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15 July 2008 : Column WS57

15 July 2008 : Column WS57

Written Statements

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Correction to Commons Written Answer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

It has been brought to my attention that the reply I gave the honourable Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, on 5 June 2008 (Official Report, Commons, col. 1094W) contained incorrect information on the number of incidents of benefit fraud reported to the benefit fraud hotline. I apologise for this oversight.

The correct Answer should have been:

Information is not available broken down by benefit type. The available information is in the table.

Benefit Fraud Hotline Reports by Type, Great Britain

No of calls received






Internet Referrals












Source: National Benefit Fraud Hotline

Crime: Youth Crime Action Plan

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.

The Government have today published the Youth Crime Action Plan, the first ever cross-government plan for dealing with the full range of issues around youth crime. The plan focuses on three key areas: tough enforcement where behaviour is unacceptable or illegal; more non-negotiable support to address the underlying causes of poor behaviour, including more parenting orders and the new youth rehabilitation order. That can require young people to attend education, go to an attendance centre for group work or undertake treatment for drug and substance abuse and better prevention to tackle problems before they become serious or entrenched.

The plan sets out the Government's aim is to reduce by one-fifth the rate of young people aged 10 to 17 entering the criminal justice system by 2020, and introduces a new national goal to reduce substantially the number of young victims by 2020. The plan builds on the Government's existing investment to support children, young people and families, with almost £100 million available over the next three years under the youth crime action plan for measures to cut youth crime in the short term and prevent it in the long term.

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Copies of the action plan are available in the House Library, the Printed Paper Office and on the Home Office website at

Ministry of Defence: Complex Weapons

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.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Ministry of Defence has concluded a teaming agreement with the industrial grouping known as Team CW1 to take forward, to the next stage, the Government's intentions for the UK complex weapons sector. This agreement is underpinned by enabling contracts which we have placed with MBDA (UK) Ltd and Thales UK which, with the teaming agreement, will launch the assessment phase for the initiative as a whole and undertake specific concept and assessment work on six complex weapons programmes2.

The assessment phase will assess further our ability to enter into a partnering arrangement and, through the programme activity, test an innovative way of developing weapons to meet the UK's military requirements, including the use of modularity and families of weapons. The teaming agreement, which has been signed by all of the Team CW partners, including the Ministry of Defence, links the two enabling contracts and formalises the governance arrangements for the duration of the assessment phase.

If successful, it is expected that the technologies developed to meet these initial military requirements will be adapted to meet the majority of our future weapons needs.

This approach has the potential to offer a greater level of capability to the front line while achieving value for money for the taxpayer and maintaining UK operational sovereignty over our complex weapons.

Pension, Disability and Carers Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions Reform (Mike O’Brien) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the 2008-09 business plan for the Pension, Disability and Carers Service, an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions, has been published today.

The annual performance targets for the Pension, Disability and Carers Service in 2008-09 were previously published on 27 March 2008. Further information on these targets is contained within the business plan, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

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Prison Service: Medal

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

Her Majesty the Queen has graciously given her approval for the introduction of a prison long-service and good conduct medal. This medal will be awarded to operational staff in the UK prison services on completion of 20 years of continuous meritorious service and brings operational prison staff in line with other comparable organisations such as the police, fire service, ambulance service and the military, as well as other prison/correctional services within the Commonwealth. Prison officers do a difficult and dangerous job and it is right that they will in future receive public recognition for this vital work.

Public Services Forum

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office (Tom Watson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As chair of the Public Services Forum (PSF) I have today placed in the Library of the House a new Joint Statement on Access to Skills, Trade Unions and Advice in Government Contracting developed by the PSF. This joint statement was developed in partnership by Government, trade unions, business and the third sector and its aim is to improve the quality of services delivered under government contracts by raising the skills of employees working on these contracts.

For the UK to compete in the modern global economy, a world-class skills base is needed. Government have set a challenging target to ensure almost all adults (95 per cent) have basic literacy and numeracy skills by 2020. It is important for Government to lead by example in making progress on this agenda, and to provide a framework for social partners to do the same. This joint statement will give many of those who work on government contracts the opportunity to develop their basic skills where needed. This will have benefits for those who use public services, for the individual employee and for the employer.

Railways: Franchise Enforcement Policy

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Department for Transport has today published the results from a consultation paper on rail franchise, Enforcement Policy: Rail Franchise Agreements and Closure Conditions. The document summarises the responses received to the consultation document together with the outcomes stated by the department. The policy document details the department's stepped and pragmatic approach to enforcement. It also contains a statement of policy with respect to the imposition of penalties and the determination of their amount, which the department has a legal obligation to consult on.

