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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 7 July 2011

Business, Innovation and Skills

Local Enterprise Partnerships

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk): I, together with the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Minister with responsibility for decentralisation, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells, (Greg Clark), would like to inform the House that today we have written to the proposed Dorset local enterprise partnership inviting it to put in place governance arrangements.

Local enterprise partnerships see a real power shift away from central Government and quangos and towards local communities and the local businesses who really understand the barriers to growth in their areas. This announcement brings the total number of partnerships so far invited to put their governance arrangements in place to 36. Taken together these represent 2 million or 97% of all businesses (active enterprises) in England, 22 million employees (employee jobs figures) or 97% of all employees in England and; a population of 50 million or 97% of England’s population. We will continue to work with other areas with a view to establishing further local enterprise partnerships across England.

Communities and Local Government

Social Housing Regulator

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): I am today announcing the publication of a consultation on draft directions to be issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to the social housing regulator. Alongside the statutory provisions contained in the Localism Bill, the proposed changes to regulation outlined in this consultation will help deliver the Government’s package of reforms to make the system of social housing fairer and to reverse the consensus that had developed that allowed waiting lists to grow to record levels. This forms part of an overall shake-up of social housing that will also see the delivery of up to 150,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. These reforms will give social landlords and local authorities the flexibility to make the best use of social housing in a way which best meets the needs of their local area.

The directions consultation can be found at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/corporate/publications/consultations

Community Budgets

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Hanham, has made the following written ministerial statement:

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I have today, with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, written to local authority leaders setting out the next steps for community budgets. I have placed a copy of the letter in the Library of the House. The letter sets out our intention to roll out community budgets for families with multiple problems across England and explore how a community budget based on all funding for local public services in a local area, including giving neighbourhoods more influence, can be developed.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Croatian EU Accession

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): On 30 June Croatia’s EU accession negotiations were provisionally closed at an intergovernmental conference on accession of Croatia to the EU. EU common positions on the relevant negotiating chapters will be formally adopted at a Ministerial Council in July. I expect Croatia’s accession treaty to be signed by the end of 2011. The Government will then introduce the treaty for ratification by Parliament.

I welcome this important step. It represents the achievement of an historic goal for Croatia, which together with its commitment to continued reform shows the way for other countries of the western Balkans in pursuing their European future.

Croatia’s EU accession negotiations closed at an intergovernmental accession conference on 30 June. This has been widely covered in the press. It is likely that the ECOFIN on 12 July will formally adopt (without discussion) the last four common positions agreeing to close chapters 8 (Competition), 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights), 33 (Financial and Budgetary Provisions) and 35 (Other Issues). A written ministerial statement (WMS) would inform Parliament of closure on 30 June, and would alert them to its future involvement during the ratification process.

Home Department

G6 Meeting (Madrid, 30 June 2011)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The informal G6 group of Ministers of the Interior from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK held their most recent meeting in Madrid, Spain on 30 June under the Spanish presidency of the group. The meeting was chaired by the Spanish Minister for the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pèrez Rubalcaba.

The meeting was divided into two working sessions which were attended by the G6 Ministers of the Interior. Germany and Italy were represented at ambassadorial and junior Minister level respectively. Additional guests included the US Deputy Attorney-General, James Cole; the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, and the EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove.

The first working session considered the transnational threats of Africa’s Sahel region, including the strengthening of terrorist groups, notably al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and drugs, arms and people trafficking. Delegates agreed on the significance and nature of the threat and the security implications for the EU and the US, and recognised the importance of co-ordinated international

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action and increased capacity building in the countries of the region. There was wide concern about the negative impact of recent upheaval in north Africa and, above all, the conflict in Libya. The Home Secretary also underlined that the payment of kidnap ransoms was against international law and served to bolster terrorist and criminal groups. It was agreed that the election of the new President in Niger and the improvement in relations between countries in the region, notably between Algeria and Mali, was encouraging. There was seen to be a window of opportunity to put the EU Sahel strategy into action and to improve dialogue with the UN and the African Union.

