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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture and Food (Jim Paice) has today made the following Statement.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture and Food (Jim Paice) has today made the following Statement.
30 June marked the end of the regulatory payment window for payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme (SPS.) At that point, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) had paid a total of £1.75 billion to some 103,604 claimants. That leaves a total of some 594 claimants to be paid up to a maximum of £25 million. It is likely that further work will reveal that some of these cases are not eligible for payment and most of the remainder cannot be paid at present due to reasons such as probate.
These figures demonstrate that RPA has succeeded in paying over 99 per cent of eligible claimants within the payment window and met the EU benchmark of 95.238 per cent of the total value of payments to be made, so avoiding the prospect of late payment penalties. This is particularly pleasing given the focus this year on ensuring accuracy of payments in order to begin drawing a line under the legacy of IT and data problems that have dogged the agency since the chaotic implementation of SPS in 2005. Significant progress has been made on legacy data correction activity so providing greater confidence for farmers about their subsequent scheme year payments. Nevertheless, I recognise that a significant number of farmers had to wait longer than usual for the payment, which I regret.
I recognise also that there remains much for the agency to do in terms of making payments to both the remaining 2010 claimants, including top ups to those who received an initial hardship payment, and those who are due additional sums for the 2005-2009 schemes. The remaining backlog of potential error cases also needs to be reviewed and overpayments notified to claimants and recovered. This significant volume of work will be undertaken alongside processing of 2011 scheme payments.
Over the summer, the RPA chief executive, Mark Grimshaw, will be developing a strategic plan for the agency with his new executive team. This will include an evidenced based review of what the payment timetable for SPS 2011 might look like, to be both challenging and realistic. The plan will be put to the RPA Oversight Board for approval in the autumn and the final version published soon after. More generally, the Board will continue to monitor the agency's efforts closely to ensure a line is finally drawn under all the legacy data issues over the coming year.
The savings directive forms part of the EU's good governance in taxation agenda, which complements G20 efforts to improve international tax co-operation and reflects latest OECD standards on tax transparency. Depending on the progress of negotiations, the council may hold a further discussion on amendments to the directive, which seek automatic exchange of tax information with the aim of combating cross-border tax fraud. The UK fully supports the aims of the amending directive, and hopes that the EU can move towards an agreement.
Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the main outcomes of the G20 Deputies' meeting, which is scheduled to discuss the following issues of interest to ECOFIN: the global economy and framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth, reform of the International Monetary System, financial regulation and commodities.
Council will discuss the outcomes of the European Council, where leaders concluded the first European semester, and welcomed the near completion of the implementation of the comprehensive package of measures it agreed last March to stimulate growth and to strengthen economic governance. The Government achieved their priorities: assurances that the European Financial Stability Mechanism (the EFSM) would not be used for Greece; language that actions taken as a result of the European Banking Authority's stress
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This discussion follows on from the June ECOFIN dinner, and Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the European Banking Authority stress tests, which are due to be published in the first half of July. The focus is likely to be on communicating the results, and how to link the results to the backstops measures put in place by member states to address potential vulnerabilities in their banking systems. The Government believe that it is important to increase confidence in the European banking system through the implementation of coherent and transparent measures to address any vulnerabilities. It is also important to demonstrate the EU's commitment to medium-term reforms, as agreed internationally, by implementing Basel III in full.
FEMIP brings together the whole range of services provided by the European Investment Bank to assist the economic development and the integration of the Mediterranean partner countries (Algeria, Egypt, Gaza/West Bank, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia). Ministers will discuss FEMIP's three-year operational plan (2011-13) and approve its: Annual Report 2010; Trust Fund Activity Report 2005-10 and the Way Forward; conclusions and follow-up of the 2011 FEMIP Conference on the potential of public-private partnerships; and topics for its conferences in 2012.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne) and I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 21 June. Stewart Stevenson, Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change, also joined the delegation.
At the beginning of the council, the presidency presented its progress report on the proposal for a directive on control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances (Seveso III), which highlighted the key issues that remained for discussion during the Polish presidency, in particular: the scope of the directive, the provisions on public information and the inspections regime. The council noted the progress report.
Ministers agreed council conclusions on the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. There was very strong support for the strategy itself, but some debate around whether to endorse the associated targets and actions proposed by the Commission, or to leave these for further discussion. There was general acceptance that the actions needed further discussion, but the Commission and several member states were keen that council should specifically endorse the targets now, as a means
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The council then adopted conclusions on the protection of water resources and integrated sustainable water management in the European Union and beyond. There was an exchange of views on expectations for the upcoming Commission Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources to be produced in 2012. I stressed the importance of the protection of water resources and integrated sustainable water management and the need to put in place measures to conserve and make better use of these resources. The forthcoming Commission fitness check provided an opportunity to thoroughly review existing EU water legislation to ensure it was effective and fit for purpose and I highlighted the importance of integration of water issues into other policies, notably agriculture. On the issue of water shortage and drought, I emphasised that the importance of these topics does not mean that further EU legislation in this area is necessarily required, as some member states propose.
