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Written Statements

Friday 8 November 2013

Agriculture: Common Agricultural Policy


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Right Hon Friend the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson) has today made the following statement.

Today, I am announcing the Government’s decision on the allocation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget for the period 2014-2020 within the UK. This will set out how the funds allocated to the UK for direct payments to farmers (Pillar 1) and rural development (Pillar 2) will be divided between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Under the EU budget deal agreed by the European Council in February, the UK has, in principle, been allocated €25.1 billion in nominal terms in direct payments (Pillar 1) and €2.6 billion in Pillar 2 over the period 2014-2020. It will deliver very significant sums of money to UK farmers and other CAP recipients.

Before making a decision on how to divide the funds between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I sought and considered the views of agriculture ministers in each of the Devolved Administrations. I also sought and considered views from stakeholders across the UK.

As the UK’s Pillar 1 funds will be reduced over the next budgetary period, the Government has decided that the most appropriate way of allocating this cut is through an equal proportional reduction to the financial ceilings across the four regions. This means that, over the next CAP programme, subject to final confirmation of the EU budget, the administrations will receive:

• England €16,421.5 million, • Scotland €4,096.2 million, • Wales €2,244.5 million and• Northern Ireland €2,298.8 million.

Similarly, the Government has decided that the change in our Pillar 2 allocation should be distributed equally among the four regions. This means that, over the next CAP programme the administrations will receive:

• England €1,520.0 million, • Scotland €477.8 million, • Wales €355.0 million and • Northern Ireland €227.4 million.

This announcement gives clarity to each of the administrations as they plan how to implement the 2014-2020 CAP. In England we are currently consulting on the details of implementation.

Food and Environment Research Agency


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): I am announcing today that Defra will

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undertake a market sounding exercise to explore joint venture as a potential future business model for Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Fera provides a range of important services to Government, with key capability in the areas of plant and bee health, and food and environmental safety, as well as providing a range of services to the European Union and overseas Governments. It also undertakes a range of services for commercial customers primarily in the food, agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries where Government has little direct interest. This includes Fera’s proficiency testing schemes, with participants from over 90 different countries.

Fera plays an important role in the agri-food market. Its capabilities, brand and pedigree means it is very well placed to play an even greater role in what is a very important, and growing, global marketplace. This presents a real opportunity for Fera to grow its non-government revenue. It will also help offset the expected reduction in Government revenues. The constraints of operating within Government, however, currently limit Fera’s ability to exploit this opportunity fully. For this reason I am keen to explore whether the best option to protect the long-term financial viability and scientific capability of Fera is a joint venture.

An external partner who has the necessary expertise and experience could help Fera further develop and grow non-government revenue. This would enable Defra to achieve its long-term aims and ensure that Government will continue to have access to the high-quality scientific capability provided by Fera. This is consistent with support for the recently announced Agri-Tech Strategy.

I have agreed that the next phase of work on the future of Fera should include a market sounding exercise, where Defra will engage with interested parties to explore further the option of a joint venture. This approach is consistent with the Civil Service Reform Plan and Government’s overarching growth agenda. The joint venture option will then be tested against other viable options in a business case for changing Fera.

I believe that Fera offers a potential partner(s) a unique opportunity to work with Defra to develop and enhance what is an internationally recognised scientific organisation. I am also confident that a joint venture would offer new opportunities to Fera’s staff, who are essential to the continued success of the business going forward.

The Bee Health Inspectors, the Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate and the UK Government Decontamination Service currently within Fera, will remain in government due to their enforcement and statutory functions and will be outside of the scope of the market sounding exercise.

I will make a final decision on the future of Fera by the end of this financial year, once the next phase of the project has been completed, when I will make a further announcement.

Forensic Science Regulator


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My hon Friend the Minister for Crime Prevention (Norman Baker) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

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A consultation on strengthening the powers of the Forensic Science Regulator has been launched today.

The Regulator’s role is to set the quality standards expected of organisations providing forensic science services to the criminal justice system. These standards help ensure the accuracy and impartiality of forensic evidence used in police investigations and in court, protecting the innocent from wrongful convictions and ensuring criminals are brought to justice. To date, the Regulator has been successful in securing uptake of these standards on a voluntary basis.

However, our discussions with the police, commercial forensic service providers and the Regulator, taken alongside market developments and changes in legislation, have indicated there is a risk that voluntary quality standards might not, in the future, provide the high level of assurance required for forensic evidence. For that reason we now propose introducing stronger powers, including putting the Regulator’s codes of practice, which set out the quality standards for forensic science providers, on a statutory basis. It would then be mandatory for every organisation carrying out forensic analysis for the criminal justice system, including commercial providers to the police and to defendants, and the police themselves, to meet these standards. There has been support from the Regulator, many commercial providers and the Science and Technology Select Committee for these proposals. This consultation is an opportunity to seek wider views, before determining the most effective and proportionate regulation system for forensic science.

A copy of this consultation will be placed in the House Library and it will also available on the Home Office website: www.gov.uk

The Government’s response to the Science and Technology Select Committee report on forensic science is also being published today, 8 November. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

Machinery of Government Change: Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service


The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford) (Con): My Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister has made the following statement:

This written ministerial statement confirms that the sponsorship role for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and responsibility

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for contact services and activities will transfer from the Department for Education to the Ministry of Justice on 1st April 2014.

Schools: Property Data


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Education (Rt Hon Michael Gove MP) made the following announcement:

I wish to inform the House of the latest position regarding the Property Data Survey—the condition survey of all school buildings.

In 2007, the previous Government abandoned the systematic collection of information on the condition of schools. Some local authorities sensibly continued to survey their schools but many did not. The last time we had a national picture of the condition of our schools was in 2005—now eight years ago.

In his Review of Education Capital, Sebastian James recommended that we put this right. He proposed that we gather all existing local condition data into a central database. In July 2011, I announced that we would start work immediately to collect up-to-date information on the condition of school buildings by re-surveying the estate.

My aim was to complete this by Autumn 2013. In order to make this achievable we looked to use locally prepared data where it was believed to be up-to-date and of good quality. Approximately 90 local authorities submitted local condition surveys for analysis on that basis.

Our quality assurance process identified however that locally-produced survey data was, in some cases, not accurate and, in others, inconsistent.

I have now instructed my Department to extend its central surveys to cover all schools for which local authorities have supplied data. This means undertaking an additional 8,000 surveys, which will take approximately a further eight months to complete. By next summer we will have collected up to date, reliable and validated condition information for the entire schools estate. My intention remains to target funding to where it is most needed and I will use the information from the surveys to do that from 2015-16.

Proceeding in this way means that, in 2014-15, I will be allocating maintenance funding using the same methodology as I used in 2013-14 and I will set out the detail of all the allocations and the technical basis on which they were made when I announce them.