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Prisons: Performance and Financial Information 2004–05

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The Prison Service Annual Report and Accounts were laid on the 19 July. Today, the Office for Contracted Prisons has published its Statement of Performance and Financial Information indicating its performance during 2004–05. Copies have been placed in the Library.

RAF: Restructuring

Lord Drayson: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As was recognised in the 2003 Defence White Paper Delivering Security in a Changing World (Cm 6041–I), the international situation that we now face is radically different to that of the Cold War. As a consequence, there have been a great many changes to the size and structure of our Armed Forces as they have adapted to meet this changed environment. I am today announcing two such changes.

The Cold War radar station of RAF Saga Vord on the Shetland Island of Unst will be put on care and maintenance from April 2006, subject to consultation with the trades unions. This will mean that the station is effectively closed but that the main operational part of the estate will continue to be maintained should it be required for future use. Further work will be undertaken to consider how much of the remainder of the station will be retained.

Radar cover at the level required can be provided by other RAF radars augmented by those of the National Air Traffic Service. Placing the station on care and maintenance means that we would be able to reinstate a radar capability should the threat assessment change. Some 70 service personnel, 30 MoD civilians and 10 contractor staff will be affected by this proposal.

I understand this will be disappointing news for our staff, the island of Unst and the Shetland Islands community. Naturally, we will be happy to work with the Scottish Executive and the local authority to consider any measures within the defence remit that might assist the local community adjust to the proposed change.
 
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As announced on 21 July 2004, the role of providing ground based air defence (GBAD) is to be transferred to the Army and the four Royal Air Force GBAD squadrons disbanded.

I am now able to inform the House that 37 Squadron RAF Regiment based at RAF Wittering will disband by March 2006, that 16 Squadron, based at RAF Honington, will disband by March 2007 and that 15 Squadron and the RAF GBAD Wing Headquarters also based at RAF Honington and 26 Squadron based at RAF Waddington, will disband by March 2008.

This phased programme will allow the Royal Regiment of Artillery to take over the pan-defence GBAD role in a progressive manner. The RAF Regiment will now focus on its role of protecting other elements of the Armed Forces, particularly on deployment.

As part of these changes, both 3 Squadron RAF Regiment, based at RAF Aldergrove, and the Queen's Colour Squadron, based at RAF Uxbridge, will be expanded by around 40 personnel each in order to enhance their operational capability to match that of the other four regular RAF Regiment field squadrons. This will improve the units' ability to deploy on operations and so enhance the operational flexibility of the RAF Regiment in its force protection role.

Around 340 posts will be lost as a result of these changes. These form part of the 7,500 RAF post reductions also announced last July. I do not expect any redundancies additional to those announced on 9 December 2004 (Official Report, col. WS 102) to result from this announcement.

As a consequence of the decision taken last July, the RAF has conducted an overall review of the structure and basing of the RAF Regiment. As a result of this work, I have decided that 1 Squadron RAF Regiment will move from RAF St Mawgan to RAF Honington by March 2007.

In addition, I have decided that 2625 (County of Cornwall) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, based alongside 1 Squadron at RAF St Mawgan should be disbanded with effect from November 2006. This decision has been taken as Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons need to be based alongside regular units in order to maximise training opportunities and give the auxiliary personnel access to equipment held by the regular unit. With 1 Squadron's relocation, this would not be possible at St Mawgan. Around 75 reservists will be affected. Members of 2625 Squadron will be offered the opportunity to continue their reservist activities with other parts of the Armed Forces reservist organisation or with an alternative RAF unit elsewhere.

We are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact on the people affected by these announcements. Our current plans envisage that the majority of reductions will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and voluntary early release but some compulsory redundancies may prove necessary. Staff and the trade unions are being kept fully informed of developments through meetings, briefings and formal consultation.
 
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Regional Development Agencies: Annual Reports 2004–05

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My right honourable friend the Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today laid before Parliament the annual reports and accounts for 2004–05 for the eight regional development agencies (RDAs) outside London. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

The annual report and accounts for London are presented to the Lord Mayor rather then before Parliament. I shall provide a copy to the House of Commons Library when these are available.

The Government welcome the contribution that the RDAs have made during this year to driving forward economic development in their respective regions.

Also published today are the RDAs' reported tier 3 outputs for 2004–05. These results are evidence that the RDAs continue to play a valuable role in improving the economic performance of the English regions and, through working with their partners, the RDAs are making a real difference to the individual regional economies concerned. The figures cover the creation and safeguarding of jobs, the amount of brownfield land brought back into use, the number of businesses added to the regional economies, the number of learning opportunities created and the amount of private sector investment attracted benefiting deprived areas, all as a result of RDA activity.

Press releases on the tier 3 outputs have been issued in each region. Copies of the output results have been placed in the House Library, and are also available on the DTI website at www.dti.gov.uk/rda/info.

Regional Funding Allocations

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Regional Funding Allocations: Guidance on preparing advice is today being published by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and myself. This is in response to the consultation launched at the time of the 2004 Pre-Budget Report, Devolving Decision-Making: A consultation on regional funding allocations. The publication includes indicative regional transport spending over the 2004 spending review period, and indicative longer-term funding assumptions for transport, economic development and housing. Regions are invited to provide advice on priorities within the three indicative funding allocations. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses. The report can also be obtained free on the HM Treasury website.

