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Written Statements

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Armed Forces: Chemical Protection Programme

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK's chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK's chemical protection programme in 2006.

Armed Forces: Defence Medical Services

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Over the past 12 months the Ministry of Defence has undertaken a thorough review of the Defence Medical Services (DMS) manpower requirement. The aim of this review was to determine the number of uniformed, regular DMS personnel required to support operations consistent with overall defence planning assumptions, provide full healthcare and allow for continued training and the provision of headquarters staff during deployment. The review has now been completed and I am now in a position to inform the House of the new DMS manpower requirement. I am convinced it provides a credible baseline on which the DMS can base its planning and ensure that the excellent level of healthcare which it provides both on operations and, in collaboration with the NHS, in the UK, is sustained into the future.

The last full review of the DMS uniformed regular manpower requirement took place at the time of the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) more than eight years ago, and produced a requirement for a grand total of 8,970 posts (the SDR total). This, however, exceeded the available medical manpower and subsequent experience in support of deployed operations showed that a different balance of medical specialisms was more appropriate. Hence a lower overall figure was adopted as a pragmatic interim basis for funding a different mix of established posts (the established liability). To ensure that the requirement was valid not just in the light of emerging practice on operations since SDR, but also to be consistent with current defence-wide planning assumptions, a formal

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review was undertaken, starting in January 2006. The review was carried out by the multi-disciplinary Medical Operational Capability (Med Op Cap) project team, drawing on previous studies, lessons learnt work, high-level operational analysis and incorporating military judgment.

The overall result of this work is that the DMS baseline uniformed regular manning requirement (the Med Op Cap requirement) has now been set at 7,573 posts plus an additional manning and training margin of 678, making a grand total of 8,251 posts.

This compares to the previous established liability of 7,741 posts plus a manning and training margin of 543, making a grand total of 8,284 posts.

The SDR grand total of 8,970 posts did not separately specify within it a manning and training margin.

As at 1 January 2007, the uniformed regular manning was 6,497 (namely, the number of people we actually have rather than the number of posts required).

There are also some significant changes within individual medical cadres between the SDR and the Med Op Cap requirement, with some cadres increasing and some decreasing. Some additional potential for civilianisation of up to 320 posts in the Med Op Cap total requirement was identified by the review, which will be investigated further.

I shall place full details of the new requirements against individual cadres in the Library of the House. It is a necessarily complex package, but one which provides an essential building-block for the DMS to focus its efforts on addressing the most critical shortfalls.

The impact of the new requirement on the individual career paths for personnel in the Royal Navy, Army and RAF Medical Services will be small. The review has validated the existing policy of maximising capability from staffing our field hospitals on a collaborative tri-service basis.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the DMS continues to be sufficiently flexible to respond to future operational challenges. The recent review of the DMS uniformed regular manpower requirement is a necessary and positive step to achieving this.

Children: Poverty

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (John Hutton) has made the following Statement.

Today I am publishing Working for Children (Cm 7067) which includes our response to recommendations made in the report Delivering on Child Poverty: what would it take? by Lisa Harker in November 2006. It is only one element of a cross-governmental child poverty strategy and sets out the additional measures the DWP will take to maximise its contribution to the ambitious targets of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020.

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Building on the announcements made in the Budget to take a further 200,000 children out of poverty by increasing tax credits and wider support for parents, Working for Children refocuses £150 million of resources within the Department for Work and Pensions towards greater support for families.

Measures include:

piloting a New Deal for Families approach so more families get access to support that is often available only for lone parents. To do this we will extend support available in the New Deal for Lone Parents Plus pilot areas to all families with children in those areas;extending the New Deal for Lone Parents Plus scheme to help more lone parents benefit from this service and signalling initial support ahead of a period of consultation for recommendations from David Freud to increase obligations on lone parents with older children to look for work;providing more support to families, particularly in London where employment rates lag, including widening and improving the in-work credit scheme which provides additional financial support for lone parents as they make the transition to work;changing Jobcentre Plus systems so parents are properly identified in the benefit system for the first time and record the childcare needs and preferences of all parents—not just lone parents as at present; andproviding advice and support for the partners of parents claiming jobseeker’s allowance, with the introduction of mandatory six-monthly work-focused interviews for this group.

We have made significant progress by lifting 600,000 children out of relative poverty since the Prime Minister set the historic target in 1998 to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Our success in helping people into work has been key to reducing child poverty. We have seen 2.5 million more people in work than in 1997 and there are now more than one million lone parents in employment. We need to continue to build on this success but recognise there is more to do if we are to reach our goal.

