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19 Jan 2011 : Column WS13

19 Jan 2011 : Column WS13

Written Statements

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Energy: Gas


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have decided that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shall be designated as the competent authority for the purposes of Regulation 994/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 concerning measures to safeguard security of gas supply and repealing Council Directive 2004/67/EC, which came into force on 2 December 2010.

As competent authority, DECC will be responsible for implementing the measures in the regulation intended to improve EU security of gas supply. These include preparing a risk assessment, developing a preventative action plan and emergency plan and regular monitoring of security of gas supply at a national level, involving the industry, National Grid and Ofgem as appropriate.

As required by Article 3(3) of this regulation, DECC will notify the European Commission of this decision as soon as possible.

EU: Budget


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Since November 2006, HM Treasury has prepared a consolidated statement on the use of funds from the EU budget in the United Kingdom.

The coalition Government have set new standards for transparency in the UK. This is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account, to reduce the deficit and deliver better value for money in public spending. The Government are fully committed to transparency in the use of EU funds in the UK and to strong accountability for receipts of EU funding to the UK Parliament, to strengthen the audit and parliamentary scrutiny of the UK's use of EU funds.

The coalition Government are also determined to ensure sound financial management of all EU funds. We need to ensure that simplified rules can go hand in hand with effective financial management of EU funds at all levels, taking a proportionate and risk-based approach to audit and financial control.

I therefore today lay before Parliament the third of these Statements for the year ending 31 March 2009, along with the Comptroller and Auditor-General's (C&AG) audit opinion and report.

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The C&AG has qualified his opinion on the Statement, for the year ending 31 March 2009, on the issue of truth and fairness, and also the issue of regularity; and has set out weaknesses in accounting practice during the period covered by the Statement. The coalition Government are introducing new measures to improve financial discipline of EU funds spent in the UK.

The coalition Government also hope this Statement and the C&AG's audit opinion will be helpful to the European Court of Auditors and the Commission when they are performing their own audits and controls; and that the Statement and the C&AG's audit opinion will encourage similar initiatives from other EU member states, whose contributions to improving financial reporting and management across the EU are also important.

Higher Education: Funding


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Today I am announcing capital funding allocations for 2011-12 to address sixth form college (SFC) priority building condition needs; SFC devolved formula capital (DFC); and basic need funding for 16-19 student places.

The capital settlement for the Department for Education (DfE) was extremely tight, with a 60 per cent reduction in 2014-15 compared to the historic high of 2010-11. We have therefore had to consider very carefully how the balance of capital funding is allocated in order to ensure that it is targeted to the areas of greatest need.

I know that there are sixth form colleges with building needs which have missed out on previous capital programmes. I have therefore allocated more than £57 million to address priority building condition needs within the sixth form college sector.

Even where funding is tight, it is essential that buildings and equipment are properly maintained, to ensure that health and safety standards are met, and to prevent a backlog of decay building up which is very expensive to address. I am therefore also pleased to announce that in 2011-12 all sixth form colleges will become eligible for devolved formula capital at a rate of £4,000 per college plus £22.50 per student. This means the average allocation to a sixth form college will be in the region of £40,000. This funding is primarily for planned maintenance and is in addition to the £57 million for building condition needs.

The Government are committed to ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to continue in education and training after the age of 16. I therefore want to ensure that funding is available to meet the need for additional places where there are demographic pressures in schools, academies and sixth form colleges. £30 million will be made available in the coming financial year for basic need funding for 16-19 student places in these institutions.

The YPLA is currently working with officials in my department on the criteria and process for distributing funds for 2011-12 and we expect to be able to make further details available shortly so that institutions can

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access funds as soon as possible in the new financial year. We will involve representatives from the sector as we develop the detail of the allocations process.

Capital funding for 2012-13 onwards will take into account the outcome of the review of DfE capital programmes, which the Secretary of State for Education has commissioned, and which is expected to report shortly.

Railways: Franchises


Earl Attlee: My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Theresa Villiers) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am today launching two publications on rail franchising. The first sets out the Government's current thinking on franchising, taking account of the results of the July 2010 consultation Reforming Rail Franchising. That consultation proposed a variety of policy changes. It made clear our determination to deliver a railway which takes greater account of passenger needs; provides value for taxpayer investment; and delivers the right incentives for operators.

Since the close of the Reforming Rail Franchising consultation in October 2010, the department has carefully considered the full range of responses, and has discussed the ideas in more detail with industry representatives.

We are now publishing the results of that analysis. Key principles emerging from that work include:

the specifics of each franchise will be decided on a case-by-case basis, with bidders having a greater role in helping Government define the specification;we will set demanding outcomes for operators to deliver but we will give them more flexibility to decide how best to achieve those outcomes, giving greater space to operators to plan and run their services in a more commercial manner; andlonger franchises should expand the opportunity for operators to invest in improvements as well as enabling them to strengthen their working relationships with Network Rail and other key stakeholders.

We also believe that it is vital that the cost of running the railways comes down.

The second publication is a public consultation for the new InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise. A notice was placed in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) last week at which time a formal accreditation process for bidders also started.

Our overall aim for the new franchise is to take as a starting point the much enhanced operations of recent years and improve these still further, while delivering value for money and meeting affordability requirements.

The ICWC franchise will build on the new timetable that was introduced in December 2008 and made possible by the £9 billion of public funds invested in

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infrastructure enhancement on the West Coast Main Line. This upgrade has shortened journey times and enabled more trains to be run. It has also delivered a more regular service timetable to Birmingham and Manchester.

Bidders for the franchise will be required to make proposals for the most advantageous deployment of the four additional 11-car Pendolino trains that will be available to them. These new trains will enable the new franchise operator to offer more capacity, more frequent trains and shorter journey times to various locations.

The new operator will need to consider how best to improve the performance and reliability of long-distance services and the quality of service received by passengers across the franchise. They will be expected to put forward ideas for improving the passenger experience on board trains, providing better service information for passengers, and investing in station facilities.

The new ICWC franchise will begin operation on Sunday 1 April 2012. The franchise is proposed to last for a term of at least 14 years, aligned to the possible introduction of services on High Speed 2. Provisions will be included in the contract to allow for an earlier termination in the event of persistent underperformance by the operator.

The consultation document highlights the key requirements that the department is considering including within the invitation to tender (ITT), for example, proposals to provide operators more flexibility and encourage investment. Responses to the consultation will inform the development of the ITT which we expect to publish in summer 2011, with the franchise awarded in late 2011.

Over the coming weeks the department will carry out extensive discussions with local stakeholders, via a series of meetings.

The consultation will run until 21 April 2011. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the House Library and are available on the Department for Transport website.

A notice was placed in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) last week in relation to the Greater Anglia franchise and a formal accreditation process for bidders has begun. This will be a short-term contract lasting from February 2012 to at least the summer of 2013.

Letting this contract will enable us to include appropriate recommendations from the rail value for money study being led by Sir Roy McNulty in a new long-term franchise starting in 2013.

We will not be conducting a public consultation on this contract as the services that are being offered will be largely the same as those in operation today. However, there will be a full public consultation on the long term franchise before it is let.

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