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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 16 April 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

National Measurement Office (Performance Targets)

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I have tasked the National Measurement Office (NMO) to provide policy support to Ministers on measurement issues and a measurement infrastructure which enables innovation and growth, promotes trade and facilitates fair competition and the protection of consumers, health and the environment.

I have agreed with the NMO that their objectives for 2012-15 will be to:

1. Increase economic growth, innovation and social impact through a world class scientific measurement infrastructure.

2. Promote competition and fair trading by providing a modern legal measurement regime.

3. Provide good value for money metrology services.

4. Protect the interests of the public, business and the environment by enforcing relevant legislation.

The agency will also be expected to ensure that professional, value for money corporate services are provided to support delivery of the above objectives, inform good decision making and enhance its reputation in a robust control environment.

In support of these objectives I have set as specific ministerial targets the following for 2012-13:

1. Improve performance of the NMS programmes over this corporate plan period as measured by the value scorecard developed for this purpose (to be determined by a scorecard technique across all programmes developed to provide a basis for measuring this improvement).

2. Amend the Hallmarking Act to permit UK assay offices to operate overseas by October 2012.

3. Support business by ensuring 94% of meter examiner appointments, manufacturer authorisations/consents and modifications to meter approval and decisions are made within five business days of receipt of all necessary documentation.

4. Customer satisfaction is improved within certification services as shown by an increase of 5% in “very satisfied” customers for the last calendar year survey.

5. Achieve an increase in income of 5% for certification services from the 2011-12 financial year.

6. Generate a positive 3:1 net contribution to consumers and the environment as well as the low-carbon economy through the activities of the enforcement authority (to be measured by comparing the cost base against the value of products made compliant, withdrawn from the market or affected by a formal business improvement plan).

7. Reduce non-ring-fenced administration costs by 14% in cash terms over this corporate plan period (using as a baseline the original forecast for 2010-11, the level of reduction is the same as that planned for BIS).

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8. Reduce overhead costs per non-overhead staff full-time equivalent by 2% in cash terms from the 2011-12 financial year (excluding technical laboratory costs).

The corporate plan period referred to is the financial years 2012-13 to 2014-15.


Financial Services Compensation Scheme

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): HM Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) have agreed revised terms on the loans made by HM Treasury to the FSCS in 2008-09 in relation to the resolutions of Bradford and Bingley plc, Heritable Bank plc, Landsbanki Islands, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Ltd, and London Scottish Bank plc. The amount outstanding under these facilities is as follows: Bradford and Bingley £15.65 billion; Landsbanki £1billion; Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander £954 million; Heritable £149 million; and London Scottish £187 million.

With effect from 1 April 2012, the interest rate on these loans is 12-month LIBOR plus 100 basis points. This rate is subject to a floor equal to the Government’s own cost of borrowing as represented by the gilt rate over an equivalent duration to the projected repayment period on the relevant loan.

FSCS and HM Treasury have agreed the period of the loans will reflect the expected timetable for FSCS to realise assets from the estates of Bradford and Bingley and the other failed banks. FSCS expects to receive full repayment of the debt owed to it by Bradford and Bingley as the residual assets of the bank are wound up. The estates of the other failed banks might not repay in full the principal owed by FSCS to HM Treasury. Where this occurs FSCS expects to levy the deposit taking sector for the balance of the principal on these loans.

There will be an annual cap on the amount of interest the industry will have to pay through FSCS levies. This cap will be set on the advice of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) (and in due course the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA)) and will take into account other FSCS and similar commitments. Any interest charges exceeding the annual cap will be capitalised and repaid from levies on deposit-takers.

FSCS and HM Treasury have agreed that the terms of the agreements will be reviewed every three years in the light of market conditions and of actual repayments from the estates of the failed banks.

Communities and Local Government

Department's Work (Easter Recess)

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 for Easter recess on 27 March 2012.

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Turning round Troubled Families

We are taking ambitious steps to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem households by 2015, enabling them to play a positive role in their local community.

On 28 March, my Department announced a unique payment by results scheme that will deliver up to £4,000 per family to local authorities which get children back into school, reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour, put adults on a path back to work and bring down the £9 billion annual costs spent on dealing with these households. This is part of the Government’s £448 million three-year programme to help local authorities get to grips with whole families and deal with their problems at the root cause.

