The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): I am setting out today this Government's response to the consultation on Reforming Debtor Petition Bankruptcy and Early Discharge, which closed in February 2010.
In total 37 businesses, individuals, and representative bodies responded to the consultation, with the majority indicating broad support for the proposals. Copies of the non-confidential responses to the consultation are now available on the Insolvency Service website (www.insolvency.gov.uk) together with a summary of those responses.
It is clear from the responses that interested parties see benefits in removing the court from the process in circumstances where it is unnecessary for a court to take a decision. The Insolvency Service will be exploring with Ministry of Justice and HM Courts Services how best to realise those benefits to produce a bankruptcy system that is suitably accessible and affordable, as well as providing an efficient service for all those who need to use it. I expect that this work will result in enhanced and detailed proposals being published in due course.
The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): The Haldane principle is an important cornerstone for the protection of the scientific independence and excellence. We all benefit from its application in the UK.
The principle that decisions on individual research proposals are best taken by researchers through peer review is strongly supported by the coalition Government. Prioritisation of an individual research council's spending within its allocation is not a decision for Ministers. Such decisions are rightly left to those best placed to evaluate the scientific quality, excellence and likely impact of scientific programmes.
The Government do, however, need to take a view on the overall level of funding to science and research and they have decided to protect and to ring fence the science and research budget for the next four years. This decision has been made in the context of the current economic status of the UK and the strategic importance of research funding, while recognising the value of science to our future growth, prosperity and cultural heritage.
Over the years there has been some uncertainty over the interpretation of the Haldane principle. I intend to clarify this is a statement which will be released alongside the science and research budget allocations towards the end of this year. In order that this statement has the consent of the research community, I intend to consult with senior figures in the UK science and research community to develop a robust statement of the Haldane principle.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): I am announcing today that the Ministry of Defence is beginning formal consultation with the various representative trade unions of the Defence Support Group (DSG) on a proposed programme of staff reductions designed to maintain the organisation's profitable trading position and the valuable support it provides to defence.
Despite major cost savings and efficiencies delivered by DSG since its formation on 1 April 2008, the business is faced with declining order books. It must therefore begin a major structural reform to realign its capacity and capability with defence customers' reducing demand. Based on current workload plans, this will result in a reduction in staff levels by up to 600 by April 2013, around 17.5% of the DSG workforce. However, it is not envisaged that these reductions will result in site closures.
Implementation of the staff reductions must start as soon as possible to remove overcapacity and ensure the trading fund remains profitable and viable. The MOD does not expect the recent strategic defence and security review (SDSR) announcement to negate the need for staff reductions or the imperative for commencing consultation now. Should SDSR lead to a requirement for further staff reductions at DSG then this will be subject to a separate consultation process in due course.
Both MOD and DSG will do all that they can to minimise the effect to employees by delivering these staff reductions through voluntary means but naturally we cannot rule out potential release by compulsory means.
In parallel, the trade unions, MOD and DSG will work with other Government Departments and agencies to explore future job opportunities for DSG employees affected by these manpower reductions. Working closely with external training providers and agencies such as Jobcentre Plus and other advisory organisations, DSG will explore alternative training and job opportunities for any employees wanting to retrain for an alternative career.
In conclusion, I pay tribute to the outstanding service DSG personnel provide and the pivotal role they play in supporting the UK armed forces with the vital equipment they need on critical operations both at home and overseas.
The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove):
The SSSNB was established by the previous Government to develop a national pay and conditions framework for
school support staff working in maintained schools in England. The Government have conducted a review of the future policy direction for determining school support staff pay and conditions, including the role of the SSSNB, and have concluded that the SSSNB does not fit well with the Government's priorities for greater deregulation of the pay and conditions arrangements for the school workforce. I therefore propose to introduce legislation to abolish the SSSNB at the earliest opportunity.
This decision means that school support staff will continue to have their pay and conditions determined in accordance with existing arrangements whereby decisions are taken at a local level by employers.
