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Written Statements

Thursday 22 November 2007

Airports: Heathrow

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation, Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport, which covers a range of different proposals for the future development of the airport. The consultation responds to a number of commitments made in the 2003 air transport White Paper. It presents the conclusions from three years of detailed analysis to consider whether conditions set on noise, air quality and public transport could be met with the addition of a third runway and proposals for making better use of the existing runways. The White Paper recognised the key importance of Heathrow to both local and national economies, and to our competitiveness internationally. While Heathrow's operations impact on people across and around London, the forecasts included in the consultation indicate that it is possible to add capacity at Heathrow in a way which satisfies the local conditions. We want to make the information widely accessible and are engaging extensively with interested parties to give them the opportunity to test the evidence presented and respond to the consultation.

Aviation plays an essential role in the UK's economic growth and our continued prosperity. The Government consulted widely in 2002 on their air transport policy and set out their conclusions in the 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport. The White Paper set out a sustainable long-term strategy for the development of air travel out to 2030. This policy was reiterated last year in the 2006 Future of Air Transport Progress Report.

The White Paper identified an urgent need for additional runway capacity in the south-east and supported further development at Heathrow, including a new runway and additional terminal capacity, but only if three local conditions could be met.

First, there should be no net increase in the total area of the 57dBA noise contour. This would be measured at 127 square kilometres, which was the size of the contour in the summer of 2002.

Secondly, we should be confident of meeting European air quality limits around the airport. The critical local pollutant at Heathrow is nitrogen dioxide (NO2) where the current European directive imposes limits from 2010.

Thirdly, there would need to be improvements in access to the airport by public transport.

The White Paper also considered the scope for greater utilisation of the two existing runways by, for example, the use of mixed mode operations—where runways are used for both arriving and departing aircraft. It identified the need to study the impacts and benefits in detail, which would be subject to the same local conditions as a third runway.

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Over the past three years, the project for the sustainable development of Heathrow set up by the Department for Transport and including experts from the Highways Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority, the airport's operator BAA and the Government Office for London and drawing on wider expertise from NATS and technical experts in air quality has considered these options further, including whether, and how, the local conditions could be met. The White Paper made a commitment to further consultation once the work was completed.

The White Paper also recognised the airport operator's arguments for a sixth terminal north of the A4 to realise the full potential of the third runway and made a commitment to consult once further work had been completed on the proposals and their impacts. This consultation invites views on the airport operator's revised proposal for adding a 2,200-metre third runway (compared with 3,902 metres and 3,658 metres for the two existing runways) and a sixth terminal with access to the road and rail network which would enable the airport to handle around 702,000 air traffic movements a year by 2030.

The consultation also invites views on the introduction of mixed mode operations as an interim measure ahead of a new runway subject to the same local conditions as a third runway. One option improves operational resilience at the airport but maintains the current 480,000 air transport movements cap, and another allows an extra 60,000 movements per year.

Depending on the outcome of this consultation, it will be for the airport operator to obtain the necessary consents in accordance with applicable planning rules and with relevant statutory and other criteria.

We would also like views on the results of a review of a number of operational procedures on the existing runways irrespective of any further capacity changes; for example, the Cranford agreement, which generally prohibits easterly departures off the northern runway.

We will make the information widely accessible and give all interested parties the opportunity to respond to the consultation. In addition to the standard consultation processes, my officials will hold a series of public exhibitions to enable individuals and organisations to find out more and to register their views. All the consultation documentation and further details about how to respond are available on the department's website at consultation.

I am also today publishing the report UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts. This report explains our passenger demand and CO2 forecasting methodologies and provides the latest CO2 forecasts. The White Paper argued that the aviation sector must fully meet its environmental costs and set out our policy to include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme so that growth in emissions from 2004-06 levels would be compensated for by equivalent reductions elsewhere in the economy. This approach is entirely consistent with last year's Stern review.

Final policy decisions on adding capacity at Heathrow will be taken at the earliest in the summer 2008 in light of the results of the consultation.

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Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House and are available in the Vote Office.

Children: Funding for Early Years

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): Today my right honourable friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today £642 million of capital investment in early years settings from 2008-09 to 2010-11 to ensure that every child can access high- quality provision. This funding will play a key part in enabling local authorities to meet their duties to secure sufficient childcare in their area, to improve outcomes for children in the early years and to narrow the gaps between the most disadvantaged children and others.

