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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 23 May 2011

Cabinet Office

“Giving” White Paper

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): Today I have laid before Parliament the “Giving” White Paper (Cm 8084). This follows from the “Giving” Green Paper which was published on 29 December 2010 and the consultation which this launched.

We believe that everyone can make a difference. So we want to empower and encourage more people to get involved; support each other and create the change they want to see.

In the “Giving” Green Paper we set out our ambition to work with partners to inspire a step change in giving—both of time and money. We believe that giving is good. It offers benefits for everyone—those giving as well as those receiving. It does not matter how you give, or what you give, mutual support is at the core of a happy, healthy society.

We understand that stimulating social action is not easy or straightforward. Governments have tried in the past but have not succeeded in generating significant increases in giving. We are also conscious that the economic difficulties of the past few years mean we must tread carefully. Many people may be unable or unwilling to give more of their time or money if they feel stretched financially or have little time to spare.

Stimulating giving is a long-term project and we want to take a new approach that uses lessons from previous attempts. In part this is about acknowledging the limits of Government—recognising that social action is not something people can or should be compelled to do. Instead it has to be built from the bottom up through grass-roots organisations and with opportunities to give that appeal to people’s motivations and interests. As we heard repeatedly in responses to our consultation, the autonomy of charities and community groups, and the voluntary nature of giving are vitally important and we are determined not just to respect but encourage this independence.

We believe that there are a range of ways Government can help to make giving easier and more compelling without “interfering” or getting in the way. We want to use a mix of approaches to achieve this: from more “traditional” policy levers such as tax incentives, funding, policy programmes and removing regulatory barriers; to “softer” approaches, such as setting a good example and bringing people and organisations together to share ideas and celebrate success.

In the White Paper we set out three core strands of activity where we want to work with partners to:

1. Make giving as easy as possible;

2. Make giving as compelling as possible;

3. Give better support to those that provide and manage opportunities to give—be they charities, community groups or others.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Pitt Review

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I am today laying before Parliament a first “National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England” and statutory guidance on “Co-operation and requesting information in flood and coastal erosion risk management”. Both documents are being presented in accordance with section 7 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and stem from Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the widespread flooding in 2007, and will be issued on 18 July unless either House resolves that they should not be issued.

The national strategy will provide a legally binding framework in setting out how communities, the public sector and other organisations will work together to manage flood and coastal erosion risk. The national strategy describes:

The Environment Agency’s strategic overview role for all sources of flood risk and coastal erosion, and the approach they will take to managing the risk of flooding from main rivers and the sea;

The framework within which lead local flood authorities can work with other risk management authorities to manage local flood risk in their areas;

The work by coastal erosion risk management authorities to manage our changing coastlines, and;

How national funding and resources will be targeted towards flood and coastal erosion risk management activity in the coming years.

Copies of the national strategy and guidance on co-operation and requesting information are available to Members of the House from the Official Documents website and the Vote Office.

This Government are committed to making sure that as many communities as possible have the opportunity of benefiting from flood and coastal defences. I am therefore pleased to inform the House that following full public consultation earlier this year, my Department is today setting out a new partnership approach to funding flood and coastal resilience. The new approach aims to be both fairer and more transparent than the system it replaces, and offers the potential for much more to be achieved.

Instead of meeting the full costs of just a limited number of projects, the new approach could make Government money available towards any worthwhile scheme. Funding levels for each scheme will relate directly to the number of households protected, the value of damages being prevented, plus the other benefits a scheme would deliver. For the first time grants for surface water management and property-level protection will be available alongside funding for other risks and approaches. The reforms will not affect the amount of money that the Government themselves will invest in the coming years.

The new approach encourages better value for taxpayers’ money and greater local and private contributions to come forward, in recognition of the benefits being delivered. Choices can be taken locally on whether, and how, contributions might be found. All funds invested in this way will supplement national budgets and mean

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more communities can be protected. By encouraging greater local choice, and more local investment, we will ensure that local ambitions for protection are not dictated by what Government alone can afford. The new approach reflects suggestions made by Sir Michael Pitt, who recommended Government introduce a scheme that allows and encourages greater local investment.

I have today written to the chair of the Environment Agency to ask this approach be adopted for all future funding approvals. The coming months will be treated as a transitional period allowing lessons to be learned and the approach to be refined before final arrangements are confirmed in time to apply from April 2013.

Finally, I would like to inform the House that summaries of responses to the following consultations and other supporting documents are also being published today:

“Consultation on a National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England”.

“Consultation on Statutory Guidance on Co-operation and Requesting Information in Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management”.

“Future funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management: Consultation on the future Capital Grant-In-Aid Allocation Process in England”.

“Consultation on Guidance to Lead Local Flood Authorities on their Contribution to Sustainable Development”.

The first two are available from the Environment Agency’s website, and the latter two can be found on DEFRA’s website.

Home Department

Identity and Passport Service: Restructuring

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): I am today placing in the Library of the House the Government’s response to the collective consultation exercise carried out with staff and trade unions on ceasing the passport application processing capacity at Newport passport office.

I had announced shortly after commencement of the consultation period in Autumn 2010 that the Identity and Passport Service would retain a customer service centre at Newport. I can confirm that will remain the position and will provide 50 FTE posts at Newport to deal with the 47,000 customers from south Wales and the south-west who make use of the Newport office.

