The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): The Prime Minister has agreed to re-constitute the Council for Science and Technology (CST) and reappointed four of the existing members to the newly reconstituted Council, starting from 1 January 2011. The CST is the Government's top-level advisory body on science, engineering and technology policy.
Dr Hermann Hauser Hon CBE, FREng
Professor Alan Hughes
Professor Michael Sterling FREng
Sir Mark Walport FMedSci
The Prime Minister also reappointed Professor Dame Janet Finch as CST independent co-chair until the end of December 2011, alongside the Government's chief scientific adviser, currently Professor Sir John Beddington CMG FRS.
President of the Royal Society-Sir Paul Nurse
President of the Royal Academy of Engineering-Lord Browne
President of the Academy of Medical Sciences-Sir John Bell
President of the British Academy-Sir Adam Roberts
The CST is the UK Government's top-level advisory body on science and technology policy issues. It reports directly to the Prime Minister. CST's remit is to advise the Prime Minister on strategic science and technology policy issues that cut across the responsibilities of individual Government Departments.
Full details of CST's terms of reference and organisation can be found at http://www.bis.gov.uk/cst.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox) has today made the following statement:
"I represented the UK at the EU Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 10 December 2010, which discussed EU internal market and industry items. Andy Lebrecht, the UK's Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU represented the UK when I was not in attendance.
One of the main items debated was the Commission proposal for a Council regulation on translation arrangements for an EU patent. Member states were unable to achieve resolution by unanimous agreement and a number of member states made a request to the presidency to take on a process of enhanced co-operation in order to make progress. (Enhanced co-operation can be used as a last resort when unanimous agreement cannot be reached and requires the involvement of a minimum of eight member states, while remaining open to any member state that wishes to participate). The UK was among those who supported this request and endorsed the importance of creating a business-friendly EU patent in order to boost competitiveness. The UK, with a number of other member states, supports the Commission's three language proposal (English, French and German).
Council conclusions were adopted on a proposal for an EU gambling framework to harmonise regulation in Europe. Council conclusions relating to the Commission's Single Market Act communication were also agreed after some deliberation. Conclusions on the EU industrial policy flagship initiative were also adopted. All these items were supported by the UK.
On the Commission proposal for a fully harmonised consumer rights directive, the majority of member states have reached agreement on a text. The UK is willing to be flexible in order to reach agreement on a Council position, and expects to endorse the general approach when the text is formally approved at the Environment Council on 20 December.
There were also Any Other Business items comprising an update on the latest EU consumer scoreboard, a Commission report on implementation of the services directive and the mutual evaluation process, a presidency report of a conference on the transposition of EU directives and a presentation by Hungary on their work programme for the forthcoming EU presidency. In the margins of the Council, member states confirmed Prague as the location for the European Agency for the Galileo satellite navigation system."
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): I am today laying before Parliament the annual European Union finances White Paper "Statement on the 2010 EU Budget and measures to combat fraud and financial mismanagement" (Cm 7978). It is the 30th in the series.
The White Paper gives details of revenue and expenditure in the 2010 EU budget and covers recent developments in EU financial management and measures to counter fraud against the EU budget. It also includes updated details on the budget review, own resources decision, the UK consolidated statement on the use of EU funds in the UK and the European economic recovery plan and changes related to the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty.
Looking forward to future years' budgets, and particularly in the current economic and financial climate, the Government remain determined to ensure better value for money in EU budget spending, to oppose unacceptable budget increases, and to push for improvements in EU financial management.
"Carbon price floor: support and certainty for low-carbon investment" is an innovative approach to achieving the UK's energy and climate policy objectives. Giving greater support and certainty to the price of carbon in the power sector will encourage further investment in low-carbon electricity generation. This can be achieved through reform of the climate change levy (CCL) and fuel duty to enable fossil fuels used by power generators to be taxed on the basis of their carbon content.
The proposal is part of a wider package of reforms to the electricity market, covering a number of commitments set out in the coalition agreement. These wider reforms are set out in a consultation on electricity market reform, also published today by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
The consultation invites interested parties to submit their views on a range of implementation issues by 11 February. The Government will then publish their response, by Budget 2011. The Government intend to introduce legislation for the proposals in the 2011 Finance Bill (and subsequent secondary legislation) and to bring the proposals into effect from 1 April 2013.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Legislation will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2011 to create an exemption from income tax for subsistence payments made to national experts seconded to EU agencies located in the UK. Separate secondary legislation will be introduced to create a corresponding disregard for the purpose of national insurance contributions. The exemption will remove a disincentive for high-quality experts to be seconded to these agencies and will put the tax treatment of such payments into line with that given to experts seconded to EU agencies in many other EU member states.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): I have today published the outcomes of the first phase of a process which has the power to determine the future shape and direction of England's fire and rescue service and the wider fire sector. This work, known as "Fire Futures", has been led by the sector and was launched in July by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The scope of the review was determined by the sector and structured around four sector led work streams: localism and accountability; efficiency, effectiveness and productivity; role of the fire and rescue service; and
national interests. It reported to me yesterday and I have placed copies of the reports in the Library of the House.
Now we will consider options emerging from this work to take forward, based on principles of localism, decentralisation, transparency and value for taxpayers' money. Fire and rescue services are already trusted local partners with a vital community role and are therefore best placed to lead this change.
I am grateful to individuals and organisations from the sector for showing such commitment to this process and taking part in a constructive dialogue which I am confident will now continue as I seek reactions to the reports while I decide which options to take forward. The Government will report back by March 2011.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): I am setting out today the main elements of the programme of work the Department for Communities and Local Government will lead in the new year to establish the changes required to the building regulations. The work will identify the changes that need to be made to the building regulations regime between now and 2013 to ensure it remains fit for purpose and delivers its contribution to the Government's policy goals.
