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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 17 May 2011


Debt Management Office

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening): The United Kingdom Debt Management Office (DMO) has today published its business plan for the year 2011-12. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the DMO’s website, www.dmo.gov.uk.

Communities and Local Government

Building and the Environment

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): The growth review reaffirmed our commitment to zero carbon. We need to deliver carbon savings in order to meet the carbon budgets to which we are committed, and this means that the carbon footprint of new homes cannot be allowed to add to our overall carbon reduction targets. But this needs to be done in ways which are cost-effective and which protect the viability of house building. This statement sets out more details of our policy.

A fundamental principle of environmental regulation is that the “polluter pays”. Previous approaches to zero-carbon homes policy have sought to hold house builders responsible for abating the carbon emissions from household appliances. But occupants’ use of appliances, such as computers or televisions, is not influenced by the design or structure of their home and is therefore beyond the control of the house builder.

Asking house builders to put in place measures to reduce the emissions from appliances is unfair; we have decided therefore that the regulatory threshold for zero-carbon should be set to cover only those emissions which are within the scope of the building regulations, such as those from heating, ventilation, hot water, fixed lighting and building services.

There are already a number of existing policies which deal with emissions from appliances, including the EU emissions trading scheme (which caps emissions from electricity generation) and product energy efficiency measures. Moreover, if house builders, working with local planning authorities, still wish to go further in abating emissions from appliances then they are of course free to do so. In order to prevent excessive burdens on industry and protect the viability of development, the Government will work with local authorities and developers to ensure that the cumulative impact of regulation and other costs can be assessed, without adding complex and unwieldy bureaucracy to plans.

As part of meeting the overall requirement, zero-carbon homes must be energy efficient homes. We have already made clear our intention to introduce the fabric energy

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efficiency standard as based on the work of the Zero Carbon Hub. This will ensure that homes are warmer, and cheaper and easier to heat.

We also said we would look again at the right level for carbon reductions on the site of the home itself—“carbon compliance”. The Zero Carbon Hub has led a large-scale review of evidence, working with industry, green groups and other experts. The Government have considered with care the findings from this work, and we intend to use the Hub’s recommendations on where to set the maximum levels of on site carbon dioxide emissions as a starting point for consultation as part of future revisions to the building regulations.

We are also keen to build on industry’s commitment to move to an approach based on real world carbon savings, rather than modelled reductions in emissions. This is a bold step forward, and will strengthen focus on innovation delivering new and better technologies and construction methods. We will work with industry to ensure both that this commitment becomes a reality, and that effective assurance is put in place to guarantee the zero-carbon standard and that real world carbon savings are achieved. The end result will be better homes and better protection for the environment.

The Hub’s report “Carbon Compliance: Setting An Appropriate Limit For Zero Carbon New Homes—Findings and Recommendations, February 2011” includes a number of detailed recommendations on technical matters which we will consider as part of the further work on the building regulations. It can be found at: http:// www.zerocarbonhub.org/definition.aspx?page=8.

Where house builders can deliver more ambitious carbon reductions on the site of the home than these minimum requirements, they will have the option to do so. Where it is not possible for house builders to do this cost effectively, we will ensure that a mechanism is available that allows house builders to meet their commitments at a cost no higher than the Government’s long-term value of carbon. This ensures that the offsite requirement of the policy will be delivered cost effectively. This will give industry a benchmark against which to target innovation in carbon reduction technologies which will drive down costs over time.

We intend to work with industry on options for a mechanism to deliver these off-site measures, which will:

be made available to all developers operating in England;

be cost effective by ensuring offsite measures are no higher than the Governments’ long-term value of carbon; and

ensure that any funds raised will be dedicated to carbon abatement.

We will also review the measures which can be supported under these approaches and will consult further with industry, local government and other partners on these.