My Department has also reached an agreement with the Department for Work and Pensions which, while strictly protecting confidentiality, will allow job centres to share data with local councils in order to identify their troubled families.

Promoting local growth

The Government are determined to see locally driven and sustainable economic growth. New infrastructure plays an important part in supporting the development of new homes, creating long-term jobs and reinvigorating the local economy.

On 29 March, the Government confirmed that £420 million will be available to help communities deliver vital local infrastructure projects. Through the Growing Places fund an additional £270 million has been allocated to local enterprise partnerships. This money will be used to get the infrastructure in place to build new homes, create jobs and get stalled projects moving again. Up to £150 million will be available through tax increment financing “Type 2” for large-scale infrastructure projects in core cities.

On 11 April, my Department announced that every enterprise zone can now offer immediate tax breaks to businesses as soon as they move on to the site. The discount provides up to 100% relief to new businesses for five years. Central Government are meeting the costs.

On 13 April, the Department launched a technical consultation on proposed changes to streamline the guidance that underpins the Planning Act 2008. This will reduce bureaucracy and increase flexibility in the permit granting process, making the regime clearer and easier to use. A full scale review of the major infrastructure planning regime will take place in 2014, once a sufficient number of applications have passed through the system.

Standing up for local shops and local firms

High streets and local businesses are at the heart of our communities and their success is vital to the prosperity and growth of the local area.

On 30 March, my Department issued the formal Government response to the Mary Portas high street review, accepting many of the recommendations and offering a further package of support. The Department announced plans for a £10 million high street innovation fund to bring empty shops and offices back into use; a £1 million future high street X-fund, which will be awarded in a year’s time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets; and a £500,000 fund for business improvement districts, to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs.

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Following the positive reception to Portas pilots across the country we announced our intention to launch another round of pilots to trial recommendations in the Portas review.

On the same date, the Department announced that up to £1 million would go to support local people, businesses and councils to develop and agree high street neighbourhood plans that make sure locally led sustainable development puts the town centre first.

On 4 April, the Department wrote to local councils to urge them to take advantage of the Government measures available to help businesses grow and prosper. This coincided with the opening of applications for the business rates deferral scheme which gives thousands of local business the opportunity to delay paying some of this year’s rates bill for up to three years-worth potentially £600 million if all English firms took up the offer.

Empowering local communities

The Government are determined to put local people, businesses and councils back in control with the choices and chances to shape the future of their local area.

The Localism Act is driving this power shift, wiping away unpopular bureaucratic interferences and cutting red tape that locked out communities, slowed progress and stifled innovation. Commencement orders over the course of this Easter recess period have introduced more key measures from the Localism Act 2011, including the general power of competence. Councils can now innovate and legally do anything an individual could do unless specifically prohibited by law. It gives councils more freedom to work together, act creatively and innovatively to improve services, drive down costs and enhance their local area. In addition, this should give councils who wish to do so the power to continue holding formal prayers. The general power of competence now applies to eligible parish councils. This gives those parish councils the power to hold prayers again during meetings if they wish. This should send out a strong signal that the Government will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the freedom to pray.

On 31 March, the bureaucratic and ineffective Standards Board for England was formally abolished, freeing up local councils from having to investigate trivial complaints. Local authorities will be able to draw up their own codes of conduct to uphold high standards in public life. On 11 April, my Department published an illustrative code of conduct providing a helpful example to local councils.

Clauses in the Localism Act, which came into effect on 1 April, formally abolished the Infrastructure Planning Commission, returning decision making to the Secretary of State. The basic elements of the major infrastructure regime will remain unchanged and will continue to deliver major benefits such as the statutory time scales that bring certainty to developers.

As highlighted in the Department’s recent “Creating the conditions for integration” paper, the Government are strongly supporting people to play an active part in society and celebrate what is good about their local area. On 6 April, the Department announced financial support for a nationwide community music day, to take place on 9 September, the final day of the Paralympic games. This support will allow organisers Superact and Making Music, to expand and enhance their existing annual bandstand marathon day.