At the end of July I asked our external partners to tell me their ideas about what in the building regulations needed to be improved or extended, where we might reduce the regulatory burdens and how we might deliver even better levels of compliance. I wanted this to play a key part in helping to deliver our commitment to reduce the burden of regulation while ensuring we had given proper consideration to emerging issues. I am grateful for the way industry and members of the public have responded both in writing and through their participation in workshops.
The programme I am setting out today has been arrived at after active engagement with our external partners. A key theme to emerge from this process has been that these partners believe that although the regime is generally fit for purpose, there are things we can improve. This confirms the Department's belief that the building regulations should remain the national minimum standard that building work should comply with.
While much of the programme of work is deregulatory in nature, it will, however, include work to deliver our commitment to increase energy efficiency through part L (conservation of fuel and power). This will represent our next steps towards zero-carbon buildings and will also provide an opportunity to consider provisions for the existing stock in the light of the Government's emerging policies on reducing carbon emissions, including the green deal. We will also explore how better to ensure high levels of compliance.
In addition, I would like to consider further the case for Government intervention in two other areas. First, whether there is a role to ensure suitable toilet and
changing provisions for people with multiple and profound disabilities-often referred to as "Changing Places". I would also like to explore further the case in relation to minimum standards for security in homes and explore whether national regulation might be a more effective approach than voluntary and local interventions.
Set against this there are a number of key areas where we want to explore the potential for deregulation and streamlining of the existing provisions. In particular, representations made to Government demonstrate concern with the costs imposed on electricians by part P (electrical safety-dwellings). We believe it is now time to evaluate the building regulations' contribution to the safety outcomes they were intended to support and, if we are to retain regulation of this kind, how we might minimise the associated costs.
We also believe that there is scope to look at the rationalisation of parts M. K and N (access, protection from falling, collision and impact and glazing respectively) to address areas of potential conflict and overlap between them. As part of this we intend to review existing guidance that promotes the use of access statements in order to consider whether they remain necessary while maintaining the standards of accessibility we are seeking to achieve.
As part of this deregulatory element we also need to explore what changes may be needed to the building control system. I believe there is scope to enhance compliance and reduce the burdens on those who use the system. To that end, over the next few months we will be taking forward work to gather further evidence about actual levels of compliance and reasons for non-compliance. In the light of this, we will be exploring options to further improve enforcement and incentives for responsible businesses. We will also be considering how we can improve the interface with planning and other standards regimes.
In developing this programme we have been mindful, and will remain so, of the need to manage down the regulatory costs to business as part of this process. We will also be specifically considering the impacts on house builders, with the aim of contributing to the achievement of our spending review commitment to reduce regulatory costs over this Parliament.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is also today publishing on its website a supporting document to this statement that provides further information about the exercise we have undertaken and more detail on the programme of work to be taken forward. I am placing copies of this document in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey): With the expiry of the call-out order made on 5 January 2010, a new order has been made under section 56(1)(a) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service in support of operations in the region of Iraq and the Gulf
The new order is effective until 4 January 2012, small numbers of reservists continue to be required to support
operations in the region and some 44 are currently called out and serving, of whom 20 are in the region.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey): As announced following the strategic defence and security review, the Ministry of Defence is reviewing the broad range of allowances paid to service personnel. Work is ongoing to define fully the package of changes, but we are now able to announce some changes to the continuity of education allowance (CEA).
The Government place a very high priority on the welfare of service personnel and their families. Due to the requirements of service, some personnel relocate frequently, and it is important to ensure that their children are not disadvantaged by this requirement and have continuity of education. This continuity is not achievable through the day school sector for service personnel whose children accompany them on necessary relocations both at home and overseas. The importance of the allowance in supporting accompanied service and in enabling the armed forces to deploy to meet service needs is well understood. Nevertheless, it represents a significant investment, around £180 million per annum, to support some 5,500 personnel, fewer than 3% of the total number of service personnel. In the current fiscal climate, we must be sure that this expenditure is fully justified. I am therefore leading a review of CEA.
The review will consider the fundamental rationale for the allowance, look at alternatives, including a lesser reliance on independent schools, and at the justification for the current set of entitlements. Longer-term work on the development of a new employment model for service personnel is also likely to impact on the requirement for this allowance, and the review will consider what this might imply. The review will involve consultation with the service community, families federations and those outside who have an interest. I want to keep the period of uncertainty about the future of CEA to a minimum and intend to announce the conclusions of the review in the spring. Any changes will be promulgated well before they are implemented.
In parallel with this review we have put in place some immediate changes to the detailed rules on eligibility and payment structures for CEA and the governance of claims for the allowance. These changes should reduce our expenditure on the allowance by over £20 million per annum. The changes reflect the fundamental justification for the allowance-a commitment on the part of the individual to accompanied service. The most significant of these changes therefore involves withdrawing eligibility for CEA from personnel who serve unaccompanied by their families in some locations (principally but not exclusively MOD London) and in sea-going assignments. Appropriate transitional arrangements have been put in place to ensure individuals who are currently drawing CEA under these 'involuntary separation' rules will not be unfairly disadvantaged.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan):
I am pleased to announce that I will be amending the compensation and pension payments for individuals who die as a result of service while holding acting rank. Pension arrangements under armed
forces pension scheme 05 already ensure that any acting rank held at the time of death is taken into account in the pension received by surviving dependants. However, under the armed forces pension scheme 75, in most cases, the acting rank needs to be held for at least a year for it to be recognised in the pension received by surviving dependants. This rule will now be amended to ensure that, in future, those who die as a result of service while holding acting rank will have this higher rank recognised in the pension paid to their dependants, regardless of the length of time the acting rank has been held.
