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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 provides for a reformed conduct regime for local authority members in which responsibility for standards of conduct and dealing with allegations of misconduct by members is largely devolved to each councils independently chaired standards committee. The Standards Board for England will have the role of a light touch regulator, providing guidance to councils and their standards committees, monitoring the handling of misconduct allegations, and itself dealing with the most serious misconduct cases.
We intend this reformed conduct regime should be in force this May, following the local government elections. From this point all allegations of misconduct by council members will in the first instance be considered by the councils standards committee, which may thereafter pass the most serious cases to the Standards Board.
Accordingly, we will shortly be making the necessary order to commence the relevant provisions of the 2007 Act, and laying before Parliament regulations making provision about the procedures standards committees must follow when considering allegations of misconduct by members.
Earlier this year we consulted local authorities and stakeholders about the provisions for such regulations. I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses a summary of the 571 responses that we received together with the Governments response to the issues which have been raised.
Having regard to the consultation responses, we intend the procedure regulations will in particular make provision to ensure that standards committee members avoid any conflicts of interest when considering allegations; that given the personal nature of allegations which might be unfounded, there will be no public access to standards committee meetings or papers when allegations are being initially assessed; and to increase the maximum sanction available to standards committees from three to six months suspension from office.
The Local Transport Bill will empower local authorities to deliver bus services that better meet the needs of their local communities. Among other things, it will enable quality partnership schemes to make more of a difference, by allowing them to cover frequencies, timings and maximum fares where there are no admissible objections from relevant operators.
The quality partnership scheme model was introduced by the Transport Act 2000 as a means by which a local authority agreed to invest in improved facilities at specific locations along bus routes (eg bus stops or bus lanes) and operators who wish to use those facilities agree to provide services of a particular standard (eg new buses, or driver training standards).
The Bill includes a power for the Secretary of State (and the Welsh Ministers) to make regulations defining the terms admissible objections and relevant operators. To assist the Public Bill Committee's consideration of the Bill, the Government will shortly be publishing a pre-consultation draft of these regulations, along with an updated draft of the supporting guidance which was first published in December 2007. The draft regulations and guidance relate to England only.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): As the next major step in delivering the proposals set out in the Government's Marine Bill White Paper, A Sea Change,
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolohas made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
We are today laying before Parliament the Governments White Paper, Pharmacy in EnglandBuilding on Strengths, Delivering the Future, Cm 7341. This fulfils an undertaking I gave to the House on 24 July 2007. It also meets the commitment the Government gave in paragraph 4.47 of Our Health, Our Care, Our Say to develop pharmaceutical contractual arrangements in line with the wider ambitions of that White Paper.
This White Paper sets out our future proposals for developing pharmaceutical services. It demonstrates the Governments continued commitment to pharmacy, its place in the NHS and its role as a leading clinical profession in delivering better access to high quality services to patients and consumers.
It sets out how pharmacists will work to complement general practitioners in promoting health, preventing sickness and providing care that is more personal and responsive to individual needs. Pharmacists already play a vital role for local communities in dispensing medicines, and providing services such as supporting people who want to give up smoking. This extended role will see more pharmacists being able to prescribe for and deal with minor ailments on the National Health Service, as well as supporting those with long-term conditions and preventing illnesses through additional screening and advice.
This will enable pharmacies, many of which already open out of hours, to provide increased access to the right medicines and the right care, in the right waymore personal and more responsive to individual needs.
The White Paper also provides the Governments response to a review of National Health Services pharmaceutical contractual arrangements led by Anne Galbraith, former chair of the Prescription Pricing Authority. Her report, Review of NHS pharmaceutical contractual arrangements, which was completed last year, has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office. I am most grateful to Mrs Galbraith for the speed and efficiency with which she completed her report and for her insights, which have helped shape our thinking as set out in this White Paper.
The Government have concluded that a number of structural changes are neededin terms of reforms which will enable appropriate action to be taken in the small minority of cases where performance is not meeting accepted standards and to shift funding arrangements so that rewards are based on the quality, not the quantity, of the services provided.
The White Paper also considers the position of dispensing doctors and appliance contractorswith proposals to allow dispensing doctors to sell over-the-counter medicines and for appliance contractors to meet professional and high quality standards.
We will proceed quickly with the next stages to support implementation of the actions set out here. We are holding a series of events around the country beginning on 1 May 2008, to hear views from the public, from the NHS and from the professions. We will then consult fully later this summer on some of the key proposals for structural reform needed. That consultation will take full account of the final NHSNext Stage Review report to be published in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Eco-towns are a response to the twin challenges of an acute housing shortage and climate change. They will test out new ways of designing and building towns to achieve zero carbon standards and promote more sustainable living.
In response to our invitation, we received 57 proposals for eco-towns. There has been a rigorous cross-government assessment of these bids, particularly focusing on the existing transport infrastructure and local environment. We have also looked at the likely benefits to existing communities, the contribution the eco-town would make to local housing needs, and the likelihood of the proposal being successfully delivered.
These potential locations have been published as part of a consultation document Eco-townsLiving a Greener Future, inviting views on both the broader objectives and benefits of eco-towns, and on those locations which we regard as the most promising.
We will also be looking at the proposed schemes from promoters and we expect each proposal to be further refined and improved over the coming months. We will be looking for clear evidence that each scheme:achieves the highest possible environmental standards, not only mitigating the impact of development but positively enhancing the site as well as reducing the need for residents to rely on cars;is clearly deliverable, with funding identified and proper management arrangements set out; andis affordable, with a clearly agreed basis for contributions from private investors and public sector agencies.
A panel of experts will advise and challenge those leading the proposals to improve the environmental credentials of each project. Government will also be providing support to the relevant local authorities, comparable to the support on offer to local authorities designated as growth points or growth areas. We will continue to work in partnership with local government and the LGA as we move forward.
During the debate on the draft Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order in the House of Commons Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee on 23 October 2007, I agreed to commission a review of the likely impacts of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) on the other UK industries which use tallow as a feedstock. I said that in the light of the review's findings, the Government would consider whether changes needed to, and could, be made to the design of the RTFO.
The Government are keen to publish the review prior to the start of the RTFO on 15 April. The review will therefore need to be published during Recess, and I will arrange for copies to be placed in the Libraries of the House.
The Government will take the findings of the review into account in EU negotiations on the Renewable Energy Directive as well as in policy decisions on the future design of the RTFO. The Government will also ensure that the review's findings are fed into the review of the wider displacement impacts of biofuels, which was announced by Ruth Kelly on 21 February and which will be reporting in June.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has set a range of high-level targets for the 2008-09 year on behalf of the agencies within the Safety, Service Delivery and Logistics Group: the Driving Standards Agency, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and the Government
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|Secretary of State Targets (target measures are italicised)|
Deliver the first year of the Comprehensive Spending Review by achieving £6 million of efficiency savings. Maximise productivity by improved attendance management to reduce sick absence to an average of no more than 10 days per employee.
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