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Supporting home ownership and affordable housing

On 2 April, my Department announced a new-look Energy Performance Certificate that will give homebuyers clearer information about the energy efficiency of their homes. Alongside the recommendations for improvements, the new certificates will indicate to the consumer whether they can be funded through the Green Deal. Buyers will also be able to compare the energy performance of their home with that of similar properties, as the National Energy Performance Certificate Register is opened up to public use for the first time.

On 3 April, the Department announced that the reinvigorated Right to Buy scheme was now formally in force, providing up to £75,000 in discounts to social housing tenants, to help people on to the housing ladder, promote opportunity, and boost social mobility for the nation’s social tenants.

For the first time, councils will sign an agreement with Government for using the receipts from sales to build new affordable homes in their area, ensuring there is no reduction in the number of affordable homes. The receipts are expected to meet up to 30% of the costs, mirroring the highly successful funding model used for the affordable homes programme, which has exceeded expectations and will deliver 170,000 new affordable homes by 2015.

On 4 April, the Government published a consultation seeking views on how to encourage more private investment into the social housing sector through real estate investment trusts. The current Finance Bill is introducing a series of measures to support entry to and investment in real estate investment trusts. This consultation will build on these measures considering potential further changes to real estate investment trusts to support the establishment of more of these in the social housing sector.

Although the numbers of empty homes has fallen to its lowest level since 2004, there are still 720,000 homes sitting empty across the country—with 280,000 left vacant for six months or more. On 11 April, my Department announced the appointment of architect and TV presenter George Clarke as empty homes adviser to explore the best ways to bring empty homes back into use for families in need of stable, secure homes.

Tackling inequalities for Gypsy and Traveller communities

In November 2010 my Department set up a ministerial working group, to examine the challenges faced by Gypsy and Traveller communities. On 4 April, the Department published a report containing 28 measures from across Government that will improve outcomes for Gypsies and Travellers in education, health, accommodation, employment and in the criminal justice system.

Cutting red tape

Cracking down on pointless bureaucracy and freeing councils from regulatory burdens is a top priority. Last year the Government introduced the “single data list”—a comprehensive list of required data collection as a way to reduce the burden of top down demands.

Since summer 2010 the Government have ended 56 separate data collections placed on local government and seriously scaled back a further 19. This builds on decisions to end over 4,700 local government targets.

On 11 April, the Department published the new 2012-13 list which shows a reduction in demands from 193 data collections last year to 156 this year. We are also putting in place a rigorous “real time” gateway to

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prevent the build up of new data burdens on local government throughout the year. Councils will not have to provide anything that is not on the list, and any new requirements would be subject to the new burdens principle.

Delivering weekly rubbish collections

In February, my Department launched a new fund to work with local councils to help improve or reinstate weekly rubbish collections. The fund will inject up to £250 million of extra central funding into projects that will help to improve local waste and recycling services, develop infrastructure, and reward recycling. Over 180 initial expressions of interest have been sent in, surpassing expectations. The Government will now be working with councils to make sure quality outline bids are submitted by the May deadline.

Ensuring fairness for Park Home residents

On 16 April the Department published a consultation on reforms to park homes and caravan site licensing. These reforms will give a better deal to the many thousands of mainly older householders in this sector by increasing their rights, removing the opportunity for exploitation by unscrupulous site operators and giving local authorities and the courts the power to hold bad operators to account.

These reforms will put the park home sector on a sustainable footing for the long term, allowing site operators to run good businesses, offer a decent service to residents and ensure that home owners can live peacefully in their homes knowing that the law protects them from abuse.

Copies of the associated documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Culture, Media and Sport

Legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): In December 2010 the Government set out their plans for the legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games in the document “Plans for the Legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games” which I published under cover of a written ministerial statement. I undertook to provide updates. My Department has recently published “Beyond 2012—London 2012 Legacy Story” which tells the emerging story of the legacy from the 2012 games. I have placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

This document sets out some legacy achievements in a number of areas. These reflect the depth and breadth of the legacy reaching across the country, which Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee refers to in “Beyond 2012” as a “legacy blueprint for future Games hosts”. Some of the legacy achievements are listed below.


