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10 July 2008 : Column WS39

10 July 2008 : Column WS39

Written Statements

Thursday 10 July 2008

Carbon Emissions: New Cars

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

The Government are today publishing a consultation document and accompanying impact assessment on the European Commission proposal for a regulation on the CO2 emissions of new cars, putting in place a framework to encourage industry to develop greener, more fuel efficient cars.

The UK is urging the Commission to adopt a longer-term target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre, as part of the Government's wider strategy to address the issue of climate change. This proposal has the potential to deliver a cut in CO2 emissions from new cars of about 40 per cent over the next 12 years, and by 2020 could reduce the running costs for consumers buying new cars by about £500 a year, a particularly important consideration at a time of rising oil prices.

The European Commission's own proposals for a target of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2012 are expected to deliver annual CO2 savings of just over 6 million tonnes a year in the UK by 2020. Achieving the UK-proposed target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020 would save an additional 5 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020. In total, this is equivalent to around a third of the total projected CO2 savings from domestic transport, or around 2 per cent of the UK's current overall CO2 emissions.

Where the Government have a view on aspects of the proposed regulation, we set this out in the consultation document. The UK strongly supports a move to mandatory CO2 targets for new cars; this would be better for the environment and better for consumers. We would like to see a strong environmental outcome and for this reason we have been taking the lead at the European level for a longer-term target of 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020 to be added to the regulation.

We also want to avoid unfair competitive distortions between car manufacturers. We support the Commission's approach for setting CO2 targets for individual car manufacturers, and we also welcome the proposed derogation for manufacturers who only sell cars in small volumes. We believe that it is also important to add a provision to the regulation to ensure that “niche” manufacturers (those that only make a narrow range of vehicle types) while being subject to challenging targets, are not unfairly penalised.

We are seeking views over the coming months on our underlying analysis and negotiating position via a public consultation. This consultation closes on Friday 3 October 2008, but in the interim the Government will continue their discussion and negotiations at the European level, during which we may have to take further decisions on our negotiating position. We therefore encourage early responses from stakeholders.

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Copies of the consultation document and accompanying impact assessment are being sent to the House Library.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority: Annual Report and Accounts

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Maria Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today laying before Parliament, with the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the annual report and accounts for 2007-08 for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It is being laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers simultaneously.

The annual report and accounts describe the activities of the authority in paying financial compensation to victims of violent crime, under the terms of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995.

The accounts estimate the final settlement value of cases in progress and the predicted value of applications which have not yet been received in respect of crimes that have already occurred. As a result, the balance sheet at 31 March 2008 shows net liabilities of £1.29 billion.

In 2007-08, the authority received 53,317 applications for compensation and resolved 65,248. The number of cases outstanding at 31 March 2008 was 74,656. The proportion of cases decided within 12 months was 63.97 per cent.

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Staff Training Costs

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I answered the honourable Member for Fareham’s Parliamentary Question on 12 June 2008 (Official Report, col. 414W) on BERR departmental training. We said that the staff training costs incurred by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s agencies were £1,714,000 in the past 12 months and £8,443,000 for the previous five years. This figure was also quoted in my letter of 12 June 2008, to the honourable Member for Fareham. A copy of this letter was placed in the Libraries of the House.

These costs were taken from the department’s consolidated resource accounts for the years in question, which for 2007-08 were in draft at the time of my reply. Furthermore, the consolidated resource accounts do not include the expenditure of Companies House, whose accounts are published separately. Using updated figures, staff training costs for the department’s agencies were £1,999,000 for 2007-08, and £8,774,000 for the previous five years.

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EU: Informal Energy Council

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): I represented the UK at the Informal Energy Council that took place in Paris on 4 and 5 July. This was held back to back with an informal Environment Council, reflecting the priority the French are giving to the climate change and energy package during their presidency. Both meetings were chaired by Jean-Louis Borloo, French Minister for the Environment and Energy. The European Parliament rapporteurs for the various elements of the package were also present.