For previous such cases since April 2005, a lump sum payment of £20,000 will be made through the armed forces compensation scheme to ensure the acting rank is recognised in the payments dependants have received.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 13 and 14 December. Richard Lochhead and Michelle Gildernew attended for Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.
There were two substantive agenda items on fisheries; the setting of fishing opportunities for EU vessels in the Atlantic, and in the Black Sea respectively. There were four items on agriculture (the three dairy items being taken together) and one agriculture AOB.
On fishing opportunities for 2011, the Council and Commission reached unanimous agreement on a package of measures which set quotas for the main commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, including for cod, haddock, plaice and sole. Over two days of intensive negotiations, the UK battled hard to reach an agreement that ensures the long term sustainability of fish stocks, while providing short term catching opportunities for our fishing industry. The package my hon. Friend secured, helps all sectors of the industry, large and small, and delivers benefits for all parts of the UK-north, south, east and west. It also means the UK can drive forward with its innovative approach to fisheries management-catch quotas-which enable fishermen to land more while catching less, thereby helping to tackle the scourge of discards. The final agreement included a number of notable gains for the UK, including on Irish Sea Nephrops, Western Channel sole. West of Scotland megrim and monkfish in the West of Scotland and the Celtic Sea.
The UK team also fought off effort restrictions for fisheries in the Celtic Sea, with a commitment to consider a more sensible management regime to apply from 2012. Moreover, they won a firm commitment from the Commission to a comprehensive review of the EU's cod recovery plan next year. The UK also resisted a revision to the management arrangements for plaice in the English Channel, that would have meant UK fishermen losing out badly.
The discussion on CAP reform concentrated on the achievement of food security. While all believed competitiveness to be significant, only Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK supported a greater focus on training, innovation, sustainability and improved business practices as a means of boosting competiveness. The majority of member states cited price volatility as a justification for the continuation of direct payments and wanted to retain a less favoured area scheme in the second pillar of the CAP. Proposals would issue in the next few months.
The Commission presented the dairy proposal and the quarterly market and quota phase-out reports. Both reports showed a positive market situation for the dairy sector. Most member states were on track for the expiry of the quota regime in 2015. The majority of member states welcomed new proposals to increase the power of producers in the food chain. The incoming Hungarian presidency hopes to reach political agreement on the dairy proposal by June.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): My hon. Friends the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 29 and 30 November. Elin Jones and Michelle Gildernew also attended for Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.
On deep sea fishing opportunities in 2011-12, the Council and Commission reached agreement on fishing limits, notably deep water sharks, the black scabbardfish, roundnose grenadier, Alfonsinos and forkbeards. Given that these are vulnerable long-life cycle species, of which little is known, the UK and Sweden led calls for a precautionary approach that differentiated these from other fisheries. Some other member states (MSs) pressed for and gained significant concessions. The final agreement included declarations on defining a differentiated category for deep sea species to identify specific treatment in the Commission's policy framework.
On the first round of discussions with Norway on the shared fishing opportunities for 2011 the UK underlined the importance of moving towards a catch quota management system which would reduce discards and incentivise responsible fishing and emphasised the importance of maximising arctic cod opportunities. Some MSs warned against using their stocks to pay for this. The UK noted the withdrawal of Iceland from talks on managing mackerel stocks which impacted on the EU-Norway talks; this attitude was unhelpful and the Commission should be firm.
On the Agriculture items: the Commission will act to ban 1, 3-dichloropropene as there was no qualified
majority either for or against the proposal. The Commission's recent report on the potential for the European Food Safety Authority to charge fees was discussed very briefly, with some MSs supporting its conclusion that a full impact assessment is required to inform any subsequent proposals. The Commission presented its paper on the Farm Advisory Service (FAS), highlighting a need to improve the targeting of advice, especially in reaching small and medium-sized farms. The subjects covered by FAS needed to go beyond cross compliance to cover competitiveness and innovation. Recommendations would be taken forward in due course.
The first discussion on the Commission Communication on CAP restricted Ministers' interventions to three minutes each. Most MSs broadly welcomed the communication as a useful starting point. There was general endorsement for the continuation of the current two pillar structure of the CAP. A number of important themes emerged during the debate, which focused largely on what the communication was missing:
There was support for continuing direct payments (DPs) to farmers, with new MSs calling for their equalisation. Some MSs rejected a transitional period at the beginning of the next financial perspective (FP). The abolition of historical references periods was welcomed. France, Germany and Greece, however, cautioned that new objective criteria should not result in a flat rate payment; DPs needed to be allocated fairly, taking account of regional costs and farm structures. A few MSs resisted the intention to cap payments to large farms. The UK called for substantial cuts to the EU budget, which should include material cuts to the CAP budget and with progress on reducing reliance on direct subsidies leading eventually to their abolition. Others, however, called for a strong or adequate CAP budget commensurate with its challenging policy objectives.
All MSs called for a significant effort to simplify CAP rules. The UK noted that some of the Commission's ideas looked too complex. The Commission will establish an expert group to work alongside those drafting legislation to ensure that new measures did not increase administrative burdens for farmers or national authorities.
