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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The command of garrisons across the UK is inconsistent, with a variety of commanders from different chains of command holding garrison command responsibility. Responsibility for administration, both within the Army and with external organisations, can at times be unclear. To address these anomalies:from April 2007, garrisons should be commanded by the local regional forces brigade commander; andif there is no deployable brigade commander in the garrison, command will fall to the senior officer with most troops in that garrison.
Changes to the regional brigade and divisional structure are proposed in order to bring Project Allenby-Connaught under a single general officer commanding and improve alignment to regional prime contractors. These changes will also enable the army to develop the super-garrison concept and ensure an even distribution of the potential future super-garrison sites. The changes will entail:43 (Wessex) Brigade moving under command 4 Division, so 4 Division comprises all the southern brigades (43 (Wessex) Brigade, 145 (Home Counties) Brigade and 2 (Infantry) Brigade) on 1 April 2007.49 (East) Brigade moving under command 5 Division, so 5 Division comprises the central formations (160 (Wales) Brigade, 143 (West Midlands) Brigade and 49 (East) Brigade) on 1 April 2007.38 (Irish) Brigade (which will form from 39 Inf Bde and 107 (Ulster) Brigade) moving under command 2 Division and, simultaneously, 42 (North West) Brigade moving to come under command 5 Division. No date is yet set for these changes, as it will be dependent upon the rate of the Northern Ireland normalisation process.The single point of accountability for the Colchester PFI transferred to the general officer commanding 5 Division (Major General Farquhar) when the GOC 4 Division retired in May 2006. General officer commanding 4 Division will assume responsibility for Allenby-Connaught from Commander Regional Forces during 2007.
I am today laying legislation confirming the introduction of quantitative restrictions on travellers bringing cigarettes from the newest EU member states, who are taking advantage of a derogation allowing them to delay meeting minimum duty levels on cigarettes. The restrictions will apply from 1 January 2007 to cigarettes bought duty-paid in Bulgaria and Romania. From that date, travellers to the UK bringing in cigarettes from Bulgaria and Romania will be restricted, as they are currently, to a limit of 200 cigarettes.
The Excise Duty Points (Etc.) (New Member States) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 and the Customs and Excise Duties (Travellers Allowances and Personal Reliefs) (New Member States) (Amendment) Order 2006 allow the UK to maintain these restrictions on travellers who are bringing back cigarettes from Bulgaria or Romania. The Relief for Legacies Imported from Third Countries (Application) Order 2006 makes consequential amendments to the Customs and Excise Duties (Personal Reliefs for Goods Permanently Imported) Order 1992 (S.I.1992/3193) so that its territorial application includes Bulgaria and Romania.
While the minimum duty rates are not met, concerns and uncertainties over the impact of EU enlargement on excise smuggling and cross-border shopping are heightened. Therefore where new member states take advantage of a derogation, existing member states are entitled to maintain the same restrictions on the import of cigarettes bought in those countries for a travellers own use, as are currently applied to travellers arriving from third countries.
Imposing restrictions in respect of Bulgaria and Romania will maintain consistency of approach taken by the UK with other countries that have yet to reach the EU minimum rates of duty, extending to Bulgaria and Romania the current restrictions imposed on eight countries that joined in 2004. These restrictions will provide certainty for both travellers and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers, and will also reduce the front-line cost of countering smuggling.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following Statement.
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 1 December in Brussels. My honourable friend, Minister for Employment Relations and Minister for London (Jim Fitzpatrick), will be
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The first item is the communication from the Commission: Green Paper on adapting labour law to ensure flexibility and security for all. This will be a presentation from the Commission and exchange of views. The document was published on 22 November. The council hopes to adopt the council conclusions on decent work which essentially promote the International Labour Organisation response to the global jobs crisis.
There will be council conclusions on the review of the implementation by the member states and the EU institutions of the Beijing platform for action and men and gender equality. Following the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, the council asked member states to undertake an annual review of the implementation of the resulting platform for action.
Council hopes to reach political agreement on the amended proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the council establishing for the period 2007-13 the specific programme Fight against violence (Daphne) as part of the general programme Fundamental Rights and Justice.
There will be a progress report from the presidency on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the council on improving the portability of supplementary pension rights. This is intended to make it easier for workers with occupational pensions to move around the EU. Member states will be invited to take part in the policy debate to make their positions clear.
The council will aim to reach agreement on a partial general approach on both the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council implementing Regulation (EC) No. 883/04 on the co-ordination of social security schemes and the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council amending Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 on the co-ordination of social security systems, and determining the content of Annexe XI.
Under any other business the chair of the Employment Committee will give a report on the examination of national reform programme. The chair of the Social Protection Committee will give a progress report on work on social services of general interest.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): My honourable friend the Minister of State (Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Informal discussion over dinner, on the eve of the council, reinforced the unanimous view that energy mix was a matter of subsidiarity. Views on an appropriate overall CO2 reduction target were mixed, with two member states particularly cautious. Lord Truscott underlined the UK's emphasis on the broader climate challenge that ambitious action on energy efficiency could help meet.
