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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 24 January 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Science, Research and Innovation Capital Investment

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I am today setting out our plans for spending £600 million as part of our commitment to an industrial strategy for growth.

We have a broad, world-class science and research base in this country and this is clearly demonstrated in the research councils’ impact reports which are being published today. These reports illustrate the benefit to the economy and to society of the funding that we provide for science and research every year.

We identified eight key technologies to invest in, consulting with the research community and the Technology Strategy Board. To support these, the Chancellor announced £600 million of funding, mainly for capital investment, in his autumn statement. We have already announced how £28 million of this capital funding will be used to fund the National Composites Centre and £108 million will support the life science strategy through £38 million for the national biologies industry innovation centre, £20 million for regenerative medicine and £50 million for synthetic biology.

Today I am announcing details of how the remaining funds will be allocated.

£189 million of that funding will support big data. We will allocate a further £25 million to the highly successful National Space Technology Programme.

£45 million will support new facilities and equipment in areas of UK strength in advanced materials, including in high-performance alloys and low-energy electronics. In addition £35 million will create centres of excellence in robotics and autonomous systems in and around universities, innovation centres, science parks and enterprise sites.

£30 million will be allocated to create dedicated research and development facilities to develop and test new grid scale energy storage technologies. £25 million will build the Advanced Measurement Laboratory which will be a state-of-the-art laboratory for cutting-edge measurement research run by the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.

Finally £65 million will be invested in our excellent research campuses with a further £50 million in transformative equipment and infrastructure to maintain the excellence of our research base.

In addition to this £600 million of capital funds, EPSRC are using existing budgets to make a £350 million investment in a new generation of centres for doctoral training. This is important as without highly skilled individuals in the workforce it will be impossible to bring innovative products and services to market.

I have also launched today a £l million competition funded by the Technology Strategy Board that will accelerate the development of robotics and autonomous systems in the UK.

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ANNEX: Table showing breakdown of £600 million autumn statement investment in science and innovation*:

Big data and energy-efficient computing

£189 million

Synthetic biology

£50 million

Regenerative medicine

£20 million

Energy storage

£30 million

Advanced materials

£45 million

Robotics and autonomous systems

£35 million

Research campuses

£65 million

Transformative equipment and infrastructure

£50 million

National Composites Centre

£28 million

Pharmavision

£38 million

Advanced Metrology Lab

£25 million

National Space Technology Programme

£25 million

Total

£600 million

*Figures in italics are new announcements on 24/1/2013.

Communities and Local Government

Change of Use: Promoting Regeneration

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): The coalition Government believe that a swift and responsive planning system is vital for delivering sustainable development. We want to promote the use of brownfield land to assist regeneration, and get empty and under-used buildings back into productive use. Using such previously developed land and buildings will help us promote economic growth and still ensure that we safeguard environmentally protected land.

Mary Portas’s review called for the Government to ease the rules surrounding change of use. We agree. We are therefore increasing the scope of permitted development rights in order to facilitate growth.

Commercial to residential

In April 2011, we ran a consultation “Relaxation of planning rules for change of use from commercial to residential” which sought views on introducing permitted development rights for change of use from commercial to residential uses. Following that consultation we included a policy statement within the national planning policy framework to promote change of use.

Complementing this policy change, in the written ministerial statement of 6 September 2012, Official Report, column 34WS, I announced the introduction of permitted development rights to enable change of use from commercial to residential purposes. These new permitted development rights build on the policy set out in the national planning policy framework and will encourage developers to bring underused offices back into effective use as houses for local residents.

The new permitted development rights allow change of use from B1 (a) offices to C3 residential. They will provide badly needed homes for local people and will make a valuable contribution to easing our national housing shortage. By bringing underused offices back into effective use they will also help create jobs in the

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construction and services industries, and help regenerate our town centres and former commercial areas. These new homes will bring a greater resident population to our high streets, increasing footfall and supporting local shops.

In line with best practice on public policy, there will be a sunset clause, limiting the changes to three years and a review of the benefits from the policy at that point. This will provide Parliament with the opportunity to extend the policy indefinitely should it wish.