In reaching this decision the Government have considered very carefully the views of the SSSNB trade union and employer member organisations, and the SSSNB independent chair. I will be writing today to the independent chair and lead representatives of the SSSNB member organisations to notify them of the Government's decision.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council on 14 October in Luxembourg, together with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker).
The Council agreed conclusions on the EU's negotiating position for the Nagoya conference on biodiversity. In support of the conclusions, I underlined the need for a united EU position to push for an ambitious but at the same time deliverable and realistic agreement. I pointed to the need to find a satisfactory agreement on a protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) and innovative ways of financing. I also highlighted the interconnection between biodiversity, climate change and development. Finally, I stressed the importance of the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystems services (IPBES) work and the progress of the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB) study.
Environment Ministers exchanged views on the Commission's proposal on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the EU. The discussion revealed that there are differing views among the member states on the proposal. In particular, several member states questioned how the proposal would work in practice and the compatibility of the proposal with WTO rules. I set out that the UK had yet to finalise its position but welcomed the Commission's proposal as an attempt to find a way through the current impasse on GMO decisions. I underscored that careful reflection was needed of the wider impacts, in particular on the consistency of the proposal with the WTO and the single market as well as the impact on consumer perceptions of food and food security.
Moving on to climate change business, the Council adopted procedural conclusions on the analysis of options to move beyond 20% greenhouse gas emission reductions and assessing the risk of carbon leakage. These take
note of the report prepared by the presidency to follow up the Commission communication adopted at the end of May; welcome the ongoing discussions to assess policy options; invite the Commission to conduct further analysis; and indicate that this should also be informed by the roadmap for a low-carbon economy by 2050 currently under preparation by the Commission. The Council decided to revert to these issues as soon as possible with a view to the spring 2011 European Council.
Climate Change Ministers agreed the EU's negotiating position to take forward to COP 16 in Cancun at the end of November, adopting conclusions which set out the need to achieve a balanced outcome which paves the way for a global and comprehensive legally binding framework. The main focus of the discussion was the EU's position on agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol, which will be a key issue for these negotiations. The Minister insisted on the need for the EU to send a clear signal of its willingness to agree a second commitment period provided that other countries enter a parallel legally binding agreement and the environmental integrity of the Kyoto protocol is addressed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make our quarterly statement to the House with details of the inquests of service personnel who have died overseas. We maintain the highest possible regard for all of our service personnel who are or have been involved in the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our deepest sympathies, of course, lie with the families of those personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We record with great sadness that since our last statement, on 22 July, a further 19 servicemen and women have lost their lives.
I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses which outline the status of all cases and the date of death in each case. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. These tables include information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held. We are encouraged to see that the average period of time from the date of death to the inquest continues to reduce, which is of considerable benefit primarily to the bereaved families, but also to other parties to the inquests. The average age of inquests into operational deaths which are yet unlisted is eight months.
Since the last statement 36 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. This makes a total of 361 inquests held into deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since June 2006, when additional resources were first provided to the Oxfordshire coroner.
Since operations commenced in 2001 there have been a total of 415 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 11 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In two further cases, no formal inquest was held, but the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident.
We remain deeply grateful for the efforts of all of the coroners who are involved in conducting these inquests. We also wish to reiterate that our Departments are committed to working together, and to continuing the Government's support for these coroners.
There are no outstanding inquests into deaths prior to 1 April 2007, since when fatalities have been repatriated via RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. Since October 2007 additional resources have been provided to ensure that a backlog of inquests does not build up in the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner's district. The coroner, David Ridley, transfers inquests for service personnel to a coroner closer to the bereaved family, wherever possible.
At present there are 102 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan (59 involving deaths in the last six months). Of these, Mr Ridley has retained 33 inquests, while 58 inquests are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. At 21 October, one recent fatality awaited repatriation and inquest opening. Hearing dates have been set in 10 cases.
There remain 11 inquests to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. These will be listed for hearing when the continuing investigations are completed.
