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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 21 March 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Building the Business Bank

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I would like to update the House on progress made to set up a new British business bank to support the provision of finance to small and medium-sized firms (SMEs). Inadequate access to finance remains one of the biggest risks to the UK’s economic recovery. While the situation has been exacerbated by the financial crisis, there are also underlying structural problems in the financial landscape for small and medium-sized enterprises.

This Government have already put in place £2.9 billion of commitments through existing schemes to address problems in the market for SME finance. They are now going further by bringing these interventions together in the business bank and deploying an extra £1 billion of capital. The business bank therefore will manage the combined £3.9 billion of Government resources to meet its objectives. By bringing together management, budgets, spending authorities and the power to alter or create new schemes into one place this Government will be providing a more coherent and comprehensive package of support for businesses.

The objectives of the business bank will be to:

support the development of diverse debt and equity finance markets for businesses, promoting competition and increased supply through new finance providers;

increase the provision of finance to viable but underserved businesses, in particular improving the provision of long-term finance;

bring together the management of the Government’s existing business finance schemes, creating a single portfolio and simplifying access for businesses;

consolidate the provision of and increase the awareness of available support and advice to high-growth businesses and those needing specialist support;

function on commercial terms to use taxpayers’ funds most effectively.

The business bank’s success will be measured against its ability to:

raise the overall amount of finance provided to viable but under-served SMEs and mid-sized businesses;

increase the diversity of suppliers and products in the SME and mid-cap finance market;

improve effectiveness, raise awareness and increase use of Government finance and other support;

achieve the above while generating an appropriate return on the bank’s capital dedicated to commercial or near-commercial schemes and maximising the impact of those schemes which involve the provision of subsidy.

The business bank will operate on a commercial basis in order to make the best use of taxpayers’ funds. It will not directly lend to or invest in businesses nor use taxpayers’ funds to prop up businesses with little chance of success. The object of the bank is to work with the

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private sector in order to support and increase the capacity of current channels of finance, rather than simply replace them.

The business bank organisation will bring together Capital for Enterprise Ltd (the existing delivery agency for BIS), key policy teams and new expertise from the private sector. The management team will be augmented with additional product development, finance and risk management capability as its programme of activities expands and it prepares for full operational readiness.

Economic analysis suggests that the following types of firms are particularly underserved for finance:

SMEs of all sizes who seek finance to expand their business or to develop new products and services;

SMEs who lack the collateral to take out a secured loan;

SMEs at the smaller end of the SME scale;

Young SMEs which have existed for less than five years.

The business bank will be set up in stages so that support is available to businesses quickly. As soon as programmes are ready they will be launched and operated from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills before being transferred to the new management team in the business bank as soon as possible.

Therefore, I can outline to the House our plans to deploy the £300 million investment programme that was announced in the autumn statement 2012.

The £300 million investment programme will build on the recent investments made by the Government’s business finance partnership programme. This will be focused on promoting diversity of supply by encouraging new entrants and the growth of smaller lenders in the market. This programme will be launched and proposals invited this spring.

This Government are also making available a further £75 million for venture capital for early stage SMEs with the potential for high growth, for investment from 2013-14 onwards.

£50 million will expand the business angel co-investment fund (CoFund) to a £100 million fund.

£25 million will extend the enterprise capital fund programme to include a VC catalyst fund, which will invest in venture capital funds that specialise in early stage venture capital and are near to close, enabling them to commence investment in SMEs.

The enterprise finance guarantee programme helps business without sufficient track record or collateral to access loans and currently supports £1.7 billion of SME lending that would otherwise not have been made. The work on the business bank will lead to a major overhaul of this already successful programme. As a first, a pilot scheme has been set up enabling businesses to obtain additional non-bank credit through trade credit with Kingfisher using the existing EFG scheme.

Given the important role that high quality advice and support can play in raising demand and successful use of finance in small businesses, this Government will take steps to improve further the availability and provision of advice and support schemes they provide to SMEs as part of the bank programme. Government invest in supporting innovative companies, exporters, manufacturers and those looking to grow through programmes such as the manufacturing advisory service, growth accelerator, UKTI’s export support services and some of the Technology Strategy Board’s competitions.

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These provide excellent support in building small business capability but we need to make them better understood and easier to access, use the information they collectively provide to be responsive to small business needs and strengthen the link between finance and advice. This Government will therefore be developing an integrated service for high-growth and specialist firms, providing a single professional analysis of the client business that ensures SMEs readily get the expert help needed to accelerate performance.

