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The DVLA has a long history of providing driver and vehicle licensing support to Great Britain's drivers and motorists and in providing essential services to the police and other agencies to keep our roads safe. But times change and so do the needs of customers. To make sure the DVLA meets those changing needs, I am announcing today the launch of a consultation on a programme of work which will transform the way that the DVLA delivers its services to customers.
This programme will make it easier for motorists to carry out their business with the DVLA. This will be achieved by centralising services and providing much more choice and flexibility around how and when motorists deal with the DVLA. The proposals could deliver significant efficiencies with an estimated £28 million year-on-year saving.
As a result of these proposals I expect the DVLA to centralise services at its Swansea offices and to deliver those services electronically and in partnership with others. To this end, the DVLA will withdraw from its network of expensive, regionally located offices by the end of 2013. As this proposed centralisation of services is expected to have an impact on resources, the DVLA will now consult staff in these offices and the trade unions on the impact of the changes.
Also, motorists in Northern Ireland currently do not have access to all vehicle services that are available on the mainland-for example, the facility to tax a vehicle online is currently unavailable in NI. As part of this programme, the DVLA will also look to offer the full range of services to motorists in Northern Ireland.
The DVLA will ensure that the motor trade and customers are fully involved in the consultation on the transformation programme and that service delivery will not be adversely affected; rather, the expectation is that, for many, services will be enhanced.
I am committed to improving the service all motorists receive while increasing efficiencies. I believe these changes will bring service improvements, better value for money and a faster, more responsive service for customers, while at the same time delivering greater productivity from the DVLA's workforce.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am announcing details of education funding for 2012-13. My announcement includes the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funding for 16 to 19 education and training and capital funding for maintained schools, academies, the voluntary aided sector and 16 to 19 provision.
As set out in the Consultation on School Funding Reform, issued in July, we will continue with the current methodology for funding schools in 2012-13 through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). The underlying school budget will be kept at flat cash per pupil for 2012-13.
Although the overall schools budget will stay at the same level on a per pupil basis before the addition of the pupil premium, the actual level of each school's individual budget will vary. It will depend on local decisions about how best to meet needs and priorities. This does mean that some schools will see budget reductions, either because they have fewer pupils or local changes to funding distribution. To protect schools from significant budget reductions, we will continue with a minimum funding guarantee that ensures no school sees more than a 1.5 per cent per pupil reduction in 2012-13 budgets (excluding sixth-form funding) compared to 2011-12 and before the pupil premium is added.
The Consultation on School Funding Reform set out proposals for the funding system from 2013-14. I am grateful to all those who have responded to these important issues. I am publishing today a report on the consultation responses: there was a good deal of consensus around some proposals, such as the factors to include in both any national and local formulae, and the need for careful transitional arrangements. However, the responses also reflect a variety of views over some of the key aspects of the system. We are now working on developing further proposals in light of the responses.
The Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) is today publishing a statement setting out the funding to be made available for 16 to 19 education and training for 2012-13. The funding statement shows that the Government plan to fund an increased number of places as we approach the raising of the participation age. We plan to fund 1,577,000 places in the 2012-13 academic year compared with the 1,543,000 learners we expect providers to have recruited in 2011-12.
Transitional protection was introduced in 2011-12 in order to help schools and colleges to manage unit cost savings that need to be made. We will continue to provide transitional protection for these policy changes for 2012-13 and will continue to make this available until 2015-16.
Today's capital announcement covers funding for 2012-13 and includes allocations for basic need (funding for additional pupil places), maintenance and devolved formula capital. This is a further one-year allocation. This will enable me to reflect, for subsequent allocations, the rapidly changing situation in local areas on both demographic growth and numbers of schools converting to academy status.
At a national level, overall capital funding remains the same as last year-£800 million to address the shortage in pupil places and £1.4 billion for maintenance, including £200 million for devolved formula capital. I have agreed however to change the methodology for allocating funding for pupil places to better reflect local need.
Funding for pupil places needs to take account of the capacity of schools. For this reason, I have agreed that basic need allocations for 2012-13 will be decided using both numbers on roll and capacity data. That is, it combines the two methodologies used in 2011-12 for allocating basic need funding. Moving to this method will result in changes in levels of funding for some local authorities. Because of this, I have introduced a protection so that no local authority will receive, in 2012-13, less than 80 per cent of the funding it would have received had we taken the same approach as taken for 2011-12.
This allocation does not include the additional £600 million for basic need allocated to my department in the autumn Statement. I am considering how best to allocate this funding. I will also consider how we can improve the collection of local data on pupil numbers and available school places so that allocations for the remainder of the spending review period are better targeted towards need.
