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The statutory legacy is the fixed net sum payable to a surviving spouse or civil partner from the estate of a person dying intestate—that is, without leaving a valid will. If the estate is of sufficient value, the surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to a life interest in one-half of the balance of the remainder once the statutory legacy has been settled. The surviving spouse or civil partner will receive any income generated from the life interest for the rest of his or her life or can choose to convert it into capital. The conversion is calculated by reference to the actuarial tables.

Mental Health: Independent Mental Health Advocates


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

As a result of the Government’s Mental Health Act 2007, from 1 April 2009 statutory access to an independent mental health advocate (IMHA) will be available to qualifying patients in England under the Mental Health Act 1983. IMHAs will help patients to understand the way in which the Mental Health Act applies to them and what can and cannot be done as a result. They will also help patients to understand their rights under the Act and support them in exercising those rights.

At the end of last year, the department consulted on draft regulations in relation to IMHA services. In doing so, we specifically sought views on who should commission IMHA services locally. It was clear from responses to the public consultation exercise that there were conflicting views on who should commission and provide advocacy services.

Having carefully considered these responses, the Government have decided that primary care trusts (PCTs) will be responsible for commissioning IMHA services, although to ensure local flexibility we intend to allow them to exercise their duty with other PCTs and to include commissioning of IMHA services within the scope of partnership arrangements with local social services authorities under Section 75 of the National Health Service Act 2006.

I have laid regulations today to direct PCTs to commission IMHA services and set appointment requirements for IMHAs. Comprehensive commissioning guidance will be published shortly, to assist PCTs in meeting their statutory duty. The PCTs’ new duty has been reflected in PCT baseline allocations for 2009-10 and 2010-11.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Health, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for Justice and I wish to alert the House to new checks that have uncovered a problem with payments to an estimated 5 per cent of public service pensioners paid, by successive Administrations dating back as much as 30 years, by the NHS, teachers, Armed Forces, judicial and Civil Service pension schemes, as a result of the incorrect indexation of an element known as the guaranteed minimum pension or GMP.

The problem dates back to 1978, when public service occupational pension schemes contracted out of the state earnings-related pensions scheme (SERPS). As a condition of contracting out, members had a guarantee of a minimum amount of occupational pension. This GMP applied to those who were members of a contracted-out scheme between 1978 and 1997 and who would otherwise have been entitled to SERPS.

Public service pensions are uprated in April each year in line with the retail prices index. The occupational pension scheme pays for all the uprating before state pension is claimed, but thereafter part of the uprating is paid with the state pension, depending on the GMP entitlement.

To enable the correct pension increases to be applied, pension scheme administrators need accurate GMP information derived from the individual’s national insurance contribution record. Our investigations have revealed that in 95 per cent of cases this information is correctly recorded. However, in some cases it is not. In those cases, schemes have paid the annual increase on the full pension each year instead of on an amount adjusted to reflect the GMP entitlement.

The five schemes mentioned are administered by central government departments. Scheme administrators and HMRC have now checked more than 2 million pension records.

An estimated 95,000 people are currently affected across the five schemes. This represents around 5 per cent of the total number of pensioners in those schemes. The total amount of overpayments made by successive Administrations over the 30 years since 1978 to these pensioners is estimated at £126 million. There are separate NHS and teachers schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland and a separate Civil Service scheme in Northern Ireland. Separate statements are being made in respect of these schemes by the Scottish and Northern Ireland Executives today.

The advice of the accounting officers of the five schemes is that it is unlikely to be cost-effective to attempt recovery of these moneys from individuals.

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Correct pension payments will be ordered immediately from April 2009. This means that some pensioners will have their payments reduced and others will see increases in their payments in 2009 that are less than the annual inflation uprating.

Scheme administrators for the five schemes mentioned have written to all those pensioners affected and will write again with full details in the new year. Helplines to respond to their questions and concerns have been set up and advice and guidance have been placed on scheme websites. Support will include advising people to inquire what additional state benefits they may be entitled to.

The causes of the overpayments have been investigated by the pension scheme administrators, HMRC and DWP. There is no single cause. I have asked the National Audit Office to carry out a review of the end-to-end process to pinpoint accountabilities, and the House will be updated further.

Transport: Buses


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report on 24 November announced that, following consultation earlier this year, the Government will be introducing changes to the Department for Transport’s bus service operators grant (BSOG) to incentivise the use of low-carbon buses and buses with smartcard and global positioning systems and that we will be challenging the industry to improve its fuel efficiency. I am now announcing further details of these and a number of other measures and the steps that we are taking to implement them in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders. A summary of the responses to our consultation document Local Bus Service SupportOptions for Reform is today being placed on the department’s website and in the House Libraries.