Government’s changes to the national lottery shares, coupled with increased tickets sales, should mean £560 million more in lottery income for sport over the next five years.

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Over 12,000 schools across England are signed up for the school games with the first national finals on the Olympic park in May 2012.

£1 billion is to be invested in youth sport over the next five years through the new Youth Sport Strategy, which will include an additional £100 million investment in sports facilities.

6,000 community sports clubs are to be created by local schools, as well as better sports facilities and more professional support for colleges and universities.

60% of Government money provided to national sports bodies is to be focused on the key 14 to 25 age group, with a new payment-by-results system providing added rigour.

Up to 1,000 local sports venues are to be upgraded under the £135 million Places People Play programme, which also includes £30 million to support a regional network of major sport and leisure centres.

100,000 adults will participate in multiple Olympic or Paralympic sports under a nationwide “Gold Challenge” programme by the end of 2012.

200,000 Londoners are expected to benefit from the London Mayor’s participation programme, with more than 10% of these previously inactive. Mayoral programmes are also upgrading facilities and encouraging more people to become coaches.

118 major sporting events will have been staged in the UK from 2007 to 2012, covering 41 out of 46 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

30,000+ elite international athletes have competed in these events (2007-2009), with 27,000 officials and volunteers supporting them.

These events are providing a £105 million boost to the economy, with major events staged in 35 towns and cities across the country over the last five years.

Beyond 2012 the UK will continue to reap the benefits that come from hosting major events, including the Rugby League World Cup (2013), Commonwealth Games (2014), Rugby Union World Cup (2015), World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium (2017), and Cricket World Cup (2019).

Across the world the UK’s international sports legacy programme, International Inspiration, has reached more than 12 million young people in 20 countries through sport activities and engagement with partner Governments and their agencies.


A £3 billion economic boost is expected through the GREAT campaign to drive trade, investment and tourism.

98% of the £6 billion worth of Olympic park contracts have gone to UK-based companies—two thirds of them small or medium-sized enterprises.

10,000+ business opportunities have been made available via CompeteFor, the brokerage service set up for the games and now used for many other major projects.

94% of the £1 billion worth of LOCOG contracts have gone to UK businesses, equating to over £900 million.

£30 million is to be invested in the UK’s first ever National Sports and Exercise Medicine Centre of Excellence to promote sport and physical activity within healthcare.

50 industry events are being led by the Olympic Delivery Authority throughout 2012 to share lessons of the games with professionals across the construction sector.

£2.3 billion worth of contracts are on offer in Rio and Sochi over the next four years, with some London 2012 contractors already on board.

£1 billion of extra business for UK firms is expected from games-related trade campaigns.

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200 business Ministers and global chief executive officers are expected at the global investment conference in July 2012.

3,500 meetings between UK companies and potential overseas buyers are expected to be initiated by the British business embassy.

4 million extra visitors are expected to visit the UK from 2011 to 2015.

£2 billion additional spend by visitors to the UK is expected in the four years after the games.

90 million people will see the GREAT campaign adverts across 14 key cities worldwide: Beijing, Berlin, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto.

70% of the population in each of the target cities will see the advertising on billboards, TV or in the cinema.

12,000 additional tourism jobs are expected to be created through increased domestic tourism over three years.

£500 million additional money is expected to be spent by British tourists as a result of the VisitEngland campaign which is built around a unique 20.12% discount offer.


95% of people will be within easy reach of the Olympic torch relay during its 8,000 mile journey.

Approximately 70,000 volunteers will have been chosen as Games Makers to help in the staging of the Olympic and Paralympic events. There are 2,000 roles for Young Games Makers aged 16 to18.

40% of applicants for Games Maker roles say that London 2012 has inspired them to volunteer for the first time.

8,000 Team London Ambassadors will guide visitors across the capital during the games, with similar programmes in place in other Olympic and Paralympic cities.

2,000+ community projects have officially been inspired by the Olympics and Paralympics.

24,000 schools form the Get Set network, which is teaching millions of children about the Olympic and Paralympic values.

14 million people have taken part in or attended Cultural Olympiad performances.

1,000 events across the UK will form part of the London 2012 Festival, providing 10 million opportunities to enjoy the best cultural performances from the UK and abroad.

