Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

16 July 2009 : Column WS101

Written Statements

Thursday 16 July 2009

Air Travel Organisers' Licensing


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) system provides financial protection to those taking flight-inclusive package holidays overseas. It ensures that, in the event of a tour operator becoming insolvent, consumers already abroad can complete their holidays and be returned to the UK and those who have paid for their holidays but have not yet departed will receive a full refund. It is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The failure of XL Leisure Group in September 2008 and the effects of the recession have caused serious financial difficulties for the Air Travel Trust Fund (ATTF), which meets the insolvency protection costs of the ATOL scheme. To help to address this, between April and June this year the CAA consulted on possible increases to the ATOL protection contribution (APC) paid by travel companies to the ATTF. The consultation looked at a range of possible increases to the current charge of £1 per passenger to between £2.50 and £3.50 per passenger.

Following the consultation, the CAA provided advice to the Secretary of State recommending that the APC be increased from £1 to £2.50 per passenger with effect from 1 October 2009. After careful consideration, I have decided to approve the recommended increase. I am aware of the extra burden that this will place on travel companies and consumers at difficult times, which is why I have agreed to an increase at the bottom of the range consulted on by the CAA. I believe that this strikes the right balance between ensuring the future financial stability of the ATTF and keeping additional burdens on travel companies and consumers as low as practicable. I believe that £2.50 for the protection that ATOL provides represents a good deal for consumers-it is cheaper than stand-alone airline failure insurance and represents less than 0.5 per cent of the average ATOL holiday price. The CAA intends to review the rate of the APC before the ATTF moves into surplus, projected to be by the spring of 2012.

The increased APC will allow the ATTF access to additional commercial credit facilities, which will benefit from an increased and extended government guarantee that the Government have agreed to in principle. The Government also intend to consult on reforms to the ATOL system in the autumn to make it fairer and more understandable for consumers. A copy of CAA's advice to the Secretary of State and a summary of consultation responses will be placed in the House Library.

16 July 2009 : Column WS102

Animal Products: Review of Controls


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Food, Farming and the Environment (Mr Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As required under the Animal Health Act 1981 (as amended by the Animal Health Act 2002) the Government will publish today a review of controls on the import of animal products for the financial year 2008-09. I welcome the opportunity to review and report on efforts during the past year to reduce the risk of disease entering the country via imports of animal products.

The control of imports of animal products remains a major concern for the Government as we fully appreciate the devastating effect that disease outbreaks can have on our farming of livestock and crops and on the environment and, in trying to protect animal health, we know how important it is to take a variety of measures at the border and inland. It has once again been a challenging year in monitoring the constantly changing disease situation around the world and evaluating and responding to threats. We continue to ensure that veterinary checks are carried out on legally imported animal products from non-European Union (EU) countries and work closely with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)/United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) and other relevant government departments to combat the risk of major diseases entering the country through illegal imports from outside the EU.

UKBA continues to deliver an enforcement strategy that targets anti-smuggling activity on the highest risk traffic to combat illegal imports of animal products into Great Britain and to review deployment of resources and react flexibly in response to changes in the pattern of risk.

There continues to be a joined-up approach across government departments on an overall communications strategy to raise awareness among international travellers of the personal import rules for food, with a great deal of publicity continuing to be undertaken inland within GB, at the border and also overseas.

These are some of the highlights of our working during the year:

EU Veterinary Week in November highlighted the programme of already ongoing work in respect of our cross-government personal imports campaign at border control points, including a stand at Heathrow airport, terminal 3 during the week which had over 5,000 visitors and was covered by BBC Breakfast news;New TV filler "Don't bring me back", produced to support our overall personal imports campaign, has achieved some excellent airtime across a variety of channels with most of the transmissions going out in peak evening viewing time. It has built in value to be one of the top ten fillers of 2008-09. It has also received out of home play in locations such as surgeries and gyms;

16 July 2009 : Column WS103

Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) visit in November 2008-inspectors indicated that the UK has a functioning import control system and recognised further improvements made by the UK.

We will continue to monitor and assess the changing threats from around the world, and work with HMRC/UKBA and other enforcement partners to make sure that our enforcement activity at UK borders is targeted at the current risks.

Copies of the Review are available on the Defra personal food imports website (, and will be sent to stakeholders for information seeking their feedback. Hard copies will also be available on request.

