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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Liam Fox) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Following a request by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command in Afghanistan, a company group formed around elements of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, from Task Force Helmand, and partnered by a company from the Afghan National Army, will temporarily extend their current Freedom of Movement task along Highway One. The area of operations will extend east into Kandahar Province, adjacent to Helmand, for a specific time-limited period of up to six months.
The objective of the task is to secure Freedom of Movement along a key part of Highway One, between central Helmand and Kandahar. This will enable ISAF and the Afghan National Security Forces to increase security in both Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. It will further benefit security, stability and economic development in Helmand by reducing the influence of the insurgency on the free flow of traffic on Highway One. Improving security on the route will ensure that it is freely usable by the Afghan authorities, commercial users and the local population.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology (Peter Luff) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The first duty of government is the security of our nation. It is therefore essential that the UK equips itself with the right tools to tackle current and future threats. The convergence of defence and security that underpinned the strategic defence and security review means that we should seek to bring together our approach to equipment, support and technology in both the defence and security sectors. I have therefore worked with the Minister for Security in preparing this Green Paper to reflect our new approach. We have also included cybersecurity as a separate section, because it is a new and fundamental challenge.
Our default position is to use open competition in the global market, to buy off the shelf where we can and to promote open markets in defence and security capabilities. We will take action to protect our operational advantages and freedom of action, but only where essential for national security.
The UK currently enjoys a strong industrial presence in the defence and security markets and export success abroad in those markets; last year, defence and security exports achieved around £8.5 billion revenue. We are committed to doing more to promote exports of both defence and security products from the UK to responsible nations, as well as to boost the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, both in their direct and indirect supplies to the Government and their agencies.
The Green Paper is available online at http://defenceconsultations.org.uk/. The formal public consultation period will run from January to March 2011. We would encourage all interested parties to contribute to the debate. The Government plan to publish a White Paper on these issues in 2011.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans (Andrew Robathan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government are committed to providing effective, through-life health services for our service and ex-service personnel. As part of this commitment, the Department of Health and the devolved Administrations, with support from the Ministry of Defence, have piloted a new mental health care service for former members of the Armed Forces in six National Health Service trusts across the UK. The final pilot, in Scotland, is due to be completed in April 2011.
Independent evaluation of the pilots by the University of Sheffield Centre for Psychological Services Research, which my department commissioned, has been completed. I am announcing today the publication of its independent evaluation report. The report identifies key components of successful services and makes a number of recommendations. The Department of Health will consider the report and examine how its recommendations fit with existing and planned enhancements to NHS veterans' mental health services, including those recommended by the honourable Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Andrew Murrison).
In the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in April 1998, the UK Government undertook to explore the scope for achieving more widespread availability of the Irish language television station, Teilifis na Gaeilige (TG4) in Northern Ireland. The UK Government
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Once the analogue signals in Northern Ireland and Ireland are switched off by the end of 2012, arrangements need to be put in place to enable TG4 to be received in a digital form. In this context, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Irish and UK Governments in February 2010, committing them to working together on the technical arrangements for post-switchover provision of TG4. The two Governments are pleased with the amount of progress made since the signing of the MoU in ensuring and expanding the provision of Irish television services, including Irish language services, in Northern Ireland.
Following a broad range of technical work, the two Governments have now agreed that the most effective way to provide for the continuing provision of TG4 is by building a new, low-power TV multiplex in Northern Ireland. In addition to carrying TG4, this multiplex, which will be part of the UK DTT system, will also carry RTÉ 1 and RTÉ 2. It is hoped that this will further increase the coverage of these channels in Northern Ireland, enabling approximately 90 per cent of the population in Northern Ireland to receive their services on a free-to-air basis, either through overspill as before or via the new multiplex.
The existing analogue signals will be switched off on a co-ordinated basis in Ireland and Northern Ireland at the end of 2012 and much more work needs to be done between then and now. Digital UK, the not-for-profit organisation that is leading the digital switchover in the UK, will be ensuring that viewers in Northern Ireland have all the necessary information to help them make the switch to digital and know what sort of equipment to buy if they want to receive these services.
Other arrangements that need to be put in place include the establishment of a joint venture between RTÉ and TG4 to run the multiplex which will be licensed under the UK's Wireless Telegraphy Act of 2006 by Ofcom at the request of the UK Government. This will be a not-for-profit company. In addition, the licensee will have to put out to competitive tender all the elements of the multiplex operation which are contestable and the multiplex will be operated on a not-for-profit and open-book basis.
I am today publishing an interim report on the review of motorcycle testing in Great Britain, which I launched on 8 June 2010. Last week I met the working group established to conduct the review and we agreed a set of high-level findings and next steps. This group included members of the motorcycle industry, trainers, riders' representatives, road safety and local authority
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While there is more work to be done on the detail, the review has helpfully identified a set of changes to the test which have the potential to deliver my objectives for a new motorcycle test. My goal is to see the practical test delivered as a single on-road event in a way which will maintain riding standards, protect safety and increase accessibility of the test to all candidates. The work delivered by the group includes a new hazard avoidance manoeuvre which-subject to further trialling-can be carried out on the road, as well as ways to perform the other specified manoeuvres on the road. The working group has also suggested that the slow manoeuvres (manual handling, slalom, figure of eight, U turn and slow ride) might better be examined at training centres, ahead of the main test, by delegated examiners employed by the training industry. It could be followed by a single-event, on-road test conducted by DSA, including the remaining manoeuvres and the other elements of the road-based test. This approach needs further development with the training industry.