4 Paralympic flames will be lit in UK capital cities that will be united at Stoke Mandeville.

8,000 inspirational torchbearers will carry the Olympic flame during the 70 days it will spend travelling across the UK.

£2 million worth of commissions for the Cultural Olympiad have come through the Unlimited Fund, the UK’s largest arts programme for disabled and deaf people.

There will be 150 hours of Channel 4 coverage for the Paralympic games, aiming to double the TV audience compared to the 2008 games in Beijing.

200 disabled athletes will compete across eight disability sports at the National School Games finals, with all participating schools including opportunities for disabled people in their competitions.

East London

46,000 people worked on the Olympic park during construction, a fifth of them from local communities.

20% of the London 2012 workforce has been recruited from the six Olympic host boroughs, with 13% previously unemployed and 7% registered disabled.

10,000 people are now employed at the new Westfield Stratford shopping centre, at least 2,000 of whom are local people who were previously unemployed.

1 in 5 jobs in East London are now in the creative industries. East London also boasts the largest cluster of artists and arts organisations of any capital city in the world.

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300 companies are now based in East London’s thriving “Tech City” which has grown from just 15 companies in the three years leading up to the games.

6,000 jobs could be created in the environmental technology sector as a result of the Green Enterprise District set up in East London.

£200 million has been spent on upgrading Stratford regional station, with new lifts, staircases, re-opened subway, wider platforms and a new mezzanine entrance.

The Docklands light railway has been extended by 2.6 km, with a new branch to Stratford International and three new stations opened.

Capacity of the Jubilee line has been increased by 33% with upgrades to signalling and additional trains running at peak times.

220 buildings were knocked down to make way for the Olympic park, with 98.5% of demolition waste being recycled.

2.3 million cubic metres of soil were excavated and cleansed of industrial pollutants as part of the most ambitious soil clean-up operation ever seen in the UK.

The accident frequency rate of 0.16 for the Olympic park is well below the industry average and below the national average for all workplaces.

4,000 recycling bins and composting bins will be placed throughout the venues and park to help meet the commitment to no landfill waste during the games.

£10 million is being invested in upgrading pedestrian and cycling routes to Olympic venues, with more than 60 projects promoting greener travel inspired by London 2012.

14 million is the target for the number of sustainably sourced meals provided during the games, setting new standards for supply chain management.

There will be 45 hectares of wildlife habitat on the Olympic park, including reedbeds, grasslands, ponds and woodlands, with 525 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes.

120,000 plants from 250 species from around the world will be planted in the London 2012 garden, helping to showcase British horticulture.

350,000 wetland plants will be planted as part of the UK’s largest ever urban river and wetland planting, creating a new haven for wildlife.

A new postcode—E20—has been created to serve the five neighbourhoods being created across Queen Elizabeth Olympic park.

11 schools and nurseries and three health centres will serve local communities across the park.

10,000 jobs are expected to be created on the Olympic park alone—all of them within an inviting parkland setting.


Pupil Behaviour

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): The Government are determined to help teachers address the poor attendance and bad behaviour of some pupils, which disproportionately affect the chances of disadvantaged children.

The poor attendance or lateness of a number of pupils can disrupt their own education and that of other pupils. Quickly these children begin to fall behind their peers and often they never fully catch up with gaps in their skills or knowledge. Overtime these pupils become disillusioned with education and by year 10 and year 11 they are lost to the system. These pupils are the most

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likely to become “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) when they leave school and easily fall into antisocial behaviour and crime.

On 4 April last year I announced the appointment of Charlie Taylor, a head teacher with a track record in radically improving behaviour in some of the most troubled schools, as the Government’s expert adviser on behaviour. I am pleased to inform the House that he has agreed to serve in this role for another year.

On 1 September I asked Charlie Taylor to review and report on school attendance and alternative provision.

He has now published his report on school attendance, which I would like to bring to the attention of the House. I have responded and welcomed his recommendations.

The recommendations should lead to attendance problems being addressed at an earlier stage before bad habits become ingrained. Starting early with the attendance of younger children at primary school should reduce the number who develop truancy problems when older. The range of school absence data will be improved to help teachers to pick up and deal with poor attendance patterns across the age-range.

