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14 Jan 2008 : Column WS125



14 Jan 2008 : Column WS125

Written Statements

Monday 14 January 2008

Armed Forces: Aircraft Upgrades

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Harrier GR9 and the Tornado GR4 are both currently providing invaluable support to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have signed two contracts on 21 December 2007, appointing BAES as the prime contractor, which will deliver further significant capability upgrades to both the Harrier GR9 and the Tornado GR4. Under the programmes, both aircraft will receive improved secure communications, tactical data links and the Paveway IV precision guided bomb will be integrated on to Tornado. These upgrades will enhance the ability of these aircraft to support future operations by improving survivability, increasing situational awareness and lowering the risk of fratricide and collateral damage. The combined value of the programmes, through life, is £548 million.

The Ministry of Defence and BAES are committed to working together on these programmes to provide outstanding military capability that will deliver real benefits to operational capability.

Disability: Disabled Facilities Grant

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Iain Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are today announcing the allocation of an additional £11.5 million to the disabled facilities grant programme for 2007-08. The programme has proved to be highly successful with funding to local authorities more than doubling from £57 million in 1997 to £138 million now. These additional funds for the current year will help assist local authorities in meeting existing demand for the provision of adaptations. A table detailing the additional funds provided to individual authorities has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Local authorities must provide some of the finance for disabled facilities grant from their own resources, which brings total public sector spending on this programme to in excess of £200 million per annum.

The disabled facilities grant programme helps approximately 35,000 disabled and older people each year to live as comfortably and independently as

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possible in their homes through the provision of adaptations. The disabled facilities grant programme provides mandatory grants for housing adaptations available to both disabled and older people, including improving access to a home and to the basic facilities within a home such as the provision of ramps, door widening and stair-lifts.

I will be making a further statement on the future funding of disabled facilities grant and announcing a package of changes to improve delivery of the programme shortly as part of the cross departmental review of disabled facilities grant.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: FCO Services

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with the agreement of HM Treasury, has determined that it would be in the best interests of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the taxpayer if FCO Services, currently an executive agency, were to become a government trading fund on 1 April 2008. Accordingly, I have laid before the House a draft statutory instrument for affirmative resolution.

In reaching his decision, my right honourable friend has conducted a public consultation exercise and prepared an impact assessment. I have placed a copy of the analysis of responses to the consultation exercise and a copy of the impact assessment in the Library of the House.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

To assist further consideration of the National Insurance Contributions Bill, which was introduced to the House of Commons on 12 November, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is today publishing draft regulations amending the Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001 in so far as they apply to Great Britain in respect of:

the prescribed equivalents of the upper accrual point; and the new end of year reporting requirements for employers.

Copies of the draft regulations have been placed in the Library of the House and the Vote Office and will also be available on the HMRC website.


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