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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
During consideration of the personal independence payment (PIP) clauses of the Welfare Reform Bill on 17 January, the Government announced their intention to have a graduated introduction of the new benefit. To ensure a smooth introduction, the launch will be undertaken through a phased approach, commencing initially with a subset of new claimants. This will ensure processes and procedures are working fully before moving to process all new claims and then reassessing existing disability living allowance (DLA) claimants.
Bootle benefit centre (Bootle BC) will administer the first new claims from spring 2013, from areas including Merseyside, north-west England, Cumbria, Cheshire and north-east England. People in these locations will be the first to claim the new benefit. The primary reason for selecting the Bootle BC is that it handles DLA new claims in volumes that will provide a robust test of PIP processes and new computer systems. During this period, new claimants in all other parts of the country will continue to claim DLA as now.
The remaining network of benefit centres currently administering new claims for DLA will start to take on new claims for PIP from summer 2013, once evidence is in place that processes are working as intended. In addition this network will handle continuing DLA claims for children. Blackpool benefit centre will undertake PIP reassessment activity for existing DLA claimants aged 16 to 64.
The presidency will update Ministers on the state of play of discussions on the financial transaction tax, and in particular the technical work that is being undertaken on this file. Ministers will then exchange views. The Chancellor has made clear on a number of occasions that the UK does not support the Commission's
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Ministers will be asked to agree to council conclusions on the AMR and hold an exchange of views. The AMR is based on a scoreboard, where each member state is assessed against 10 macroeconomic indicators, and an accompanying analysis. These are designed to indicate where potential external and internal imbalances may exist. The UK exceeds the threshold values on four indicators: real effective exchange rate, export market share, private sector debt, and public sector debt.
The Commission will then conduct in-depth reviews on 12 member states to assess whether imbalances or excessive imbalances exist. These member states are: the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. These reviews will be published in May. Greece, Ireland and Portugal and Romania are already under enhanced economic surveillance as part of their payment assistance programmes and are therefore not subject to in-depth reviews.
The Government support the macro-economic imbalances procedure on which the AMR is based. They are taking determined action to rebalance the UK economy and ensure a return to sustainable growth, including through: tough and credible action to tackle the deficit; a new strategy to increase house building and stabilise the housing market; and boosting exports and rebalancing the economy towards regional growth.
The presidency may inform Ministers on the follow-up to the March European Council conclusions. Ministers will then exchange views. On growth, the Council conclusions set out an appropriate timeline for addressing the EU-level growth agenda, in line with the Prime Minister's letter with 11 other member states. The Government are content with the Council conclusions. The intergovernmental treaty was signed by 25 member states in the margins of European Council. The Government welcome the signing of the treaty; it is in the UK's interest for the euro area economies to achieve stability and growth, and for the treaty to work to achieve this.
The Commission will de-brief Ministers on the main outcomes of the G20 Finance Ministers' and Central Bank Governors' meeting in Mexico City on 25 and 26 February. The main items on the agenda were the global economy and framework for growth, IMF resources, financial regulation and commodities. The issue of IMF resources dominated the discussion, and the G20 agreed that euro area countries will reassess the strength of their support facilities in March. This will provide essential input into the G20's ongoing consideration to mobilise resources to the IMF. At the G20, the Chancellor stressed that IMF resources to
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Following the Council decision on 24 January that Hungary has taken no effective action to sustainably correct its excessive deficit, the Commission has proposed that the council suspend €495 million of Cohesion Fund (CF) commitments to Hungary in 2013. Ministers will be invited to adopt the council decision. The suspension of CF commitments to Hungary represents 0.5% GDP and 29% of total CF commitments for the year. The Commission believes this to be both an effective and proportionate amount. The UK will not oppose the Commission's proposal.
Eurogroup will be meeting on 12 March. Ministers will be debriefed on the Eurogroup discussions, before formal ECOFIN starts. Ministers are likely to discuss the economic situation. Ministers may also discuss the issue of the next president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The UK supports the need for an open and transparent process in selecting the president.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Schools (Nick Gibb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 20 December the Secretary of State for Education reported to the House on the heads of agreement on the Teachers' Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015, which set out the Government's final position on the main elements of scheme design. Since 20 December, Ministers have been engaged in detailed discussions with the teacher and lecturer unions over the remaining details of the Teachers' Pension Scheme. I can now report to the House that discussions on these final details of the scheme design for the Teachers' Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015 have now concluded. The Government have made clear this sets out our final position on scheme design, which unions agreed to take to their executives as the outcome of negotiations. This includes a commitment to seek executives' agreement to the cessation of any industrial action on pension reform. The final scheme design outlined is conditional on acceptance of this proposed final agreement.