Renewable Energy

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My right honourable friend the Minister for Energy (Mr Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
 
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I am making today a Statement to the House on the interaction of existing government policy and planning procedures, with regard to the need for new energy infrastructure, arising from the targets, goals and aspirations for renewable generation set out in the 2003 Energy White Paper Our Energy Future—Creating a low carbon economy.

The 2003 Energy White Paper set out four key goals of energy policy:

The energy White Paper makes it clear that UK energy systems will undergo a significant change over the next 20 years to allow these goals to be met. This means that it will be necessary to update much of the UK's energy infrastructure during that period1. There will be a requirement for:

The energy White Paper also makes it clear that UK energy policy is delivered through a market framework, governed by an independent regulator. Government policy puts in place broad objectives, which are supported by regulation, fiscal regimes and, where necessary, financial support. As with the sector in general, the private sector is best placed to develop the systems that can deliver the demanding new renewables generation targets and objectives in the most economic, efficient and effective way possible2.

This principle applies to decisions about the exact provision and location or route of energy transmission and distribution infrastructure which must be taken within the planning system which ensures that development and changes in land use occur in suitable locations.

Beyond broad targets for renewable electricity and combined heat and power (see energy White Paper) the UK Government do not believe that energy policy should set out a specific fuel mix for electricity generation. Nor has it attempted to determine the best specific location for new facilities to generate electricity power or other kinds of energy infrastructure.

2 For example, EWP, para 1.21.
 
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Instead, the UK Government believe that the private sector is best placed to decide exactly what energy infrastructure is needed and how, subject to planning and environmental requirements, to deliver policy objectives most effectively. It therefore falls to the developer to demonstrate the desirability of a particular scheme in a particular location. For the monopoly transmission and distribution networks this is to be achieved within the price controls set by the regulator.

A slightly different approach has been taken in Wales where the Assembly Government has set out in its revised technical advice note (TAN) 8 that 800MW of additional capacity will be required to be provided by large-scale on-shore wind by 2010. TAN8 has identified specific areas considered suitable for large-scale on-shore wind farm development. The capacity of the electricity distribution system to accommodate sufficient wind energy developments is a key influence on the shape and distribution of proposals in Wales.

The provision of energy infrastructure is part of a delivery system that provides an essential national service. Business and homes in the UK require a reliable supply of energy free from disruption and interruption. New energy infrastructure projects may not appear to convey any particular local benefit and may indeed have adverse local effects, but they do provide crucial national benefits, which all localities share. In particular, projects will usually add to the reliability of national energy supply, from which every user of the system benefits.

Failure to put energy infrastructure in place will, immediately or over time (and individually, incrementally or cumulatively), reduce the reliability of energy systems, with potentially disastrous consequences for the local, regional and national community and economy. Energy infrastructure projects often have long lead times and/or cater for longer-term needs, based on careful forward planning by energy companies. Therefore, even where new projects may not appear to have immediate benefits, failure to put them in place may reduce future reliability.

In remoter areas, where new renewable generation is to take place, new distribution and transmission networks will be required as a consequence of the need to achieve (through new energy sources as part of a package of measures) the Government's energy policy objectives. Electricity generation is itself a key source of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas. How electricity is generated will play a crucial part in whether the Government will be able to deliver its international commitments and its domestic goal for a 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions in 2010 (set out in the UK climate change strategy) and, ultimately, reductions of 60 per cent by 2050.

The Government have therefore set targets for the expansion of renewable forms of electricity generation; which produce low CO2 emissions or no CO2 emissions at all.
 
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Renewable Energy The UK Government have set a target that generation from renewable sources (wind power, wave power, biomass, hydropower, solar power and so on) should supply 10 per cent of the UK electricity in 2010. The Government's aspiration is by 2020 to double renewable energy's share of electricity to 20 per cent. The Scottish Executive has set a target that 18 per cent of its electricity will come from renewables by 2010, and recently consulted about raising this to 40 per cent by 2020. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government has set benchmark targets of 4TWh per annum of renewable energy production by 2010 and 7TWh by 2020.

The expansion of renewable energy is essential as a part of a package of measures to meet the Government's CO2 reduction targets and mitigate future global climate change, which could have significant impacts on all areas of the UK.

Renewable energy will also provide economic benefits for the UK economy. Often, individual renewables developments can offer economic benefits to local areas in terms of jobs, investment and revitalisation of the rural economy.

As with all energy infrastructure, however, there will be occasions when such developments may appear to offer few local benefits, but will still add to the essential resilience of national energy systems.

Renewable generation infrastructure needs to be developed where sufficient renewable energy resources exist for it to be economic and effective. For example, wind turbines generally require average wind speeds of more than 4 to 5 metres per second; and biomass installations need access to sufficient sources of biomass fuel within the local area. The recommended radius for energy crops is 25 miles or 40 kilometres under Defra's energy crops planting scheme.

However, developers will be best placed to make a judgment about the technical feasibility and economic viability of individual projects.

Renewable energy resources are distributed widely throughout the UK. Therefore, for UK renewables targets to be met, a significant amount of new renewable generation infrastructure will need to be built in every region of the UK, often in local areas that have not previously housed generation infrastructure.

I am today placing in the Libraries of the House a fuller note setting out government policy which is intended to provide assistance by being a material consideration of significant weight in planning decisions on energy infrastructure.


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