Many MSs were sceptical of the Commission's proposal to green pillar 1, as this could work counter to the simplification objective. However, a number welcomed the principle of securing better environmental benefits. The Commission insisted that new measures on environmental compliance would not increase burdens and would generally take the form of guidance on the application of cross compliance provisions.
MSs queried the confused treatment of less favoured areas (LFAs) in the Communication. Some wanted LFA payments to remain in the second pillar, whereas others favoured an additional LFA uplift in pillar one. Some MSs supported the Commission's intentions to provide a small farmer payment and to restrict payments to active farmers, although clarity was sought on definitions of "small" and "active".
MSs welcomed the retention of a specific pillar devoted to rural development. The UK called for a greater share of a reduced CAP budget to go to this. Some new MSs called for pillar two resources to be concentrated on MSs with the greatest modernisation needs. MSs
were broadly supportive of the continued focus on competiveness and agri-environment. Territorial cohesion was frequently stressed.
There was a short Commission paper on the current inter-institutional blockage on long-term fisheries management plans. In its view a large majority of MSs (not the UK) were not being realistic; the European Parliament had a legitimate interest in setting these under the Lisbon treaty and the Council could not cling to this power. It wanted to begin a dialogue to resolve the matter quickly.
On the 2011 Budget the Commission took the opportunity to sensitise MSs to difficulties with the reimbursement of DPs, if the new draft budget was not adopted. National budgets would take the strain of some 75% of direct payments being made by national authorities in the first few months of 2011, while operating under a system of twelfths. However, problems were unlikely to arise for market management or rural development expenditure, which had flatter spending profiles. There was no discussion.
France presented its note on the aims of the French presidency of the G20 in the field of agriculture highlighting four themes: increasing transparency about global stock reserves, enhancing the moral behaviour of market operators, co-ordinating international crisis management and addressing price volatility.
Finally, the Italian Minister tabled a point related to the food labelling proposal due to be discussed at the EPSCO Council formation on 7 December. The Italians want to see the manufacturer of products identified on the label. The UK responded that this would not be acceptable given that this information is not meaningful to consumers, adds burdens to businesses and has the potential for negative impact on competition.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): In my statement of 1 December 2010, Official Report, column 77WS, I promised to keep the House informed of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA)'s progress towards its 2010 single payment scheme (SPS) payment targets.
As at Wednesday 15 December, RPA have made payments totalling some £1.16 billion to 85,060 farmers (80.6%). The agency continues to strive to meet its target to pay 85% of eligible claimants by the end of December. RPA has also now issued letters to all those farmers who are unlikely to be paid this month.
Progress toward the December target will be reviewed again today by the RPA oversight board, with a view to ensuring the money reaches farmers as early as possible
while also protecting taxpayers' interests. Joined by new permanent RPA chief executive (Mark Grimshaw) from 17 January, the board will focus the agency's attention in the new year on the still more challenging target of making 95% of the value of SPS payments by the end of March 2011. I will continue to keep the House informed.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Jeremy Browne): Since 2004 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered specific assistance for British victims of terrorist incidents overseas and their families. Originally known as the aftercare plan, but renamed exceptional assistance measures (EAM) in 2008, it was introduced in recognition of the fact that many travel insurance policies explicitly exclude acts of terrorism from their cover. EAM allows Ministers to activate special assistance to victims of terrorist attacks above the standard consular package. This can include medical evacuation, payment of immediate medical expenses and repatriation. It is only ever activated in extremis.
When the policy was first introduced in 2004, EAM could be awarded to any British victim of a terrorist incident abroad, regardless of whether or not the person had travel insurance. However, in June 2008 the Government at the time decided to impose restrictions on EAM eligibility, excluding those victims who did not have travel insurance.
I have decided to overturn this decision and restore EAM for all British nationals affected by a terrorist attack overseas, regardless of whether or not they have travel insurance. Acts of terrorism are singularly heinous crimes, usually targeting innocent people at random. It is right that all British victims of terrorist attacks overseas can receive the same level of support from the Government.
EAM only covers incidents overseas that are deemed to be acts of terrorism by Her Majesty's Government. They do not replace travel insurance. British nationals travelling overseas are strongly advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance. Those that do not and are involved in accidents or incidents often deeply regret it when faced with huge bills.
i. The measures will only be activated as a last resort, where financial assistance is not made available through other means, i.e. from the Government of the country where the incident took place, insurance providers or other agencies and organisations, and in a situation we deem to be terrorist in nature;
The consultation document sets out this Government's proposals for introducing a system of value-based pricing for medicines, as stated in the coalition agreement. Such a system would enable patients to access the medicines and treatments their doctor advises they need by establishing a closer link between the price of a new branded medicine and the value which it offers in terms of benefits to patients, reflecting unmet need, therapeutic innovation, and where appropriate, benefit to society.
While the current system of pricing medicines has tried to achieve a balance between reasonable prices for the NHS and fair return for the industry to develop new medicines, it does not promote innovation or patient access in the way that we are looking for. We have committed to honouring the terms of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme 2009 until its expiry, but there is a need to reform the way in which we pay for medicines from 2014 onwards. As we have made clear through the establishment of the cancer drugs fund prior to 2014, we are enabling NHS clinicians to have better access to the medicines required for their patients.
This consultation is an important opportunity to engage with different groups in order to gain their views on how we should best reflect the value of medicines in order to deliver the best health outcomes for patients. This consultation sets out the Government's initial thoughts and invites engagement from interested parties in order that we can begin to develop a future model of medicines' pricing.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): We said in the coalition agreement that we would introduce a new dental contract based on registration capitation and quality to increase access and improve oral health, particularly of children. We are today announcing the publication of our proposals for piloting that new contract, and inviting expressions of interest in taking part in the pilots.
