

The Government are working with the Alzheimer's Society to develop a National Dementia Declaration, which is due to be launched in autumn 2010. This is a sector-wide initiative, led by the Alzheimer's Society, which involves a wide range of national organisations. It will be a call to action to improve the quality of life outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.

The Government support the implementation of the "End of Life Care Strategy", published in 2008, which aims to improve end of life care for all adults, including those with dementia. The Government have also confirmed its commitment to improving quality and choice in palliative and end of life care in "Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS", which includes the commitment to move towards a national choice offer to support people's preferences about how to have a good death.

"Quality outcomes for people with dementia: building on the work of the National Dementia Strategy" reflects the Government's commitment to ensure a greater focus on accelerating the pace of improvement through local delivery of and local accountability for achieving quality outcomes in dementia care.

At the heart of this vision is the Government's commitment to putting patients and the public first; improving health and social care outcomes; ensuring autonomy, accountability, democratic legitimacy and improving efficiency.

As highlighted in the National Dementia Strategy, the pace of implementation will vary depending on local circumstances and the level and development of services within each NHS and local government area. It describes what the Department of Health considers as its priorities for policy development in its role of enabler for continued progress in improving outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.

A key element of this new outcomes focused approach is ensuring greater transparency and provision of information to individuals so that they have a good understanding of their local services, how these compare to other services, and the level of quality that they can expect. Local organisations will be expected to publish how they are delivering on quality outcomes so that they can be held to account by local people.


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Home Department

Equality and Human Rights Commission (Triennial Review)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): The first triennial review of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), "How Fair is Britain?", has been laid before the House. Copies will be made available in the Vote Office.


Family Courts: Part 2 of the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): The Under-Secretary of State for Education, the Minister with responsibility for children and families, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and I wish to make the following statement to the House about part 2 of the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010.

The Act received Royal Assent in April, but the provisions in part 2, which relate to the reporting of family court proceedings by the media, have not yet been commenced. This is a sensitive issue, on which a broad range of views have been strongly expressed. It is important that the family justice system is properly understood and commands public confidence. At the same time, there is a clear need to protect the privacy of vulnerable children and adults involved in cases in the family courts. My hon. Friend and I have decided to wait until the family justice review has published its final report before determining whether to commence these provisions, which will allow us to consider the changes part 2 of the Act would introduce in light of the review's recommendations for reform of the family justice system.

Prime Minister

European Council (16 September 2010)

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I attended the European Council meeting on 16 September, with the Foreign Secretary.

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The focus of the Council discussion was how to strengthen the EU's relationships with emerging powers, notably in advance of the EU-China and EU-India summits on 6 October and 10 December respectively.

The Foreign Secretary and I had three clear objectives for the Council.

The first objective was that the Council recognise that trade should be at the heart of the European Union's engagement with strategic partners. The Council conclusions contain strong language on this.

The second objective was to secure the EU-Korea free trade agreement. This was signed at the EU-South Korea summit on 6 October and will now be put to the European Parliament. It will enter into force on 1 July 2011.

The third objective was to ensure that the European Council conclusions made a clear statement of European support for Pakistan in response to the devastating floods that the country has suffered.

Leaders agreed a declaration on Pakistan which commits the EU to providing humanitarian aid, development assistance and new trade concessions to Pakistan. On trade, the declaration confirms that the EU will grant exclusively to Pakistan the immediate reduction of duties on key imports to the EU. Furthermore, the declaration confirms the EU's commitment to Pakistan's eligibility for a package of trade concessions that the Commission estimates to be worth over €1 billion annually known as GSP+.

On 7 October the Commission adopted a significant package of trade measures for Pakistan which suspends tariffs on a further 27% of Pakistani imports into the EU. It is estimated to be worth each year around €100 million in additional trade and €80 million in tariff savings. This will be put to the Council later this month.

The Council also approved a declaration on the middle east peace process. This strongly welcomes the launch of direct negotiations, calls for an extension of the settlements moratorium and offers support for the US-led efforts.

President Van Rompuy gave a progress report on the work of his taskforce on economic governance ahead of wider discussion at the European Council on 28 and 29 October.

Copies of the Council conclusions have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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