Maintenance funding for local authorities will remain at the same level as last year and will be allocated in the same way. Some local authorities will see a reduction because their maintained schools have converted, or are about to convert, to academy status. Local authorities should take into account the maintenance needs of all maintained provision, including Sure Start centres, when deciding how to prioritise this funding.
We have retained £276 million centrally to meet the maintenance needs of academies. This amount is based on numbers of academies already open and those due to open in the coming months. We expect local authorities to honour any commitments they have made to fund
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The academies central fund next year will be administered in a similar way to this year, and we will provide further details early in 2012 when we are ready to receive applications for funding. We will also consult with sponsors and academy chains to explore options for giving them more flexibility to address the maintenance needs of their whole academy estate.
Over £107 million of capital funding will be available in 2012-13 to meet maintenance and building needs of sixth-form colleges and demographic pressures for new 16 to 19 places in schools, academies and sixth-form colleges.
Fifty-nine million pounds of this funding will be allocated to the sixth-form college Building Condition Improvement Fund (BCIF) in 2012-13 to address priority building condition needs within the sixth-form college sector. All sixth-form colleges will remain eligible for devolved formula capital (DFC) and it will remain at the same rate as 2011-12.
In addition I 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. I have therefore made a further £44 million available in the coming financial year for basic need funding for additional places for 16 to 19 year-old students in these areas. This funding will also support the provision of new places in mainstream settings, including in FE colleges, for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
Finally I would like to update the House on the latest position on the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP). Partnerships for Schools (PfS) is currently reviewing applications to ensure there is a fair and rigorous selection of schools for admission to the programme. Until applications have been fully assessed, I will not be able to announce which schools will be in the programme. I understand the high level of interest in this programme and expect to be able to make an announcement in the new year.
More details about today's capital allocations are being sent to local authorities and will be published on my department's website at: www.education.gov.uk.
These products can be found online at: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/financialmanagement/schoolsrevenuefunding/settlement2013pupilpremium
These products can be found online at: http://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=conResults&consultationId=1765& external=no&menu=3
These products can be found online at: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/schoolscapital/a00200794/schools-capital-allocations-for-2012-13
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 5 and 6 December 2011. I represented the UK on internal market and industry issues on 5 December, and David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, represented the UK on research issues on 6 December. A summary of those discussions follows.
The main internal market and industry issues discussed on 5 December were: patents; industrial policy; business competitiveness; impact assessment in the council; results of the single market forum; customs co-operation; and companies registers. Additionally, there was a lunchtime discussion regarding patents.
A lengthy discussion on patents failed to conclude after the presidency presented a compromise proposal on political aspects of the draft court agreement. The proposal included the seats of different bodies, principles of financing, an extended transitional period during which users of the court could continue to use the existing litigation arrangements for European (non-unitary) patents, and greater opportunities to bring infringement cases directly to the central division. Discussions continue and the presidency is planning an initialling ceremony on 22 December, if agreement can be reached.
The council agreed conclusions on industrial policy without discussion. The council also took note of a presentation by the Commission on a proposal for a competitiveness and SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) programme 2014-20.
On impact assessment in the council, the presidency introduced draft conclusions, recalling the recent Court of Auditors report on impact assessment, the inter-institutional agreement on better law-making and the recent council conclusions adopted by ECOFIN on impacts of legislation. The UK and other member states stressed the need for the council to act quickly to translate agreements into practice. The conclusions were adopted.
Conclusions from the Single Market Forum were also adopted, which responded to the outputs of the Single Market Forum held in Warsaw. I did not intervene, but other member states did both to congratulate the Polish presidency on hosting the event and to push for the professional card idea, likely to feature in forthcoming proposals on professional qualifications.
Conclusions were also adopted on a further substantive agenda item regarding customs co-operation with eastern neighbouring countries. The presidency and the Commission stressed that co-operation on the eastern border was a priority to facilitate trade and ensure safety of EU citizens.
The final substantive agenda item was regarding interconnection of business registers. The council agreed a general approach on a directive that will facilitate the interconnection of business registers across the EU. The presidency proposed a council statement as drafted by Germany to clarify concerns from some member states. This was agreed.
The Czech and Slovak delegations presented a paper on EU chemicals legislation (REACH) emphasising the need to focus on the original principles of REACH relating to smart regulation and the think small first principle. I supported the paper, and questioned the Commission's intention to set a numerical target for the candidate list.
Some member states had written to the Commission to criticise a number of elements in the services of general economic interest package. Commissioner Almunia defended the proposals. I defended the importance of controls on state aid, which are instrumental in ensuring a level playing field for competition and promoting competitiveness, as well as the overall thrust of the Commission's package.