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The purpose of the publication of the results is to provide transparency to the department's current policy and to ensure that it is easily understood. We acknowledge and welcome the input provided by and the rail industry. It is available on the DfT's website. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

Regional Spatial Strategies

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

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities is today publishing the North East of England Plan, which is the final version of the north-east regional spatial strategy. This is the latest in a series of comprehensive reviews of regional spatial strategies to be completed under the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

The plan reflects consideration of responses to the consultations on the Secretary of State's proposed changes and further proposed changes which followed on from the independent examination in public carried out into the draft strategy in 2006.

The north-east plan replaces the existing regional planning guidance (RPG1) which became the statutory RSS in September 2004, and the submission draft revision to that document called View: Shaping the North East, which was published by the North East Assembly in June 2005.

Some 130 people and organisations responded to the latest round of consultation which ended on 2 April 2008. Almost 1,300 representations were received with many of them expressions of support.

Careful consideration has been given to all of these responses and, as is required under appropriate legislation, a sustainability appraisal, a strategic environmental assessment and a habitats regulations assessment have been prepared and updated to help the plan deliver sustainable development.

The aim of the plan is to guide development in the north-east to 2021 and also to set the direction of travel in the longer term. Key elements of the plan include:

A requirement for 128,900 net new dwellings to be built between 2004-21 (about 7,600 dwellings per annum). This level of growth can be achieved within RSS previously developed land targets and the overall direction of the strategy which focuses development within the conurbations of the Tyne and Wear and Tees Valley City regions, and includes a rural allocation appropriate to supporting sustainable rural communities.A regional employment land portfolio (of about 3,400 hectares) and a suite of key employment locations which provide sufficient land to enable sustainable economic growth in the region, with appropriate policy criteria to ensure developments address wider sustainability issues including sustainable energy, transport and environmental protection.

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A table of transport outcomes and related investment and management priorities using information on known commitments and schemes which have a real possibility of progressing.A climate change policy requiring other strategies and plans contribute to meeting national policy as set out in the energy White Paper to put ourselves on a path to cutting the UK's carbon dioxide emissions by some 60 per cent by about 2050, with real progress by 2020.A sustainable energy policy requiring major new developments secure at least 10 per cent of their energy supply from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon sources where feasible and viable, ahead of local planning authorities setting their own targets.Policies for sustainable waste management and minerals aggregates provision.Policies for protecting and enhancing the built and natural environment, on matters including design quality, the historic environment, landscape and bio-diversity.

The plan represents a step change in addressing housing need in the north-east and goes a long way to achieving what is likely to be required in the longer term to meet the Government’s housing Green Paper target.

Copies of the North East of England Plan and the supporting documents will be available in the Libraries of both Houses, are being sent to the region’s MPs and MEPs and will be available in local libraries and local planning authorities. They are also on the GONE website at and can be purchased from The Stationery Office (TSO) either online at or at TSO shops.

Turks and Caicos Islands

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.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, in its report Overseas Territories, published on 6 July, recommended among other things the appointment of a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

I wish to inform the House that on 10 July the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands announced the appointment of a commission of inquiry. The commission will inquire into whether there is information that corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected Members of the House of Assembly (previously known as the Legislative Council) may have taken place in recent years. It is to report to the governor within 16 weeks its preliminary findings and recommendations concerning:

instigating criminal investigations by the police or otherwise;any indications of systemic weaknesses in legislation, regulation and administration;

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any recommendation that the inquiry's terms of reference be extended; andany other matters relating thereto.

The commission will be led by the right honourable Sir Robin Auld. He is undertaking a short initial visit to the territory from 13 to 16 July followed by a period of preparation in the UK leading to his main visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands in September/ October. He will submit the preliminary report and recommendations to the governor by 3 November.

The commission will conduct such parts of its inquiry as it deems appropriate in camera, in the interests of confidentiality. In addition, the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance provides that anyone who attempts to interfere with this process is liable, on conviction, to a fine, imprisonment, or both. The commission also has powers to summon any person in Turks and Caicos Islands to attend to give evidence.

In addition, a number of important steps have recently been taken or are currently under way to reduce the scope for corruption and to improve capacity in the Turks and Caicos Islands to deal with it should it occur. These include the establishment of an Integrity Commission, a Human Rights Commission, a Complaints Commissioner, a Ministerial Code, a Public Service Code of Ethics and Integrity and the appointment of a highly experienced Chief Auditor, and the adoption of a comprehensive Proceeds of Crime Ordinance.

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