We recognise that, as with all permitted development rights, there may be unique local circumstances which should be taken into account. The chief planner is today writing to local planning authorities giving them the opportunity to seek a local exemption where this can be justified on economic grounds.

We will only grant an exemption in exceptional circumstances, where local authorities demonstrate clearly that the introduction of these new permitted development rights in a particular local area will lead to (a) the loss of a nationally significant area of economic activity or (b) substantial adverse economic consequences at the local authority level which are not offset by the positive benefits the new rights would bring.

Once local planning authority requests for exemption have been considered, the regulations for the new permitted development rights will be bought forward.

There will be a tightly drawn prior approval process which will cover significant transport and highway impacts, and development in areas of high flood risk, land contamination and safety hazard zones.

Getting redundant agricultural buildings back into use

As part of the 2011 growth review we undertook to review how change of use is handled in the planning system. We ran a consultation “New opportunities for sustainable development and growth through the reuse of existing buildings” in July 2012.

Following that consultation, I can confirm that in order to help promote rural prosperity and job creation, agricultural buildings will be able to convert to a range of other uses, but excluding residential dwellings. There will be a size restriction and for conversions above a set size a prior approval process will be put in place to guard against unacceptable impacts, such as transport and noise.

Flexibility for business uses

To enhance flexibility in the planning system, which can be vital when a quick response is necessary to support business growth, we will increase the thresholds for permitted development rights for change of use between business/office (B1) and warehouse (B8) classes and from general industry (B2) to B1 and B8 from 235 m(2) to 500 m(2).

Getting empty town centre buildings back into use

To create opportunities for new and start-up businesses and help retain the viability and vitality of our town centres, we will allow a range of buildings to convert temporarily to a set of alternative uses including shops (Al), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1) for up to two years.

We will continue to keep the operation of the use classes system under review to ensure it is as flexible as possible and promotes sustainable development. We are working to amend regulations as soon as possible and

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will publish a detailed summary of responses to the consultation shortly. A copy of the associated chief planner’s letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

Culture, Media and Sport

Sporting Legacy

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I would like to update the House on progress with delivering the Government’s 10-point sports legacy action plan (my statement of 18 September 2012). This plan is a key part of the wider Olympic and Paralympic legacy programme being delivered by Government and its partners.

Since my last report, the December 2012 active people survey has reported that 15.5 million people aged 16 and over are playing sport at least once a week. That is 750,000 more than a year ago and 1.57 million more than when London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid.

Elite Sport

Elite Funding

In December, UK Sport announced £347 million funding to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes prepare for the Rio 2016 games. This is an overall increase of 11% on the funding available for London 2012 (5% increase to Olympic sports and 43% to Paralympic sports). This record investment of Exchequer and lottery funding will be used to achieve our ambition to become the first host nation to win more medals at the next games.

World Class Facilities

The Olympic park was handed over to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on 27 November 2012. Good progress is being made on the transformation of the site.

In preparation for the reopening in July 2013, six of the eight park venues already have new operators in place. The LLDC has approved a deal between iCITY, the preferred bidder for the long-term lease of the press and broadcast centre, and BT, who will become the anchor tenant, using the facility to house its new BT sport channels. The project is expected to generate around 250 jobs as part of iCITY’s plans to turn the buildings into a world leading technology cluster, creating around 4,000 jobs.

An agreement was signed this month between the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and Moirai Capital Investments for the relocation of a shooting enclosure from the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, where it was used during the games, for use by the Paignton Rifle Club within a proposed sports development for Torbay council.

Further information on the relocation of other relocatable structures will be included in my next update.

Major Sports Events

Since the games, the UK has already successfully delivered:

UCI World Track Cycling Cup (Glasgow)

2012

Gymnastics World Cup (Glasgow)

2012

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Since my written statement of 18 September, we have won the right to host the following major sports events in the UK:

BWF Premier Super Series Badminton (Birmingham)

2013

FINA Diving World Series (Edinburgh)

2013

Canoe Slalom World Series (Cardiff)

2013

Gymnastics World Cup (Glasgow)

2013

Wheelchair Tennis Masters (London)

2014-16

IPC World Athletics Championships (London)

2017

Community

Places People Play

Sport England has increased the funding for Places People Play by £15 million to £150 million.