Other AoB items that were covered included: the state of European shipbuilding; European standardization; results from the European Tourism Forum; the lead markets initiative; Horizon 2020; the Annual Growth Survey; customs enforcement of intellectual property rights; the single market and services directive states of implementation; European observatory on counterfeiting and piracy; protection of orphan works; the consumer marker scoreboard; alternative and online dispute resolution; and the consumer programme.
The main research items discussed on 6 December were: Horizon 2020; joint programming initiatives regarding healthy and productive seas, urban Europe,
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The primary discussion concerned Horizon 2020, the EU's research funding programme for the period 2014-20. The UK supported the package. We, along with other member states argued that the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) and global monitoring for the environment and security (GMES) programmes should be included in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposal.
Day two also covered several AoB items. These were: framework programme of the European atomic energy community for nuclear research and training activities; cohesion policy; plan for the European innovation partnership on active and healthy ageing; information about the Budapest declaration on agricultural research; and report of the Informal Ministerial Expert Group on Simplification.
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.
I have today published a consultation document on the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England. A statutory requirement under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, the consultation sets out our proposed priorities and objectives for fire and rescue authorities in connection with the discharge of their functions. A copy of the document has been placed in the Library of the House.
The document marks a key milestone in resetting the relationship between fire and rescue authorities and Government. It proposes moving away from Whitehall prescription, enabling fire and rescue authorities to deliver their services in a way that makes sense locally, while continuing to meet the wider needs of national resilience. This includes working collectively with other fire and rescue authorities and collaboratively with a wide range of other organisations to improve public safety and cost-effectiveness.
It sets out the risk that occasionally we may be faced with incidents of such scale or complexity that all available resources could be overwhelmed, even if pooled or reconfigured. Her Majesty's Government retain an overarching responsibility for defence of the realm, ensuring we are resilient as a nation to such risks but this must be based on and drawn from local capability, expertise, knowledge and leadership. This will be supported by a new strategic governance arrangement in partnership with the fire sector to be developed with key partners alongside the consultation.
This more localist approach builds on the approach of the coalition Government in ending the regionalisation of the fire service and dismantling regional government in England. We have already announced that fire and rescue authorities no longer have to work through regional management boards, and we have stopped the forced regionalisation of fire control rooms through the termination of FireControl.
The Government are continuing to fund the existing national resilience capabilities to build specialist capability to manage fire and rescue related risks-for example: additional, specialist urban search and rescue capability; high volume pumps; mass decontamination equipment; detection, identification and monitoring equipment for chemical, biological and nuclear incidents; and additional command and control capability.
The document builds on existing notable practice by fire and rescue authorities to promote greater accountability to local taxpayers, more partnership working and open data transparency. It proposes high-level expectations for fire and rescue authorities to develop arrangements that are effective locally along with a requirement to produce assurance statements and to make comparable performance data available to communities.
I am grateful to the National Framework Partner Working Group for its assistance in developing this consultation document and look forward to receiving responses from across the fire and rescue sector and more broadly. The consultation closes on 19 March 2012.
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:
Today the Government have published draft legislation and a White Paper setting out proposals to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10 per cent of his or her constituents, as set out in the coalition programme for Government.
Currently a Member could commit serious wrongdoing but will only be disqualified if convicted by the courts and sentenced to more than 12 months in prison. Otherwise such a Member may not have to account to their constituents until the next general election.
Key to any recall mechanism is the trigger for a recall petition. Members must not be left vulnerable to attack from those who simply disagree with them or think that they should have voted a different way on a particular measure. Recall should be used to hold to account Members who have not maintained the high standards of behaviour that are rightly expected of elected representatives. Recall should not be used as a way of re-running elections.
The draft Bill provides that a Member should face a recall petition if one of two conditions are met. The first would fill the existing gap in the disqualification regime by providing that where a Member receives a custodial sentence of up to 12 months they will automatically face a recall petition. The second is the House of Commons passing a resolution stating that a Member should face a recall petition. This is designed to supplement the House's existing disciplinary powers, and ensure that MPs who have committed serious wrongdoing which has not resulted in a prison sentence may be recalled, if the wrongdoing is considered to be sufficiently serious. The draft Bill deliberately does not set out the internal procedures of the House of Commons which would lead to such a resolution; such matters fall within the exclusive cognisance of the House. We would hope, however, that the House would put into place procedures based around those which it already has to deal with reports from the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards.