Armed Forces: BORONA Programme


The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 15 May 2008, my predecessor announced that Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC) and its intimate supporting elements would move to Innsworth in Gloucestershire in the summer of 2010 (Official Report, col. 66WS). At that time Cosford in Shropshire was our preferred site for 1 Signal Brigade (1 Sig Bde) and 102 Logistic Brigade (102 Log Bde) and our aim was to close Rhine Garrison and Münster Station by 2015, leaving three enduring garrisons in Germany; Gütersloh, Paderborn and Hohne.

Continuing work on the Defence Training Rationalisation Programme means that Cosford will not be available in time to achieve this aim. The programme team responsible for the moves from Germany to the UK has therefore examined alternative site solutions and today I am announcing that the preferred site for 1 Sig Bde is now Stafford. This decision will need to be confirmed following scrutiny of the detailed plans for the move and the programme team will now focus on drawing up these plans, which will include a competition for the infrastructure and construction requirements at Stafford, with a view to occupation in 2013. The team will continue to consult all interested parties including the local county and borough councils, health and education providers and the trade unions.

I believe this is a positive defence initiative for the area and complements Stafford's growth point status which will enable a joint approach between the Government and the local authorities to support the defence community. Stafford is already the home of 22 Signal Regiment (22 Sig Regt) and moving other elements of 1 Sig Bde (7 and 16 Sig Regts) there provides a synergy that will be important to the department and should also be beneficial to the local community.

Cosford remains our preferred site for 102 Logistic Brigade once the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) moves to St Athan, and on current assumptions we envisage the Logistic Brigade moving in 2016. Cosford is a well found site that has enduring military utility and is designated as a

16 July 2009 : Column WS104

MoD core site. We will continue to consider the other opportunities that Cosford affords us as the need arises.

These changes enable us to keep the closure of Rhine Garrison on track and this is currently envisaged as being in 2014. We would expect Münster Station to close in 2016-17 assuming 102 Log Bde moves to Cosford in 2016.

Armed Forces: Commitment and Support


The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today published a Green Paper The Nation's Commitment to the Armed Forces Community: Consistent and Enduring Support.

Last summer's publication of the Command Paper, The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans, was well received by the services, by veterans groups and by the public at large. We shall be publishing the first annual report in the autumn charting the progress that has been made. This work has already delivered significant improvements in a number of areas:

doubling compensation for the most serious injuries;free further education for service leavers; andhelp for forces leavers to get on the housing ladder.

We said last year that we would not allow this strategy of support to our Armed Forces community to fade. Today's Green Paper sets out the next step in this process. We would like to see an enduring shift in the way in which public bodies think about the Armed Forces community, so that their special circumstances are taken into account at all stages, from policy formation to service delivery. The Command Paper was an important step forward; we must now make permanent the approach which it embodied.

This Green Paper sets out a range of ideas, including through possible legislation, for how we can achieve this. It focuses on two strands: making the principles enshrined within the Command Paper consistent and enduring, and providing a new route for recourse.

The ideas are intentionally broad and wide ranging. There is no single favoured option at this stage. We want to explore these ideas through a public consultation, where everyone can have their say about the best way forward. The responses received will allow us to make informed, collective decisions on how best to take this work forward and deliver real and lasting effect for the Armed Forces community.

Where the options relate to devolved matters in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales we will work with the devolved Administrations who are responsible for a number of areas such as health, housing, education, skills and transport in determining how best to take forward the principles of achieving equal or similar levels of support for the Armed Forces community. In

16 July 2009 : Column WS105

these areas the devolved Administrations will wish to consider the responses to this consultation in respect of devolved matters and determine a way forward that is appropriate for them, in consultation with their strategic partners. The UK Government will work with them to deliver a solution which supports the Armed Forces community across the UK.

Those who serve on our behalf place all that they have on the line for this country. In return, the nation has a commitment to make sure that they have the support they need and deserve, when they need it. The consultation period will complete on 31 October 2009.

Armed Forces: Defence Estate Development


The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the department has published the Defence Estate Development Plan (DEDP) 2009-the first annual update of this vital internal planning document. The updated plan is evolutionary in nature and reflects the department's consistent estate priorities. DEDP 09 sets out the authoritative framework, looking forward to 2030, for the coherent development of the estate to meet the future needs of defence, and the priorities for investment and rationalisation arising from it. It also informs our programme of engagement with the regions, which underpins the successful delivery of many of our estate programmes.

