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Written Statements

Monday 5 December 2011

Abdul Baset Al Megrahi


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): On 23 November (Official Report, col. 1051) I said that part of the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary would embrace the question of Abdul Baset Al Megrahi's condition and that we were awaiting the precise details of his health from the Libyan Government.

I would like to clarify that the Government have not asked the Libyan Government to provide information about Mr Al Megrahi's health. The terms of Mr Al Megrahi's release from prison on licence specify that he has to comply with a number of conditions set by the Scottish Ministers. These conditions include the submission of a monthly medical report to East Renfrewshire Council. As I said on 23 November, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have passed on a request from the devolved Administration to the Libyan Chargé d'Affaires in London asking the Libyan authorities to assist in ensuring that the supervision arrangements of Megrahi's licence are observed.

The Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's investigation concerns the involvement of others, with Mr Al Megrahi, in the Lockerbie bombing. The Government will continue to support the police in following any new leads, including any new information that may come to light concerning Mr Al Megrahi.

Agriculture: Single Payment Scheme


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture and Food (Jim Paice) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to confirm that as at the end of 1 December, the first day of the 2011 single payment scheme (SPS) payment window, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) had released payments totalling over £1.2 billion (71.6 per cent of the estimated total fund) to some 84,600 English farmers (80.8 per cent of the estimated total of eligible claimants). Payments to farmers will continue to be made as soon as validation of their claims is complete, with the values adjusted to reflect any significant outstanding overpayments from previous years. There remains much to do, but this promising beginning places the RPA in a good position to meet its first SPS 2011 performance indicator; namely, to pay 78 per cent of the total estimated fund value to a minimum of 86 per cent of eligible claimants by the end of December 2011.

In line with the commitment in my Statement of 8 November (col. 12WS), the RPA will write in early December to those farmers who are unlikely to be paid during the month in order to both explain the

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additional work that is required to validate their claim and provide an indicative timescale for how long that type of work can take. While it will not be possible to provide specific dates when payments will be made, I hope the additional information being supplied this year will help farmers with business planning.

I will continue to keep the House informed on the agency's progress.

Disabled People: Independent Living


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) operates as an executive non-departmental public body of the Department for Work and Pensions and provides discretionary cash payments to disabled people to support independent living.

In a Written Statement on 13 December 2010 I announced that, having reviewed the role of the ILF, the fund would remain closed permanently to new applications, but that the care and support packages of current users would be protected until the end of this Parliament.

That decision followed an independent review of the ILF in 2007 which recommended reform to ensure long-term sustainability, and reflected a commitment to ensure that the care and support needs of all disabled people are delivered equitably as part of local authorities' broader independent living strategies in line with local priorities and accountability.

We committed to a formal consultation in 2011 on how existing users would be supported in the future. That consultation should be placed in the wider context of the reform of the care and support system and will therefore now take place in spring 2012, alongside the publication of the planned White Paper on the future of care and support in England.

DWP remains committed to working with the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government on options for the future support for users in Scotland and Wales.

Finance: Individual Savings Accounts


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mark Hoban) has today issued the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing the Government's intention to make changes to the ISA rules that will benefit investors whose ISA savings have been affected by the failure or default of a financial firm. This includes ISA investors affected by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

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Under current ISA rules, an individual can pay into their ISA a total amount up to the relevant subscription limit each year. The 2011-12 subscription limit for adult ISAs is £10,680, of which £5,340 can be in cash.

Where an ISA is affected by the failure or default of a financial firm, any reinstatement of sums held in the account at that point, or investment of any subsequent compensation received, is currently treated as a new ISA subscription and therefore counts towards the normal annual limit.

We intend to change the ISA rules to permit investors affected by such a failure or default to make certain ISA investments over and above the normal subscription limits.

We intend that investors who have lost their cash ISA will be permitted to reinstate up to the balance of their account at the time of the firm's failure in a new ISA, outside the normal subscription limits.

Where a stocks and shares ISA has been affected, we intend that the investor will be permitted to invest any compensation (or any similar payment) derived from assets held within their ISA in a stocks and shares ISA, outside the normal subscription limits.

We propose to apply different arrangements for cases in which Lehman Brothers was, at the time of its collapse, the sole counterparty to an ISA product. Affected investors will be permitted to reinstate up to the balance of their ISA at the time of this collapse, outside the normal subscription limits. This is irrespective of whether any compensation has been paid to the investor.