This capital funding will focus in particular on the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector to ensure that all settings are of the highest quality and that all children—including those with disabilities—are able to access provision. The grant will also support small sessional providers to make the investments needed to deliver childcare more flexibly.

The grant aims, first, to improve the quality of the learning environment in early years settings to support delivery of the early years foundation stage, with a particular emphasis on improving play and physical activities and ICT resources; secondly, to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, can access provision in line with the new duty placed on local authorities in the Childcare Act 2006; and, thirdly, to enable PVI providers to deliver an extended free early education offer for all three and four year-olds and make access more flexible.

EU: Budget

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher) has made the following Written Statement.

Items on the agenda are as follows:

Preliminary Draft Amending Budget Number 7 for 2007

Finance Ministers will be invited to adopt preliminary draft amending budget 7. This would amend the 2007 budget to reflect latest implementation capacity.

Letter of Amendment Number 2 to the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2008

Finance Ministers will be invited to adopt amending letter 2 to the preliminary draft budget for 2008. The letter reflects latest information on agricultural prices and other developments influencing future implementation capacity.

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Draft Budget for 2008

The council will look to agree its second reading of the 2008 draft budget and finalise figures for compulsory expenditure (mainly agriculture), in preparation for the subsequent conciliation with the European Parliament. The UK will seek a budget that respects the principles of budget discipline and sound financial management and reflects realistic forecasts for agriculture and structural funds spending.

Housing: Home Information Packs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government set out their approach and criteria for phasing the implementation of home information packs (HIPs), including energy performance certificates, on 11 June. Sixty per cent of the market is now covered by HIPs and the criteria for rollout to the rest of the market have now been met. We will therefore complete the phased rollout by extending coverage to the rest of the market from 14 December.

First-time buyers of one and two-bedroom homes will be the main beneficiaries as they will now get important information about their new home for free. Information such as searches for which they would previously have had to pay will now be included in the HIP paid for by the seller, reducing the costs of the first step on to the property ladder.

But all householders will benefit from having detailed information about the energy efficiency of their home, and measures to save on their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions

Two hundred thousand energy performance certificates have been generated since the summer. The analysis of the early phase of rollout of HIPs found that the average rating for homes was an E, and we know that approximately one-fifth of all homes are likely to get an F or G rating. This means that basic measures could significantly cut both fuel bills and carbon emissions. The Energy Savings Trust has also estimated that homeowners could also save around £300 a year on fuel bills from implementing the recommendations in the energy performance certificate.

We will establish a new green homes service to offer those buying or selling a home with an F or G rating free or discounted help with energy efficiency measures by linking them up with grants and loans provided by energy companies and others. Home buyers could potentially be eligible for hundreds of pounds to get help with insulation or other improvements.

As set out in the criteria of 11 June, there are now sufficient energy assessors and home inspectors fully qualified and accredited to provide energy performance certificates for all homes bought and sold; 5,794 people are now accredited.

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In addition, the Government have also conducted monitoring and analysis of the implementation programme to ensure continued smooth rollout. Early monitoring shows:

HIPs are taking on average seven to 10 days to prepare; the majority of property, and drainage and water searches, are being delivered within five days; energy performance certificates (EPCs) are being prepared on average within two to four days; on average, a HIP costs between £300 and £350. Most of these are not new costs, as they cover the cost of searches and other documents which have simply been transferred from buyer to seller at the beginning of the process. The energy performance certificate (EPC) is of course new but provides consumers with valuable information of the costs of running their home; and competition from HIPs is reducing the costs of average property searches. Eighty-five local authorities have already reduced their charges by £30 on average.

The Government have also commissioned and considered extensive analysis by Europe Economics on the impact of HIPs on the market. We are today publishing its independent report, which includes modelling on the impact as well as analysis of the first few months of implementation. It finds no evidence of any impact on transactions or prices, although there is a predicted short-term impact on new listings as sellers change the timings of their listings. It concludes that the impact on listings is short lived, and the impact on the market is marginal compared to the wider factors.

We also asked Europe Economics and Dr Peter Williams, who is a member of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, to consider whether changing housing market conditions meant we should change the approach to completing the rollout. Their conclusion was that there are strong arguments for rolling out as planned, and that further delay could cause greater difficulties and uncertainties in the market.