The main focus of discussion was the renewables directive, including specific debates on biofuels and the flexibilities required for the EU to achieve the 20 per cent renewable energy target in a cost-effective way. National experiences were also exchanged on energy efficiency, and Ministers received a presentation on energy security by Claude Mandil, former head of the IEA, commissioned by the French to produce a report to inform the forthcoming EU strategic energy review.

During the debate on renewables, there was a large degree of consensus on the importance of meeting the targets cost effectively. There was also widespread recognition that this can only be achieved with some level of exchange between member states allowing countries with potentially expensive domestic renewables resource to buy them more cheaply elsewhere in the EU. There was general agreement among Ministers that a UK/Germany/Poland proposal for a system of exchange between member states represented a promising way forward.

A short debate on biofuels followed. I used the opportunity to highlight the key findings of the Gallagher review. There was a discussion on the perceived link between the increased use of biofuels and food prices. It was emphasised that the 10 per cent objective in the draft directive is for the use of renewable energy in transport, and not a 10 per cent share of biofuel in transport fuel by 2020; so electric vehicles could also play a part in achieving this target. Several member states agreed that the proposed sustainability regime proposed for biofuels should be more demanding in order to ensure genuine sustainability of biofuels and highlighted the importance of the availability of second generation biofuels in this regard.

Earlier we had a debate on energy efficiency with representatives of NGOs, business and MEPs. There were several presentations on what individual MSs were doing domestically (I spoke about the UK’s carbon reduction commitment scheme) and a general agreement that more effort had to be put into energy efficiency both at national and EU level.

Immigration: Securing the UK Border

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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Today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) and I are announcing the final stage of the UK’s first global review of visa regimes.

Britain thrives as a society and economy which is open for business and tourism to people from around the world, but only on the basis that there are clear and effective ways to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate travellers. This year we will introduce some of the biggest ever changes to strengthen Britain’s border security as we complete implementation of a system of triple checks: stronger overseas checks and wider pre-arrival screening; tougher checks at the UK border itself; and strong new measures within the UK—against illegal immigration, organised crime and other threats.

We believe our tough checks abroad, working with foreign Governments, are among the most important. Overseas controls start with fingerprint visas, pre-arrival watch list checks and officers stationed overseas at key crossing points. As part of these overseas defences, our visa waiver test helps us determine whether our visa regimes are in the right places. The test was announced in March 2007. Travel from every country beyond the European economic area and Switzerland was measured against a range of criteria including illegal immigration, crime and security concerns. The test has been taken forward in close collaboration with other departments across Whitehall. We have now reached the final stage of the test.

Our assessment found that there was a strong case for introducing a visa regime for a number of currently visa-free countries, based on the current level of risk posed to the UK by sufficient numbers of their nationals, or travellers claiming to be such. A visa regime is a simple but very effective immigration, crime and security control measure.

We recognise that we have historic, economic and political ties with the countries being examined; the introduction of a visa regime is a significant step and a decision we do not take lightly. For this reason, we will now enter a period of detailed dialogue with the Governments concerned to examine how risks can be reduced in a way that obviates the need for a visa regime to be introduced. This activity will last for six months. During this period, countries identified will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to put into effect credible and realistic plans, with clear timetables, to reduce the risks to the UK, and begin real implementation of these plans by the end of the dialogue period.

The countries we are working with through the mitigation process are Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Promising and constructive dialogue has already begun with a number of countries, but more is required.

The test also indicated that a number of changes were possible for countries currently with visa status. Over the next six months, we will study the options further to see how the visa process can be more closely calibrated to the risks nationals from these countries pose, with consequent benefits for legitimate travellers.

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We expect the first consequent changes from the test to be introduced in 2009.