Over lunch and into the afternoon session Ministers discussed the conclusions on the Commission's Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050. Chris Huhne called for these to welcome the important analysis in the Roadmap; endorse the cost-effective trajectory it sets out including the milestones for 2020, 2030 and 2040; and set a timetable for the Commission to produce further analysis of the policy changes needed to deliver these reductions. Only one member state refused to note the Commission's finding that a 25 per cent domestic emissions reduction in 2020 was on this cost effective pathway, and so discussion ended with the adoption of presidency conclusions reflecting the majority view.
A progress report on the proposal for a regulation on the possibility for member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory developed into an exchange of views. Those member states which support the proposal strongly endorsed the progress made. The UK and Germany, amongst others, reiterated our concerns about the impact on the single market and WTO obligations, and the potential negative impact on safe products finding their way to the market. The UK supported proportional and pragmatic regulation on the cultivation of GMOs and while we supported subsidiarity, this should not be at the expense of the single market or the EU's WTO obligations. We encouraged the Commission to ensure the effective operation of the current system.
Under other business France called for an EU management plan for cormorants, the Netherlands for action on nanomaterials, and Denmark spoke on not using credits from industrial gas CDM projects for compliance with the effort sharing decision targets. The incoming Polish presidency outlined its environment priorities: biodiversity; resource efficiency; climate change (adaptation and preparations for the conference in Durban); and, preparations for the UN Rio+20 conference.
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.
Today the Government are publishing their response to the consultation on the future of fire and rescue control services in England announced in my statement to the House of 13 January 2011 [Official Report Col. 22WS]. This followed the closure of the FiReControl project in December 2010.
First I would like to thank all those who responded to the consultation-the department received 61 responses, including from most fire and rescue authorities and services, by the closing date of 8 April. The great majority of those responding to the consultation believed that improved resilience and efficiency-and the enhanced technology needed to support these-were as important today as when FiReControl began in 2004. Most responding also agreed with the Government's preferred approach of achieving these objectives now through encouraging increased collaboration-in a locally determined manner-with some Government support. This approach will deliver efficiency and resilience benefits for fire and rescue authorities in the best way for their area, as well as build national resilience through local solutions.
I am announcing today that the Government is making available £81 million for fire and rescue authorities in England to improve the resilience, efficiency and technology in their control services. As a guideline, this will provide up to £1.8 million for each authority. Authorities will be invited to submit their plans by 4 November 2011. The plans will be assessed for value for taxpayers' money and resilience improvements.
In addition, a further £1.8 million will be made available to the fire and rescue sector for initiatives likely to deliver co-ordination and resilience improvements across the fire and rescue services, such as the development of common technical and procedural standards.
I am very grateful to the Local Government Group and the Chief Fire Officers' Association for their co-operation in developing this proposal. They have agreed to be part of the oversight process. Today I will be circulating further guidance, together with a copy of the response document, to all chairs of fire and rescue authorities and chief fire officers. A copy of the response document will be available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
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.
I wish to inform Parliament that Communities and Local Government has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund to allow the recruitment and appointment of a chair, with support arrangements, and for the recruitment of committee members, for the reformed Homes and Communities Agency's (HCA) Regulation Committee ahead of Royal Assent of the Localism Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
The HCA's Regulation Committee will focus on the economic regulation of the social housing sector. Economic regulation provides investors with necessary assurance that the sector is properly governed and financially viable.
Parliamentary approval for resources of £14,000 for this new service will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for Communities and Local Government. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £14,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs (Edward Davey) has today made the following Statement.
Over the past 18 months there has been a significant fall in the number of bankruptcies which has driven the number of new compulsory insolvency cases dealt with the official receiver down from 78,000 cases in 2009-10 to an expected level of 45,000 to 55,000 cases in 2011-12. In response to this, the service has cut its costs principally by reducing its staff complement from 3,200 to 2,100 by May 2010.
While this is a significant reduction in capacity in a relatively short time, I am satisfied that the service will be able to maintain the levels of service that it achieved in 2010-11 and so I have decided that the service's targets for timeliness, customer satisfaction and efficiency should be maintained at 2010-11 levels. The service will aim to achieve a real-terms reduction in insolvency case administration fees of 2.5 per cent compared to last year.
