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30 Mar 2009 : Column WS55

Written Statements

Monday 30 March 2009

Agriculture: Animal Health

Statement

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing publication of a consultation document inviting views on the Government’s proposals to establish a new independent body for animal health in England.

No one wants animal disease outbreaks, with the resultant suffering or even death of the animals affected and the lost production and income for their owners. Some animal diseases can also pose a threat to public health.

Owners and keepers of animals have the primary responsibility for the health of their own animals and preventing the risk of any diseases they incur spreading to other animals or into the food chain. But preventing, controlling and eradicating some diseases often requires government action which can disrupt normal business (particularly in the livestock sector) and interfere with people’s everyday lives. These measures can be costly for the Government to implement and costly to those affected. They are justified by the benefit of avoiding the greater impact and costs from the diseases themselves.

Some of these benefits are gained by taxpayers generally (through protection of public health). But in many cases (such as foot and mouth disease or bluetongue) the main benefits are to the owners of the livestock that might otherwise become infected.

Much of the livestock industry has called publicly for changes in the way animal health policies are determined. The Government have been discussing many of these issues with industry since Sir Iain Anderson’s inquiry into the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. Following the Government’s consultation document published in December 2007, policy options have been discussed with stakeholders and in the UK Responsibility and Cost Sharing Consultative Forum, which concluded its deliberations in July this year. These proposals build on the outcomes of this engagement with stakeholders and have benefited from the constructive challenge of the England Implementation Group.

The Government are seeking views on two fundamental changes to modernise the governance and funding of animal health policy: first, the establishment of a separate body for animal health in England run by an independent non-executive board including knowledge and experience from across the spectrum of interests in animal health; and secondly, a levy raised from livestock keepers according to the numbers and type of animals kept.



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The proposed new body will provide greater transparency in decision-making and increase confidence in the resultant policies. The body will continue to receive public funding for the bulk of its activities. The levy will be used to contribute to the costs of preparing for, and dealing with, exotic disease outbreaks. Those who gain from the eradication of these diseases will help pay for the costs of doing so, as Sir Iain Anderson recommended.

In setting up a new framework it is important to retain and build on the strengths of the current system. These include the effective protection of public health in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health; the partnership working with industry already developed, for example in tackling bluetongue; the veterinary and scientific expertise in Defra and its agencies; and the delivery capability of the Animal Health Executive Agency, as well as close co-operation with the devolved Administrations.

The fundamental changes proposed will require primary legislation. In the light of responses to this consultation the Government intend to prepare a draft Bill for consultation and scrutiny.

The consultation document sets out our proposals in greater detail and is accompanied by a partial impact assessment. But there is much still to be decided. Views and comments are invited to help develop these ahead of draft legislation.

These proposals should establish a governance and funding structure for tackling animal diseases that helps to reduce the risks and costs, creates confidence in the policies decided and ensures those who benefit share the costs with taxpayers.

This consultation concerns England although it is proposed that the new organisation will take on the UK and GB responsibilities currently undertaken by Defra. I intend to continue discussions with ministerial colleagues in other parts of the UK to ensure continued co-operation and co-ordination on animal disease policies.

Aviation: Royal and Ministerial Air Travel

Statement

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.

Further to the Written Ministerial Statement on royal and ministerial air transport laid by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport on the 26 March 2008 (WS 11-12), work has been carried out to explore solutions for non-scheduled and dedicated flights to support the Queen and members of the Royal Family in their official duties. Pending the finalisation of this work the Ministry of Defence has agreed that 32 (The Royal) Squadron will provide continued support to the Royal Family until 1 April 2010.



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Colombia

Statement

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK Government’s work in Colombia makes a significant and positive impact. To make it more effective and relevant, we are changing the way we deliver our objectives. I wish to inform the House of these changes.

Colombia’s strengths and progress over recent years are being undermined by continuing problems of abuse of human rights, poverty and inequality, impunity and the drugs trade. The Colombian people do not want conflict. Illegal armed, terrorist and guerrilla groups continue to kill and abuse, and have no place in a democratic society. We support the Colombian Government’s determination to tackle these groups in accordance with international humanitarian law, including addressing the drugs trade that causes significant health, social and environmental harm to both of our countries.

Our policy needs to take full account of these challenges. We have therefore reviewed and are reprioritising what we are doing in Colombia. The changes we are making will give new focus to the UK’s contribution to peace, prosperity and justice for Colombia’s people, to the mutual benefit of both our countries.