The current dental contract, which was introduced by the previous Administration in 2006, has been a bone of contention for dentists since its inception. The House of Commons Health Select Committee report published in July 2008 found that the contract had failed to solve problems of access, that the UDA-based system (that is units of dental activity) of remuneration was extremely unpopular with dentists, and that commissioning of dentistry by primary care trusts was often of poor quality. It called for registration to be reintroduced.
Under our planned new contract dentists will be rewarded for the quality of care they deliver for patients rather than the number of treatments and, through registration, patients will have the security of continuing care. Our reforms will give dentists the encouragement they need to provide a service that meets the needs of today's population. The Select Committee noted that there was widespread criticism that the UDA system introduced in the 2006 contract was not piloted. We have decided that we will carry out pilots as part of the development of our reforms.
To help us develop our proposals, we have taken advice from a national expert steering group, containing representatives of the dental profession, and patients, and NHS commissioners. Professor Jimmy Steele, author of the independent review of dentistry published last year, was also a member of the group.
The three different models set out in the publication will be piloted in 50 to 60 areas around the country from next April. The three pilot models will be slightly different in order to provide information and evidence on different aspects of the proposals, which will then help inform the development of a new national contract.
The proposals we are announcing today mark a first step towards delivering this new and better system of dentistry. In the light of the pilots we will bring forward proposals for a new national contract, with the intention of bringing forward legislation.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE was asked by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice to lead a review of drug treatment and interventions in prisons and for people on release from prisons in England and provide a report, with recommendations.
As outlined in the coalition programme for government, we are aiming to overhaul the system of rehabilitation to reduce offending, and to ensure that sentencing for drug use helps offenders to come off drugs. We want to promote innovation in service provision and commissioning. Payment by results will be an important tool in achieving progress.
In the comprehensive spending review, the need for continued, substantial investment in drug treatment was reaffirmed. As part of our commitment to ensuring that there is local pooling of resources it has been agreed that some budgets previously held by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice will transfer to the Department of Health from April 2011. This will allow us to look in a more joined-up way across the total spend on drug treatment to improve the treatment journey and avoid wasting resources.
We welcome Lord Patel's contribution to the important drugs treatment debate and will be looking carefully at the recommendations and evidence his group has collected. This Government believe that given the substantial investment in drugs and the strong association between the use of drugs and reoffending, we should be ambitious in our aims to improve efficiency and effectiveness, focusing on recovery outcomes, encouraging offenders to come off drugs.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act), requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of the control order powers during that period.
As set out in previous statements the Government are reviewing control orders as part of a wider review of counter-terrorist and security powers and measures. The Government will report on the outcome of this review shortly.
As explained in previous quarterly statements on control orders, control order obligations are tailored to the individual concerned and are based on the terrorism-related risk that individual poses. Each control order is kept under regular review to ensure that the obligations remain necessary and proportionate. The Home Office continues to hold control order review groups (CORGs) every quarter, with representation from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to keep the obligations in every control order under regular and formal review and to facilitate a review of appropriate exit strategies. During this reporting period, four CORGs were held in relation to the orders in force at the time. In addition, further meetings were held on an ad-hoc basis as specific issues arose.
During the period 11 September 2010 to 10 December 2010, one non-derogating control order has been made, with the permission of the court, and served. One control order has been renewed in accordance with section 2(6) of the 2005 Act in this reporting period. Two control orders expired during this reporting period as it was not considered necessary to renew the orders for a further 12 months. One control order, made in a previous quarter but never served, expired during this reporting period.
In total, as of 10 December 2010, there were eight control orders in force, all of which were in respect of British citizens. All of these control orders were non-derogating. Three individuals subject to a control order lived in the Metropolitan Police Service area; the remaining individuals lived in other police force areas.
No criminal proceedings for breach of a control order were concluded during this reporting period. However, one set of criminal proceedings against one
individual who was formerly subject to a control order and three other individuals for conspiracy to breach a control order was concluded in the reporting period 11 June 2010 to 10 September 2010. This followed a CPS decision that prosecution was no longer in the public interest. It was not possible to include this information in the previous statement laid on 16 September 2010.
Section 10(1) of the 2005 Act provides a right of appeal against a decision by the Secretary of State to renew a non-derogating control order or to modify an obligation imposed by a non-derogating control order without consent. No appeals have been lodged with the High Court during this reporting period under section 10(1) of the 2005 Act. A right of appeal is also provided by section 10(3) of the 2005 Act against a decision by the Secretary of State to refuse a request by a controlled person to revoke their order or to modify any obligation under their order. During this reporting period one appeal has been lodged with the High Court under section 10(3) of the 2005 Act.
On 15 September 2010 one individual subject to a control order was granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the High Court judgment in the substantive judicial review proceedings under section 3(10) of the 2005 Act relating to his control order.
The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): The UK has a long tradition of welcoming people from across the globe and we can be especially proud of our record in granting refuge to those who have been persecuted. When those people include families with children, we have a particular responsibility to ensure that we approach the task with compassion and humanity.
That is why one of this Government's first acts was to commit to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes. This Government believe that children should not be detained in our immigration system, but we must ensure that those with no right to be here leave the UK. This is a difficult issue-we need to balance the welfare of children and families with the need to maintain a robust and workable immigration system.