Further investments include: another new large scale multi-sports facility, bringing the total to 13; a further 310 community sports facility projects, bringing the total to 1,042 (exceeding the 1,000 target 12 months ahead of schedule); and a further 54 playing fields have been protected and improved, bringing the total to 163.

An additional 16,786 Sport Makers have been recruited, bringing the current total to 38,957.

The Sportivate programme has given 140,555 young people the chance to try new sports, an increase of 41,686 since September.

Youth Sport Strategy (Whole Sport Plans)

Sport England announced their £493 million whole sport plan funding package for national governing bodies which will be used to continue to drive up participation, particularly among young people, and is given on a payment-for-results basis.

They have launched the following strands of the strategy: £40 million Community Sport Activation Fund for community organisations, charities and local authorities; £25 million College Sport Makers scheme, putting sport organisers into colleges; and £6.9 million Get on Track, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust initiative to help disadvantaged young people develop life skills though sport; £5 million Get Healthy, Get into Sport to improve participation among those currently least active.

One hundred new Satellite Clubs, which bridge the gap between playing sport in school and in local community clubs, have been created, bringing the total to around 450.

Door Step Clubs are working with StreetGames to create sustainable clubs for young people in disadvantaged areas. They are currently in a £0.5 million pilot phase, due to report in March.

Join In

Join In will be receiving additional funding in 2013 to encourage people to participate in local sport and volunteer in their community, and will soon be announcing their plans to build on the success of last year’s 6,000 events.

School Sport

School Games

As of 15 January, 16,028 schools had registered to take part in the Sainsbury’s school games. In November, over 1,500 schools were rewarded with a school games kitemark (70 of which were gold level awards) in recognition of their commitment to increasing school sport and competition. Sheffield will host the next national finals in September 2013.

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In November, school games athletes from across the UK competed in the Brazilian school games, winning 24 medals—16 of which were gold.

PE/School Sport

The Department for Education is responsible for school sport policy and is currently working on plans to improve school sport further. DCMS is working closely with the DFE to ensure our plans leave a lasting legacy of the London 2012 games. An announcement is expected in due course.

Disability Sport Legacy

Disability Sport

The number of disabled people playing sport has risen from 1.32 million in 2005-06 to 1.68 million in 2012. The 2012 figure is 65,000 higher than last year.


Paralympic funding was increased by 43%, to a record £70.2 million. In addition, 40 NGBs have detailed plans to make sport a practical choice for disabled people. Each of them will have specific targets to get more disabled people taking part.

In December, Sport England announced grants totalling £10.2 million from its “Inclusive Sport Fund” to 44 disability sport projects. In addition, the £l million “Active Kids for All” initiative was launched, promoting the inclusion of disabled children in PE and sport within mainstream schools by training PE teachers, and the “Battle Back Centre” in Lilleshall was opened to help the recovery of injured service people.

A Paralympic Legacy Advisory Group has been established to help drive Paralympic legacy forward and champion integrated Paralympic/disability-related legacy work across the Government and GLA’s legacy programme.

International Development

Work to bring together the International Inspiration Foundation (IIF) and International Development through Sport (IDS) charities is progressing as planned. The first meeting of the new merged charity is due to take place in February.

An interim evaluation report produced by Ecorys, published in November 2012, gives some very promising indications of the success of international inspiration, which has:

Trained 124,896 individuals as practitioners across 20 countries, including 28,530 young leaders;

Created 180 safe spaces for sport in five countries;

Overall, engaged and reached at least 11 million children and young people.

I will continue to provide quarterly updates to the House on progress with delivery of this plan.

Education

Adoption

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): Today I am launching a new adoption strategy and announcing a package of funding for the adoption system.

