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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 17 September 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

Local Enterprise Partnerships

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): I, as the Minister with responsibility for business and enterprise, together with the Minister for Housing, Department for Communities and Local Government, am today announcing that £25 million of Government funding will be made available to support local enterprise partnerships in their pursuit of economic growth.

The Government’s goal is to promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth across the UK. Local enterprise partnerships are central to our approach to driving local economic growth and for ensuring that every locality is able to fulfil its potential. Local enterprise partnerships are voluntary partnerships of business and civic leaders, working across local economic areas, and have a vitally important role in identifying opportunities for private sector growth and addressing local barriers to growth through the united efforts of their partners.

Local enterprise partnerships have also been encouraged to identify local barriers to growth where Government action can address some of the specific barriers. Ministers across Government are committed to supporting local enterprise partnerships achieve their local growth priorities and tackle the barriers to progress.

In response to recent strong representations the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government have decided to offer jointly up to £250,000 pa of matched core funding to local enterprise partnerships for the remainder of this Parliament (until 2014-15), subject to satisfactory proposals being received. We will offer each local enterprise partnership a one-off initial payment of £125,000 for the remainder of this financial year to provide immediate support, with subsequent years funding dependent on matched funding from local partners. Where matched by funds locally the overall funding pot could equate up to £45 million over this period. With this offer of core resources, local enterprise partnerships will be asked to ensure that they have a clear set of priorities for local growth in place.

Local enterprise partnerships will remain voluntary business and civic partnerships to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area. This offer of core resource funding will provide more capacity for local enterprise partnerships to drive forward their growth priorities, allow them to do longer-term resource planning and strengthen support and autonomy of the business-led boards.

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Government's Alcohol Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry): We are today laying before Parliament the “Government Response to the House of Commons Health Committee Report of Session 2010-12: Government’s Alcohol Strategy” (Cm 8439).

The Committee gave a positive welcome overall to the Government’s alcohol strategy and welcomed in particular the decision to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. The Committee made some important points about the need to set out the evidence behind this policy and its implementation. We will address these points when we consult on the level of minimum unit price and other proposals set out in the strategy during the autumn.

We welcome the Committee’s argument that the alcohol industry’s participation in the responsibility deal is “intrinsic to responsible corporate citizenship”. We fully agree with the Committee that it is not a substitute for Government policy.

We are committed to reversing the long term rise in both health and social harms from alcohol misuse and have set out in the strategy a number of challenging ambitions by which our success will be judged.

We welcome the Committee’s support for effective local action, such as that in Birmingham, and the opportunity they recognize for local authorities and others, supported by Public Health England, to address the serious problems caused by alcohol misuse in local communities.

Today’s publication is in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.


Chief Coroner's Powers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant): The Minister for the Armed Forces, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr Robathan) and I wish to make the following statement to the House regarding investigations into service personnel who have died overseas:

On 24 September 2012 the Government will commence powers under sections 12 and 50 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to enable for the first time deaths of service personnel killed abroad to be investigated in Scotland under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 where appropriate.

His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, who has today assumed the role of chief coroner of England and Wales will be able to recommend that investigations be transferred from England and Wales in appropriate circumstances, for example where the deceased’s family is based in Scotland.

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The provisions aim to reduce the additional distress that can be caused by ensuring that bereaved service families from Scotland do not have to travel long distances to England or Wales to attend an inquest.


London Midland (Ticketing and Settlement Agreement)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I would like to inform the House of the decision that has been made in relation to London Midland’s application to change schedule 17 of the ticketing and settlement agreement (TSA), which was referred to the Department for Transport for arbitration.

The TSA sets out the various arrangements between train operators relating to the carriage of passengers and the retailing of tickets. London Midland’s proposal was to change the minimum opening hours of a number of ticket offices, including the closure of nine offices altogether. These changes would not affect the level of train services in any way.

I have decided to approve London Midland’s proposal in part, but reject some elements where the case for changes has not been made. Ticket offices at Small Heath, Jewellery Quarter, Bescot Stadium, Duddeston and Adderley Park, which were proposed for closure, will remain open. However, I have agreed four of the nine proposed ticket office closures, at Wythall, Witton, Lye and Cheddington.

Several ticket offices will have their opening hours extended, while a number of other stations will have their ticket office opening hours reduced. A full list of the changes has been published on the Department’s website.