The next step for the review will be to hold wider trials, with test-level candidates, to verify the standards, suitability and safety of the new manoeuvres, including a number of on-road sites, to establish the criteria for safe on-road testing. This will be followed by public consultation on the proposed changes. We will aim to implement a new test by the end of 2011 or early 2012, including on-road testing initially in priority areas which are poorly served by the current network of off-road test centres. Any changes to the manoeuvres would be implemented for all tests at all locations. Subject to further work on safety, cost and value for money, there would be a phased introduction of on-road testing, moving to general adoption as soon as possible. Changes to the test will need to be monitored and kept under review to ensure that the review objectives are delivered in practice.
Ministers agreed a Council directive on administrative co-operation in the field of taxation. The directive will improve exchange of information and bring the EU into line with OECD standards, as well as making an important contribution to tackling cross-border tax evasion and avoidance. The UK supports exchange of
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Following an extra Council meeting on 28 November, ECOFIN formally agreed a Council recommendation to Ireland with a view to bringing an end to the situation of an excessive government deficit. It also agreed a Council decision to grant financial assistance to Ireland according to Council Regulation 407/2010 establishing a European financial stabilisation mechanism. The Government believe that financial assistance to Ireland is in Britain's national interest, helping one of the UK's closest economic partners to manage its way through difficult conditions.
Ministers were updated on the progress made on the six Commission legislative proposals on economic governance. Working group discussions have now begun, which are looking at the proposals in detail. Agreement on the final legislation is expected in spring 2011.
ECOFIN discussed a report to the European Council on the impact of pension reforms on implementation of the SGP. The Government believe that the SGP framework should seek to encourage pension reform and long-term sustainability. However, it is important to strike the right balance between encouraging fiscal discipline in the short term and incentivising systemic reforms to pension systems to boost long-term sustainability. The Presidency will submit the report to the European Council.Bank levies
Ministers endorsed a report to the European Council on bank levies, focused on the issue of double taxation. The Government support national levies on banks to complement wider reforms aimed at reducing the probability and impact of banking failures. They believe that the issue of overlapping scope can be resolved through double taxation agreements. The UK and French Governments have agreed on a mechanism that will ensure that there is no double taxation of banking groups subject to both the UK and French bank levies. This demonstrates the Government's commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all banks subject to the UK bank levy. The Government will continue discussions with other international partners where there are also potential cases of double charging.
The Council endorsed conclusions on a joint Commission and Economic Policy Committee report on public services in the field of healthcare. The conclusions summarise the main findings of the report and the main challenges facing member states. The main findings include: the need to assess the performance of health systems and implement sound and needed reforms to achieve both a more efficient use of public resources and the provision of high-quality healthcare; and the need to get more value for money if countries are to ensure universal access under conditions of
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Ministers endorsed conclusions on a Commission communication on crisis management. The Government welcome the Commission's work in this area to strengthen the European framework and ensure that all member states have common and credible tools and powers to resolve failing banks.
The Council adopted conclusions welcoming the work of the Code of Conduct Group in producing its biannual report under the Belgian Presidency. The report highlights potentially harmful tax competition with regard to business taxation. The Council has asked the group to continue its monitoring of business taxation, as well as to carry on the work under the Work Package agreed by the Council in December 2008. The Commission is also invited to continue discussions with Switzerland and Liechtenstein on the application of the principles and criteria of the Code. The UK supports the ongoing work of the group, which is beneficial in highlighting those practices which are potentially damaging to fair EU tax competition.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy (Charles Hendry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Many households across the UK without access to the natural gas grid rely on deliveries of heating oil to heat their homes. Heating oil is also used by smaller commercial customers, notably with demand focused in the agricultural sector.
Overall, UK heating oil demand is around 3.7 million tonnes per year with domestic demand accounting for some 60 per cent. Demand is seasonal, with around two-thirds of heating oil consumed between October and March.
The recent severe weather has significantly disrupted the distribution of heating oil to customers across the UK, particularly, but not only, in Scotland. The severe weather, notably low temperatures and heavy snow, has caused considerable disruption to road networks, which has affected suppliers' ability to make deliveries particularly to more remote areas away from the strategic road network. This has resulted in delivery backlogs, which suppliers have been working hard, in difficult circumstances, to reduce.
There are around 200 fuel distributors in the UK, which work hard throughout the year to supply their customers. Many of these companies are small businesses, some with perhaps only two or three delivery vehicles. A tanker will make an average of 16 domestic deliveries per day covering some 180 miles to make these deliveries. The bulk of the time in making a delivery is taken up
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Tackling this backlog is challenging for the industry at a time when, due to the cold weather, it has been facing significantly higher demand than is usual at this time of year. This challenge has been exacerbated by delays to deliveries due to the state of the road network in parts of the UK and customers bringing forward deliveries that would usually have been made in the new year. However, prompt action to relax regulations on drivers' hours has enabled drivers to work for longer each day making more deliveries and helping to manage the backlog.