Many of the next steps in implementation will require approval from European Commission to ensure compliance with EU state aid rules, but our indicative timetable is that in the remainder of 2013 we will:

Roll out fully the extended enterprise finance guarantee programme.

Make the first SME loan portfolio guarantees (subject to EU state aid approval).

Pilot new long-term growth finance products (subject to EU state aid approval).

Finalise a detailed implementation plan for the business bank’s advice functions.

We will also commit all £300 million of the investment programme by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.

In 2014, we intend to set up a new company to house the business bank’s programme and appoint a chair and board. We will also extend the reach of venture capital programmes and roll out new long-term growth finance products.

Further details of this work is set out in a strategy update on the business bank by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Defence

Service Complaints Commissioner’s Fifth Annual Report

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Mark Francois): I am pleased to lay before Parliament today the Service Complaints Commissioner’s fifth annual report on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system.

Since the introduction of the service complaints system in 2008, the commissioner has played a key role in the development of, and the improvements made to, the complaints process. This contribution is recognised by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the services, and the role of the commissioner is now firmly established as an important part of our complaints system.

I and the service chiefs remain fully committed to the continuous improvement of the complaints process and the manner in which we handle complaints. Notwithstanding that the SCC cannot yet assess the complaints system as fair, effective or efficient, I am pleased that this report acknowledges the progress and changes that have been made by the services in 2012 and those planned for 2013. We will continue to work closely with the commissioner to ensure the complaints system is one in which service personnel and their families have confidence.

I will respond formally to the commissioner once MOD has considered fully the findings of the report and the recommendations made.

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Education

Review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Elizabeth Truss): Today I am publishing outcomes of the Department’s internal review of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

PSHE remains an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. We believe that all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice, and have outlined this expectation in the introduction to the new national curriculum.

PSHE overall will remain a non-statutory subject. To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE we consider it unnecessary to provide new standardised frameworks or programmes of study. Teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and do not need additional central prescription.

However, while we believe that it is for schools to tailor their local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, we expect schools to use their PSHE education programme to equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions.

Schools should seek to use PSHE education to build, where appropriate, on the statutory content already outlined in the national curriculum, the basic school curriculum and in statutory guidance on: drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education (SRE) and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle.

We will provide grant funding to the PSHE Association to work with schools to support them in developing their own PSHE curricula and improve the quality of teaching. The association will focus on signposting schools to high quality resources, and on expanding their chartered teacher of PSHE programme. We have also asked the association to promote the teaching of consent as part of SRE, in line with the statutory guidance for that subject.

For drug and alcohol education, we are launching a new evidence-based information service in April 2013 for those working with young people, including schools and teachers. The new service will provide practical advice and tools based on the best international evidence.

In addition, we are asking Ofsted to publish a guide for schools covering effective practice in PSHE, to provide teachers with a range of examples to inform their teaching.

I have placed copies of the summary report of the results of the public consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.

Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): Today I am publishing the revised statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children”.

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In May 2011 Professor Eileen Munro concluded her review of the system in England for safeguarding children. Her final report—“A child centred system”—made a number of recommendations for reform, to create a shift from an overly bureaucratic system to one that keeps the focus on the child. This included a recommendation that the Government revise:

“Working Together to Safeguard Children” (2010), the statutory guidance on how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard children; and

The “Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families” (2000), the statutory guidance for practitioners when conducting assessments of children.

The Government response to Professor Munro’s review —“The Government’s response to the Munro review of child protection”—published on 13 July 2011, accepted her analysis that the cumulative increase over recent years in central prescription and guidance in child protection and safeguarding has led to a loss of focus on the individual needs of the child. Alongside this the expansion of the guidance to hundreds of pages, seeking to cover every eventuality, has reduced clarity over the responsibilities of different professionals.

Supported by Professor Munro’s analysis the Government conducted a consultation on revised guidance between 12 June and 4 September 2012. Since September we have considered carefully the consultation responses and worked with organisations to finalise the guidance.

The revised guidance published today, which comes into force from the 15 April 2013, clarifies the core legal requirements, making it much clearer what individuals and organisations should do to keep children safe and promote their welfare. We want social workers and other professionals to focus on the needs of individual children and families and take decisive and effective action to help those children. Today’s guidance will support that. It makes absolutely clear the legal framework and the expectations on different professionals.

We are also working with the Office of the Children’s Rights Director to develop a young person’s guide to “Working Together to Safeguard Children”, the first time this has been done. This will be published shortly.

In the final guidance we have:

created a single source document that brings together all the statutory responsibilities on organisations and individuals to safeguard children; and

made it explicit that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children.

In order to meet Professor Munro’s recommendations of removing the detailed prescription which constrains professional judgement, we have:

put children’s needs back at the heart of assessment by reducing prescription, removing the requirement to have a separate “initial” and “core” assessment of children in need and the related 10 working-day time scale for completion of the initial assessment. This will make the assessment a continuous process, rather than a stop/start one, and allow professionals the flexibility they need to carry out assessments designed around individual children.

We have retained 45 working days for an assessment to conclude and reach a decision on next steps. We propose to continue work with the eight authorities who have been trialling these more flexible approaches to assessment to analyse the impact of changes over a longer time period to decide whether the 45-days limit can ultimately be removed.

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In addition in order to ensure that lessons are learned from serious case reviews:

we are establishing a new national panel of independent experts. The panel will provide advice to local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) about the application of SCR criteria and the requirement to publish reports. The “Working Together” guidance makes clear that LSCBs should have regard to the panel’s advice when making decision about SCRs.

The revised statutory guidance sits alongside measures taken by the Government to drive up the quality of social work practice and the revised Ofsted child protection inspection framework. It clarifies the essential roles of local agencies—including health services and the police—in keeping children safe and promoting the welfare of children in need. The NHS Commissioning Board is also publishing today its accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding. The framework complements the revised statutory guidance.

Copies of “Working Together to Safeguard Children” have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): Today I am announcing the start of the triennial review of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). Triennial reviews of non-department public bodies are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life. The JNCC is a UK body and the review will be conducted jointly with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I expect to announce the findings of the review and recommendations in early summer 2013.

A joint discussion paper is being issued today, inviting responses by 11 April 2013. A copy of this discussion paper, which includes the terms of reference for the review, has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Health

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) has made the following written ministerial statement.

We have today laid before Parliament the “Government response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee’s eight report of session 2012-13 on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence” (Cm 8568).

The Government welcome the Health Select Committee’s report and recommendations.

In April 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will be established as a new statutory body with an extended remit covering adults’ and children’s social care, as well as health care and public health. The Government’s plans for NICE build on its strong track record and a re-established NICE will continue to play a key role in supporting the delivery of high-quality health and social care in the NHS through the production of robust, evidence-based advice and guidance.

NICE will also continue to have an important role in providing independent and authoritative advice to clinicians and commissioners on how new and existing treatments best fit into the treatment pathway for a particular condition. The Government response confirms that NICE will be responsible for the full value assessment

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of medicines under new arrangements which we plan to introduce for new medicines from January 2014.

Copies of the Government’s response are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Home Department

EU Readmission Agreement with Armenia

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): The Government have decided not to opt in at this stage to the draft Council decisions concerning the signature and conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Armenia on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation (European Union Document Nos. 16909/12, COM(2012) 703; 16910/1/12, COM(2012) 704).

There is little irregular migration from Armenia to the UK and we have no operational problems with returns which an EURA would help to resolve. It would be possible for the UK to seek to participate in the agreement post adoption if these circumstances were to change.

UK Border Agency

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): On 9 November 2012 the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published its eighth report of the Session 2012-13 “The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-June 2012)”. I am today publishing by Command Paper the Government’s response to that report and to accompany that response would like to set out some of the measures that this Government are taking to improve the performance of the UK Border Agency.

This Government are bringing immigration back under control. The latest net migration statistics show another significant fall in net migration—down almost a third since June 2010—and visa statistics indicate that this trend is set to continue. The UK Border Agency is playing an important role in ensuring our reforms are having an impact in all the right places.

The agency has already shown signs of significant improvement. It has maintained and improved its performance against service standards in its international and visa operations and launched priority services in over 30 countries. Last year it closed the historic “controlled archives” of asylum and migration cases and helped to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic games by collecting over 15,000 biometric details in advance.

However there is further work to be done.

To improve processing times agency staff have been redeployed to front-line caseworking duties and additional employment agency staff recruited to deal with outstanding work. These measures are already making inroads and I expect the agency to be operating within service standards across most workstreams by the spring of 2013.

The agency is building on the success of its dedicated MP account managers to continue to improve and develop its services. Every MP will have a named contact

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for their queries. We will continue to expand the use of email and telephone to provide a more timely and responsive service. MP account managers will also continue to alert MPs about rules and procedure changes that might impact their constituents.