At the same time as insolvency case numbers have fallen, the average value of assets in bankruptcy estates has also fallen, making the insolvency case administration fee more difficult to recover and putting upward pressure
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Action will continue to be taken against bankrupts and company directors in respect of financial misconduct or dishonesty and the service will continue to investigate the affairs of companies in the public interest. Since 2009 the service has undertaken a stakeholder satisfaction survey of the level of confidence in its enforcement regime, achieving an overall confidence level of 68 per cent and 64 per cent in the two surveys to date. I have asked the service to explore what drives this confidence level so as to facilitate work towards a return to a 68 per cent confidence level during 2011-12. I have also set a timeliness target in relation to the instigation of disqualification proceedings against company directors in appropriate cases.
I have set the service targets in relation to the timeliness of releasing reports to creditors in insolvency cases, and of processing claims for redundancy payments. I have also asked the service to at least maintain the overall satisfaction levels of its principal customers and users.
The corporate plan will be available from today, 5 July 2011 at http://www.insolvency.gov.uk/aboutus/CorporatePlan.pdf. Copies of this document will also be placed in the Libraries of the House.
|Insolvency Service Published Targets|
|2010-11 Target||2011-12 Target|
In addition to these targets the service is required to meet government-wide targets relating to replying to correspondence from Members of both Houses of Parliament, and making payments to suppliers, as follows.
|Other Targets||2010-11 Target||2011-12 Target|
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Crispin Blunt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Against a background of the need to make economies right across the public sector I announced, in a Written Ministerial Statement on 15 September 2010, that the Government were proposing to make changes to the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector to cut the cost and make more efficient provision while safeguarding quality.
In pursuit of that aim the Ministry of Justice conducted a competitive dialogue procurement process to explore how these services could be delivered more efficiently, before taking a decision on the way forward. That process resulted in a proposed framework agreement with a single supplier, under which justice sector organisations could contract for language services as needed. Having sought and taken account of the views of interested parties, the Government have decided that a framework agreement is the best way to meet their objectives.
The Ministry of Justice will contract under the framework on behalf of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service and the National Offender Management Service. Other justice sector organisations, including police forces, have indicated that they intend to sign
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The framework agreement will deliver significant administrative and financial savings over the current approach. It will do this by introducing market forces into language services provision and providing a single point of contact available to staff at any time of day for the provision of all language services, including interpretation, translation and language services for the deaf and deafblind.
Language services will now be booked through various mechanisms including a secure internet portal, telephone or e-mail. This does away with the current time-consuming and inefficient process of making direct telephone contact with each individual interpreter to check their availability for work. A single request will be all that is required, reducing the burden on staff.
The Government have always been clear however that efficiency cannot be at the expense of quality. Clear quality standards specify the qualifications and experience required for interpreters to work in the justice sector. A strict code of conduct sets out the high standard of professional conduct expected of them. A robust, accessible complaints process has also been designed, with effective sanctions to ensure that breaches of these standards are investigated and dealt with proportionately and properly.
The supplier will be obliged under the framework to increase the pool of appropriately qualified, experienced and security cleared interpreters beyond the current limits, and to collect and monitor detailed management information to allow better planning for future needs. Failure to do so will result in the supplier being financially penalised.
Moving over to the framework agreement will result in a more efficient and effective service for the public which is forecast to result in savings of at least £18 million on the current yearly spending in this area of £60 million. It will ensure, through the various benefits it offers, that the Government continue to be able to provide access to efficient, high quality language services for those in need, while getting value for money on behalf of the public.
As part of the Government's strategy to ensure successful delivery of efficient transport services for the 2012 London Olympic Games, I am today announcing the introduction of new measures to limit disruption and delay to all flights using airports in the south east of England during the expected period of peak demand for air services for the Games.
The Airports Slot Allocation (Amendment) Regulations 2011, laid before Parliament today, will come into force on 1 August 2011. They will temporarily amend the existing regulations so as to provide new powers to ensure that during the Games period the available air space capacity over the south east of England will be able to accommodate the maximum possible number of extra flights, whilst minimising the risk of disruption or delay to existing services. These regulations will cease to have effect on 31 December 2012.
In conjunction with the new regulations, and following two rounds of consultation, on 1 August 2011 the Secretary of State for Transport will designate the airports listed below as temporarily co-ordinated until 15 August 2012, but only in respect of slot allocation during the period of 21 July 2012 to 15 August 2012 inclusive. This period corresponds to the anticipated peak demand for air services for the Games.