This proposed final agreement reflects the conclusion of discussions on the final details with teacher and lecturer unions since the Secretary of State made his Written Ministerial Statement on pension reform,
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The Government Actuary's Department has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November. Copies of the proposed final agreement and GAD verification have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
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.
On December 2011, I reported to the House that a heads of agreement had been reached on a new NHS Pension Scheme for England and Wales for introduction in 2015. The heads of agreement set out the Government's final position on the main elements of scheme design.
Following this, my department has been engaged in detailed discussions with health sector trade unions and employer representatives over the remaining details for the new NHS Pension Scheme. I can now report to the House that these discussions have concluded and the outcome reflected in a proposed final agreement. The headline elements of the proposed final agreement remain unchanged from those set out in my previous statement to the House concerning pension reform on 20 December 2011.
The Government have made clear that the proposed final agreement represents our final position on scheme design. The final scheme design is conditional on acceptance by trade unions of the proposed final agreement. Trade unions have agreed to take this proposed final agreement to their executives as the outcome of negotiations. Furthermore, the proposed final agreement includes a commitment by trade unions to seek executives' agreement to the cessation of any further industrial action on pension reform.
The Government Actuary's Department (GAD) has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November 2011. The proposed final agreement and GAD verification have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The documents are also available at: www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digital asset/dh_133003.pdf.
On 20 December I reported to the House on the heads of agreement on the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015, which set out the Government's final position on the main elements of scheme design. Since 20 December, my officials have been engaged in detailed discussions with the Civil Service trades unions over the remaining details of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme. I can now report to the House that discussions on these final details of the scheme design for the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015 have now concluded. The Government have made clear this sets out our final position on scheme design, which we are asking unions to take to their executives as the outcome of negotiations.
This is the proposed final agreement, which reflects the conclusion of discussions on the final details with the Civil Service unions since I made my Written Ministerial Statement on pension reform on 20 December 2011. The headline elements of the proposed final agreement remain unchanged from those reached on 20 December and the provisional accrual rate has been finalised.
The Scheme Actuary has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November. Copies of the heads of agreement and scheme actuary verification have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The appropriate provision of marine aids to navigation preserves life at sea and protects our coasts from pollution, a task the Government entrust to the three General Lighthouse Authorities for the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, we must balance this responsibility against the efficiencies demanded of all public sector organisations and our continued drive to minimise cost.
In my Written Ministerial Statement of 26 July 2010 (Official Report, cols. 75-76WS), I stated my desire to provide the shipping industry with long-term stability in the level of light dues paid for marine aids to navigation. In December 2010, I made a commitment
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Over the last year, I have continued to work with the General Lighthouse Authorities to identify where it is prudent and appropriate to rationalise services, enlisting the expertise of the authorities' Joint Strategic Board to examine the question of pension liabilities and ever-closer working between the General Lighthouse Authorities themselves. We have identified and exploited considerable opportunities for greater efficiency, the most notable relating to aids to navigation monitoring centralisation, buoy yard reorganisation and staffing reductions. These have succeeded in lowering running costs substantially, against a targeted five year reduction of 17% the General Lighthouse Authorities now expect to achieve 19%.
Furthermore, the Department for Transport tendered and replaced part of the General Lighthouse Fund investment portfolio to facilitate its use for a General Lighthouse Authorities staff pension reserve; the new portfolio reduces investment risk and facilitates stability.
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.
I am pleased to inform the House of three announcements from my department-the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)-with regard
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Alongside the response we are also publishing a high-level framework-informed by our consultation-that sets out the process for identifying and assessing potential candidate sites within volunteer areas in England. The framework more clearly defines stage 4 of the managing radioactive waste safely (MRWS) process for implementing the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.
The consultation, which ran from June to September last year, considered how desk-based studies would be used by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to identify potential sites following a decision to participate by a local community at the end of stage 3 of the MRWS process. It also set out how potential sites would be assessed against agreed criteria and how decisions would be made-both at the local and national level-on which potential sites should go forward for detailed geological assessment in stage 5.
Having considered all responses received during the consultation the Government have concluded there was general support for our proposals for site identification and assessment and for the criteria which will be used to identify and evaluate potential candidate sites.
To accompany the government response we have produced a framework document that contains the agreed criteria and a high-level description of the desk-based site identification and assessment process for England. It reflects the proposals presented in the public consultation, including a number of additions and clarifications to the criteria, in response to comments we received. It confirms that sites will be assessed using multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) as a tool to aid decision-making, and it sets out the next steps to develop this methodology, including the development of scoring scales and the weighting of the criteria.
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