Counternarcotics

We will continue our important counternarcotics work in Colombia, including supporting projects totalling over £900,000 of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime in Bogota. Our capacity building work in Colombia is helping to bring down trafficking networks, put those involved in jail, seize cocaine destined for the UK, disrupt traffickers’ financing networks, and seize the proceeds of their crimes. It is vital that we continue it.

Impunity

We will make tackling impunity a priority, and have allocated £250,000 for the next financial year for projects in this area implemented by the UK and other partners. Too many people in Colombia commit crimes without fear of justice or punishment, and our work will aim to help the Colombian criminal justice system develop its ability to tackle impunity.

Human rights and humanitarian demining engagement with the Colombian Armed Forces

We have achieved our objective of helping the Colombian Government develop a road map to promote their military’s adherence to international humanitarian law. The Government share the concerns of many in the House that there are officers and soldiers of the Colombian Armed Forces who have been involved in, or allowed, abuses. The challenge for the Colombian Government is to ensure the strategic human rights principles we have helped to promote are embedded and consistently practised by all members of their armed services. We will continue to offer our political, and, where possible, financial and practical support to UN projects that aim to help promote human rights

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adherence within the Colombian armed forces. Our bilateral human rights projects with the Colombian Ministry of Defence will cease.

The UK’s humanitarian demining training has contributed significantly to the removal of the landmines that kill and maim innocent Colombians. We now plan to integrate this work more fully with that of international governmental and non-governmental partners.

Human rights and promoting civil society

We will continue our work on strengthening human rights, promoting civil society and supporting human rights defenders. We support a large number of projects in areas such as freedom of speech, democracy and tackling discrimination. For example, we have recently supported a UN project to improve criminal prosecution of sexual crimes committed against women and girls, and we are working with journalists in Colombia to improve capacity for investigative journalism in conflict and peace issues. Projects already approved for the next financial year and beyond total almost £1 million, and a further £170,000 is to be allocated for human rights projects. With British trade union partners, we will continue to look at ways in which the UK can promote labour relations in Colombia. The Department for International Development’s (DfID) Latin America partnership programme arrangement, worth £13 million per year for the region, will also focus on promoting more accountable public and political systems, HIV and AIDS, climate change and giving poor and marginalised people a greater voice. DfID also provides substantial contributions to the European Commission and international financial institutions’ aid programmes in Colombia—in 2007-08 this totalled £3.1 million.

Working with EU and other partners, we will continue to encourage a stronger relationship between the Colombian Government and civil society. Our staff in Colombia meet with many who have received threats, and will continue to do so.

Our ongoing work in Colombia on other issues, including addressing climate change (where our regional projects that include Colombia total £900,000) and promoting trade and investment, will continue.

Community Infrastructure Fund

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Margaret Beckett) made the following Written Ministerial Statement on Friday 27 March 2009.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) and I are today announcing £170 million of capital support from the Community Infrastructure Fund for 29 transport projects in the growth areas and growth points that will help to unlock housing, and a further 26 projects that are being invited to submit full business cases for further consideration.



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The housing market is experiencing significant challenges as a result of turbulence in the global financial markets. The growth areas and growth points are playing a critical role in helping us to meet these challenges, with plans to build 35 per cent above previously planned levels. But if the infrastructure support for these new homes is not in place, their construction will be delayed when we need them most, hampering the economy’s recovery. This means we need to be investing today in tomorrow’s infrastructure. The long-term challenge to meet the housing needs of an ageing, growing population, while helping families and first-time buyers priced out of the property market, remains. The Government are committed to promoting the long-term stability of the housing market and meeting the long-term challenge of increasing housing supply.

The Community Infrastructure Fund is one of Government’s key mechanisms for supporting housing growth. As a joint Communities and Local Government and Department for Transport fund, it is designed to specifically support small and medium-scale transport schemes that unlock housing growth; £100 million has already been allocated to 13 schemes in the Thames Gateway. A further £200 million has been ring-fenced to support the growth areas and growth points over the CSR07 period.

Today’s announcement allocates £170 million of this for 29 transport schemes in the growth areas and growth points that will support the delivery in housing growth over the next two years. The list projects include:

new public transport facilities, such as the new south-east Hampshire bus rapid transit scheme;new road and junction improvements, such as the improvements to the Southgate area of King’s Lynn which will support the development of 900 new homes;innovative transport solutions that will ensure smoother traffic flows and reduced congestion such as the A14 ramp metering scheme in Kettering and the urban traffic management scheme in Aylesbury; andschemes to improve sustainability, such as the Wichestowe pedestrian and cycle bridge which will provide a sustainable means for the new development at Wichelstowe to access the town centre in Swindon.