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): I am today laying before Parliament the Government's memorandum to the Justice Select Committee on post-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The primary purpose of the Act was to empower and protect people who may lack capacity to make decisions for themselves and to enable people to be able to make
provision for a time in the future when they may lack capacity. Implementation of the Act has ensured that these measures are in place.
The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): The Government are today publishing details of ministerial overseas travel; hospitality received; gifts given and received over £140; and official meetings with external organisations during the period 13 May to 31 July 2010. This information is being published on departmental websites and will be updated and published on a quarterly basis on departmental websites.
I am also placing in the Libraries of both Houses: details of former Ministers' overseas travel costing over £500 during 2009-10; details of gifts given and received by former Ministers over £140 during 2009-10; and the annual list of those who received official hospitality at Chequers during 2009-10.
The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): Listed below are the names of the special advisers in post at 28 October 2010, including each special adviser's pay band, and actual salary where this is £58,200 or higher, together with details of the special advisers' pay ranges for 2010-11.
|Special Adviser in Post
|Salaryif £58,200 or higher (£)
|(1)Appointed by the Deputy Prime Minister and based in No. 10.
(2)In addition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has appointed Rupert Harrison (PB3, £80,000), and Eleanor Shawcross (PB2) to the Council of Economic Advisers.
(3)Julia Goldsworthy will not receive her salary as a special adviser until November 2010, as she was in receipt of a Resettlement Grant when she lost her parliamentary seat at the general election in May.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I am publishing today details of the number of and cost to Departments of Government cars provided to Ministers by the Government Car and Despatch Agency during the year 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.
|No of Cars at 31-03-2010
|(*)Note. Figures quoted for HM Treasury do not include direct payments made outside of GCDA.
Ministers are now encouraged to use public transport where practicable and the number of Ministers entitled to an allocated Government car and driver has been kept to a minimum. Other Ministers are entitled to make use of the ministerial car pool service as needed.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I refer to the points of order made in the House on Tuesday 26 October expressing concern that an advance copy of my statement on investment in highway and local transport schemes had been made available to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood). In response to those points of order, I stated that I had no knowledge of any advance copy of the statement being made available to him.
I have since been informed that an advance copy of the statement was sent by my office to the hon. Member for Cheltenham at the same time as a copy was sent to the official Opposition spokesman. I was not aware of this at the time and I would like to apologise for inadvertently misleading the House.
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was held on 21 October 2010 in Luxembourg. Andy Lebrecht, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the United Kingdom.
The main item of the agenda was a policy debate on the employment and social inclusion aspects of Europe 2020, the new European agenda for the next 10 years. The presidency set out the mechanics of the new EU2020 governance arrangements stating that the joint employment report should be the main vehicle for submitting messages to the spring European Council and the subsequent country-specific recommendations to the summer European Council. The UK supported the proposed governance arrangements, noting that the joint employment report should focus on robust evidence of what works. The UK outlined the key features of the spending review in this area-welfare reform and helping people into work. The UK would now consider the issue of "bottlenecks" and reform priorities in the EU context.
The Social Protection Committee Opinion on Social Protection and Social Inclusion in the Europe 2020 strategy was adopted. The presidency invited member states to comment on their own input to the social dimension of Europe 2020, particularly through national poverty targets and the national reform programmes. The Commission stressed that real consideration of the social dimension of Europe 2020 was essential if the strategy were to be a success, and urged member states to finalise their national targets. The UK explained that an approach to the national target had not yet been confirmed. The UK showed support for effective use of the open method of co-ordination and stressed that excessive new reporting burdens should be avoided.
The Commission presented its recent initiative, Youth on the Move. This proposes to encourage worker mobility, improve education quality, training systems and support to young job seekers and entrepreneurs. The Commission also set out their intention for a new Roma communication next April. This would set out a framework for National Roma Integration, in which member states would be encouraged to develop strategies to deal with their Roma populations. On the Pensions Green Paper, the
Commission stressed that the issue of demographic change would remain to be tackled even after the economic crisis had passed and that pension reform would consequently need to remain high on the agenda.