The British Government are determined to operate a firm but fair immigration policy. They give a high priority to treating all foreign nationals coming to or present in the UK with dignity and respect, and the highest legal standards. However, they expect all visitors to the UK to play by the rules. The UK will always welcome genuine visitors, whether business, tourist, student or family, but will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the security of the UK.

Judicial Appointments Commission

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The 2007-08 annual report and accounts for the Judicial Appointments Commission will be laid before Parliament today.

I welcome the publication of the second annual report of the Judicial Appointments Commission. The commission plays a vital role in the selection of judges and in making recommendations about judicial appointments to me as Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor.

I am glad that the report reflects the hard work and dedication of the commissioners and staff under the leadership of the chairman, Baroness Prashar. In particular, the report details how the commission has built on the foundations of it first year of operation by reviewing and improving their selection processes as well as striving to encourage a wider pool of applicants.

I look forward to working with the commission in the coming year as it seeks to build on these achievements.

Northern Ireland: Youth Justice Agency

Lord Rooker: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency’s annual report and accounts for 2007-08 in the Libraries of both Houses.

This is the agency’s fifth annual report since its inception on 1 April 2003. It achieved seven of its nine key performance targets and 15 of its 18 development objectives.

Planning: Town Centres

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

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I am today publishing a consultation on proposals to improve Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for town centres (PPS6). Copies of the consultation are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Busy town centres, with a wide range of shops, are vital to communities large and small, rural and urban. For more than a decade, government planning policy has been designed to ensure the vitality and viability of town centres is promoted.

Today, there is more retail development in and around our town centres than at any time during the past 10 years. But we cannot be complacent, particularly in the current economic climate. Evidence shows that there is scope to refine the policy and make it more effective.

In last year’s planning White Paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future,the Government committed to consulting on changes to PPS6. In this consultation, we are setting out our proposals in detail.

The proposals reinforce the town-centre-first approach to ensure that development continues to take place in town centres and promotes their vitality, viability and character. We will retain the sequential test which requires developers to justify why they cannot build in the centre before they seek to build out of town.

The proposals remove the need test for proposals outside town centres—which has been shown to be a blunt tool—and introduce a new and broader impact test to take better account of economic, social and environmental factors.

The proposals also link design quality and climate change considerations to the impact test, ensuring that developments are better designed and greener.

Alongside these changes, the consultation makes clear that policy will continue to reinforce the principle that development should be accessible by a range of transport modes; that it should promote greater consumer choice and retail diversity; and, that it should encourage investment and job creation in disadvantaged areas.

Our amendments do not include any specific policy proposals for taking forward the proposed planning competition test for large grocery stores which was recommended by the Competition Commission in its final report on The supply of groceries in the UK market investigation (April 2008). The Government will be responding separately on this shortly.

The proposed changes I am setting out today will play a part in helping our town centres thrive for years to come. I welcome comments by 3 October 2008.

Prisons: Offender Compact

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I wish to update the House on the compact with offenders announced in the prison policy update paper of January 2008 and Written Ministerial Statement of 31 January (Official Report, col. 37WS). The compacts I propose will emphasise the need for offenders to accept the responsibilities of their sentence, in return for which they may be entitled to some benefits during the sentence when the obligations are met. Today, I am

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announcing the commencement of four pilots, with the aim in due course of implementing such compacts across the prison estate and for offenders on community orders.

In order to ensure appropriate behaviour, offenders can earn access to certain privileges, particularly during their time in custody. These advantages must be earned and offenders must take responsibility for their behaviour and take the opportunities for reform offered to them through commitment, hard work, and delivery against the aims of their sentence plans.

The existing incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme in prisons is a fundamental part of achieving this. It categorises offenders according to their behaviour into basic, standard and enhanced level, and these levels directly equate to the earned privileges they then have access to. This has been a valuable policy which has played an important part in securing order and control in prisons. There is now a need to build on this and to ensure that a consistent, firm approach is developed alongside it which sees offenders being required to commit to their own reform.

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