“Further Action on Adoption” describes the national crisis in adopter recruitment and puts forward the Government’s proposals for addressing it in the short and long term. Copies of this document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The number of children approved by the courts for adoption has been rising steeply, with no comparable increase in the number

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of adopters approved. We have identified some significant structural weaknesses which undermine the effectiveness of the adopter recruitment and approval system. These weaknesses must be addressed swiftly and decisively in the interests of a significant and sustainable increase in the number of adopters. We are therefore proposing to take a new legislative power at the earliest opportunity. This would allow the Secretary of State to require local authorities to seek approved adopters from other organisations.

If necessary, we will use that power to reform the adopter recruitment system. However, we recognise that this is a radical step. If local authorities are able to bring forward alternative proposals that would deliver a similarly radical shift in the system’s capacity, then we will not need to use this power.

We want to see the system reformed for the long term, but we need short-term action too for children in the system now. So today I am announcing that the £150 million early intervention grant top-slice, which the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government confirmed in announcing the local government settlement for 2013-14, will be returned in full to local authorities in the form of the adoption reform grant. This funding will help to secure reform of the adoption system. The adoption reform grant will be in two parts: £100 million of the £150 million will not be ring-fenced and will be available to local authorities to support adoption reform. It will enable local authorities to target funding at the entire adoption process and the specialist support children need. They will retain the discretion to use this funding to address their highest priority needs, such as the major backlog of children waiting for adoption.

The remaining £50 million will be ring-fenced. It will support local authorities to address structural problems with adopter recruitment, particularly the uneconomic fee that local authorities are charged for adopters approved by other authorities which is lower than that charged by voluntary adoption agencies. It will also help in the search for adopters willing and able to take children who are more difficult to place, and so tend to wait longer for new homes.

I have consulted local government to develop the details of this grant to maximise the impact of this funding, so that it reflects the challenges faced by local authorities and has a transformative effect on adoption services. Details of the formulae and allocations will be sent to authorities shortly.

I am also pleased to announce a new £1 million grant to the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies to enable it to pump-prime local voluntary adoption agencies to recruit more adopters. This grant will be available from February 2013 and will make it easier for agencies to take more innovative and collaborative approaches to adopter recruitment. Taken together, these measures should have an immediate impact on the capacity of the system to recruit and approve the adopters so urgently needed.

Adoption can give some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in our society a far better chance of successful outcomes as they grow up. We are implementing a broad programme of reform to help ensure that all children for whom it is appropriate are adopted as swiftly as possible. We now need urgently to find more adopters to meet the needs of the growing

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backlog of children waiting for adoption and we need to provide them with effective support to help them do so. Today’s announcement will support short-term action and longer-term systemic change to help achieve that objective.

Home Department

Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): The Informal Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held on 17 and 18 January in Dublin. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following items were discussed.

The first plenary session of the interior day focused on migration for growth. The Commission supported the presidency’s paper noting the legal instruments currently being negotiated and the forthcoming legal migration directive on students and researchers. The UK outlined our successful efforts to reduce net migration while attracting the brightest and best, including in the student sector. A number of member states highlighted the need to ensure effective matching of migrants to jobs, tackling abuse and support for national populations to fill skill shortages.

Next, Greece updated the Council on progress on its action plan on asylum and migration. Greece reiterated the need for European solidarity in this area. The Commission stood ready to assist Greece, but asked that all member states consider how they could contribute. The UK noted the improved border management at the land border with Turkey but also the significance of the task. The UK committed to look at what more could be done and invited others to do the same. The presidency concluded that implementation of the action plan should now be of the highest priority and that the Council would return to the issue.

During lunch Ministers received an update from key agencies on the situation in Syria. Delegations expressed concern and continued to emphasise the importance of protection being provided in the region. On 21 December the UK announced £15 million in new humanitarian funding for the crisis, bringing our total contribution to £68.5 million.

In the plenary session on internal security and growth, Europol noted that citizens were coming into closer proximity with organised crime as the black economy grew. The latter had an impact on competitiveness. Europol would assess this in the next serious and organised crime threat assessment. Europol was, in particular, seeking to bolster its financial intelligence capacity and encouraged member states to do the same. The Commission noted the importance of tackling money laundering and seizing criminal profits and drew attention to: the directive on the confiscation of assets, the 4th money laundering directive, the directive on the protection of financial interests (PIF), and the upcoming anti-corruption package. Member states generally supported the presidency’s analysis of the links between internal security and economic growth.