Another 26 schemes from the second round growth points have been shortlisted to submit full business cases for consideration for a further £30 million from the Community Infrastructure Fund together with any remaining funding from the first round. This includes projects to provide a new rail station at Chorley, new cycling facilities at Ellesmere Port and road improvements to service high-frequency bus services in Newcastle.

The Community Infrastructure Fund is being managed on behalf of the Government by the Homes and Communities Agency. This funding is in addition to the £833 million already provided to the growth areas and growth points from the growth fund over the CSR07 period.

Further details of the schemes that have been allocated funding have been placed in the Library of the House.



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Court and Tribunal Costs

Statement

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The policy of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise on coming to arrangements about costs (in the context of High Court cases) was set out on 12 March 1980 by Mr Peter Rees (then Minister of State at the Treasury).

This Statement updates that policy in relation to cases which will be considered in the tax chamber of the first-tier tribunal, or the finance and tax chamber of the upper tribunal, after 1 April 2009 following the changes made under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

The general rule in the appeal courts is that the losing party risks having to pay the other side's costs, and I do not think it would be right to treat tax cases differently as a matter of course.

However, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) exercise their discretion and are willing in appropriate circumstances, and in particular where it is they who are appealing against an adverse decision, to consider waiving any claim to costs in cases before the upper tribunal or the appeal courts, or to consider making other arrangements (this may also extend to cases before the first-tier tribunal).

In the minority of cases categorised as complex, where costs can be awarded in the tax chamber of the first-tier tribunal other than for unreasonable behaviour, the appellant can ensure that there is no risk of them bearing HMRC's costs by opting for the costs rules not to apply.

In considering the exercise of HMRC's discretion, influential factors include the risk of financial hardship to the other party, the involvement of a point of law the clarification of which would be of significant benefit to taxpayers as a whole and the efficient collection and management of revenue for which HMRC has responsibility.

If HMRC is to come to an arrangement of this nature, it would expect to do so in advance of the hearing and following an approach by the taxpayer involved.

Courts Service: Key Performance Indicators

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The following list of key performance indicators has been set for Her Majesty’s Courts Service for 2009-10.



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To commence 78 per cent of cases within the following timescales in the Crown Court:

defendants’ cases that are sent for trial within 26 weeks of sending;defendants’ committal for trial cases within 16 weeks of committal;appeals within 14 weeks of the appeal being lodged; andcommittals for sentence within 10 weeks of committal.

To speed up criminal cases in the magistrates’ courts so that, for charged cases, the average time from charge to disposal is less than six weeks.

Time taken to produce and send court results to the police:

95 per cent of court registers produced and dispatched within three working days; and100 per cent of court registers produced and dispatched within six working days.

To achieve an 85 per cent payment rate for financial penalties in the magistrates’ courts.

For 60 per cent of all breached community penalties to be resolved within 25 working days of the relevant failure to comply.

To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed otherwise than by court hearing to 65 per cent.

To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed (from receipt to final hearing) within 30 weeks to at least 70 per cent.

To increase the amount of civil work initiated online—65 per cent of eligible possession claims through PCOL and 75 per cent of specified money claims through MCOL and via the Claims Production Centre.

To ensure that 48 per cent of care and supervision cases in the county court and 56 per cent in the magistrates’ court are completed within 40 weeks.

To maintain the “very satisfied” element of the HMCS court user satisfaction survey at or above the 2007-08 baseline of 41 per cent.

More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the HM Courts Service business plan for 2009-10. Copies of the business plan for 2009-10 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Health: Adult Social Care

Statement

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.

Today I am publishing a consultation document, which is the latest stage in the development of the new system we are introducing for the regulation of health and adult social care.



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The publication, Response to Consultation on the Framework forthe Registration of Health and Adult Social Care Providers and Consultation on Draft Regulations, sets out our response to our previous consultation, The Future Regulation of Health and Adult Social Care in England: A Consultation on the Framework for the Regulation of Health and Adult Social Care. It describes the new registration framework for the new Care Quality Commission, to be introduced from April 2010. It also launches a new consultation on the content of the draft regulations.

From 1 April 2009, the Care Quality Commission will take over from the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.

For 2009-10, the new commission will continue to regulate adult social care and private and voluntary healthcare under the terms of the Care Standards Act 2000. Also in 2009-10, it will regulate National Health Service providers against regulations made under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (the 2008 Act) relating to healthcare-associated infections, which were recently approved by Parliament.


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