An important element of the measures is a change to the present arrangement under which changes in the rate of fuel duty are matched by changes in BSOG rates. Given the challenge of the Climate Change Act to reduce UK carbon emissions, automatic uprating of BSOG is no longer appropriate. It is important, however, to give bus operators time to adjust to this change and to put in place action to improve fuel efficiency.

Accordingly, I have decided that BSOG rates in England should be increased to match the 2p increase in fuel duty that was implemented on 1 December. There will then be no further increases in BSOG rates that will apply automatically to all claimants of the grant. Instead, in April 2010 BSOG rates will be uprated for those operators that have achieved an improvement in fuel efficiency equivalent to 3 per cent per annum for each of the two previous years; we will be reviewing the figure annually to consider the scope for increasing the efficiency requirements. This is an

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achievable target, as has been shown by studies into the improvements in fuel efficiency that can be brought about by improved driving techniques. Final arrangements on this (and on the measures below) will follow detailed discussions between officials and the bus industry.

The other measures that we will be taking forward in discussion with stakeholders will be:

introduction of incentives in the form of differential BSOG rates, or a distance-based subsidy, for use of low-carbon buses; we aim to bring these in as soon as possible, ideally in 2009, but final decisions need to take account of detailed discussions with stakeholders;a review by 2011 with the intent of using a fuel efficiency cap or differential rates of BSOG in the future to further incentivise a switch to lower-emission vehicles delivering at least Euro V emission standards, especially as the challenge of meeting air quality targets in the future may have a carbon penalty;introduction from April 2010 of incentives in the form of differential BSOG rates for buses equipped with smartcard readers and GPS systems; we will discuss how these requirements can best be certified or audited with stakeholders, and will want to explore the provision of resulting data to help in compiling national statistics; replacement of BSOG for operators in the Transport for London (TfL) contracted network by payment of an equivalent sum passed direct to TfL; officials have been discussing the details of this with TfL and I intend to introduce this change as soon as practical;as with London, BSOG funding would be devolved where a quality contract (franchising) is in place outside London;funding of a SAFED (safe and fuel efficient driving) demonstration project to encourage fuel efficient driving in the bus and coach sector; and, establishment of a working group with stakeholders to discuss details of the implementation of these measures and to take forward consideration, as envisaged in the consultation document, of these and longer-term options for changes to bus subsidies, including a possible change to a per passenger basis and further consideration of the scope for an emissions-based tiered approach to payments; we will be working closely with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in taking these measures forward.

I have decided, given the potential impact on the industry’s cash flow, not to take forward the proposal in the consultation document that BSOG should be changed to a payment-in-arrears basis.

Further announcements on the details of changes will be made as our discussions with stakeholders and other departments progress.

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Transport: Freight


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

Today the Department for Transport is publishing Delivering a Sustainable Transport SystemThe Logistics Perspective.

In the UK, we are fortunate to have a world-leading logistics industry. However, with many businesses relying on just-in-time methods, the success of our economy depends on the effective and predictable movement of goods.

The Logistics Perspective publication provides the Government’s first detailed analysis of the movement of major freight commodities on the strategic national corridors, while setting out our understanding of the issues affecting each freight mode. It also considers how we can work with industry to facilitate effective freight movement while mitigating its environmental and social impact.

As part of this consideration, the document commits to a study into the potential effects of an increase of up to 2 metres in the length of articulated vehicle trailers. The study will consider whether there are clear benefits in changing the permitted length to reduce the number of lorries on roads taking into account freight demand and the interaction between road, rail and water transport.

The Logistics Perspective marks the next milestone in the Government’s transport strategy following our November 2008 Delivering a Sustainable Transport System document, which identified the UK’s strategic national corridors.

A copy of Delivering a Sustainable Transport SystemThe Logistics Perspective has been placed in the Library of the House.

UK Border Agency: CAC Report


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

I am pleased to announce that the independent Complaints Audit Committee (CAC) annual report for the year 2007 to 2008 has been published today. The UK Border Agency’s response to this report will be published in two days’ time, on 18 December. Copies of both reports will be placed in the House Library and on the Home Office website from the respective dates of publication.

This is the CAC’s 14th and final report. Its role has been to monitor the effectiveness of the agency’s procedures for handling complaints and this report

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provides details of its findings. The agency response provides full details of the positive action taken on the recommendations made by the CAC and highlights

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the significant improvements that have been made to the complaints system over the past year, as well as continuing work to further improve performance.

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