Next the presidency explained its intention to hold an annual national missing persons day on 4 December. This would be complementary to the international missing

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children’s day held in May. The presidency said they would write to colleagues to seek views as to whether this should become an EU missing persons day.

The presidency scheduled an additional item to discuss the emerging situation in Algeria following the taking of hostages at the In Amenas gas plant the previous day. The presidency concluded that the security situation in the Sahel/Mali would be discussed at the March JHA Council with a focus on security issues arising for member states.

Next there was an update from Bulgaria on the Bourgas attack in July which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver. The UK highlighted that if the Bulgarian evidence suggested the military wing of Hizballah was behind the attack, the EU must consider the designation of Hizballah’s military wing under the EU’s common position 931 terrorist asset-freezing regime.

Justice day began with the Commission presenting their package on insolvency which forms part of their “Justice for Growth” programme. They stated that the broadened scope would assist companies across Europe having greater access to a “second chance”. The European Parliamen t supported the proposal and the idea of partial harmonisation of insolvency law. The UK supported the proposals as being the type of measure that would support the functioning of the single market measure and the objective of allowing business a second chance when they fall into difficulty.

The presidency invited the head of the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau to present on Irelands proceeds of crime act and the Criminal Assets Bureau information exchange function. The presentation majored on the importance of civil procedure in asset confiscation.

The Council then discussed three issues relating to data protection: the household exemption, the right to be forgotten, and sanctions. The Commission explained the working of the regulation on all three points and argued that the right to be forgotten was not incompatible with the freedom of expression and that processing for journalistic or historic purposes were specifically allowed. The UK supported a broader household exemption than in the Commission proposal and advocated the use of a risk-based approach. The UK also supported appropriate deletion rights for data subjects, but voiced concern about unachievable expectations in the “right to be forgotten” and felt that the starting point should be the current directive. The UK thought national supervisory authorities should be given greater discretion in deciding sanctions. The UK called for the text to return to Ministers before any mandate with the European Parliament was agreed in Council. Many member states expressed support for the direction of work proposed by the Irish presidency, including a broader household exemption, a more practicable implementation of the right to be forgotten and a simpler and flexible sanctions regime.

Over lunch the presidency highlighted the need to address racism and xenophobia at political level, inviting the fundamental rights agency to present on their latest reports.

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Transport

New Stations Fund

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I am pleased to inform the House that Network Rail is launching today the new stations fund, which will help towards the capital cost of opening brand new railway stations in England and Wales.

This fund will provide up to £20 million of additional funding to projects which are ready to be brought quickly into use for the benefit of passengers and the economy.

The Government are committed to improving the railways. Opening new stations can provide a boost to the economy and deliver longer-term benefits through improved access to the rail network and better connectivity for passengers.

Proposed new stations must already be at an advanced stage of development and be supported by the local authority, train operating companies and Network Rail. The £20 million fund will contribute towards the cost of scheme construction but bidders must also have available a portion of funding towards the project themselves.

Applications for funds will be assessed by a cross-industry panel. Because this fund is designed to support station proposals which are already well developed, we expect bids to be received by the end of February 2013 with a recommendation from the panel before the end of March 2013.

Operational Freedoms at Heathrow

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr Simon Burns): Today I am announcing that the Government’s trial of operational freedoms at Heathrow airport will be ending a month earlier than scheduled, on 28 February 2013.

As the availability of the freedoms was staggered during phase 2, the early completion to the trial will be achieved by bringing forward specific tests scheduled for the final month of the trial into February, which will accommodate the space left behind by the early morning arrivals freedom being inoperable during the trial period.

I have sought advice from the UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is overseeing the trial and has confirmed that the rescheduling of these tests will not affect the quality of the evidence obtained. The revised end date will enable the overall analysis of the trial to begin sooner and support the Government’s objective, as announced in the autumn statement, to bring forward the consultation and final decisions by Ministers on whether an operational freedoms regime of some form should be adopted on a more permanent basis at Heathrow. I will make a further announcement on this in due course.