In arbitrating this decision, we were careful to ensure that the proposal was in line with the criteria set out in the TSA, whereby passengers continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products, and that the proposal represents an improvement in terms of quality of service and/or cost-effectiveness.

I have also ensured that no particular group of rail users is affected disproportionately by the changes, particularly passengers with disabilities.

The changes reflect the change in the way passengers are buying tickets, with more choosing to purchase their tickets online or at ticket vending machines, and the changes that have been approved will not generally affect stations during periods in which the ticket office is currently selling more than 12 tickets an hour.

As a condition of the changes, London Midland will also be required to provide a total of 29 additional ticket vending machines at stations that do not currently have this facility. This will be an improvement in availability at stations where the ticket office is currently only open part-time, with passengers in future able to purchase tickets whenever they wish to travel.

We have also ensured that London Midland will keep lifts in operation when stations are unstaffed. London Midland will also improve safety and security at stations,

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including through the provision of upgraded CCTV at 11 stations and will provide additional shelters and upgraded signage as a condition of this approval.

In addition, London Midland will invest in 30 new train boarding ramps to improve access to trains for wheelchair users. Passengers who require assistance in making their journey can now book this via the new industry website, which was launched by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) on 24 August.

There are currently many ticket offices open for very long hours, while selling very few tickets indeed. In an era where passengers are telling us that they need fares to come down and investment in services to rise, these sorts of costs simply cannot be justified.

These changes will provide savings to taxpayers and passengers far beyond the life of the existing franchise, and will ultimately save millions of pounds. I believe that this is a necessary step in improving the efficiency of the rail network, and reducing the cost of rail travel for everyone.

Work and Pensions

Disability Strategy (Fulfilling Potential)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): I am pleased to announce that later today we will publish two documents as part of our disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential. These set out how the Government will work in partnership with others to enable disabled people to achieve their aspirations and play a full role in society.

The London 2012 Paralympic games have challenged outdated perceptions of disabled people. They have provided a platform for greater understanding and inclusion, and a stronger focus on ability rather than disability. Fulfilling Potential will build on this and is about making the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People a living reality for disabled people in Britain today.

Last December we invited disabled people to help shape a new cross-Government disability strategy. We received an overwhelming response. “Fulfilling Potential—the Discussions So Far” summarises the issues raised, and shows how actions are already being taken across Government to address many of the issues.

We will also publish “Fulfilling Potential—Next Steps” which will take us further forward. It sets out our vision and principles; outlines further public sector reforms; and announces a new disability action alliance, involving organisations from across the private, public and voluntary and community sectors.

Convened by Disability Rights UK and supported by the Office for Disability Issues, the alliance will put disabled people and their organisations in influential roles. It will lead the way in promoting local communities which include disabled people, and identify action to change attitudes and behaviours, increase choice and control and encourage early interventions to support independent living.

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We will continue to work with disabled people and publish in the autumn, an analysis of the latest statistics and research, to help build a deeper understanding of disability in our society today; and in 2013 a further strategic document and action plan.

I will place a copy of both documents in the House Library later today.

Work Capability Assessment (Government Response)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): Today I will be publishing the Government response to the consultation—“Work Capability Assessment: accounting for the effects of cancer treatment”.

I strongly support the principle of the work capability assessment and am committed to continuously improving the assessment process to ensure it is as fair and as accurate as possible.

We have a statutory commitment to an annual independent review of the work capability assessment for the first five years of its operation and appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington in June 2010 to start these reviews.

Professor Harrington has to date carried out two independent reviews of the work capability assessment and is currently undertaking a third. As part of his

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second independent review Professor Harrington asked Macmillan Cancer Support to look in detail at how the work capability assessment assesses people with cancer in order to provide him with evidence for further recommendations for improvement.

As a result of the evidence received from Macmillan we decided to conduct an informal consultation to seek a wider range of views and evidence. The consultation “Work Capability Assessment: accounting for the effects of cancer treatment” was announced on 24 November 2011 as part of the Government’s response to Professor Harrington’s second review.

Today’s document outlines the responses received to that consultation and provides further information on how we intend to change the way the work capability assessment works for people receiving cancer treatment based on consideration of those responses.

The revised proposals expand the categories of cancer treatments under which a claimant may be treated as having limited capability to undertake work-related activity to now include individuals who are: awaiting, receiving or recovering from treatment by way of chemotherapy irrespective of route; or awaiting, receiving or recovering from radiotherapy.

I will place a copy of the full Government response to the consultation in the House Library and it will also be available later today at: www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations.