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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

EU Environment Ministers' Meeting

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): EU Environment Ministers and Energy Ministers, MEPs and representatives from the European Commission attended an informal ministerial meeting in Paris, France, to discuss the 2020 climate-energy package and the international climate negotiations. I attended on 3 July and my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy attended from 4 to 5 July.

The first working session, in the presence of representatives from civil society and industry, examined the role that the EU should play in reaching a global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The UK emphasised the importance of reaching agreement on the energy-climate package so that the EU can be a real force in the international negotiations. Over lunch, member states discussed what they consider is the key for the success of the 2020 package. During the debate the UK highlighted the importance of the EU delivering the 30 per cent. reduction in EU emissions as part of a global international agreement, the need to agree incentive mechanisms for encouraging the carbon capture and storage demonstration projects and our concerns regarding any proposal for the EU to earmark EU ETS auction revenues.

In the second working session, Ministers met with members of the European Parliament for in-depth discussions on the issues concerning the implementation of the energy-climate package. The UK acknowledged that to progress efficiently in the negotiations and obtain a definitive agreement on the package before the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, the framework for discussion should continue to be what was proposed by the Commission. Amendments to the Commission’s proposals were suggested offering flexibilities to encourage the reduction of emissions where they are cheapest. Many Ministers expressed concerns about the need to ensure solidarity between the member states to meet the significant costs of a transition to a low carbon EU economy. Ministers agreed that determining which sectors were at risk of carbon leakage should be evidence based and timely.

The informal meeting also examined EU GMOs policy and established a working group to undertake further analysis of the issues. The work of this group should be concluded in time for the Council of Environment Ministers on 4 to 5 December and will form the basis for discussions on interim guidelines.

Finally, the informal ended with a joint lunch with the European Ministers for energy, which was also attended by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel prize winner and chairman of the IPCC, who spoke about the urgent need to fight climate change.

Carbon Reduction Commitment

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The carbon reduction commitment (CRC) is a new emissions trading scheme for large non-energy intensive commercial and public
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sector organisations. The scheme will place an emissions cap on up to 5,000 large business and public sector organisations responsible for around 14 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) emissions each year.

In March this year we published a Government response to our consultation on the implementation proposals for CRC. I am able to announce today progress on a number of CRC scheme design issues. We propose to operate the CRC on a financial rather than calendar year and propose to permit participants to use allowances from the fixed-price sale in the second year to cover their first year emissions. This will reduce the gap between allowance sales and the recycling of allowance revenue to just six months. There are a number of other proposed CRC scheme wide amendments to improve the operation of the scheme. We will invite views in the consultation on the scheme regulations later this year on these proposed amendments.

We also said in the Government response to our consultation that we would review whether to include schools in the scheme. Respondents to the consultation highlighted the wide potential for energy efficiency in schools and so urged us to require local authorities to include schools as part of their estate for the purposes of CRC, rather than taking the voluntary approach we proposed. The Government, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have decided to include schools in Great Britain in the scheme. All state-funded schools will be included under the umbrella of their local authority; qualifying local authorities will participate on their behalf in CRC. In this way schools will not be required to participate directly in emissions trading as this will be the responsibility of the local authority. Schools will have to report annual energy use data to their local authority and will be able to share the benefits of CRC in the form of improved energy efficiency and reduced energy bills. It will also give schools the opportunity to involve children in delivering energy efficiency improvements and carbon reductions and in safeguarding the future of the environment. In Northern Ireland, where schools are not overseen by local authorities, the Executive are considering whether and how best to include schools in the scheme.

I have deposited copies of our policy paper setting out progress in the House Library.


End of Life Care Stategy

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): Today the Government have published the end of life care strategy. This is the first time this country will have a long-term, comprehensive strategy for the care of adults at the end of their life. The strategy builds on the progress made over recent years and sets out a range of recommendations to deliver improvements in end of life care. Its aim is to deliver increased choice to all adult patients, regardless of their condition, about where they live and die and to improve care given in all settings, to patients, carers and families.

The strategy sets out how the manifesto commitment to double investment in palliative care will be met and how choice at the end of life will be improved. It sets
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out the responsibilities of commissioners of end of life care services and of all involved in the delivery of care. It complements and supports the visions for end of life care developed by strategic health authorities as part of the NHS next stage review.

The strategy has been placed in the Library of the House, and copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

Home Department

Magee Review of Criminality Information

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The House will wish to know that Sir Ian Magee’s independent review of criminality information is being published today.

I am grateful to Sir Ian for his work on the review. He has presented us with a substantial report with wide ranging implications for all organisations which collect information that may be relevant to the prevention, investigation, prosecution, or penalising of crime. This is a complex area and there are no quick fixes. Sir Ian’s package of recommendations will require sustained attention. I will therefore be consulting widely and I intend to publish a full, Government-wide action plan in the autumn.

The Government are keen to develop work quickly across a range of Sir Ian’s recommendations and my Department will continue to take the lead in driving this work forward as part of our primary focus on public protection. We intend now to proceed with the following.

First, we will continue with the complex and difficult work which the Home Office has been leading to enhance the information we have about the criminal histories of foreign nationals and UK citizens who have spent time abroad. We will do this both by making better use of existing information channels and by leading a process of improvement within Europe and more widely. This work will significantly improve the way we protect the public by ensuring relevant overseas data are available to inform the criminal justice process and key systems such as those used to vet and bar people seeking to work with children and vulnerable adults.

Secondly, we will build on, extend and strengthen existing streams of work, such as the programme the Home Office has led to implement the recommendations from the Bichard inquiry, to develop a clear strategic direction for the improvement of criminality information management across what Sir Ian is calling the public protection network. That will provide the framework for positive changes to sharing of criminality information, training for leaders and front line staff and the ways in which we identify and respond to information-related risks.

Thirdly, the Home Office will be involved in an in-depth review of the way technology supports information flows between public protection organisations, drawing on the expertise of other Departments and key organisations such as the National Policing Improvement Agency. A huge programme of work is already underway to strengthen
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information handling within policing and the broader criminal justice system, but we recognise the need to join up even more and sharpen the focus on public protection. There is also significant potential to save taxpayers’ money through the re-use of existing technology and through reducing the amount of duplicate data held by various organisations.

Fourthly, Sir Ian has conducted some detailed work in specific areas of public protection and made recommendations that directly affect front line operations. We intend to implement these recommendations. Their focus is improving the way information is captured, stored and accessed, shared, analysed and acted upon, and managed. Full implementation of these recommendations will improve the quality of criminality information available to front line staff who are making very difficult decisions on a day-to-day basis. In all these areas we will be building on the foundations of positive work which is already underway between the Home Office and its partners within the public protection network. For example, I anticipate we can:

Working together to protect the public is the fundamental statement of purpose for the Home Office. I want that to be the guiding principle for our policies to cut crime, provide effective policing, secure our borders and protect personal identity. The effective use and sharing of criminality information is critical to the successful delivery of those policies and Sir Ian’s report provides us with the framework within which that can be achieved.

Copies of the documents have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Draft Apprenticeships Bill

The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. John Denham): Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and I publish the draft Apprenticeships Bill. In January 2008, “World Class Apprenticeships” set out plans for achieving our aspirations for the apprenticeships programme. This draft Bill sets out the legislative framework needed to underpin our strategy to increase the number of apprenticeship places and strengthen apprenticeships in England.

Our ambition is that apprenticeships are seen as a key route to the best jobs, the best careers and the best chance to get on in life. Apprenticeships are at the heart of our strategy to raise the age of participation in education or training for all young people, with high quality vocational training clearly recognised as a mainstream route for young people. Apprenticeships will also help build a workforce fit for the future by providing better and more relevant skills to enable us to compete in the global economy.

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Since 1997, we have substantially increased investment in apprenticeships, and the number of starts has increased from 65,000 in 1996-97 to 180,000 in 2006-07. This increase has been accompanied by a steady improvement in the number of people completing apprenticeships, from 40,000 in 2001-02 to 112,000 in 2006-07.

We want to build on this success. We want a significant increase in the number of places so that by 2013 we can ensure that there is an apprenticeship place for every suitably qualified young person who wants one. We want to strengthen the programme so that we can ensure that all apprenticeships are of a uniformly high quality.

Following pre-legislative scrutiny and the consultation we are launching today, the provisions in the draft Bill will form part of the Education and Skills Bill we will introduce in the next Session.

Copies of the draft Apprenticeships Bill will be made available in the Vote office and Printed Paper Office.


Information Commissioner

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): I am today publishing a consultation on the Information Commissioner’s inspection powers and on funding the Information Commissioner’s duties under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Government want to ensure that the Information Commissioner has the powers and resources to continue to be able to carry out his duties under the Data Protection Act 1998 effectively, in a rapidly changing environment. Good regulation is essential to support a robust data protection framework. The use of information underpins Government’s ability to deliver benefits for the citizen through improved public services, new opportunities for the most disadvantaged, protection from crime and terrorism and sustaining economic well being.

Our proposals have been informed by the “Data Sharing Review Report” published on Friday 11 July. Government welcome the review which provides a comprehensive look at the use and protection of personal information in today’s society. I am grateful for the invaluable and thorough work that Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, and Dr. Mark Walport, of the Wellcome Trust, have done in this complex area.

In October 2007, the Prime Minister invited Richard Thomas and Dr. Mark Walport to undertake an independent review of the framework for the use of personal information—in both the private and public sector.

The objectives of the review were to consider whether there should be any changes to the way the Data Protection Act 1998 operates in the UK and explore options for implementing any possible changes. The review also made recommendations on the powers and sanctions available to the regulator and courts in the legislation governing data sharing and data protection, as well as how the Government should develop data sharing policy in a way that ensures proper transparency, scrutiny and accountability.

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I welcome the review’s recommendations and agree that measures need to be taken to increase public trust and confidence in the handling and processing of personal data by Government and the private sector. Government will consider how best to take forward the remaining recommendations and it will respond in detail in autumn 2008.

Copies of the consultation will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. It is also available on the internet at:

Reoffending Targets

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): I am, with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, announcing the national targets for reducing adult and youth reoffending. Our new challenging targets will help drive a focus across government on those offenders who commit the highest number of offences and cause the most damage to communities.

The new national targets are:

These targets demonstrate the Government’s continuing commitment to tackling reoffending. For adult offenders, this commitment has seen a 7.4 per cent. reduction in the number of reoffenders compared to a predicted rate, and an 11.4 per cent. fall in the frequency rate of reoffending between 2000 and 2005. For juvenile reoffenders, while the number of reoffenders has remained stable, we have seen a 17.4 per cent. fall in the frequency rate of reoffending between 2000 and 2005.

These targets underpin an indicator in the “Make Communities Safer” Public Service Agreement, published last year, which set out how we will work to reduce adult and youth reoffending and reduce crime.

The new targets will continue to focus partners across government and beyond to work together to reduce reoffending. We will continue to provide support for those offenders who are trying to change and turn away from offending, but for those offenders unwilling to change, the targets provide renewed emphasis of the need to catch and convict them as speedily and efficiently as possible.

Spending review 2002 target

We will report our performance against the 2002 spending review target to reduce reoffending by 5 per cent. by 2006 when the 2006 data become available.

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