Having sent a strong message that attendance is important, we must equip schools to tackle the minority of parents who do not heed that message. I agree that the current penalty notice scheme should be simplified. Today, the Government have made changes to the Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007 to increase the amounts stated on the notices from this September. The Government will explore ways to make payment of penalty notices swift and certain.

We will also take steps to implement the other recommendations in the report as early as we can.

Copies of Charlie Taylor’s report, and my response to him, are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Embassy (Bamako)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): We have temporarily withdrawn diplomatic staff from our embassy in Bamako and suspended all in-country services given the instability in Mali and the possibility of a swift deterioration in security. Consular assistance is being provided by the British embassy in Senegal. British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance can also contact the embassy of any EU member state in Bamako. We are keeping the decision under review and will reopen the embassy when the situation stabilises.

The UK is deeply concerned by recent political instability in Mali. We condemn any actions that undermine democratic rule and welcome the Economic Community of West African States-led efforts which are returning the country to constitutional, civilian rule. We continue to work with our international partners in the UN and in other multilateral forums to ensure that recent progress is maintained, including the holding of elections.

As I said to the House on 11 May 2011, there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain’s overseas network. I am committed to extending the Foreign and

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Commonwealth Office’s global reach and strengthening its influence. The temporary withdrawal of diplomatic staff and the suspension of services at our embassy in Bamako does not signify a move away from this commitment. It in no way reduces the UK’s commitment to active diplomacy in Mali and the wider Sahel region.


Consultation on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): The Government have today published a consultation on the standardised packaging of tobacco products. The consultation is being undertaken, with the agreement of the devolved Administrations, on a UK-wide basis.

In March 2011, the Government published “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England” which set out how our comprehensive, evidence-based programme of tobacco control will be delivered, within the context of the new public health system, over the next five years. The tobacco control plan included a commitment to consult on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including standardised packaging.

Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health across the United Kingdom and is the primary cause of preventable death, accounting each year for over 100,000 deaths in the United Kingdom. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease. Smoking harms those around smokers too. The Royal College of Physicians estimate that about 2 million children currently live in a household where they are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Treating smoking diseases is costly. In England, around 5% of all hospital admissions among adults aged 35 and over are attributable to smoking.

Reducing the uptake of smoking by children and young people is a key public health goal. Most smokers take up smoking regularly before they turn 18 years old. In England alone, an estimated 330,000 young people under the age of 16 try smoking for the first time each year.

Most smokers say they want to quit. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but smokers who quit for good can quickly reduce their risk of smoking diseases and live longer, whatever their age.

The United Kingdom is recognised across the world for having comprehensive, evidence-based tobacco control policies. But we need to do more to stop young people taking up smoking and to help those smokers who want to quit.

Health and well-being in our communities would be significantly improved in the long term if smoking rates were substantially reduced. Between 2007 and 2010, the rates of smoking in England remained static. While smoking rates have more recently started to decline again, we need to secure significant further reductions if we are to meet the national ambitions we set out in “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England”.

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Standardised packaging for tobacco refers to measures that may be taken to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names that are displayed in a standard colour and font style. Standardised packaging is sometimes referred to as “plain packaging”.

The Government have an open mind at this stage about introducing standardised packaging. Through the consultation, we want to understand whether there is evidence to demonstrate that the standardised packaging of tobacco products would have an additional public health benefit, over and above existing tobacco control initiatives. The consultation asks whether standardised packaging could improve public health by:

reducing the appeal of tobacco products to consumers;

increasing the effectiveness of health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products;

reducing the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking; and

having a positive effect on smoking-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours, particularly among children and young people.

Through the consultation, we are also interested in exploring whether there might be other implications if standardised packaging requirements were introduced, including any potential effect on the illicit tobacco market.

The consultation will be open for responses from 16 April to 10 July 2012. Any person, business or organisation with an interest is encouraged to respond.

Consultation on the standardised packaging of tobacco products has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office .The consultation document is available from and consultation responses can be submitted online at: http://consultations.dh.gov.uk.

Any decisions to take further policy action on tobacco packaging will be taken only after full consideration is given to consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information.


