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Health: NHS Trusts

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Pursuant to the dissolution of four national health service trusts and one special health authority between 1 April 2007 and 1 October 2007, and their reconfiguration involving the establishment of two new NHS trusts, I propose to create originating capital for the two new NHS trusts created equal to the net assets transferred to them and also to remit the outstanding debt of the dissolved trusts.

These operations involved no overall loss to the Exchequer. Her Majesty’s Treasury has today presented a minute to the House giving particulars and circumstances of the proposed remission which it has approved in principle.

Health: Private and Voluntary Care

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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The Government are currently undertaking a major programme to reform health and adult social care to improve the quality and safety of services. They are committed to making major changes to the current regulatory and system management frameworks covering health and adult social care, and are legislating to that purpose in the current session. This programme of change will put patients and service users at the forefront of driving forward improvements to services through increased choice, improved commissioning, and new regulatory arrangements.

In 2009 we plan, subject to the passage of legislation, to replace the current regulatory bodies covering health and social care with a new single regulator—the Care Quality Commission which will build on the work of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the Mental Health Act Commission. However, certain changes to the current regulatory system for private and voluntary healthcare are needed earlier to ensure that we can continue to regulate this sector effectively during the run-up to the wider changes to the regulatory and system management frameworks. These changes are designed to:

remove a small number of private and voluntary healthcare services from regulation by the Healthcare Commission where the risk to the public is small; andensure that there is clarity about how certain regulations should apply to private and voluntary healthcare.

We therefore present proposals to amend the regulations governing private and voluntary healthcare. We are satisfied that the amendments proposed in this consultation will deliver improved healthcare outcomes which are consistent with the risk-based approach to regulation we envisage in our wider and longer term system reforms.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office. It is also available on the department's website at

The consultation will end on 10 June 2008. After analysis of the consultation responses, we will make a decision on whether or not to proceed with these proposals, and to lay the new regulations before Parliament.

Northern Rock

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As I have previously announced, continuing to support Northern Rock will require the approval of the European Commission under state aid rules. On 5 December 2007, the European Commission announced that it had authorised, under state aid rules, the Government's package of measures to support Northern Rock. Also in line with the rules, the Government were obliged to notify by 17 March 2008 a restructuring plan for Northern Rock.

Accordingly, the Government yesterday formally notified the European Commission of their proposals to continue to provide state aid to Northern Rock to

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support a restructuring of the company during the period of temporary public ownership.

The board of Northern Rock is today setting out in general the future direction of the business during the period of temporary public ownership. The company will submit a final business plan to HM Treasury for approval by the end of March. Thereafter, I will report to the House further.

I have placed in the Library of the House a copy of the statement issued today by Northern Rock. This sets out the basis for the removal of Government support through the creation of a smaller, more focused, financially viable mortgage and savings bank, which will be returned to the private sector.

On this basis, the Government's state aid notification sets out that Northern Rock's future will be based around four strategic priorities:

contracting to a smaller, sustainable business through a reduction of around half in the asset base by 2011, while maintaining a modest level of new loan origination;progressive repayment of the Bank of England loan and release of the Government guarantees over the next three to four years, while increasing the level of retail deposits modestly to form a larger share of total funding;restructuring the organisation and its operations so that these are aligned to the business objectives. The company's initial assessment is that this will involve staffing levels falling by around a third by 2011, with the majority of the reduction likely to occur in the first year. The final figure will depend on the business plan ultimately adopted, and the evolution of the business in the light of market and economic developments; and strengthening risk management in key business areas.

Northern Rock has said that it is committed to doing all it can to communicate openly with staff and provide the best possible support through the changes ahead, including working closely with UNITE and other employee representatives. The bank proposes to provide outplacement services to help affected staff find alternative employment in the region, working closely with local agencies.

The Government are mindful of the impact on the employees of this important regional employer and will support the implementation of the plan. To help those people affected I have asked the chief executive of the Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast, to lead the Government's response. One NorthEast has already begun constructive discussions with Northern Rock and will work with local authorities, Jobcentre Plus, Business Link NorthEast, the Learning and Skills Council and Northern Rock's management to co-ordinate the Government's support for those involved.

As set out in Budget 2008, the Bank of England financing arrangements for Northern Rock will remain in place for an interim period, and will be replaced by a direct Treasury loan over the course of 2008-09. The Government will set out the arrangements for the repayment of the loan when the business plan is finalised.

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The existing Government guarantee arrangements remain in place. Depositors' money continues to be safe and secure.

I will continue to keep the House informed and will report further when the business plan is completed.

Police: Tasers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Tony McNulty) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This Statement is to notify the House about the release of the first formal quarterly figures on the use of Taser.

Taser has been available to all authorised firearms officers since September 2004 as a less lethal option for use in situations where a firearms authority has been granted in accordance with criteria laid down in the Association of Chief Police Officers manual of guidance on police use of firearms.

On 20 July 2007 1 gave my approval for chief officers throughout England and Wales to deploy Taser for use by authorised firearms officers in operations or incidents where the criteria for the authorisation to issue firearms do not apply, but where officers are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves and/or the subject.

I also approved a 12-month trial of the deployment of Taser by specially trained units who are not firearms officers in similar circumstances. The trial commenced on 1 September 2007 involving 10 forces.

Figures on the use of Taser are broken down into three tables:

all uses of Taser in the UK since introduction in April 2004 up to 30 November 2007;Taser use by authorised firearms officers outside of a firearms authority from 20 July 2007 to 30 November 2007; andTaser use by specially trained units in the first three months in the 10 trial forces areas from 1 September 2007 to 30 November 2007.

The figures show that Taser has been used by authorised firearms officers 163 times outside of a firearms authority since 20 July 2007 to end November 2007, and by specially trained units 16 times in the first quarter of the trial. It should be noted that only six of the 10 forces carrying out the trial actually started on 1 September, and that this excluded West Yorkshire Police Service and Metropolitan Police Service. Therefore, we expect the next quarter figures for the trial to be higher.

Publication of these figures is in line with the Government's rigorous and measured approach to extending the use of Taser and to subject the trial to a full and thorough evaluation.

I have placed a copy of the figures in the Library of the House. Figures on Taser use will be published regularly on a quarterly basis in May, August and November 2008 on the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) website.

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