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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Treasury

Taxation of Pensioners

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The Government launched the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in July 2010 to provide independent advice on simplifying the tax system.

The OTS has today published the final report of its review of the taxation of pensioners, commissioned by the Government on 5 July 2011.

The Government asked the OTS to carry out a two-stage review of pensioner taxation. The first stage of the review looked at the administrative and legislative complexities faced by pensioners and suggested key areas for further review. This was completed in March 2012 and the Government gave their response at Budget 2012.

The OTS has now completed the second stage of its review, focused on the key areas suggested in the first stage. The Government will make their response to this report at the appropriate time.

Electronic copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Culture, Media and Sport

UK Sport and Sport England

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): The Government are committed to delivering a real sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games and to creating a world-class organisational structure for sport. Today, I would like to update the House on progress with the reorganisation of UK Sport and Sport England which we have been considering as part of the Government’s package of public body reforms.

The project board, chaired by Sir Keith Mills, identified a number of significant strategic and operational benefits from closer working, including a shared approach to sports governance and talent management, as well as a programme leading to co-location and shared services by 2014. Much progress has been made with these reforms in 2012. In view of this, and the challenges associated with merging a UK-wide organisation with an England only body, I have concluded that we will retain UK Sport and Sport England as two separate entities with a shared reform agenda. To maintain momentum, and ensure that the two organisations deliver the economic and strategic benefits intended from the merger, we intend to conduct a joint review of both organisations in 2014-15, as part of the Government’s rolling programme of reviews of non-departmental public bodies. They will also be asked to co-locate, share significantly more back office services and align their

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strategies. With this approach, I am confident that both organisations will be able to reduce their administrative costs over this spending review period and that we can deliver the strategic benefits of closer working between the two organisations with immediate effect. This fits logically within the context of the Government’s public bodies reform programme which will reduce the number of public bodies by a third, and it directly contributes to improvements in accountability and transparency, and will cut out waste and duplication from the system. It will also contribute to Government-wide reductions of over £2.6 billion in the administration costs of public bodies over the spending review period.

Transport

Local Major Transport Schemes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): In September 2012, following a period of consultation, the Department for Transport set out firm proposals for the devolution of funding for local major transport schemes from 2015.

Since then we have, as promised, provided detailed guidance for local transport bodies (LTBs) on the setting up of local assurance frameworks, including a set of minimum requirements to be met before funding is devolved.

We also invited local stakeholders to agree locally the preferred geographical basis for LTBs so that we could then provide each with an indicative population-based funding level, which would inform the development of their scheme programmes.

I am today publishing those indicative funding figures and they are listed in a document being provided to the Libraries of both Houses, as well as being published on the Department for Transport’s website.

The actual allocations will be determined following further spending rounds within Government. Accordingly, I am advising all LTBs to make contingency provision in their programmes for actual budget levels to be one third higher or lower than the indicative figures being published today.

LTB boundaries were mostly agreed by consensus between the local partners. However, there were three areas where local partners could not reach such an agreement. For those areas we have calculated the indicative figures on the basis of an appropriate share of the overlapping areas. The basis for this is set out in the additional document.

In all areas we will need to be responsive to evolving agendas, particularly in relation to the Government’s response to the Heseltine review, the emergence of city deals and the move in some areas towards combined authorities. These developments may, in time, inform the refinement of LTB geographies. However the planning for new schemes and programmes cannot be delayed if we are to maintain the momentum of new infrastructure that is so vital to the economy.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that, in recognition of the key role we envisage for local enterprise partnerships in transport, the Department for Transport will be

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providing them with funding totalling £5 million in this financial year. This is in addition to the funds for capacity building in local enterprise partnerships already announced in the Chancellor’s 2012 autumn statement. Local enterprise partnerships will have discretion on the use of this funding but we hope that it will improve their capacity to play a leading role in transport, including participation in LTBs.

Permit Schemes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am today announcing that, in line with the principles of localism, the role of the Secretary of State in approving local authority permit schemes for works in the street will be removed. This announcement follows a consultation on the proposals, which closed last spring.

Permit schemes provide highway authorities with the means to better manage activities on their road network, to minimise inconvenience and disruption to road users. Highway authorities do not have to introduce permit schemes. Where schemes are implemented, the authority is able to grant permits to works promoters to undertake works on the highway. This provides greater control over works in their area, and enables them to promote better working practices, for example, working outside peak hours where appropriate. A permit scheme also enables improved co-ordination of works.

Once implemented the change to the approval process will reduce bureaucracy and will offer local authorities the ability to develop, introduce and operate schemes in their area, to best suit local needs. These changes are in line with both the Government’s commitment to ensure regulatory proposals are proportionate and our desire to see congestion caused by roadworks reduced by effective management, and for works promoters to be held accountable for that congestion.

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Authorities with schemes in operation report that they reduce the time taken to complete necessary street works. To optimise the benefits and minimise the administrative burden of future permit schemes, I have recently published guidance to focus new schemes on busy and traffic sensitive streets. This will ensure a proportionate approach and maximise benefits to all road users. To give time for local authorities to adjust to this new approach, I will retain the Secretary of State’s approval of schemes until at least 2015. As well as removing the Secretary of State’s approval, I intend to change the permit scheme regulations to make the consequential changes and embed these developments into both regulations and guidance.

The full consultation response can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport. I am placing a copy in the House Libraries.

To take forward these proposals, I plan to introduce appropriate changes to the Traffic Management Act when a suitable legislative opportunity arises, and also to make the resultant changes to the permit scheme regulations.

Work and Pensions

Defined Benefit Pension

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Following the autumn statement, the Government will, this Friday, publish their call for evidence on two potential policy changes—whether to allow companies undergoing valuation in 2013 or later to smooth asset and liability values; and whether to provide the Pensions Regulator with a new statutory objective to consider the long-term affordability of deficit recovery plans to sponsoring employers.

The call for evidence document will be available on the Department’s website from 25 January 2013 (www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations) together with details on how to contribute.