Distributors are doing all that they can to prioritise deliveries to vulnerable customers and those running short on fuel. Working with DECC, the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers has issued a voluntary code of practice to its members to help them to prioritise orders to those most in need. We are also putting in place arrangements with distributors, through the relevant trade associations, the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers and UK Liquid Petroleum Gas, for distributors to alert local authorities when they are aware of a risk that potentially vulnerable households will run short of heating oil. Similarly, we have asked local authorities and other local responders to be aware of these risks and, taking account of local circumstances, to consider what assistance they can provide to potentially vulnerable households who may need support over the Christmas and new year period.
Hospitals do not tend to use heating oil, although a reducing number of NHS organisations are reliant on gas oil for stand-by use, fuel for generators, boiler maintenance or dual-fuel needs. Hospitals normally operate with higher levels of fuel reserves at this time of year and, at present, we understand that there are no reported problems owing to a lack of gas oil deliveries to NHS trusts.
The severe weather has also led to a very high forecast of demand for gas today. Last night this led National Grid to issue a day-ahead gas balancing alert for Monday 20 December at 6.28 pm. The GBA trigger level for today (20 December) is set at 452.40 million cubic metres. National Grid currently expects demand for the day will be 461.57 million cubic metres (though it should be noted that this figure is constantly updated). This figure is 97 million cubic metres above the normal seasonal demand (more than 26 per cent). The fact that expected demand was higher than the trigger level obliged National Grid to issue the GBA.
As such GBAs are simply a part of the portfolio of mechanisms that help the market to operate effectively. When each of the GBAs was issued last winter, the market responded well, closing any potential gap between supply and demand by bringing on additional supplies and reducing demand from large users. There is currently no expectation of any disruption to domestic customers or to commercial customers unless they have interruptible contracts in place. That said, we are never complacent about security of supply and National Grid continues to keep us informed as the situation develops. We are making changes through the Energy Bill to further improve the security of gas supply, by conferring powers on Ofgem to sharpen commercial incentives for the effective management of low-probability high-impact events.
The issuance of a gas balancing alert by National Grid today is also a reminder of the significant efforts being made by system and network operators, shippers, suppliers, storage operators and other participants in the gas market to deliver sufficient gas to meet the heightened demand brought on by the current severe weather.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bob Neill) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I would like to inform the House about recent developments on the FiReControl Project. This is the third part of the last Government's resilience programme and set out to replace the standalone control rooms in England's Fire and Rescue Services with a national network of nine control centres. The aim was to improve national resilience, interoperability and efficiency as well as to enhance the technology available to the Fire and Rescue Service.
Many honourable Members will be aware that, for some time, the project has experienced delays and delivery problems. The progress of the project has caused serious concern, and so in June this year I made it clear to the main FiReControl contractor, Cassidian, (formerly EADS Defence & Security), that the main IT system must now be delivered to time, cost and quality. At this point, we activated a key milestone in its contract requiring the main IT system to be completed in three control centres by mid-2011. We told Cassidian that no additional taxpayers' money could be invested in this project, nor would delivery of a system of reduced quality or functionality be acceptable.
Following extensive discussion with Cassidian, we have jointly concluded, with regret, that the requirements of the project cannot be delivered to an acceptable timeframe. Therefore, the best outcome for the taxpayer and the fire and rescue community is for the contract
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I know many people in the Fire and Rescue Service and in fire and rescue authorities have devoted considerable time and expertise to this project, especially those who have served on governance and working groups, directors of the local authority-controlled companies, advisers from the Chief Fire Officers' Association, Fire and Rescue Service secondees to the project and other staff involved from the fire and rescue community, and many technical and resilience experts. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all these people for their contribution.
Over the next few weeks we intend to identify the extent to which any legacy assets from the project, including the control centre buildings, can be used for the benefit of the Fire and Rescue Service and local communities in future. We will also be making arrangements for maintaining products already delivered.
The department will cease funding activities directly associated with the project as quickly as is compatible with organising an orderly closing down of the project. We recognise that fire and rescue authorities will now wish to review their control arrangements in the light of today's decision. This Government do not intend to impose any solution for the future of control room services. We will, however, start to consult the fire and rescue sector soon on how best the Government can support it, if at all, in developing alternative plans based on the principles of localism, ensuring public safety, building up national resilience and delivering value for taxpayers' money. These continue to be our overriding priorities.
I know that the uncertainty around the future of this project has been frustrating and unsettling for the fire and rescue community and those closely concerned with their interests. My objective has been to deliver operational certainty for the Fire and Rescue Service and financial certainty for the taxpayer. Today's decision will deliver that objective and I will continue to keep the House informed of progress.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am announcing today the Government's publication of Implementing Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives, guidance for local authorities and NHS organisations to secure implementation of the autism strategy. I launched this guidance at a conference convened by the National Autistic Society on 17 December 2010. A copy of the guidance has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. This statutory guidance has been published in fulfilment of the requirements in the Autism Act 2009 that the
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The strategy Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives was published on 3 March 2010. This Government have made a very clear and firm commitment to drive forward work to tackle the disadvantage which people with autism and their families sadly so often face, and to step up the pace to deliver that strategy. The purpose of this guidance is to secure the implementation of the Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives strategy. It gives guidance to local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS foundation trusts on issues set out in the Autism Act. This guidance will help these bodies to develop services that support and meet the locally identified needs of people with autism and their families and carers, and enable local transparency and accountability.
As set out in Section 3 of the Autism Act, this guidance is to be treated as though it were guidance issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Service Act 1970 (LASS Act). This means that local authorities must "follow the path charted by the guidance, with liberty to deviate from it where the authority judges on admissible grounds that there is good reason to do so, but without freedom to take a substantially different course". Though the LASS Act does not directly apply to NHS bodies, the Autism Act makes clear that for the purposes of this guidance "an NHS body is to be treated as if it were a local authority within the meaning of the LASS Act".
The guidance focuses on the key areas required by the Act, in each case identifying what health and social services bodies are already expected to do, and setting out any additional requirements introduced by the strategy. An underlying principle is to avoid new burdens. This guidance has been informed by an extensive consultation on draft guidance between July and October this year. The Secretary of State has a duty, under the Autism Act, to keep the strategy under review: as part of this, the guidance will also remain under review and will be updated as required.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am publishing a consultation document seeking views on proposals set out in the White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (Cm7881). We are consulting on proposals to create a new framework for education and training of the healthcare workforce. Under these proposals, healthcare providers will be given responsibility for planning and developing the workforce, while the quality of education and training will remain under the stewardship of the healthcare professions.
Liberating the NHS: Developing the healthcare workforce has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members in the Vote Office
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This consultation is an opportunity to seek the views of healthcare providers, healthcare professionals and the wider public to inform the development of a new framework for education and training and developing the healthcare workforce. The consultation period will close on 31 March 2011.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
This Government are committed to ensuring that new-build homes post-2016 do not add extra carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, while ensuring that the costs of building new homes do not prevent appropriate and sustainable development.
We have confirmed that the national regulatory requirements will include a high level of energy efficiency, which has been incorporated into a revised Code for Sustainable Homes, to encourage practical experience. In July, we asked the Zero Carbon Hub to advise on the national benchmark standard for on-site measures. I have now received the Hub's initial findings; I am grateful for the work of the Hub with developers, green groups and other partners on this study. This is an important piece of work which will help us shape final decisions on the regulatory thresholds. We will also need to take account of decisions on the Renewable
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Localities can already plan for zero carbon development today, using powers in the Planning and Energy Act 2008, where it is reasonable to do so and is consistent with national planning policy, including relevant requirements on feasibility and viability, and relevant regulation. Many local authorities are already demonstrating their desire to drive performance in this area.
Many interested parties have argued for a community energy fund, enabling zero carbon to be met partly through contributions to a fund used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, allowing developers to meet their carbon obligations cost-effectively. In this respect, the recently confirmed Community Infrastructure Levy provides a mechanism for local authorities to achieve reductions in carbon dioxide emissions locally, through investment in local renewable energy infrastructure that supports development in their area. It will be important that any approach operates in a way that demonstrates transparently that real carbon savings are achieved. We will now work with local authorities and industry on how best to do that.
It will be important that people are able to take the best decision for their area. We recently launched Community Energy Online to support local authorities and others who want to introduce local energy schemes. We will also work to incorporate material on local energy planning into a local standards framework, providing accessible, robust options to underpin local choice.
New homes are an important part of new development, but not the whole picture. I can announce that we will follow a similar process for new non-domestic buildings as for new homes. The Government's policy is progressively to raise the national regulatory requirements for non-domestic buildings between now and 2019, enabling them to be zero carbon from 2019. We will maintain consistency between the domestic and non-domestic frameworks as far as it is practical, but will consider taking a different approach on some elements, where the diversity of the non-domestic stock or the nature of the commercial market justifies that. We are today publishing on the department's website the findings of the consultation exercise on policy options for zero carbon new non-domestic buildings that was concluded earlier this year.
We are currently undertaking detailed technical work to underpin the development of future national regulatory standards. We expect also that off-site measures could be supported using the same approaches as for homes, and will investigate this possibility further so it will be open for local areas to use a community energy fund through the Community Infrastructure Levy to achieve the zero carbon standard for non-domestic buildings should they wish to do so.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today marks the beginning of an important shift in focus for the NHS and public health, away from focusing on politically motivated process targets and towards what matters most: improving quality and delivering health outcomes that are among the best in the world.
This framework has been developed building on the proposals set out for consultation in Transparency in Outcomes-A Framework for the NHS, published in July, and the nearly 800 responses to the consultation.
This first NHS outcomes framework looks only to set the direction of travel for the NHS and will not be used in this coming year for accountability purposes. No levels of ambition are attached to the indicators. For 2011-12, the business, finance and performance rules are set out in The NHS Operating Framework for England 2011-12. The NHS outcomes framework will be refined annually and the next iteration, for 2012-13, will be published in 2011 and will be used to hold the proposed NHS commissioning board to account once it takes its statutory place (subject to parliamentary approval).
Alongside the NHS outcomes framework, I am publishing a formal government response to the consultation Transparency in Outcomes-A Framework for the NHS, an impact assessment and equality impact assessment for the first framework and technical detail on the indicators presented in the framework.
Today I am also publishing Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Transparency in Outcomes-Proposals for a Public Health Outcomes Framework, which seeks views on a new strategic outcomes framework for public health at national and local levels. This document was proposed in the recent public health White Paper.
This consultation is an opportunity to collect the views of public health professionals, NHS commissioners, local authorities, service providers, particularly the voluntary and independent sector, and all other interested parties. The consultation will close at the end of March 2011.
I am pleased to announce the appointment of a new Parades Commission for Northern Ireland. I have appointed Peter Osborne as chair and Douglas Bain, Delia Close, Brian Kennaway, Catriona King, Frances Nolan and Robin Percival as members. They will all take up office on 1 January 2011.
The Parades Commission plays a vital role in ensuring that there is a means of dealing with contentious parades which allows for consideration of the rights of those who parade and those who are affected by parading.
I am confident that the new commission brings a wealth of knowledge, skills and understanding, helping it to meet the challenges ahead and to build on its considerable achievements over the past 12 years.
This statement is to set out the Government's priorities for the legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Further detail of the Government's plans is provided in the Government's legacy plan, Plans for the Legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, copies of which will be placed in the House Libraries today.
In the coalition agreement we committed ourselves to producing a safe and secure Games that leave a lasting legacy. Our task is not only to ensure that the Games are a success as iconic sporting occasions but also that we make the most of the Games for the nation. We as a Government will focus on four areas in doing this:harnessing the United Kingdom's passion for sport to increase school-based and grass-roots participation in competitive sport, and to encourage the whole population to be more physically active;exploiting to the full the opportunities for economic growth offered by hosting the Games, particularly with reference to inward investment and tourism;
This is a Statement on behalf of the UK Government. However, the Games' legacy is being driven across the UK and beyond by a rich variety of organisations, communities and individuals, including: the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA); the British Olympic Association (BOA) and British Paralympic Association (BPA); Sport England and UK Sport; the Mayor of London, the Olympic Park Legacy Company and the host boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest); the Nations and Regions Group established by the Government and LOCOG to achieve maximum benefits from the Games and their legacy across the UK; the devolved Administrations in the nations and a large number of other local authorities across the UK; the Games' sponsors and other businesses; and many third-sector organisations operating at national and local levels. A small number of examples of the great work already going on across the country are included in the Government's legacy plan, but there are many hundreds of others.
I am today publishing the department's work plan on major infrastructure planning reform. This Government believe that securing investment in new infrastructure is essential to deliver sustainable growth over the coming decades and is an integral part of our efforts to rebuild the UK economy and to provide new jobs. We cannot expect to meet the needs of tomorrow with yesterday's infrastructure and we cannot secure essential investment without a planning system designed to meet this need. The work plan sets out the steps that we are taking to deliver this reform.
It is right that decisions on infrastructure of national importance should be taken by democratically elected representatives and not by an unelected quango. The Localism Bill therefore provides a legislative framework for the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and the creation of a major infrastructure planning unit (MIPU) in a new, more streamlined and efficient planning inspectorate. The MIPU will be responsible for examining applications for major infrastructure development and providing high-quality advice to Ministers.
For the majority of schemes, decisions will be taken by the Secretary of State responsible for the policy: the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will take decisions on major energy infrastructure and the Secretary of State for Transport will take decisions on major transport infrastructure.
We envisage that applications relating to hazardous waste will be determined by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and that applications relating to waste water and water supply will be determined jointly by the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This is in line with the position prior to the establishment of the IPC.
The Government are determined to ensure that a return to ministerial decision-making does not mean a return to slow and protracted consideration of applications. It supports the fast-track approach established through the 2008 Planning Act-that is to say that decisions will be taken within 12 months of commencement of an application's examination. We will set up a ministerial group to oversee the effectiveness of the regime and explore whether additional efficiencies can be made to speed up the process further.
The work plan confirms the Government's intention to press ahead with the development of national policy statements and indicates a timetable for their production and designation. The Government have made clear their position on additional runways at London's three major airports; their priority is to create a sustainable framework for UK aviation rather than to produce a national policy statement at this time.
National policy statements should have the strongest possible democratic mandate and, subject to the passage of the Localism Bill, they will in future be subject to approval of the House of Commons following parliamentary scrutiny by the House of Commons, the House of Lords or a Joint Committee of both Houses. For those national policy statements that are currently subject to public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, it is the Government's intention to adopt a similar, informal approach for parliamentary approval to that set out in the Localism Bill.
National policy statements will continue to be the primary documents by which decisions are made on schemes that fall within the 2008 Planning Act regime for major infrastructure. Decisions must be made in accordance with them, although the Secretary of State will also have to take into account any other matters considered both important and relevant to the decision. Those matters can include policy contained within the new national planning policy framework, on which I have made a separate Statement to the House today.
A copy of the work plan has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/mipworkplan.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My honourable friend the Minister for Decentralisation (Greg Clark) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The coalition agreement states that the Government will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework that covers all forms of development and sets out national economic, environmental and social priorities.
The planning system is vital to the rebuilding of Britain's economy. We need to reinvigorate our construction and development industries and the investment that goes with them and to ensure that we develop and protect our national assets. We need a planning system that encourages the idea that development can positively benefit a community. We need a planning system that enables local people to shape their surroundings in a way that, while heeding national objectives and constraints, is also sensitive to the history and character of a given location. We need participation and social engagement enabling communities to formulate a positive vision of their future development.
The Government have made it clear that, with the exception of nationally important projects, planning should be a local matter. The role of central government is to determine and define environmental, economic and social priorities for the country and to design a planning system that helps to ensure a pattern of development that matches these priorities and local aspiration. This role is currently fulfilled through legislation and through the suite of planning policy guidance notes (PPGs) and minerals policy guidance notes (MPGs), and, more recently, planning policy statements (PPSs) and minerals policy statements (MPSs).
These documents, which run to over 1,000 pages, set out central government policy on various aspects of development and land use to local planning authorities, which must legally have regard to them when drawing up their local development frameworks. They are also often relevant to making decisions on planning applications. They cover broad policy themes such as planning aspects of climate change, housing, renewable energy, flood risk, green belt and waste, as well as procedural themes such as how to compile local development plans.
The Government believe that the current suite of planning policy statements and guidance notes is too centralist in its approach and too long and cumbersome for councils and developers to use effectively. There is no overarching integrated statement of the Government's priorities for the country and the role that planning can play in delivering them.
Therefore, the Government will produce a simple national planning policy framework setting out their priorities for the planning system in England in a single, concise document covering all major forms of development proposals handled by local authorities. All the national planning policies set out in PPSs, MPSs, PPGs and MPGs will be integrated into a single document.
The national planning policy framework will set out the Government's views on how the planning system in England can contribute to the delivery of a prosperous, competitive and attractive country based on the values of freedom, fairness and responsibility. The framework will set broad economic, environmental
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In the past, Governments have issued vast swathes of non-statutory guidance in addition to policy. However, such guidance can unintentionally take on a force that constrains rather than helps practitioners and users on the ground. This Government, therefore, believe that we should keep central government guidance to a minimum. Accordingly, the Government will radically reduce the amount of guidance that they issue and will work to withdraw or shorten existing guidance wherever they can.
The Government will publish and consult on a draft of the new national planning policy framework in 2011. We will invite Parliament to hold a Select Committee inquiry on the framework during the consultation period, so that it is subjected to additional democratic scrutiny.
For the time being, national policy statements (which are separate statutory documents published in accordance with the Planning Act 2008, setting out the Government's policy on major infrastructure projects such as nuclear power stations and ports) will not be included in the framework. Further detail on our approach to major infrastructure is set out in the work plan on major infrastructure planning reform, which I am also publishing today. Copies of the work plan have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the department's website: http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningsystem/planningpolicy/planningpolicyframework/.
This Government have a commitment to greater transparency and openness in developing their policy. To begin the process of writing the framework, therefore, and in advance of formal consultation on a draft, I invite organisations and individuals to offer their suggestions to the department on what priorities and policies we might adopt to produce a shorter, more decentralised and less bureaucratic national planning policy framework. Details of how to do so have been placed on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. I would be pleased to receive proposals by 28 February 2011. The department will also organise a number of round-table discussions with key organisations to promote debate on the framework.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform (Mark Harper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
A bar on sentenced, serving prisoners voting was first put in place in 1870. Successive Governments have maintained the position that, when an individual breaks their contract with society by committing an offence that leads to imprisonment, they should lose the right to vote while they are incarcerated.
Five years ago, in a case known as Hirst (No.2), the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the existing statutory bar on convicted prisoners voting was contrary to Article 3, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights-the right to free and fair elections. The Court ruled that barring convicted prisoners in detention pursued a legitimate aim, but that a blanket ban was not proportionate. In its judgment, the Court acknowledged that the right to vote under the First Protocol was not absolute, and that contracting states to the European Convention had to be given a margin of appreciation-a broad discretion-to decide what limitations on that right would be proportionate.
That judgment was handed down in October 2005. The last Government stated clearly and repeatedly that they would implement the judgment, published a timetable for legislation, and issued two consultation papers about how to do so. But they did nothing. The result is that the United Kingdom stands in breach of international law obligations-obligations that we expect others to uphold-and prisoners are bringing compensation claims as a direct result of the last Government's inaction.
In November 2010, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a further judgment against the UK, Greens and MT. In that judgment, the Court set a deadline for the introduction of legislation of August 2011. There are in the region of 2,500 claims before the European Court of Human Rights which have been suspended pending implementation. We have been given a window to act and it is right that we do so. If we do not, we only increase the risk of damages.
It is plain that there are strong views across Parliament and in the country on the question of whether convicted prisoners should be entitled to vote. However, this is not a choice: it is a legal obligation. So the Government are announcing today that we will act to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. In deciding how to proceed, we have been guided by three principles: first, that we should implement the Hirst judgment in a way that meets our legal obligations, but does not go further than that; secondly, that the most serious offenders will not be given the right to vote; and, thirdly, that we should seek to prevent the taxpayer from having to face future claims for compensation.
The Government will therefore bring forward legislation providing that the blanket ban in the existing law will be replaced. Offenders sentenced to a custodial sentence
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The right to vote will be restricted to UK Westminster Parliamentary and European Parliament elections only, and will not apply to other elections or referendums. That is the minimum currently required by the law (a case considering whether Article 3, Protocol 1 applies to elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently before the European Court of Human Rights: the Government's position is that it does not). Prisoners will vote by post or proxy, and will be entitled to register to vote not at the prison, but at their former address or the area where they have a local connection.
We believe that these proposals meet the objectives that we have set out of implementing the judgment in a way that is proportionate; ensuring the most serious offenders will not be given the right to vote; and seeking to prevent future claims for compensation. We will bring forward legislation next year for Parliament to debate.
While the franchise is reserved for Westminster, the implementation of this policy will clearly have implications for Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the administration of justice is devolved. The Government will work closely with colleagues in the Scottish and Northern Ireland Administrations before legislation is introduced on the practical implications of the approach.
Governments have an absolute duty to uphold the rule of law, and at this of all times we must avoid risking taxpayers' money in ways that the public would rightly condemn. In the light of this, and of the legacy left by the last Government, the only responsible course is to implement the judgment, and to do so in a way which ensures the most serious offenders continue to lose the right to vote.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Universities and Skills (David Willetts) has today made the following Statement.
The Haldane Principle means that decisions on individual research proposals are best taken by researchers themselves through peer review. This involves evaluating the quality, excellence and likely impact of science and research programmes. Prioritisation of an individual research council's spending within its allocation is not a decision for Ministers. The coalition Government support this principle as vital for the protection of academic independence and excellence. We all benefit from its application in the UK.
Over the years there has been some uncertainty over the interpretation of the Haldane Principle. After consulting senior figures in the science and research community, the Government now offer this further clarification. This Statement on the Haldane Principle applies to science and research which the Government fund through the research councils and national academies. HEFCE has statutory independence. The Haldane Principle does not apply to the research budgets of government departments, which are used to fund research to support their departmental policies and objectives. That said, departments work closely with the research councils to ensure that the research they fund is aligned with that funded by the science and research base and delivers maximum value to the taxpayer. More generally, research councils need to ensure that the views of those with an interest in the potential outcomes of the research are sought when setting their overall priorities.
The Government do, however, need to take a view on the overall level of funding to science and research and has decided to protect and to ring-fence the science and research budget for the next four years. This decision is evidence that the Government recognise the strategic importance of science and research to our future growth, prosperity, culture and heritage.
There are areas where Ministers should have no input: Ministers should not decide which individual projects should be funded nor which researchers should receive the money. This has been crucial to the international success of British science. At the other end of the spectrum, there are decisions that ultimately must be for Ministers, albeit informed by external advice; these include the overall size of the funding for science and research and its distribution between the research councils, the national academies and higher education research funding.
In addition, every Government will have some key national strategic priorities such as addressing the challenges of an ageing population, energy supply or climate change. The research base has an important role to play in addressing such priorities and the research councils, with the support of independent advice, have proposed research programmes to tackle them. It is also appropriate for Ministers to ask research councils to consider how best they can contribute to these priorities without crowding out other areas of their missions. But it is for the research councils to decide on the specific projects and people to fund within these priorities, free from ministerial interference.
Similarly, Ministers have a legitimate role in decisions that involve long-term and large-scale commitments of national significance. These include the construction of large research facilities, where Ministers have to approve business cases, and involvement in international research treaties. Public funding from the research councils for both these categories of research spending must be dedicated to supporting excellent research, irrespective of its geographical location. In many cases the location will be an obvious decision, given clusters of relevant research capability. Ministerial views on such business cases should be formed with the aid of advice from the research councils.
It is important that Ministers, where they are involved in making strategic decisions on the funding of research, take account of advice from a wide variety of expert sources including academia and industry, both nationally and internationally. The Government recognise the contribution to our national life and to the UK economy made by research and teaching in the full range of disciplines including physical sciences, social sciences, life sciences, environmental sciences, engineering and the arts and humanities.
The Government value the multiplicity and variety of sources of funding from the public, private and charitable sectors. These contribute to the provision of a rich and diverse environment supporting the research community across all disciplines. Overall, excellence is and must remain the driver of funding decisions, and it is only by funding excellent research that the maximum benefits will be secured for the nation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science (David Willetts) has today made the following Statement.
Our world-class science and research base is inherently valuable, as well as critical to promoting economic growth. Despite enormous pressure on public spending, the £4.6 billion per annum funding for science and research programmes has been protected in cash terms and ring-fenced against future pressures during the spending review period. For the first time, HE research funding in England has been included within this ring-fence, providing overall stability and certainty to the research base.
This Government are committed to efficiency, prioritisation and reform. We shall delay capital investment to maximise investment in research projects and in people undertaking research. The Government intend to announce during 2011 the allocation of funding to a small number of further projects on the 2010 large facilities roadmap
Savings from improved efficiency will be recycled directly within the ring-fence. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will reform its quality-related (QR) funding for research with a greater focus on research excellence and reform higher-education innovation funding with a greater focus on business interaction.
Collaboration is one of the key themes of these allocations. There will be significant collaboration among research councils, and among universities, tackling issues of national importance, often working with the TSB.
There will also be greater coherence among HEFCE and the research councils. For example, HEFCE and the research councils will work together so that support and incentives to bring universities and business closer together are delivered coherently.
These allocations provide funding for the arts, humanities and social sciences as well as STEM to pursue vital research. Outstanding researchers in all fields will be funded to pursue curiosity-driven work and to define their own areas of scholarship. We are also putting the new UK Space Agency on a firm footing.
The allocation will allow research councils, HEFCE and the national academies to maintain the flow of talented new researchers and maintain national capability. It will enable them to provide researchers with access to key large-scale research infrastructure, both here and abroad. Funding bodies will concentrate on research centres of proven excellence, with the critical mass to address national challenges and compete internationally and the expertise to collaborate with business.
|Table 1: Resource|
|Baseline 2010-11||2011-12||2012-13||2013-14||2014-15||Totals||Final Year to Baseline|
|Council||Baseline 2010-11||2011-12||2012-13||2013-14||2014-15||Total||Final Year to Baseline|
The UK, in common with many other EU member states and third countries, places considerable value on the collection and analysis of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data (that data collected by carriers in the exercise of their business) for the purposes of combating terrorism and organised crime. The appropriate use of PNR data is vital in keeping the public safe.
In line with this view, the Government continue to press for an EU PNR directive that includes provision for intra-EU flights. The Government also believe that clear PNR agreements between the EU and third countries play a vital role in removing legal uncertainty for air carriers flying to those countries, and help ensure that PNR information can be shared quickly and securely with all necessary data protection safeguards in place where appropriate.
We are firmly committed to consistency in our approach to civil liberties and will seek to translate our domestic agenda to the EU level-purpose limitation; rigorous evidence-based arguments; the principles of necessity and proportionality; stringent data protection safeguards, especially when handling sensitive personal data; independent data protection oversight; and, of course, full compliance with EU law and the EU treaties.
On 21 September the European Commission (EC) published a Communication on the global approach to transfers of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to third countries (which proposed a set of common principles on sharing data with third countries) alongside a package of draft negotiating mandates for PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the United States. In response to the Commission recommendations, on 18 October the Council presented a draft Council decision to authorise the Commission to open negotiations for PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the US, together with draft negotiating guidelines (collectively referred to as negotiating mandates).
We fully recognise the importance of working with partners outside the EU, given that the threats we face are global in nature. Notably, we will continue to engage closely with the US on PNR and data protection, both of which are crucial to our ability to co-operate with the US on improving US and EU security. We will, though, ensure that the exchange of data with such partners remains subject to rigorous data protection safeguards. After due consideration of the importance of civil liberties, data protection and security concerns, the Government have decided to opt in to negotiating mandates for three PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the US as they believe they will pave the way for EU-third country agreements that will strike the right balance between civil liberties, data protection and the security of the EU. As these mandates are currently restricted so as to preserve the EU negotiating position, they are not therefore depositable within Parliament.
The Government will continue to work with the scrutiny committees when considering whether to opt in to Council decisions to sign and conclude each third-country agreement. I will also in due course update Parliament on the Government's opt-in decisions at these later stages.
Since 2004, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered specific assistance for British victims of terrorist incidents overseas and their families. Originally known as the Aftercare Plan, but renamed Exceptional Assistance Measures (EAM) in 2008, it was introduced in recognition of the fact that many travel insurance policies explicitly exclude acts of terrorism from their cover. EAM allows Ministers to activate special assistance
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When the policy was first introduced in 2004, EAM could be awarded to any British victim of a terrorist incident abroad, regardless of whether or not the person had travel insurance. However, in June 2008 the Government at the time decided to impose restrictions on EAM eligibility, excluding those victims who did not have travel insurance. I have decided to overturn this decision and restore EAM for all British nationals affected by a terrorist attack overseas, regardless of whether they have travel insurance. Acts of terrorism are singularly heinous crimes, usually targeting innocent people at random. It is right that all British victims of terrorist attacks overseas can receive the same level of support from the Government.
EAM only covers incidents overseas that are deemed to be acts of terrorism by Her Majesty's Government. They do not replace travel insurance. British nationals travelling overseas are strongly advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance. Those that do not and are involved in accidents or incidents often deeply regret it when faced with huge bills.
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