The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Following decisions announced at the June Budget and the release of retail and consumer prices data for September, the Government have today confirmed 2011-12 rates and thresholds for income tax, national insurance contributions (NICs), and tax credits. The limit for individual savings accounts (ISA) for 2011-12 has also been confirmed.
There is a statutory obligation on the Treasury to make an order to replace the existing amounts of income tax rate limits and personal allowances for the following tax year. The 2010 indexation order has been made today and sets out the indexed amounts of income tax rate limits and personal allowances for 2011-12. In the case of the personal allowance and basic rate limit, this order will be over-ridden by the Finance Bill next year that will legislate for the changes announced at Budget 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): I would like to inform the House that the Government are today announcing they will bring together publicly owned address information for England and Wales from Ordnance Survey and local authorities to create a "national address gazetteer database", providing one definitive source of accurate spatial address data.
To deliver this, an agreement has been reached to set up a joint venture between Ordnance Survey and the local government group to create a single source of address data. Having just one database will remove duplication and inefficient processes in the public sector and will provide a better quality of information for all users.
The products created from the national address gazetteer database will be made available free at the point of use for all public sector bodies under the centrally funded public sector mapping agreement. Commercial customers will be able to license the data in the same way as they do for the Ordnance Survey and local government products they use today.
The proposal for the national address gazetteer database will be referred to the Office of Fair Trading for third parties to comment. Subject to Office of Fair Trading clearance the database will be developed by April 2011. This will allow the market to review the database before it is released.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): As part of the spending review we announced that energy suppliers would be required to spend £250million in 2011-12 rising to £310 million by 2014-15 on assisting vulnerable consumers with their energy bills. I am pleased to announce that this vital support will be delivered through the warm home discount scheme.
The consultation document we have published today sets out how we propose suppliers should be required to help more of their most vulnerable consumers with their energy costs. Our model includes four key areas of support:
We propose that the majority of spend across the four years of the scheme (2011-12 to 2014-15) should be on the core group. These are a well-targeted group of the poorest pensioners who have a high propensity to fuel poverty and a higher risk of excess winter deaths. This section of the model would build on the 2010 energy rebate scheme, a successful data matching pilot between DWP, DECC and the six major energy suppliers that resulted in an £80 rebate being provided to over 200,000 of the poorest pensioner households this year.
While we know the core group have a high propensity to be fuel poor, we also recognise that other groups are at risk of fuel poverty. Our proposals would therefore also ensure some support will be available for other groups of vulnerable consumers through the broader group.
The voluntary agreement between energy suppliers and Government provides real help to people, but it ends in March 2011. We think it is important that there are some arrangements in place to allow suppliers to continue providing these benefits to the customers receiving them for a period of time. However, we believe that the proposals for the core and broader groups will take more people out of fuel poverty as well as providing clearer and more predictable benefits. We therefore propose that these should be transitional arrangements and that suppliers should have to manage this spend down over the scheme period.
Our proposed model also recognises the good work suppliers have been doing through various industry initiatives under the voluntary agreement, and provides room for them to continue funding them. Such activities include working in partnerships to identify vulnerable customers and funding services delivering energy advice to vulnerable customers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anne Milton): I informed the House on 26 July, Official Report, columns 65-66WS, of the Government's intention to consult on whether to proceed with work surrounding the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA). A subsequent consultation on this issue, entitled: "Fitness to Practise Adjudication for Health Professionals: Assessing different mechanisms for delivery" was launched on 9 August 2010 and ran until 11 October 2010. The Government are grateful to those who responded.
The Government's full report and conclusion on the consultation, containing an analysis of the responses received has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. We shall bring forward primary legislation to enable OHPA's abolition at the next available opportunity.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Today the Government are publishing its equality strategy. The strategy sets out our vision for a strong, modern and fair Britain. It is built on two principles of equality-equal treatment and equal opportunity. This means building a society where no one is held back because of who they are, or where they come from.
Our strategy sets out a new approach, not built on bureaucracy but aimed at changing culture and attitudes, tackling the causes of inequality and building a stronger, fairer and more cohesive society where equality is for everyone and is everyone's responsibility. Government cannot and will not do this by dictating from the centre. Instead, our strategy sets out how we will work with business, local communities and citizens to promote good practice, transparency and accountability.
The strategy includes the coalition Government's commitment to implement section 159 of the Equality Act 2010 (positive action in recruitment and promotion) and plans to develop a voluntary approach on gender pay reporting in the private and voluntary sector.