Copies of the report are available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Compensation Act 2006

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Compensation Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 25 July 2006. Part 2 of the Act provides the statutory framework for the regulation of claims management services.

In line with the Government's commitment to bring the Act into force as soon as possible, a third commencement order has been made. This brings into force the prohibition and offences sections.

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From 23 April 2007 a person providing claims management services without the requisite authorisation (or if exempted or subject to a waiver) will be committing an offence and liable to prosecution and if convicted to a maximum of up to two years’ imprisonment. Those providing claims management services will be required to give consumers clear advice about the validity of their claim, options for funding the costs and provide a complaints mechanism if things go wrong.

This order follows the Compensation Act 2006 (Commencement No. 1) (SI 2006/3005 (C.107)) that came into force on 1 December 2006 allowing regulation to commence. The Compensation Act 2006 (Commencement No. 2) (SI 2007/94 (C.5)) came into force on 23 January 2007 formally establishing the Claims Management Services Tribunal.

Driver, Vehicle and Operator Group: Ministerial Targets

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has set a range of high-level targets for the 2007-08 year on behalf of the agencies within the Driver, Vehicle and Operator Group; the Driving Standards Agency, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and on behalf of the Government Car Despatch Agency. They are included in the agencies’ business plans together with their associated measures. The plans also include a range of management targets, performance indicators and key tasks which are appropriate to the agencies’ businesses. Copies of the business plans will be placed in the Libraries of the House shortly.

The key targets for the Driving Standards Agency are:

Secretary of State Targets

Appointments available within nine weeks at 90 per cent of permanent car driving test centres.To achieve candidate satisfaction with the overall service received at 90 per cent or above.Improve standards of new driversDeliver 6,000 Arrive Alive presentations to include 10 per cent targeted at special needs groups such as young offenders, older drivers and people with disabilities.Improve standards of professional driversTo have 10 training courses accredited as suitable for lorry drivers CPC periodic training and 30 for bus and coach drivers by 31 March 2008.Contribute to the Government’s motorcycle strategy by: populating the new post test motorcycle register with qualified and quality assured motorcycle instructors/trainers and make it available to the public by 31 March 2008 so they can make an informed choice of trainer/instructor;

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delivering an interactive ultimate biking skills DVD to retail, aimed at improving a resource for qualified motorcyclists to improve riding and safety; and develop a national network of test centres to enable off-road tests for motorcyclists, with a milestone target for March 2008 of 40 per cent of customers being within 45 minutes/20 miles of such a centre.To initiate three new pilot projects aimed at improving driver education and training and raising standards of high risk groups such as novice drivers.To progress to conclusion 250 investigations in relation to impersonation/ID fraud and actively seek prosecutions where applicable.Electronic take-up—achieve 64 per cent of theory test bookings and 64 per cent of car practical test bookings being made online by 31 March 2008.Deliver the value for money plan targets for 2007-08 (£6 million).

The key targets for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are:

Secretary of State Targets

Maintain or improve customer satisfaction at a rate of 90 per cent. The annual DVLA customer satisfaction survey.Maintain or improve on the standard of services to the customer.Achieve target for at least 16 of the 18 major service deliver measures.Deliver customer choice for operational services through increasing the number of inbound services available via electronic channels.Maintain volume of existing inbound services available that could be completed electronically, at 64 per cent of the total inbound service volume by 2008.Deliver the facility for customers to purchase personalised registration numbers online.Complete the system build enabling vehicles to be tracked through the motor trade.Deliver the facility for driving licence holders electronically to:renew their driving licence at 70;notify a change of address;request duplicate licence; andrequest a new-style licence.Gershon efficiency—deliver the benefits agreed in the DVO Value for Money plan:revenue expenditure gain;workforce change; increase in VED collected; andincrease the net income realised from the sale of personalised registration numbers and income from cherished transfers.The running rate to achieve the final 2007-08 VfM targets are:a total of £50 million compared to the baseline as at 1 April 2004;

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reduce the number of FTE posts by 575 compared with the 1 April 2004 figure;achieve a level of at least £70 million above the 2002-03 roadside survey result; anda £5 million increase compared to the baseline as at 1st April 2004.To deliver a programme of e-service capability across the consumer commercial and business sectors.Volume of inbound services delivered electronically is at least 30 per cent of the inbound volume available electronically by March 2008.Accurate records—vehicles register: maintain 97.5 per cent of current vehicle keepers as the level to be successfully traced from the record.Accuracy survey 2007.Drivers and vehicles registers—The data sets needed for an intended purpose are accurate.To achieve complete accuracy in at least 97.5 per cent of vehicle registration documents input.To achieve complete accuracy in at least 97 per cent of driving applications input.Enforcement—Reduce VED evasion to 2.5 per cent by December 2007. [This target is subject to review]The annual roadside survey.Continue to work with Transport for London in the delivery of the mayor’s air quality strategy.Support Transport for London in its work to introduce the London low emission zone by its due date.The key targets for the Vehicle Certification Agency are:

Secretary of State Targets

To provide a class-leading service in type approval and certification.90 per cent turnaround of system and component type approval certificates within nine working days.95 per cent of appraisal reports on our technical performance from independent panel members deemed to have no critical defects.Expand consistency of processes and standards across the global network.Maintain (or improve) customer satisfaction levels.Existing customer survey processes to be run in 2007-08 and maintain at least 4/5 score (very good).To ensure the continued integrity of VCA’s approvals.Carry out a programme of conformity of production inspections.Target new emerging manufacturing markets to ensure that products fully meet EU standardsIncrease number of certificates issued by VCA in China and India by 10 per cent on 2006-07.To monitor compliance of safety critical vehicle systems and components in the UK marketplace to meet EU standards.

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Complete the test programme to be agreed with TTS/CFU/MIU.Delivery of recommendations made in the VCA/TTS report on the use of virtual tools.Delivery in Q1 of final VCA/TTS report.Identify VCA tools and techniques by December 2007Formulate forward programme by December 2007.To carry out and enforce an annual programme of in-service emissions testing.Complete programme by March 2008.Improve utilisation year on year.Increase utilisation by an additional 2 per cent points. (Aim is 65 per cent by 2010-11—2 per cent points is targeted to achieve 60 per cent in 2007-08).To achieve a surplus on a full cost basis and deliver benefits consistent with the Value for Money plan.To achieve £50,000 surplus on a full costs basis.Deliver the benefits consistent in the Value for Money Plan maintaining at least £450,000 of cost savings and efficiency and effectiveness improvements.Invest £100,000 in professional skills and capability development.The key targets for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are:Secretary of State TargetsMaintain or improve customer satisfaction.To improve on the previous year’s achievement, or maintain satisfaction at or above 90 per cent.Increase range of electronic services available to customers.Delivered portfolio of information services:operator compliance risk score reports;test history maintenance reports; and vehicle encounter reports.Online vehicle test bookings service available to commercial customers.Improve the consistency of vehicle testing services across the country.1/3rd reduction in the variation of the initial test fail rates from 2006-07 national average while maintaining quality test standards.Improve the quality and consistency of the private vehicle testing service to the public.Delivered a risk-based enforcement system to target the serious and serially non-compliant vehicle testing stations (VTS).Contribute to improved road safety through better targeting on non-compliant vehicles and drivers.65 per cent improvement in targeting of enforcement action at the roadside compared with 2004-05.35 per cent increase in the number of dangerous vehicles and drivers being taken off the road compared with 2004-05.Contribute to more reliable journeys on the strategic road network, improved road safety, minimised congestion.

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20 per cent increase in volume of checks nationally on “at risk” goods vehicles on international journeys compared with 2006-07.Reduce the burden of commercial operation.Implemented DfT plan for licensing reform.Delivered DfT plan for graduated fixed penalties and deposits.Deliver modernised support services to traffic commissioners.80 per cent of new service level agreement measures with traffic commissioners achieved.Deliver final year of VOSA’s four-year Value for Money Plan.Four-year cumulative plan delivered:£13.3 million cost saving;469 gross headcount reduction*; and16 per cent increase in effectiveness.Increase the take-up of existing electronic services available to customers.69 per cent overall take-up achieved for existing e-services.The key targets for the Government Car and Despatch Agency are:

Secretary of State Targets

To break even on an accruals basisTo maintain a high level of customer satisfaction through the following:to maintain a customer satisfaction index (CSI) score at least at 2005-06 levels of 86.7 per cent; andto maintain accreditation for ISO 9001To reduce the environmental impact of the agencyBy March 2008 to reduce the average tailpipe emissions of the government fleet by 5 per cent compared with March 2007 levelsTo increase the use of alternative engine and fuel technology in GCDA vehicles by 10 per cent by March 2008 against 2006-07 levelsTo reduce the administrative charges to customers by 2 per cent against 2006-07

Health: Medical Careers

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Patricia Hewitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In my Statement to the House on 19 March, (Official Report, col. 557-8) I set out the background to the review of the new national recruitment and selection process for doctors in postgraduate training. I outlined the decisions that had been made by the review group up to that date. As the review group continued to meet last week, the purpose of this Statement is to provide a further update on progress.

The review group issued a further statement on 22 March. This said:

Building on last week's announcement, at a minimum, every long-listable applicant who applied through Medical Training Application
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