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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Business, Innovation and Skills

United Kingdom Space Agency

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I have tasked the UK Space Agency to provide policy support to Ministers on civil space issues and to lead a civil space programme which delivers maximum economic, scientific, and policy benefits for the UK.

I have set the UK Space Agency the following targets for 2011-12:

1. Improve performance of the agency programme over the period 2011-12 to 2014-15.

2. To ensure the ESA programme brings benefit to UK industry, and the research base.

3. To initiate a national technology programme, jointly funded with industry as a means of accelerating the development of the International Space Innovation Centre.

4. Undertake an impact assessment of the Outer Space Act 1986 to develop reforms which will remove restrictions which put UK operators at a competitive disadvantage, and prepare proposals for new regulation for space vehicles to promote space tourism in the UK.

5. Work with Ofcom to support international reform at the world radio conference of the processes used to gain access to orbit satellite slots to ensure that British industry has full and fair access to them.

6. Promote wider international co-operation and have a clear export support policy, including guidance on export controls and assistance for industry.

Target measurement techniques:

Target 1: Efficiency gains in administration costs will be reflected in the budget profiles when agreed. The use of a scorecard technique across all programmes is being developed for use in 2011-12.

Target 2: Measured by the industrial return figures of ESA that reflect the work won by UK organisations against an ideal of return co-efficient of 1.

Target 3: A report showing the placement of the first tranche of contracts to the value of £10 million in 2011-12 on key technology activities in the national technology road map will be produced.

Target 4: A report showing how the changes produce a level playing field will be prepared.

Target 5: Agreement at the WRC conference in February 2012 on the way forward.

Target 6: Clear guidance available to industry by December 2012. On co-operation a report on the status of implementation of agreements with other agencies will be prepared.

The corporate plan period referred to is the financial years 2011-12 to 2014-15.


Costing Parliamentary Questions

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening): The Treasury has conducted its annual indexation exercise of the cost of oral and written parliamentary

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questions so as to ensure that these costs are increased in line with increases in underlying costs. The revised costs, which will apply from today, are:

Oral Questions £437

Written Questions £159

The disproportionate cost threshold (DCT) will remain at £800.

Communities and Local Government

Departmental Work (Easter Recess 2011)

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I would like to update hon. Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department since the House rose on 5 April 2011.


The Department continues to reinforce the importance of local transparency, audit openness and accountability. On 13 April, I announced new transparency rules which will require councils to publicise to the press and public, on their website, the little-known rights to inspect their detailed financial accounts, ledgers and records.

In a deregulatory move, changes will also reduce the financial bureaucracy and burdens imposed on the smallest local authorities. Increasing the budget threshold to £6.5 million means that up to 100 smaller local bodies (assorted parish councils, drainage boards and joint committees) will immediately benefit from less burdensome audit requirements, reducing costs on reporting duties imposed by Whitehall and making it easier for authorities to be accountable to their community.

Council tax

On 13 April, I published new figures showing who pays what for local government services. The new analysis makes it possible to compare how much residents contribute in council tax and conversely how much their area receives in formula grant. It marks another step towards demystifying the local government finance system for taxpayers.

Community Celebrations

With Easter, St George’s day and the impending royal wedding, there are great opportunities for communities across the nation to come together and celebrate. Alongside my Cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister, we urged councils to adopt a common-sense approach to street parties and to help local residents from all backgrounds to come together and reinforce our shared identity and sense of Britishness. This included publishing an updated version of the deregulatory guidance on organising street parties, shooting down myths and misconceptions around them.

In addition to this, the Department flew the flag of St George above its headquarters and I encouraged public bodies to fly the English flag as a unifying symbol for the English nation, to be followed by flying the Union flag come the royal wedding.

Homes and tenants

Millions of social housing tenants take real pride in their homes and my Department believes they should have the power and incentive to take control of the maintenance of their own homes. On 7 April the Minister for Housing and Local Government launched tenant cashback. Tenant cashback will allow residents to take

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more control of their repairs budget for their homes, taking on their own repairs and keeping any cash savings they have made.