The draft Bill proposes that the recall petition should be open for signature for eight weeks and will be administered by the local returning officer. The petition may be signed by anyone on the parliamentary electoral register for the relevant constituency, provided that they made their application for registration before the recall petition procedure was started. If, at the end of that period, more than 10 per cent of those on the electoral register have signed the petition, then the Member's seat will be vacated and a by-election will be held. The former Member will be free to stand in the by-election.
There is no precedent for a recall mechanism in the United Kingdom. In bringing forward this draft Bill the Government hope to stimulate a debate on what would be the best model for a recall mechanism.
We are publishing this White Paper and draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, and I am inviting the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee to scrutinise the draft Bill. We will consider the results of this process with great care.
Today, the Government are publishing their response following two public consultations on a proposed new framework for local TV in the UK. The Government received over 310 responses from interested parties, members of the public and businesses who commented on the proposals or advocated a specific town or city to receive a local TV service. The Government will shortly lay three orders that will put in place the framework to give new powers to Ofcom and to incentivise the market to provide local TV services.
The framework the Government are creating combines market incentives and regulatory mechanisms to provide new local TV opportunities. The outcome will see a new generation of genuinely local TV services broadcast on Freeview (and potentially satellite and cable) across the UK. The Government are providing Ofcom, the
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The orders the Government intend to lay in the very near future will do three things: require Ofcom to make available sufficient local spectrum for the purposes of local TV; create new provisions to enable Ofcom to run a fit-for-purpose local licensing award process; and require electronic programme guide providers to give appropriate prominence to the licensed local TV services. In addition, up to £40 million from the television licence fee will be provided to support capital build and content acquisition.
The Government believe the new local TV services will contribute towards the local democratic process through news and other programming, offering information, reporting and content which will hold institutions and individuals to account; it will provide opportunities for journalism, creative industries and syndication across local media.
On 18 July, I informed the House that I was asking Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to consider instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties and to make recommendations as to what needs to be done. I am pleased to tell the House that HMIC has concluded its review and has today published its report, Without Fear or Favour: A Review of Police Relationships. A copy of the report will be placed in the House Library.
The integrity of the men and women who work in the police service of England and Wales is critical to public trust in policing. Real or perceived conflicts of interest dent that trust and make policing by consent more difficult. The vast majority of police officers behave appropriately and conscientiously and I welcome HMIC's conclusion that corruption is not endemic in the police service. HMIC does however identify a range of integrity issues on which the service is neither robust enough nor consistent in its approach. HMIC found that police force and authority leaders have, on the whole, failed to grasp the importance of integrity and are therefore insufficiently compelling in setting the values and standards that should apply across all aspects of policing, as well as in setting a personal example to their staff.
Where forces and authorities get this right and police officers and staff operate to the highest standards of integrity, it is because of the presence of strong and effective leadership by example, setting both the direction and the tone. I want all forces and authorities to recognise this and to aspire to the standards of the best. I welcome HMIC's work and accept the recommendations it has made. It is now time for all police service leaders to work together urgently and constructively to agree and apply a coherent set of national standards of integrity and behaviour for police officers and staff.
HMIC's findings will be supplemented in the next few months by the work that Elizabeth Filkin has been undertaking in the Metropolitan Police Service and by the view of the Independent Police Complaints Commission as to whether there are further powers necessary to enhance its ability to be able to hold the police service to account. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) will also be concluding a review next summer into the extent of corruption by organised criminals operating in the public and private sectors, including recommendations for addressing this. The police service's leaders should draw on these, as well as the findings that will emerge next year from the inquiry being led by Lord Justice Leveson. The standards they set need to give the public confidence in the integrity of those who police their communities, and the service's leaders themselves. I will expect a clear set of proposals to be ready for wider consultation by spring 2012.
To support police leaders in this, the Government have been consulting on establishing a national professional body for policing, the scope of which I intend to say more on to this House shortly. This is in addition to legislating to make the inspectorate itself more robust, better equipped to act and to shine an expert light on policing.
I intend to accept the offer made by HMIC to revisit these issues next October. In doing so, it will be able to offer the public, and the police and crime commissioners, who will be elected in November 2012, a clear view as to the effectiveness of the service's leadership on these matters, as well as the progress made towards both operating, and being clearly seen to operate, to the highest standards of integrity.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable) has today made the following Statement.
Together with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, I would like to inform the House that Mary Portas has today presented the Government with a report presenting the findings of her independent review of the high streets, and recommendations for action.
This timely report is published alongside new government-commissioned research, Understanding High Street Performance, which shows that although some high streets continue to thrive, a third are degenerating or failing, and by 2014 less than 40 per cent of retail spending will be on the high street.
In May, with town centre vacancy rates doubling in the space of two years, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister asked Mary to look into how we can create more prosperous and diverse high streets.
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