In the light of this evidence, therefore, we will tomorrow lay the commencement order to extend HIPs and EPCs to one and two-bedroom properties from 14 December. In order to ensure continued smooth implementation, we are also extending the temporary provisions on first-day marketing for all properties from 1 January to 1 June, providing flexibility for sellers as part of the rollout to one and two-bedroom properties.

The implementation of home information packs so far, and the work of the stakeholder panel, have also highlighted further improvements that are needed to benefit consumers.

HIPs have already led to improvements in the delivery and cost of searches, with significant reductions in the cost of searches, and in some areas, substantial reductions in the delays in producing searches. However, there are still wide variations in

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costs and services and we want to see further improvements for consumers. We will therefore publish guidance on access and charging in December for local authorities and personal searchers with the aim of speeding up searches and delivering a fairer deal for consumers.

We have asked Ted Beardsall, deputy chief executive of the Land Registry, and member of our home buying and selling stakeholder panel, to advise on what else could be done to improve the search process, ensuring better quality and timeliness of information, and improving value for money for consumers.

Stakeholders have also raised concerns about the costs and timeliness of leasehold information, and the impact that this will have on home information packs when one and two-bedroom properties are included, given the higher number of leasehold properties. In the majority of cases we would expect leasehold documents to be readily available and easily provided as part of home information packs. However, we are aware that some leaseholders, whether in the pre-existing system or creating a HIP, can find the relevant documents difficult to obtain quickly. We know that some also face disproportionate charges to access their documents.

As leasehold information is an important part of the home buying and selling process, and is already generally paid for and provided by the seller, we continue to believe that there are considerable advantages to consumers from having leasehold information early on in the home information pack. However, to ensure continued smooth rollout we will phase the introduction of leasehold information in response to stakeholder concerns. We will temporarily amend the HIP regulations so that the lease document itself must be included, but other leasehold information will be introduced as a requirement in six months’ time. This will allow HIPs for one and two-bedroom properties to bed down in advance of leasehold information being required. In the interim, we have also asked Ted Beardsall to advise us and the home buying stakeholder panel on what more can be done to improve the timeliness and cost of leasehold information, alongside the work on searches.

From April 2008, we will begin to roll out EPCs for newly built homes, as well as across commercial property for sale, rent or construction. By October 2008 all public buildings will have a display certificate.

All these measures are designed to promote the interests of the consumer. We will continue actively to monitor the rollout of HIPs and energy performance certificates and the home buying and selling process to ensure we can respond where further improvements are needed. The introduction of HIPs is part of a wider programme of reforms to home buying and selling including e-conveyancing and better redress, which aims to provide consumers with a clearer, more transparent and effective service, with better value for money, benefiting all potential homebuyers and helping in tackling climate change.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today launching the next stage in the Government's comprehensive programme of reform of Britain's immigration controls.

Britain's economy and society profit from migration that is effectively managed and controlled. But our system must change if it is to be fit for the future. Over the next 12 months, we will be introducing fundamental changes. These include:

the points-based system, which will enable us better to manage economic migration. Our points policy will be advised by a migration advisory committee, which will help us make better informed decisions about the migrants our economy needs, and a migration impact forum, which will help us analyse the wider effects of migration;a single border force, bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas. This will provide tougher policing at ports and airports with a highly visible, uniformed presence, counting all migrants in and out of the UK; andthe introduction of compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals, helping us to know who is here and what they are entitled to do.

If we are to stop illegal journeys, however, we must stop illegal jobs. Our attack on illegal working therefore attacks the root cause of illegal immigration into Britain.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement on transforming our border strategy last week, I am today announcing action on a further three key parts of our strategy on illegal working.

First, I am publishing a statement of intent setting out our approach towards licensing employers or colleges wishing to sponsor migrants for visa applications.

Under the points-based system, employers, and others who benefit from migration and wish to act as sponsors of skilled or temporary migrants, will need a licence to do so. To earn and hold a licence, they must agree to fulfil certain duties. Today's statement of intent sets out how a would-be sponsor can gain a licence, and what duties we will ask them to perform. We have developed this document working closely with employers' representatives and others to strengthen the Border and Immigration Agency's control of the system.

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