In the south east of England, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City are already co-ordinated airports. Airports that will additionally be co-ordinated for the Olympics period are: Birmingham Airport, Blackbushe Airport, Bournemouth Airport, Cambridge Airport, Chalgrove Airport, Coventry Airport, Cranfield Airport, Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Denham Aerodrome, Dunsfold Aerodrome, Duxford Airport, Elstree Airport, Fairoaks Airport, Farnborough Airport, Goodwood Aerodrome, Lee-on-Solent Airport, Leicester Airport, London Biggin Hill Airport, London Luton Airport, London Oxford Airport, London Southend Airport, Lydd (London Ashford Airport), Manston Airport, North Weald Airfield, Old Sarum Airfield, Peterborough Conington Airfield, RAF Northolt, Redhill Aerodrome, Rochester Airport, Shoreham Airport, Southampton Airport, Stapleford Airport, Sywell Aerodrome, Thruxton Airport, White Waltham Airfield, Wycombe Air Park.
During this period all flights operating in controlled airspace and intending to use a co-ordinated airport will need to obtain, and operate in accordance with, pre-booked take-off or landing slots. Slots will be allocated by Airport Coordination Ltd, the existing UK slot co-ordinator, in accordance with the relevant EU regulation.
I can announce today that the annual rate of the ring fence expenditure supplement (RFES) for the North Sea fiscal regime will be increased from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, following discussions with industry initiated at Budget 2011. This provides extra support for investment in the North Sea, including in marginal fields that qualify for the current field allowance, and will also support the ongoing considerations on new categories of field allowance.
In the March Budget, as part of a package of measures to help motorists cope with high petrol prices, the Government announced a fair fuel stabiliser that would be funded by higher taxation of the profits from oil and gas companies when oil prices are high.
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In the course of those discussions with industry, the Government have identified that the ability of a company to benefit fully from the field allowance is dependent on whether a company has sufficient current taxable income against which to off-set expenditure. This is addressed to some extent by the ring fence expenditure supplement, which currently allows companies with insufficient taxable income to uprate losses by 6 per cent for six accounting periods.
The increase to 10 per cent will help ensure existing field allowances work more effectively and equitably to support investment in marginal fields. It also brings RFES in line with the discount rate typically used by the sector.
Increases in the rate of supplement may be made by order. The Government intend to lay the necessary order before the House of Commons in the autumn, with the increase in RFES effective from 1 January 2012.
The OBR will publish the full scorecard costings of this measure over the forecast period at the time of its autumn forecast. Initial estimations are that the change is expected to cost around £50 million a year by the end of the forecast period (2015-16).
The department has received 73 bids to tranche one of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund from 66 lead authorities. All bids were for small projects requiring less than £5 million funding from DfT. Twelve bids were submitted as key components to large projects.
Proposals were assessed against the criteria as published in the Guidance on the Application Process, which was published on 19 January. Successful proposals were those judged to perform well against the twin objectives of supporting the local economy and facilitating economic development, and of reducing carbon emissions.
If proposals met these initial criteria, they were also scored on their potential to deliver wider social and economic benefits, to improve safety, to bring about improvements to air quality, or to promote increased levels of physical activity.
Proposals were required to demonstrate financial sustainability with benefits enduring beyond the life of the fund, to incorporate a credible delivery plan, and to include a commitment to make a local contribution towards the overall costs.
In line with the published guidance, an assessment of value for money was undertaken. The department is confident that the overall package of proposals approved in this first round represents high value for money.
I have decided to fund 39 proposals in this round. Thirty-four proposals will be funded in full and a further five proposals will be funded in part. Thirteen proposals are considered to have potential when scored against the fund criteria, but in my view require further work. Their promoters will be invited to improve their offer and resubmit to the department in February 2012, or to improve their offer in the context of their large project proposal, where this proposal is shortlisted. The full list of decisions is attached.
By the deadline of 6 June, the department received 19 expressions of interest for larger projects (requesting between £5 million and £50 million funding from DfT). I intend to announce at the end of July the shortlist of those authorities invited to prepare a detailed business case for their proposal. Detailed business cases will be submitted to the department by December 2011. The department has received 41 expressions of interest for tranche two small project funding, for submission by February 2012. I intend to announce successful projects in this second round in the early summer of 2012.
I am very pleased that all eligible local authorities across England (with the exception of the Isles of Scilly) have now applied for funding to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, either as a lead bidder, or as a partner authority to a large project. The fund has been well received by local government and I am confident that it will be effective in addressing the two key objectives of supporting growth and cutting carbon.
|Local Sustainable Transport Fund|
|Projects approved for funding|
|Local Authority||LSTF Project Name||DfT funding 2011-15 (£m)|
|Projects invited to resubmit through Tranche 2|
|Local Authority||LSTF Project Name|
** As a Key Component bidder, Derby will be invited to incorporate their key component package into their Large Project business case if shortlisted. If not shortlisted, Derby will be invited to resubmit to Tranche 2.
|Projects refused funding|
|Local Authority||LSTF Project Name|
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