In the council itself, Commissioner Piebalgs presented the Energy Efficiency Action Plan as a key element in the battle against climate change, with the aim of achieving 20 per cent savings in energy use by 2020. Priority areas include product standards, labelling and education, buildings and transport, added generation efficiency and directing more structural funds towards energy efficiency. He added that transport had huge potentialthe 120g/km CO2 target for vehicle emissions, while not mentioned in the conclusions, remained valid. What was needed now was ambitious and effective action. The council adopted conclusions on the action plan (15210/06) after one member state registered its preference for binding targets.
In the policy debate that followed, all member states supported the action plan, with significant support for the more focused priorities that offered the most added value in the conclusions. Many member states emphasised the importance of education and the need to give member states maximum flexibility to address their national situation, to engage industry, financial institutions and the public sector at all levels and to mobilise community funding opportunities. New member states particularly, focused on access to funding. Two major member states supported market mechanisms, one arguing for legislation on transport efficiency and for an EU-wide white certificates system.
On renewables, while many reinforced that energy mix was for member states to decide, most supported a general 20 per cent target of renewables by 2020. Only two member states wanted this to be binding; several wanted this to be at EU level only, with differentiated targets for member states. Most wanted flexibility for member states to use the most competitive technologies. Use of market mechanisms, particularly the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and the need for a sustainable and predictable framework were also mentioned.
On the international dimension, there was considerable support for an international framework agreement on energy efficiency (IFAEE). All supported more EU leadership and effort
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The presidency and Commission summarised progress on a range of international dossiers including Russia where, despite lack of agreement on the post-partnership and co-operation agreement mandate, the presidency would rearrange the Energy Permanent Partnership Council for before the end of next month. The Commission said it would continue with a robust approach to the range of energy discussions with Russia, based on the principles of the Energy Charter Treaty.
The Commission also noted that the creation of the proposed energy security correspondents network should be agreed by council conclusions before the end of the year. Commissioner Piebalgs emphasised it would be a light structure, involving no duplication and would operate on an entirely voluntary basis. Member states were invited to nominate two members.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (John Hutton) has made the following Statement.
I am today announcing my intention to transfer my responsibilities in relation to the appointment, remuneration and administration of rent officers to the Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Accordingly, the work of the Rent Service (TRS), which is currently an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will become the responsibility of the Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and will be integrated into the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), an executive agency of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The transfer will be effective from 1 April 2009.
Following the expected rollout of the local housing allowance, the cornerstone of the Housing Benefit Reform Programme in 2008, the number of staff required to perform the rent officers' residual functions, both to support housing benefit and make valuations on fair rent cases, will not be enough to warrant an independent agency of the DWP. It would be more efficient for TRS to integrate its work with another more appropriate organisation to support the Government's wider efficiency agenda of
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This change of responsibilities will be effected by way of secondary legislation in due course. Any related changes to the proposed information-sharing gateway between rent officers and the Secretary of State in Clause 35 of the Welfare Reform Bill will be brought forward at the first appropriate opportunity.
The House will wish to know that I am publishing today a consultation document on the establishment of a Migration Advisory Committee. Copies of this consultation document have been placed in the House Library.
This Government are committed to attracting people with the skills Britain needs from around the world. That is why we have announced a new points-based system for managed migration, which we will introduce from next year. In implementing this system, I believe that we could benefit greatly from independent advice. I propose that a Migration Advisory Committee, comprising independent experts and key stakeholders, should provide that advice.
I set out the proposed remit of the Migration Advisory Committee in the consultation document. The key decisions on which it would advise relate to whether there are particular labour shortages in the economy which could best be filled by migration, and what the points criteria should be for highly skilled and skilled workers in the new points-based system. We would ask the Migration Advisory Committee to assess, in formulating its advice, the net benefit to the UK as a whole of particular categories of migrants, taking into account economic, fiscal and wider impacts of migration.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today we are publishing a new Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing, a housing policy document on delivering affordable housing, as well as documents by English Partnerships as part of a consultation on a new National Brownfield Strategy. The purpose of the changes to planning and housing policy is to:
Government research found that if we do not build more homes, the proportion of 30 year-old couples able to afford their own home will fall from over 50 per cent today to nearer 30 per cent in 20 years time.
Forty-five towns and cities have come forward to propose significant increases in new homes and jobsin addition to the existing growth areas such as the Thames Gateway. These planning changes aim to support those areas to deliver the additional homes we need, while raising standards at the same time.
In December 2005, as part of the Governments response to Kate Barkers Review of Housing Supply, we issued a consultation draft of a new Planning Policy Statement: Housing (PPS3). We are today publishing final PPS3. A copy of the new PPS will be placed in the Library of both Houses, together with the accompanying summary of the consultation responses.
PPS3 will underpin the delivery of the Government's key housing policy objectives to deliver more homes, but of higher quality and higher environmental standards to meet the challenge from climate change.
Local authorities will need to identify more appropriate sites for housing. Councils need to plan 15 years ahead, to ensure they have a rolling five-year supply of sustainable and deliverable sites, in order to prevent much needed new homes being held up by unnecessary delays in the planning process.
Stronger environmental standards. Developers and planning bodies will have to take account of the need to cut carbon emissions as well as wider environmental and sustainability considerations when siting and designing new homes. The forthcoming planning policy statement on climate change and the
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