The second session focused on the recovery of criminal assets. Ministers discussed both improvements in and ongoing difficulties associated with recovering the proceeds of crime. The Home Secretary outlined some of the UK’s successes in this area, announcing that it had impacted on over £1 billion of criminal assets in 2010 and that the National Crime Agency (to be launched in 2013) would play a key role in tackling money laundering and recovering the proceeds of crime through its economic crime command. The US underlined the importance of keeping legislative frameworks and processes up to date with ever changing money laundering methods. Delegates agreed that greater international co-operation and better use of the tools and powers available in the pursuit of criminal profits were essential, but that secure channels had to be used for the exchange of sensitive information.

In addition to the two plenary sessions, the Poles presented their justice and home affairs priorities for their EU presidency and the French presented plans for their G6 presidency, both of which would commence the following day (1 July). The Home Secretary also held separate bilateral meetings with the other heads of delegation to discuss a range of issues including extradition, north Africa, asylum, migration, counter-terrorism, aviation security, passenger name records (PNR) and the data retention directive.

The next meeting of the G6 is expected to be held in France in November or December.

International Development

Annual Report and Accounts 2010-11

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): I have today published and laid before Parliament the Department for International Development annual report for 2010-11 and accounts.

The report covers DFID’s activities in 2010-11 in line with the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 and includes a full set of accounts for 2010-11. The report has been placed in the Libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords for the reference of Members and copies will be made available in the Vote Office. It is also available online on DFID’s website (www.dfid.gov.uk).


City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): The Department for Transport is today launching a consultation on the proposal to remove its objection to lifting a grant condition which precludes

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the use of the City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal for “turnaround” operations—that is, the beginning and/or end of a cruise voyage.

This condition, which limits use of the terminal to port of call visits only, was originally imposed on the grant for the terminal, which opened in 2007, by the Northwest Development Agency because of concerns expressed by the Department about potentially unfair competition with other cruise terminals which have not received such public subsidy.

The Peel Ports terminal at Langton Dock in Liverpool may currently be used for turnaround operations, but it is argued that it is an unattractive prospect—both aesthetically and operationally—and has already lost traffic as a result.

Liverpool city council is proposing to make a partial repayment of the grant, staged over 15 years, amounting to approximately £5.3 million, in return for lifting the turnaround prohibition. This amount is abated from the original grant funding to take account of the time that the terminal will have operated with the restriction, and the fact that port of call visits will continue to deliver the benefits for which the grant was originally made.

It will be for Liverpool city council to satisfy the European Commission, if necessary, that having regard to the continuing regional benefits from overall operations at the terminal, no parallel repayment of European funding is required.

I consider that the repayment proposal by Liverpool city council can be justified taking into account the prospective regeneration and other benefits to the Merseyside area and, on this basis, I am consulting on the possibility of removing the objection. I am inviting comments by 15 September and will then consider responses carefully before arriving at a final decision.

Work and Pensions

Support for Very Long-term Claimants

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The Government are committed to delivering a radical overhaul of the welfare system to ensure that the benefits and tax credits systems is fairer and simpler and is more able to combat worklessness and poverty.

We are also making good progress to deliver on our commitment to reform the package of employment support which will ensure that benefit claimants have access to effective and high-quality support and that we deliver programmes which offer the taxpayer better value for money and also help move more people into work.

Work is well under way to introduce universal credit from 2013 and we have also recently launched the Work programme, the biggest single payment-by-results employment programme the United Kingdom has ever seen.

To ensure that we continue to build on these achievements, my Department will be exploring what further support could be used to help those claimants who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for long periods of time and who have been unable to find employment.

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To help us gain a better understanding of what type of support could be most effective, we intend to run a small-scale trial to test whether with an increased level of support and opportunities to gain work experience, claimants have greater success in finding and staying in employment.

The trial will commence later this year across four Jobcentre Plus districts (Derbyshire; Lincolnshire, Rutland

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and Nottinghamshire; East Anglia; and Leicestershire and Northamptonshire) and will run for approximately nine months.

The evaluation of these trials, coupled with evidence from other programmes, will enable us to develop a better understanding of how best we can support the very long-term unemployed in the future.