In June I set up a review of how we work with families in the immigration system. The Home Office launched a consultation which received over 340 responses from different organisations and members of the public. We also sought the views of interested parties through a working group co-chaired with the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, received recommendations from a further expert group convened by Citizens UK and examined how other countries manage family removals. We have also worked closely with the Department for Education as the lead Department for children and safeguarding in England and will continue to do so on implementation.
We have already begun to take action where we can. Since the beginning of June, fewer than 50 families have
been held in immigration detention-compared to over 300 over the same period last year-and the average stay in detention has been reduced from 15 days to 4 days.
We are now implementing a fundamentally new approach to the whole end-to-end process of working with families in the immigration system. This new system will strengthen families' trust and confidence in the immigration system, maintain public confidence in the Government's ability to control the UK's borders and ensure that families with children are treated humanely and in a way that meets our international obligations and our statutory duties in relation to children's safety and welfare.
Working in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we will continue to improve the quality of our asylum decision making through our asylum improvement project. We will develop best practice for working with families and will increase the specialist skills of our staff. Working with partners from local authorities, the voluntary sector and local communities, we will continue to test new arrangements for providing early access to legal advice and practical support and guidance to families.
In those cases where an application has been refused and all appeals have been exhausted, we will assist families in departing voluntarily, including with financial assistance where necessary. UK Border Agency staff will hold a dedicated family return conference with each family to help them understand the options available tor their return and prepare for it.
We will, of course, still require families to depart who have no right to stay here and who do not depart voluntarily. But rather than being detained, they will instead be given a minimum of two-weeks' notice of their departure date while they remain in the community. This extended notification period-up from 72 hours at present-will ensure that the family can prepare properly for their return. Families will then be given the opportunity to check themselves in at the port of departure.
At this point families will have had every opportunity to comply and exercise some control over the timing and manner of their departure. They will have had the opportunity to challenge the decision that they must return in court, supported by legal aid and voluntary sector partners; they will have had the opportunity to discuss their options at family return conferences; and they will have had the possibility to leave voluntarily, with a financially supported return.
Where families still fail to co-operate, their case will be referred to a new independent family returns panel, which will ensure that the welfare of the children involved is fully considered in a tailored returns plan. The panel will be independently chaired and include experts on health and child safeguarding. Once the new process is implemented, the panel will be able to recommend using any existing mechanism or policy available to the department to manage returns, but specifically excluding detention in an immigration removal centre.
As a very last resort for those rare cases when families fail to co-operate with all other options, the panel will have the option to refer the family to a new type of accommodation for only the last 72 hours before departure.
This accommodation will not be an immigration removal centre. It will have a family-friendly environment, with an entirely different look and feel. The site will be secure but will respect family privacy and independence. We will be seeking third sector involvement in the running of the accommodation.
This accommodation, which will only be used for very short periods of time, will be for those families who have consistently refused to comply with the process and whom the independent panel advise need that level of oversight. Once there, families will be allowed to leave the premises with permission on a risk-assessed basis. We will allow children to have the opportunity to leave the premises subject to a clear and transparent risk and safeguarding assessment and suitable supervision arrangements. We will also ensure that there are suitable adults on site in Tinsley House from January to allow children to have the opportunity to leave the centre following a risk and safeguarding assessment by UK Border Agency. The panel will encourage accountability and transparency in the process by producing an annual report, which will include all cases referred to the new accommodation.
In addition to ensuring the removal of families with no right to stay here, we must maintain our ability to protect the border. Other countries have kept the ability to detain those arriving at the border for a short period and we will need this capability as well. We will retain Tinsley House at Gatwick for this purpose when necessary. Families detained trying to enter Britain illegally are usually returned on the next available flight and within 24 hours.
As we put the new process into practice we will continue to learn and improve. We will work with communities, the voluntary sector, local authorities, the Department for Education, and families themselves to make the new process work. At the heart of our new approach will be the fundamental need to safeguard the welfare of children.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): Gangs cause significant and lasting harm to our communities by fuelling violence, creating an atmosphere of fear and drawing young people into criminality. The Government are committed to tackling gang-related violence by giving local partners the legal powers they need to prevent gang-related violence and encourage gang members to exit their gang lifestyles.
As part of this approach, from 31 January 2011 police and local authorities will be able to apply to a county court for an injunction to prevent an individual from engaging in, or encouraging or assisting, gang-related violence, or to protect an individual from such violence. This new civil tool will enable courts to place a range of
prohibitions and requirements on the behaviour and activities of an individual; providing strong support to help those who want to leave violent gangs and placing tough restrictions on those who don't.
Statutory guidance on injunctions to prevent gang-related violence has been produced to help ensure their appropriate and effective use. Copies of the statutory guidance have been laid before the House and will be available from the Vote Office.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The Foreign Affairs Council (Development) took place in Brussels on 9 December. Due to priority parliamentary business that day, my ministerial colleagues and I were unable to attend. The UK was represented by the Permanent Representative to the EU (Kim Darroch) and the Director of International Relations for the Department for International Development (Anthony Smith). Both officials attended with clear direction from Ministers on relevant policy priorities. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton, chaired the meeting.
EU Development Commissioner (Andris Piebalgs) introduced his "Green Paper on EU Development Policy in Support of Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development". He confirmed that once the public consultation had concluded in January 2011, the Commission would begin drafting a communication on the results. This will include toolkits about how different work-streams can be taken forward.
Ministers broadly welcomed the paper and the opportunities it brings to think afresh about the future of EU development policy. The wide-ranging discussion covered issues including growth, human rights, gender, agriculture and sustainable development. The UK intervention welcomed the focus on growth and called for the prioritisation of actions that can deliver impact and results and demonstrate value for money.
