The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk): The Government have today published their response to the review into non-planning consents by Adrian Penfold which was published on 3 July 2010.
The Penfold review was set up to find out what problems business, and especially small businesses, encounter that can make or break investment in development. The investigation into "non-planning consents", such as environment permits, highways orders, and heritage consents that are needed alongside or after planning permission, found a complex and fragmented landscape that poses real problems for some businesses to navigate effectively.
The Government are committed to providing a regulatory environment that effectively delivers our policy commitments, but minimises unnecessary delay, complexity and cost for business and other applicants. Encouraging such an environment in the planning and development consents systems is crucial in ensuring the UK develops a competitive business environment that underpins business success, attracts investment and ultimately promotes economic growth.
The Government therefore welcome the recommendations of the Penfold review and will begin work to develop concrete reforms of the development consents system based upon the findings of the review. Our ambition is to use this review as a base from which to drive a programme of streamlining and simplification in the planning and development consents systems.
The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): I have today deposited in the Library of the House a copy of the annual report and accounts of the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) for the financial year 2009-10.
LEASE is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Communities and Local Government (and by the Welsh Assembly Government) to provide advice, information and other services to the public and others in England and Wales on residential leasehold. (In 2009-10 LEASE was also sponsored by the Ministry of Justice to provide advice on commonhold tenure.)
The report sets out its main activities and performance during the year, details of its financial status, along with statistics on the number of inquiries it dealt with during the year. In 2009-10, for instance, LEASE dealt with 37% more inquiries than in 2008-09 and visits to its website increased by 18% on the previous year.
The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): The Government have today announced a new £110 million Education Endowment Fund (EEF) to help raise standards in underperforming schools. The Government's proposals draw on President Obama's "Race to the Top" programme, launched in 2009.
The EEF will distribute money to local authorities. Academy sponsors, charities and other groups who bring forward innovative proposals to improve performance in our most challenging schools. Those bidding for funds from the EEF will have to outline how their proposals will raise attainment. Bidders must also demonstrate how they will be held accountable for the success of their proposals.
By inviting bids from those who wish to turn round our weakest schools the Government are building on the transformative potential of the new pupil premium. Our most challenging schools are concentrated in our areas of greatest deprivation. The pupil premium will result in more money being allocated to support the education of all our poorest children, adding £2.5 billion to school funding by the end of the CSR period. The EEF will allow many of the schools which educate our poorest children to do even more. And the innovative practice it encourages should drive improvement across the school system.
Funding for projects will come from the returns on the EEF's investment-plus capital draw-down from the total sum each year. The independent organisation that runs the EEF will also be expected to attract additional contributions from other organisations and philanthropists to add to the fund.
This fund is being established from the money set aside when the Government took the decision not to increase the number of free school meals. The establishment of the fund fulfils the Government's pledge to use this money better to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): I would like to inform the House that a written answer I gave on 22 October 2010, Official Report, column 923W to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) contained some inadvertent errors in that National Energy Action (NEA), Keep Britain Tidy and Action for a Global Climate Community Ltd were included in the answer. These three organisations should not have been included in the answer as each of them were recipients of grants.
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The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Plans to increase the state pension age to 66 were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the spending review. Today, the Government will publish details to show how the increase in the state pension age will be delivered.
More of us are now reaching state pension age and then living to draw a state pension for longer than ever before. Increasing longevity is a cause for celebration. Nevertheless, the legislated timetable for increases to state pension age was based on an expectation of longevity that has since been revised upwards.
Women's state pension age is currently rising from 60 to be equalised with men's at 65 by April 2020. To enable an earlier increase to 66, the equalisation timetable will be adjusted from April 2016 so that women's state pension age will reach 65 by November 2018. Then, in December 2018, the state pension age for men and women will start to rise so that it reaches 66 from April 2020.
Copies of the Command Paper will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and online at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/spa-66-review.