The key changes are evolutionary in nature and include, among others, cross-government support to the Armed Forces as set out in The Nation's Commitment, and revised targets for improving living accommodation for our people. Other changes reflect specific investment and basing decisions that support the generation of sustainable military capability.

I have placed a copy of the plan in the House of Commons Library. The document will also be widely circulated to external stakeholders and will be published on the internet.

Banking: Corporate Governance


The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary (Sarah McCarthy-Fry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government strongly welcome the publication today of the consultation document of Sir David Walker's independent review of the corporate governance of UK banks and other financial institutions.

Corporate governance failures were a major contributor to the financial crisis and the weaknesses in board practice, risk management, control of remuneration and exercise of ownership rights identified must be addressed.

16 July 2009 : Column WS106

Sir David's proposals are detailed and comprehensive, setting a new benchmark for best practice both nationally and internationally.

The Government will carefully consider his proposals, including their wider and international implications, and in conjunction with the views arising from the consultation, make sure that robust measures are put in place.

Copies of the consultation have been deposited in the Libraries of the House.

Cabinet Office: Annual Report and Accounts


The Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business (Baroness Vadera): My right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office (Tessa Jowell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today, the Cabinet Office's annual report and accounts 2008-09 (HC 442) have been laid before Parliament.

The annual report and accounts report a loss and a contingent asset following the termination of phase 2 of the SCOPE programme in July 2008.

The SCOPE programme was an information technology programme working with 10 partners across government. It aimed to extend the benefits of communication and collaborative working afforded by current information technology by improving the way sensitive information was shared between and used by the security and intelligence agencies and government departments.

The first phase of the programme was delivered on time and within budget in 2007. It has delivered extremely valuable benefits to the intelligence community in government and has ensured that all its constituent members are now connected electronically.

Phase 2 was about providing additional functionality; for example, to allow for greater collaborative working between the security and intelligence agencies and departments.

Phase 2 of the programme was cancelled following the failure of the main commercial supplier to the programme to meet key contractual milestones. As a consequence of termination, it was necessary to write off and report as a loss in the annual report and accounts that part of the value of the asset under construction which had no prospect of becoming viable.

The Treasury has approved a write-off of £24.4 million which has been managed within the department's net resource requirement and budget and constitutes a charge against non-cash programme expenditure in the resource departmental expenditure limit.

My department is now working with the contractor to resolve issues arising from the termination of the programme, including consideration of the legal avenues available. The aim of the work is to ensure that Her Majesty's Government and, ultimately, the taxpayer recover the appropriate value from the supplier which relates to those undelivered parts of the programme. This is noted as a contingent asset in the annual report

16 July 2009 : Column WS107

and accounts. The details of the discussions with the supplier are commercially confidential and are likely to remain so.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Payment Scheme


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As at 30 June, the end of the regulatory payment window for the 2008 single payment scheme, a total of £1.625 billion, representing some 99.69 per cent of the estimated total fund had been paid in full payments to 104,199 claimants.

These figures confirm that the agency has helped to ensure that the UK as a whole has met the EU requirement that 96.154 per cent of 2008 scheme payments be made by 30 June. This follows earlier confirmation that the agency had met its formal performance targets for this scheme year.

Reaching these targets continues to demonstrate improvements in RPA's performance and levels of service to its customers and provide another important step forward for the agency.

Of the outstanding 2008 claims on which processing is not complete, approximately 400 are expected to result in a payment in due course. Work continues to complete the necessary validation of those claims as soon as possible. Interest will be paid to claimants on sums paid after 30 June on the same basis as for previous scheme years. The agency will continue to address any cases of individual hardship as sympathetically as possible.

Alongside that work, RPA has already begun processing the 107,000 or so claims that have been submitted under the 2009 SPS. Formal payment targets will be announced separately, but I know the agency chief executive is expecting to at least match RPA performance under the 2008 scheme when nearly £1 billion was paid out by the end of December.

Community Transport: Section 19 Permits


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Mr Sadiq Khan) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

Under Section 19 of the Transport Act 1985, the Secretary of State has the power to designate bodies which may issue permits under that section to eligible community transport operators. These Section 19 permits allow the holder to operate transport services for hire or reward, subject to certain conditions, without the need for a full public service vehicle operator's licence.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page