We are also driving enforcement activity: the agency removes around 40,000 people every year, including up to 5,000 foreign national offenders, and continues to focus on developing innovative approaches; a joint UKBA and Metropolitan Police Service operation is successfully using new methods to identify and remove foreign national offenders in London.

I am confident that these measures represent the start of a period of further improvement that will leave the UK Border Agency on the sure footing necessary to continue to deliver a safe and efficient immigration system.

International Development

Independent Commission for Aid Impact

The Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening): The Department for International Development (DFID) will shortly commence the triennial review of its oversight arrangements for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).

The Government made a commitment regularly to review public bodies, with the aim of increasing accountability for actions carried out on behalf of the state.

The ICAI’s strategic aim is to provide independent scrutiny of UK aid spending, to promote the delivery of value for money for British taxpayers and to maximise the impact of aid. In accordance with the DFID-ICAI memorandum of understanding, a robust and rigorous review of ICAI must take place by the end of 2013 to assess the continuing need for an independent scrutiny function and the associated governance arrangements.

The review will be conducted in line with relevant Cabinet Office guidance, in two stages. The first stage will:

Identify and examine the key functions of the ICAI and assess how these functions contribute to the core business of DFID;

Assess the requirement for these to continue;

If continuing, assess how the key functions might best be delivered; if one of these options is continuing delivery through the ICAI, then make an assessment against the Government’s “three tests”: technical function; political impartiality; and the need for independence from Ministers.

If the outcome of stage one is that delivery should continue through the ICAI, the second stage of the review will ensure that it is operating in line with the recognised principles of good corporate governance, using the Cabinet Office “comply or explain” standard approach.

Full terms of reference for the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available on the DFID website: www.dfid.gov.uk.

The outcome will be announced in Parliament by the end of December.

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Justice

Intestacy and Family Provision Claims

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Jeremy Wright): My noble Friend the Minister of State for Justice (Lord McNally) has made the following written ministerial statement.

I have today written to the chair of the Law Commission to set out the Government’s formal response to the commission’s report “Intestacy and family provision claims on death” (Law Com No 331). The report, which was published on 14 December 2011, formed part of the commission’s 10th programme and considers two areas of the law of inheritance. It makes recommendations across four main areas: entitlement of the surviving spouse, problems with family provision claims, legal traps for beneficiaries and administrators, and rights of cohabitants.

The Government have accepted the commission’s recommendations in relation to the first three of these areas, subject to minor amendments. These recommendations will modernise and simplify this area of law to create a fairer, more comprehensible set of rules and make the process of administering an estate faster and easier for those involved at what will always be a difficult time.

As a first step towards implementation, I am publishing today for consultation the draft Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill, which was produced by the commission alongside its report and gives effect to the recommendations that the Government have accepted. Consultation will offer those with an interest in this area a final opportunity to comment on the Bill’s provisions and identify any issues that have arisen since the original report was published.

The consultation will remain open until 3 May and is available on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk/consultations. I am also placing a copy in the Libraries of both Houses. The House will be notified of the outcome of the consultation in due course.

However, after careful consideration, it has been decided that the Law Commission’s recommendations regarding the final area, rights for cohabitants upon intestacy, will not be implemented during this Parliament. This is consistent with the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s previous report, “Cohabitation: Financial consequences of relationship breakdown” (Law Com No 307), and reflects the continuing priority for family justice of completing our significant ongoing reform programme.

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Transport

Road Safety

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): I am today launching two new websites: the road safety comparison site and the road safety observatory.

The road safety comparison site will help the public and road safety professionals compare the road safety performance of local authorities. We also committed to part-funding the road safety observatory, which provides access to academic road safety research. In launching these two new sites we are fulfilling our commitment made in the “Strategic Framework for Road Safety” published 11 May 2011.

The road safety comparison site makes clear to the public, local authorities and other partners how a local highway authority is performing by putting collision and casualty numbers into context. By setting those numbers against population, traffic levels, road length and authority spend we have produced a set of indicators showing performance over the last seven years and where that authority stands against others. The site also provides a mapping facility that can be filtered so that a user can, for example, see how many cyclists or children have been involved in collisions on a particular road.

The road safety observatory provides a resource for professionals and practitioners, giving them the access to empirical road safety research by taking that research and summarising it in plain English. This site has been part funded by the Department and the project run by a board drawn from various road safety bodies, including RoadSafe, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee for Transport Safety (PACTS), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the RAC Foundation, the Association of Directors for the Environment, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), Road Safety GB, the South West Public Health Observatory, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Automobile Association.

The observatory will be a live site and will be updated as and when new research is produced.