Taken together, these proposals deliver a realistic and effective approach to zero-carbon, on a par with the most ambitious international efforts to cut domestic carbon and build better, more sustainable homes, whilst at a greatly reduced cost to industry. However, we are keen to look at innovative ways for house builders to meet the additional costs associated with building zero-carbon homes. In particular, we are ready to explore with industry the potential of a green deal type financing approach for new homes, as a way of offsetting some of the up front costs of zero-carbon. We are aware that

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industry is already forming its thinking on how this can work, and we will continue to work with partners on how best to take this forward.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): My noble Friend Lord Henley will represent the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 17 May.

There is only one main agenda item: a discussion on the EU being party to a legally binding agreement on European forests.

There are currently eight items of any other business:

Swedish delegation request in relation to the report on the protection of animals during transport.

Codex alimentarius negotiations—progress and prospects report.

Conference on sustainable food consumption and production—report back from the presidency.

A report from the pigmeat advisory group.

A request from Poland on intervention price for cereals.

A request from Poland on sugar production quota.

G20 agriculture ministerial meeting in June—an update on the plans for this meeting.

A report from Lithuania on the international conference it hosted on animal welfare in the Baltic.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Monthly Progress Report April 2011

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the sixth progress report on developments in Afghanistan.

The report focuses on key developments during the month of April.

April saw a series of security incidents, notably the attack on the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif and the escape of about 500 prisoners from the Sarposa jail in Kandahar.

Insurgent activity in April did not increase significantly compared with that seen in March. Within Helmand levels of such activity remained particularly low compared to previous periods. However seasonal trends associated with the completion of the poppy harvest, the large number of weapons caches still being found and the Taliban’s declared intention to begin their spring offensive all suggest that activity will increase over the coming months.

The strength of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) has grown again in April and this, combined with falling attrition rates, will help to ensure that the ANSF are increasingly able to meet this threat. The

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troubled Kabul bank was taken over by the Government and split into two. The Special Court, established to investigate allegations of malpractice in the autumn parliamentary elections, completed its provincial recounts of the disputed parliamentary election results.

As the Prime Minister stated on 3 May, the death of al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden, killed by US ground forces in Pakistan on 2 May, presents a new opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together to achieve stability on both sides of the border. We should take this opportunity to send a clear message to the Taliban: now is the time to separate themselves from al-Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process.

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) and the HMG UK and Afghanistan website (http://afghanistan.hmg.gov.uk/).


Civil and Family Court Offices (Face to Face Services)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): Following the creation on 1 April of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), I have agreed that the agency should explore the potential to modernise the way in which face to face services in the civil and family courts are provided through its public counters. This will allow a clearer focus of resources on those services which require face to face service and those which should be conducted through alternative means such as online or via the telephone.

In line with many other parts of Government business technology has revolutionised the way in which people conduct business with the courts. 70 % of money claims are now submitted online. HMCTS is now exploring potential to further improve the services it offers to courts users by providing for centralised administration centres. We now expect public services to modernise and provide services outside normal court opening hours. There must, of course, always be mechanisms to deal with urgent business and queries, HMCTS will explore the extent to which court users needs can be met with a system of appointments. For other work, court users will be directed towards using the appropriate online channel and call centres through the use of clear sign-posting in court, within information leaflets and on the internet.

The modernisation of current arrangements will not deny access to services nor create an additional burden for the public and is expected to improve overall efficiency and service standards. The proposals do not affect access to court hearings or the future of particular court buildings.

A document called the “Framework for the Provision of Front Office Services in Civil Courts” was published in September 2008 by what was then Her Majesty’s Court Service. This document allowed some flexibility locally to adapt the delivery of face to face services in the civil courts. Local decisions on modernisation will be undertaken within that framework including local

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consultation where necessary. However should the need arise the framework will be revised and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Work and Pensions

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): Following amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill tabled in the Committee of the House to

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establish a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, and to clarify accountabilities for social reform under this coalition Government, this statement confirms:

In reading in legislation Minister of the Crown as relates to Social Mobility refers to the Deputy Prime Minister or such other Minister as is appointed; and

In reading in legislation Minister of the Crown as relates to Child Poverty refers to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

This reflects the coalition Government’s social reforms to enable Social Mobility and Social Justice and our collective commitment to tackle the causes of immobility, inequality and poverty.