Commissioner Piebalgs and the EU Special Representative in Afghanistan (Vygaudas Ušackas) briefed Ministers about the latest situation in Afghanistan. They stressed their long-term commitment to development and to the transition of responsibilities to the Afghan Government, based on the approach agreed at the 2010 Kabul conference. Ministers confirmed their strong support for this approach. It was also stressed that the EU action plan, agreed by EU Foreign Ministers in October 2009, offered the best way forward in terms of better co-ordinating European efforts in Afghanistan.
In a discussion led by the French Development Minister, the Council debated innovative financing mechanisms. The UK joined other member states in welcoming the
exploration of a range of innovative financing opportunities, while emphasising that these should complement, and not deflect from, existing official development assistance targets. The Commission was invited to continue working on the technical feasibility of innovative financing mechanisms and exploring their potential impact.
Ministers discussed the severe situation in Haiti, and agreed on the continuing importance of co-ordinating relief efforts. Commissioner Piebalgs noted that €325 million of the €522 million pledged for reconstruction in Haiti was now programmed, and that, to date, €61 million had been disbursed. The Commission is preparing a communication on reconstruction efforts, with the aim of effectively communicating the results of EU support in advance of the 12 January anniversary of the earthquake.
The Swedish Development Minister led a brief exchange of views on the importance of mutual accountability and transparency between European donors and partner countries. This is crucial in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of development assistance, and to help partner countries make better informed investment decisions. The UK strongly supported this approach-a key priority of the coalition Government-and suggested an aid transparency guarantee, similar to the one launched in the UK, be adopted at pan-European level.
The Council also adopted conclusions on mutual accountability and transparency as an "A" point without discussion. These can be viewed here: http://register. consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/10/st17/st17477.en10.pdf.
Over dinner, there was an exchange of views about the least developed countries (LDC) summit that will take place in Istanbul in May 2011. The Council noted the importance of ensuring a focused EU position in advance of the summit. The Commission will prepare a draft EU position paper in January 2011. The UK's suggestion of a focus on growth and vulnerability was welcomed.
The dinner concluded with a short discussion about the fourth high-level forum on aid effectiveness that will take place in Busan, Korea, in November 2011. The UK joined other member states in stressing the need for a high-level political debate at the forum, rather than purely technical discussions. The Council aims to agree a common position ahead of the forum in May 2011.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that provides assistance to the poorest countries. The international negotiations to agree its work and funding for the next three years concluded on Wednesday 15 December, and I wish to inform the House of the outcomes.
Providing 80 million people with access to improved water sources
Providing 2 million people with access to improved sanitation facilities
Immunising 200 million children
Providing 30 million more people with health services, including 2 million pregnant women
Recruiting and training 2 million teachers
Helping countries create wealth and jobs: IDA provides a range of support including funding key infrastructure, such as power, irrigation and roads. This is essential for boosting trade, encouraging private investment, and enabling people to access markets, schools and health centres. IDA has set itself the target of constructing and rehabilitating 80,000 km of roads.
Help poor countries cope with shocks: The financial crisis, the spike in food prices, and natural disasters have all put poor people under enormous strain recently. A new facility is being established in IDA that will enable the bank to offer countries additional support, for example to Haiti for reconstruction after the earthquake.
Throughout the negotiations, the Government have pressed the bank to step up its efforts to improve the lives of poor women and girls and those who live in fragile states, and the bank has made some clear commitments. These include more support to countries like Afghanistan.
IDA is an important and effective channel for international efforts to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs). As the emerging findings of the Government's comprehensive multilateral aid review demonstrate, its high-quality analysis and the deep expertise of its staff are drawn on by Governments in IDA countries to develop robust national poverty reduction strategies and make good public spending choices. In its own programmes, IDA delivers flexible assistance in support of countries' priorities. As well as investing in areas such as health, education and agriculture it also helps countries develop the institutions, the policies and practices that underpin sustained poverty reduction and economic growth, for example helping to strengthen accountability and tackle corruption. The bank has a strong track record of robust evaluation and lesson learning, and its new transparency policy puts it at the forefront of multilateral agencies in this regard.
In light of IDA'S strengths, its central role in helping the international community achieve the MDGs, and the results and reforms it has committed to deliver, the UK will provide an average of £888 million a year for the next three years. The result of the negotiations, following all the donor pledges and action from bank management, is that IDA will have $49.3 billion (£32.4 billion) to invest in tackling poverty in the three years starting in July 2011, of which the UK's burden share is 12%.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson):
I have today laid before this House a copy of the "Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's
Annual Report and Accounts for 2009-10", in accordance with schedule 7 paragraphs 5(2) and 7(3)(b) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I have today published responses to the previous Government's consultation on "A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland: Next Steps". The responses are available on the NIO website: www.nio.gov.uk.
A total of approximately 36,492 responses were received. There were 232 substantive responses and approximately 36,260 email and mail/freepost mailshots that were sent as part of campaigns by various groups. Individual mailshot responses have not been published on the NIO website due to the high volume received; however, sample versions have been made available.
There was considerable support from human rights and community groups for a wide-ranging Bill of Rights along the lines of that recommended by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. They expressed concern that the proposals in the consultation document fell well short of this.
The consultation also demonstrated opposition to a wide-ranging Bill of Rights and support instead for a more limited set of rights that reflected the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. This divergence of views was also reflected in the submissions made by political parties in Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): It is with regret that I must inform the House of a delay to the publication of the reports of the Robert Hamill and Rosemary Nelson inquiries.