Tenants will also be able to pool their resources to create a “community cashback” account, which could be used to fund improvements to the local area for the benefit of all their residents. The plan will give tenants more power over their homes and neighbourhoods; allow poorer households to build up savings, strengthen bonds between neighbours; and provide work for small traders.


Ending the culture of top-down Whitehall management and putting the focus on local accountability and local communities is a key priority for the Department.

On 12 April, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), set out how local decision making and restoring focus on local communities will be central to fire and rescue service policy, as the Department published its response to the Fire Futures reports.

The voluntary and community sector are relied upon by communities across the nation and we believe they should be given the freedom from excessive burdens and red tape that can impede their work. On 13 April, I announced a new fair deal for the voluntary and community sector which calls on councils to give greater support to local community and voluntary groups. The social responsibility deal will seek to avoid disproportionate reductions in funding and encourage a more collaborative approach involving councils working with organisations to shape the future of their service. We are also giving councils the freedoms to serve the local community and work more flexibly with the sector by scrapping the 56 pages of statutory guidance on local priorities which spelled out exactly how councils should engage with the people in their area.

Increasing housing supply

We believe that a key barrier to increasing the much-needed housing supply is the lack of land and buildings available for residential development or conversion. Many towns and cities have office blocks, warehouses and business parks needlessly lying empty. By unshackling developers from a legacy of bureaucratic planning we can help them turn thousands of vacant commercial properties into enough new homes to jump start housing supply and help get the economy back on track

On 8 April, my Department published a consultation proposing to abolish the planning approval requirement for changing use from a commercial property to a residential property; deregulating the planning system to increase housing supply. This is part of a wider review of use classes orders and its interaction with permitted development rights, which will further unlock unnecessary planning restrictions and help stimulate sustainable development.

Neighbourhood Planning

We believe that local people should have greater power and support to shape planning and development in their local area. On 13 April, the Minister with responsibility for decentralisation, the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells

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(Greg Clark), announced that four organisations with expertise in planning will share a £3.2 million fund to provide assistance to local groups developing neighbourhood plans.

Communities can choose to take up free advice and guidance depending on their needs through The Prince’s Foundation, Locality, The Royal Town Planning Institute, and the National Association of Local Councils in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Each organisation will use its expertise, skills and track record advising on development to empower communities to reach the full potential of their neighbourhood plan from start to finish.

Planning and Travellers

On 13 April, I announced proposals for a more localist and fair way of providing Traveller sites. New proposed planning policy will give the green belt and countryside more robust protection, give local councils more discretion and local planning authorities a stronger hand in supporting appropriate development. The proposals will also remove the central guidance to councils on compulsory purchasing of land for Traveller sites. In consultation with local communities, councils will have the freedom and responsibility to determine the right level of Traveller site provision in their area, while ensuring fairness in the planning system.

The proposed planning policy is capable of being regarded as a material consideration in planning decisions. I would encourage local councils, elected representatives and community groups to respond to the consultation.


Written Parliamentary Question (Correction)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anne Milton): In answering a parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Worthing West, (Sir Peter Bottomley), 1 March 2011, Official Report, column 379W, I provided details of the protection afforded by the two HPV vaccines licensed for use in the United Kingdom. These are Cervarix manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Gardasil manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur MSD.

However, my answer also referred to the cross-protection afforded by Cervarix, but I omitted to provide equivalent information on Gardasil and in doing so may have presented an incomplete view to the House.

In the case of Gardasil, the “Summary of Product Characteristics” states that

“statistically significant efficacy against disease was demonstrated against HPV types…related to HPV 16 (primarily HPV31) whereas no statistically significant efficacy was observed for HPV types ... related to HPV 18 (including HPV 45). For the 10 individual HPV types, statistical significance was only reached for HPV 31”.