Ex Gratia Payments to Victims of Overseas Terrorism

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Crispin Blunt): I am announcing today the launch of an ex gratia scheme to make payments to victims of terrorism who were injured overseas on or after 1 January 2002 and who continue to have an ongoing disability as a direct result of the injuries they sustained. From today victims will be able to apply for a payment under this scheme.

The aim of the ex gratia scheme is to demonstrate solidarity with those in our community who have been affected by terrorist incidents overseas, taking into account the nature of terrorist attacks as a political statement and attack on our society.

We believe it is proportionate and necessary for the scheme to focus limited resources on those who have a clear and sufficient connection to the UK. Therefore,

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payments will be made to British, EU and EEA victims with a minimum of three years residence in the UK immediately prior to a terrorist attack that is designated for the purposes of the ex gratia scheme.

Responsibility for the designation of terrorist attacks for the purposes of the ex gratia scheme falls to the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary has designated the following incidents:

Bombings in Bali, Indonesia on 12 October 2002;

Bombings in Kusadasi, Turkey on 16 July 2005;

Attacks in tourist sites in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt 23 July 2005;

Bombings in Dahab, Egypt 24 April 2006;

Bombings in Marmaris, Turkey 27 August 2006;

Attacks in Mumbai, India 26 November 2008.

Later this year we intend to lay before Parliament a separate statutory scheme for compensating future victims of overseas terrorism, made under the Crime and Security Act 2010. That scheme will commence shortly after parliamentary approval has been received.

1980 Hague Convention on Child Abduction

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): The Government have decided to opt in to the European Commission’s proposals for the acceptance by the member states, in the interests of the EU, of the accession of Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, the Russian Federation, Seychelles and Singapore to the 1980 Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.

All EU member states are party to the successful 1980 Hague convention which is the primary civil law international instrument that provides a mechanism to seek the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence. When a country wishes to accede to the convention it is necessary for an existing contracting state to accept that country’s accession before the convention can apply between them. It is the European Commission’s view that there is exclusive competence on the EU for all matters relating to the 1980 convention and that therefore member states must now be authorised by the EU to accept accessions by third countries and must do so collectively through Council decisions.

Although not anticipated in the proposals, the Government believe that the UK opt in under the protocol to title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union applies and it has therefore asserted its right to choose whether to opt in and has decided it is in the UK’s best interests to do so.

The Government have taken this decision notwithstanding the fact that it disputes the Commission’s claim to exclusive competence and it is still determining whether each of the countries seeking to accede to the convention will be able to operate the convention effectively.

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The Government believe that the wider significance of these proposals for external competence mean that it is in the UK’s interests to participate fully in these negotiations, including having the ability to vote. These proposals must be agreed by unanimity within the Council.

Northern Ireland

Parliamentary Written Question (Correction)

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I regret that the answer given to the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) on 19 March, Official Report, column 444W, contained an error. The answer stated that matters relating to the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s work in Northern Ireland fall under the responsibility of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland.

This was inaccurate: although the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is a reserved body under schedule 3 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, it operates as a UK-wide body covering a mix of devolved and reserved matters.

SOCA is accountable to the Home Secretary. But in Northern Ireland (as in Scotland), responsibility for policing and criminal justice are devolved matters. SOCA’s strategic priorities (set by the Home Secretary after consultation with devolved Ministers) sets out the need for SOCA to work collaboratively with devolved Governments and law enforcement agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) published its first organised crime strategy in February 2012. The strategy, which complements the OCTF annual report and threat assessment, addresses the specific local priorities agreed by the OCTF partners to tackle organised crime in Northern Ireland. SOCA will ensure its activities are consistent with partner agency actions to confront organised crime in Northern Ireland through continued membership of the OCTF and its various sub-groups. SOCA is accountable to the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland under the terms of a memorandum of understanding which has been in place since 2010.

The correct answer is as follows:

Mr Swire: Some matters relating to the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s work in Northern Ireland fall under the responsibility of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland. SOCA is a reserved body under schedule 3 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, although it operates as a UK-wide body covering a mix of devolved and reserved matters SOCA is accountable to the Home Secretary.

My officials are working closely with their counterparts in the Home Office on the current proposals in relation to the National Crime Agency.