Further details can be found in the HM Revenue and Customs ISA Bulletin, published today-a copy of which I have placed in the Library. I have asked HM Revenue and Customs to consult ISA managers and other interested parties on the detailed rules required to implement these changes. I anticipate that draft amending regulations will be made available for consultation in the new year, and that finalised regulations will be laid in spring 2012.

The changes we intend to make will provide a principles-based approach which, together with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme's deposit guarantee scheme and other compensation arrangements, will enable investors whose ISAs are affected by the failure or default of a financial firm to continue to benefit from tax-advantaged savings. They also demonstrate the Government's commitment to ensure that the ISA remains a secure, accessible and tax-advantaged saving product.

Local Government: Finance


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Bob Neill) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This Government are determined to support businesses -large and small-to support growth and build a stronger economy. In support of those aims, the Government announced two important business rates measures in the Autumn Statement. We will:

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double the levels of relief available to small business ratepayers for a further six months on top of the existing two-year scheme; andenable business ratepayers to defer payment of 60 per cent of the RPI increase (5.6 per cent) in their 2012-13 business rates bills.

Extending the period for which levels of small business rate relief are doubled means that eligible small businesses will benefit from significant additional reductions in their business rates bills throughout the whole of 2012-13. Approximately half a million businesses in England are expected to benefit, with about a third of a million businesses paying no rates at all for that period.

We have also listened to business concerns about the RPI increase for 2012-13. We are therefore giving businesses the option of spreading the increase over three years. Businesses will be able to defer payment of 60 per cent of the RPI increase in their 2012-13 rates bills until 2013-14 and 2014-15. This will give businesses flexibility to manage their rates bills in the current economic climate and help their cash flow.

Those measures are in addition to the ones that we are already delivering through the Localism Act. Through the Act we are:

simplifying the process for claiming small business rate relief;waiving £175 million of backdated business rates demands levied on businesses, including some in ports;giving local authorities wide-ranging, discretionary powers to grant business rates discounts; and ensuring that all future business rates supplements projects will have to be put to the ballot so that liable businesses can decide whether to impose the business rate supplement upon themselves.

Taken together, the support provided through these measures will help businesses across the country to prosper.

Missing Children and Adults


The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime and Security (James Brokenshire) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Safeguarding vulnerable members of our society is a key priority for this Government and I am writing to inform the House that we have today published a cross-government missing children and adults strategy which seeks to ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard missing children and adults and to support their families. A copy of the strategy has been placed in the House Library.

There are an estimated 360,000 reports of people going missing in the UK each year amounting to approximately 200,000 missing people. Children and young people make up approximately two-thirds of the missing reports and account for an estimated 140,000 children who go missing every year in the UK.

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Although the vast majority of people who go missing return or are found quickly, many vulnerable children and adults suffer harm and exploitation while missing and some never return.

Identifying and ensuring the safest return possible for these vulnerable children and adults is a key part of the police service's child protection and wider safeguarding role. However, tackling missing persons issues requires a multi-agency response and co-ordination across a range of policies and operational partners including the police, local authorities and the health sector.

Following the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry into support for families of missing people in July 2011, I accepted the overarching recommendation that there should be a cross-government outcomes policy framework for missing persons. I also accepted the principles behind the inquiry recommendations, including that we can and should do better in the support we provide to families, and announced that I would lead development of a cross- cutting strategy on missing children and adults.

Evidence from the APPG inquiry and consultation with stakeholders and key delivery partners showed that, although we have the right policies and responsibilities

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in place to tackle this issue, agencies are not always clear about these roles and responsibilities, nor do they always recognise the risks of harm that vulnerable children and adults face when missing.

With this in mind, the strategy I have published today provides a framework in which we can all work collectively to deliver the best protection possible for missing children, adults and their families. It includes a small number of strategic objectives which we believe provide the right foundations for any effective local strategy and provides a framework for local areas to put in place their own arrangements. I believe this strategy provides a core framework against which local agencies with a role in tackling this important issue can review the strategy they have in place with their local partners-and consider whether they can and should be doing more.

With the right priority and focus on this issue, and by ensuring we are all working together in the most effective way possible, I believe this strategy will help support the step change in delivery needed at a local level to ensure we provide vulnerable missing children and adults and their families with the help, protection and support they need.

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