To ensure clarity and completeness of information about the efficacy of both vaccines, I have placed copies of their “Summary of Product Characteristics” in the Library. Copies of the SPCs for Cervarix and for Gardasil are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office and for noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. They can also be seen at:



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Home Department

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2011

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy to the opening speeches made in each House during the debates on the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2011. The debates took place in the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee on Monday 28 March, column 4, and in the House of Lords Grand Committee on Tuesday 29 March 2011, column GC 155:



Both speeches made reference to the introduction of a new fee for providing certain stateless persons the ability to acquire the status of British protected person. The status means they can receive consular protection, a British passport and are eligible to register as a British citizen if they meet the appropriate criteria. The volumes under this route are minimal. However, it is a cost to the agency to process these applications and we believe that the rights associated with this status are valuable and therefore these applications should be charged for.

I can confirm that this fee was erroneously omitted from the regulations and as such will not be introduced as planned. A very small number of people are estimated to have been affected by this—there have been only two such applications in the past 12 years. I am now announcing a correction to the speech made during the debates. My officials will ensure that this is made clear to any applicants applying under this route, on the UK Border Agency website, www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk. However, I will also take the opportunity to introduce this fee when I next make an amendment to the existing regulations.


Department for Transport (Decision Making)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I am announcing today reforms to the way decisions are made on which transport projects to prioritise. My Department’s business plan states we will

“reform the way transport projects are assessed and funding prioritisation decisions are made so that the benefits of low-carbon proposals are fully recognised”.

It specifies that in order to achieve this we will:

(a) review and revise DfT guidance on appraising transport projects, and

(b) review and revise DfT processes for assessing schemes and supporting ministerial decisions.

The rest of this statement explains how we have met these commitments.

DfT guidance on appraising transport projects

The evidence supporting decisions needs to be robust. Updates and changes that I am making to my Department’s

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guidance on appraising transport projects will recognise the benefits of low-carbon proposals more accurately.

Spending review decisions were informed by a value-for-money measure, used across Government. This measure incorporated the latest monetary values of carbon, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which are higher than previous values. It also treated indirect tax revenues (such as fuel duty) in a way consistent with the Department for Transport’s “in-draft” benefit-cost ratio (BCR) formula. These changes tend to improve the BCRs of schemes that reduce carbon emissions and weaken the BCRs of schemes that result in higher carbon emissions.

Stakeholder groups have made representations that the Department should consider amending the value of time to reflect regional variations in earnings. We have considered these representations and have decided not to make any change at this stage, but we will keep the issue under review.

Over the coming days, my officials will update the appraisal guidance to incorporate the higher carbon values and new BCR formula that were used in the spending review. In addition, the Department will also release further changes to the appraisal guidance that reflect Government’s priorities and recent updates to values and methodologies. A full list of these changes can be found on the Department’s website (www.dft. gov.uk/webtag).

DfT processes for assessing schemes and supporting ministerial decisions

Today, my Department is publishing “The Transport Business Case” which sets out the Department’s approach to producing business cases that support ministerial decisions. This approach ensures decisions are made by taking account of all the relevant information set out in five cases, consistent with the Treasury Green Book, specifically, to show whether schemes:

are supported by a robust case for change that fits with wider public policy objectives—the “strategic case”;

demonstrate value-for-money—the “economic case”;

are commercially viable—the “commercial case”;

are financially affordable—the “financial case”; and

are achievable—the “management case”.

This means that there will no longer be a separate process called NATA.

Option development and presentation

My Department will revise the formats used to present information to support decision-making so that all the five cases receive appropriate consideration from an early stage in a clear and transparent way. Forthcoming changes to the guidance will set out to scheme promoters how to develop a range of innovative solutions to transport problems in the early stages of option development and a clear process for option selection that aligns with the subsequent appraisal process. Today, I am also publishing the “Early Assessment and Sifting Tool”, which will aid scheme promoters in comparing and refining options in those early stages.