The Robert Hamill inquiry has recently informed me that it expects to deliver its report to me by the end of February 2011. The Rosemary Nelson inquiry informs me that it currently expects to deliver its report by the end of April 2011. I have written to both inquiries to ask them to expedite their work and to continue to bear down on costs in these remaining months.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): I have laid before Parliament the Third Report of Robert Whalley CB, independent reviewer of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (the "2007 Act").
This Third Report provides an assessment of the operation of sections 21 to 32 of the 2007 Act and the procedures adopted by the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints. The report covers the period 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010.
The report highlights the security situation in the past year and the activities of residual terrorist groups who have been dangerous and disruptive and remain heavily involved in organised crime. The reviewer states that the police have had to deal with more threats and attacks this year, and this has led to a substantial increase (22%) in the use of stop and question and stop and search across the range of police powers. He also makes note of the heavy demand for the services of ammunition technical officers (ATOs).
The reviewer acknowledges that the police have responded to his recommendation to further develop recording systems and notes some improvement from his limited sampling of the records; however, there is still some way to go in pursuit of best practice. He welcomes the development of electronic recording which the police are pursuing and the thematic review which is being conducted by the human rights adviser to the Policing Board into the comparative use of police powers and development of best practice. He comments that it will significantly complement and enhance work in this area.
Mr Whalley highlights the marked decrease in military complaints and notes that the departure of the Pumas of 230 Squadron RAF has significantly altered the pattern of military flying in Northern Ireland. He states that the complaints system is efficient and responsive and must continue to function as effectively as it does now. He also emphasises the importance of engaging complainants, and suggests that it should be standard practice to offer a visit to Aldergrove (if not a flight in a helicopter) when a repeat complaint is made. He recommends the flying station at Aldergrove should take it as a high-priority task to keep the website on planned flying times up to date.
The Chief Constable and the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade have both welcomed the independent reviewer's report and the recommendations made. I too would like to thank Robert Whalley for his work and for the recommendations contained in his third report. I will consider them carefully.
The report provides an account of the Committee's work in giving advice about appointments that senior Crown servants and former Ministers wish to take up after leaving Crown service. The report covers the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): The United Kingdom is fortunate to have strong and effective front-line search and rescue capabilities, many of which are provided by volunteers, including some 3,500 volunteer coastguards carrying out coastal rescues, the lifeboats operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the volunteer mountain rescue teams. I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and commitment of these volunteers who provide a long-standing example of the contribution that individuals can make to the society in which they live.
Our front-line search and rescue services could not, however, function effectively and save the lives that they do without effective arrangements to identify and manage incidents, including directing the best placed and most suitable rescue assets to the scene. These arrangements are provided through our regular coastguard officers who also monitor ship movements around our coasts, provide information and services to seafarers and recreational water users, operate vessel traffic monitoring schemes in some locations, including the English channel, contribute to counter-pollution activities in our waters and support our volunteer coastguard force. They are currently located in 18 maritime rescue co-ordination centres around the UK.
The coastguard has a long and distinguished history. But in common with all public services it cannot stand still. Our seas are becoming busier with larger ships and increasing numbers of offshore renewable energy platforms, making key areas of our seas more congested. There are also increasing numbers of people using our beaches, coastlines and seas for leisure activities.
The current organisation of the coastguard-which dates back some 40 years-is not well placed to respond to these challenges. The lack of national co-ordination between the centres can result in limited resilience and an uneven distribution of the workload, especially during busy periods.
The latest technologies offer opportunities to address these issues and to modernise the coastguard enabling it to deliver a more integrated and improved level of service, at lower cost, with better-rewarded staff taking on increased responsibilities and with enhanced career opportunities.
With these objectives in mind, I am today launching a 14-week consultation about the modernisation of the coastguard service. The consultation document, which is available in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency website: www.mcga.gov. uk, sets out proposals to:
Establish two nationally networked maritime operations centres, located at Aberdeen and the Southampton/Portsmouth area, capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur and with improved information systems, together with a 24-hour centre at Dover looking over the busy channel traffic separation scheme.
Provide for five other sub-centres, fully integrated into the national network around the coast and operating during daylight hours. On the basis of an evaluation of the existing
sites and the facilities available at them, it is proposed three of these should be located at Falmouth, Humber and Swansea. We also require sub-centres at either Belfast or Liverpool and either Stornoway or Shetland. The case for selection between these locations is more marginal. We are therefore inviting comments and information about factors that should influence the choice of sites for these two sub-centres.
Provide high quality and demanding jobs for our coastguards, with the job weight and pay reflecting the increased demands placed upon them in line with civil service pay guidelines.
Strengthen the leadership and support provided to our volunteer coastguards in the coastguard rescue service.
Improve present levels of service to the public while reducing costs.
These changes will strengthen the coastguard service by dealing with potential points of weakness in current structures and adding resilience throughout the system while also maintaining strong regional links and enhancing front-line rescue services through the volunteer coastguard.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, I had planned to announce to the House today an intention to proceed with negotiations with the preferred bidder for the planned procurement of search and rescue helicopter capability. However, the preferred bidder has informed the Ministry of Defence within the last 48 hours that it has become aware of a possible issue in connection with its bid to provide the UK search and rescue capability, which was the basis of its selection as the preferred bidder as announced in February 2010.
My right hon. Friend and I will make a further statement to the House as soon as we are able to provide further information and to set out our plans for proceeding to secure the provision of search and rescue helicopter capability in the future. We regret the further uncertainty that this entails for all those involved in providing the UK's search and rescue service.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): Remploy has today published its annual report and accounts for 2010. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses later today.