The consultation period was extended by two months at the request of key stakeholders. We have taken that opportunity to listen and to evaluate the responses received from staff, trade unions, Members of this House and the Wales Select Committee, Members of the National Assembly for Wales and local leaders in Newport.

We have also taken into account other organisational changes impacting on IPS, particularly the effect of voluntary exit schemes. Some 170 operational have left IPS since autumn 2010 on a voluntary basis. That has provided IPS with the opportunity to consolidate some of its operational functions throughout their regional network.

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We are maintaining our intention to cease the processing of postal and online applications at Newport. This remains the most effective approach to achieve the necessary reductions in excess staffing levels and capacity in the application processing network.

However, as a result of the consolidation work undertaken by IPS, a further 100 FTE posts will be located in Newport. The Newport office will maintain the IPS central customer complaints and correspondence function and share telephone customer enquiry handling with the Durham office. The handling of lost and stolen passports will be located at Durham and Peterborough and a specialist counter-fraud team will be based at Newport. The processing of overseas passport applications will be carried out in Liverpool, Durham and Belfast after repatriation in 2013.

The current premises in Newport will be retained until the lease break in 2013. After that date, the size of the premises used for Newport will be reduced by 50%. IPS will give up excess space at their offices in Glasgow and Durham by the end of the current financial year. The Durham estate will be reduced further by March 2014 to achieve an overall reduction of one third of current capacity. A strategic review of the north-west estate will be carried out and the options for Peterborough estate assessed after the main lease break in July 2013.

The programme of work combined with the voluntary exit schemes will reduce capacity by 300 posts. The proposed consolidation of specialist work across the regional offices will lead to a surplus of around 120 FTE posts in Newport compared to the original proposal to make 300 posts surplus. IPS will continue to work with those staff, with trade unions and others to find suitable alternative employment within IPS and elsewhere.

IPS commenced the consultation with the aim of a reduction in estate of around 19% and delivering savings of approximately £24 million over the comprehensive spending review period. The planned programme of work will deliver anticipated savings of £22.6 million over the CSR period, subject to carrying out a further voluntary exit scheme later this year and rationalisation of the estate will reduce the overall IPS estate capacity by 15%.

Management of Police Pursuits: Code of Practice

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today presenting to Parliament a statutory code of practice on the management of police pursuits. Copies of the code will be available from the Vote Office.

The code is being laid under the provisions of sections 39 and 39A of the Police Act 1996. Section 39 permits the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice relating to the discharge by police authorities of any of their functions; section 39A permits her to issue codes of practice relating to the discharge of functions by chief officers where that is necessary for the purpose of promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces in England and Wales. Under section 39A(7) of the Act, chief officers have a duty to have regard to a code of practice when discharging a function to which the code relates. The code must be followed unless there

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are good reasons not to do so, in which case the decision not to follow the code should be recorded in writing.

Over the last six years there have been on average 22 deaths a year arising immediately or subsequently from police pursuits. Following a recommendation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Association of Chief Police Officers revised their existing operational guidance on the management of pursuits and asked for this to be issued as a statutory code under the Police Act. They indicated it was their clear professional judgment that a code would ensure appropriate chief officer attention to this issue and make a significant difference on the ground, with a reduced risk of deaths and serious injuries. I agree with their advice.

The Government are committed to the operational independence of the police and will respect their professional judgment. The code I am now presenting is therefore a high-level strategic document, setting national standards and requiring chief officers to have regard to the guidance prepared by the police themselves. It is the guidance, not the code, that sets out best practice and operational detail. The guidance will be periodically amended and updated by ACPO as necessary.


Strategic National Transport Corridors

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am today publishing our response to the comments received in the consultation on proposals to amend the criteria defining strategic national corridors (SNCs) and confirming the action we will take.

The strategic national corridors were established in 2009 to define the network over which the largest proportion of strategic traffic—that is traffic travelling between the 10 largest urban areas, 10 busiest ports and seven busiest airports in England—moves around the country. The original definition also provided for connectivity between the four nations of the United Kingdom, but there was no specific provision for connecting capital cities.

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We concluded that the routes linking Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to the nearest urban strategic destination should be recognised for the strategic connectivity that they provide, and consulted accordingly. After taking account of the consultation responses I can now confirm that we are going ahead with this change.

Specifically, we identified two routes as having national significance: namely the Al between its junction with the A19 north of Newcastle and the Scottish border, providing a defined link to Edinburgh; and a route between Bootle and the Twelve Quays ferry terminal in Birkenhead, providing connectivity with Belfast. Again, after taking account of the consultation responses, I can confirm that these routes will henceforth become roads of national significance.

A number of other suggestions were made for changes to the SNCs, including specific proposals for increases in coverage. My Department will reconsider the scope and role of the SNCs once the LEPs are well established and their role in transport decision making is clear.

The consultation documents, including the consultation response, can be found on my Department’s website. An electronic copy has been lodged with the House Library.

Work and Pensions

Universal Credit (Review of Passported Benefits)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for welfare reform, Lord Freud of Eastry, has made the following statement:

We have commissioned the Social Security Advisory Committee to undertake an independent review of passported benefits and how they link with universal credit. Passported benefits include, for example, free school meals, free milk and vitamins, free prescriptions, optical and dental care.

The Committee has been asked to produce an advisory report, taking account of the UK Government’s view that changes should not involve a net increase in public expenditure and the benefit system should be as simple as possible. I have placed a copy of the terms of reference in the Library.