As part of the new approach, the Government Equalities Office will be brought within the Home Office, and will cease to be a separate Department. We expect this to take formal effect from 1 April 2011. GEO will continue to have cross-Government responsibilities but this move will help to embed the work on equalities within the departmental structure in line with the equality strategy's commitment.
Equality is fundamental to this coalition Government. The strategy sets out a new approach to delivering equality, moving away from the identity politics of the past and to an approach that recognises people's
individuality. It sets out a new role for Government, promoting equality through transparency and behaviour change and working with businesses, the voluntary sector and wider civil society to create equal opportunities for everyone.
I have placed a copy of the strategy in the House Library and it has been published online at: www.equalities. gov.uk.
The Solicitor-General (Mr Edward Garnier): On Tuesday 30 November 2010 at oral parliamentary questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) asked me to "explain why the Government did not sign the EU Directive" on human trafficking, Official Report, column 661. I responded that we had signed it. The hon. Member raised the matter again as a point of order on 1 December, Official Report, column 821. As I made clear in my answer there is more than one instrument.
The EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings was adopted by the Council of Ministers in July 2002. Member states had two years to implement the framework decision, including through any legislation. My right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) was the Home Secretary at this time.
The UK signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in March 2007 when the right hon. and noble Lord Reid of Cardowan was Home Secretary. It was ratified in December 2008 and came into force in April 2009 when the former Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith) was Home Secretary.
In July this year the Government decided not to opt in to the draft EU Directive on combating human trafficking; a different instrument. If the Government conclude later that the directive would help us fight human trafficking, we can apply to opt in after it has been adopted. Negotiations on the text are at an advanced stage.
The Commission and presidency will present a report on possible measures to improve aviation security. The UK welcomes this report and will press for early, effective and co-ordinated action by member states.
There will also be a debate on the draft directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. The presidency intends to reach a conclusion on progress towards a political agreement. We hope that the conclusion
confirms the accepted view that political agreement can only be achieved once the UK and Ireland have completed parliamentary scrutiny and made their opt-in decisions.
There will be a progress report and policy debate on the legislative proposal to recast the first rail package, establishing a single European railway area, which was presented to the Council in October.
A progress report will be considered on work towards a Council and European Parliament decision on access to the public regulated service of the Galileo satellite navigation system. I will press for greater clarity on the estimated infrastructure and operational costs as well as an indication from the Commission on whether it proposes to charge member states for access to the public regulated service. This will help the Government determine their position on use of this service. The Government continue to oppose increasing the budget for completion of the Galileo system.
The Council will be asked to adopt conclusions, on the integration of water-borne transport into the EU logistics chain. These conclusions follow the informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers held in Antwerp in September. We welcome these conclusions on this important sector.
The Council will also be asked to adopt conclusions following the Commission's recent communication entitled "Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020". As the conclusions set out that any new EU legislation must be proportionate and supported by robust impact assessments, I intend to support their adoption.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): The Government are today announcing an independent review of the support the Government provide to disabled people who want to work.
Since taking office in May 2010, the coalition Government have set out an ambitious programme of employment support to ensure that people disadvantaged
in the labour market will get the help they need to find and keep jobs. Our aim is that Government programmes should support more disabled people than ever before into sustainable employment.
The Department will introduce the Work programme -an integrated package of support providing personalised help to a broad range of customers. The Work programme will cater for a wide range of disabled people. The Government recognise that many customers have complex disability-related barriers and may require more specialist support. In October 2010, the Government launched Work Choice-a new programme of support designed to help customers with more complex disability-related barriers find and sustain work. The Work programme and Work Choice are an important stride forward in providing simple, effective customer service that draws on the best evidence about what works. A range of other, specialist programmes currently sit alongside the Work programme and Work Choice-Remploy, residential training colleges and access to work. All provide valued support for disabled people. This review is designed to ensure there is a cohesive set of measures in place which meet the needs of disabled people in sustaining employment.
In the current fiscal climate it is more important than ever that the funding available for employment support is used more effectively. Decisions on the use of the available funding should draw on robust evidence about what works in the modern labour market and on how the support meets the needs of individual disabled people. In this context, the review will examine DWP's current employment support for people with severe disability-related barriers to work, and make recommendations about how this can be further improved to provide better value for money over the life of this Parliament.
To support this review I have today published a call for evidence to inform the review. This provides an opportunity for people and organisations to submit evidence that will inform the development of our future strategy. This call for evidence will close on 28 February 2011. I expect to publish the outcome of the review by summer 2011.
The terms of reference for the review and the call for evidence are available on the Department's website at: http://dwp.gov.uk/consultations/. They are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.