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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 22 March 2010

Culture, Media and Sport

Public Libraries (Modernisation)

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): In December 2009 we published our consultation document on the future of public libraries in England and committed to publishing the Government's vision for libraries in the spring. I have today laid before Parliament "The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries: A Policy Statement" setting out our policies for public libraries in England.

The policy statement builds on the 10-year strategy for libraries published in 2003 "Framework for the Future". Specifically it sets out:

A Library Offer to the Public: The Government recommend a Library Offer to the public for all public libraries in England. The Library Offer will be made up of a "core offer" of services which all library services should deliver and a "local offer" of services, shaped and delivered at local level. The Government recommend all library authorities make their Library Offer to the public clear and visible to all the citizens in the area-on their website, in library buildings and through any other local marketing opportunities. The Government will review the Library Offer after two years and consider whether to legislate to make it a statutory obligation.

Free internet access: The Government expect that from April 2011 all library services will provide free internet access to users as part of their Library Offer to the public. Government will, under section 8(2)(b) of the 1964 Public Libraries Act, make an affirmative order preventing libraries from charging for internet access.

Support to get online: The Government recommend that all library services provide support and advice for users wanting to get online as part of their Library Offer to the public.

Library Membership from Birth: Research shows that children benefit in many ways from library visits and early access to books and reading. The Government expect that from April 2011 all library services offer library membership as an entitlement from birth. This might be achieved in a number of ways:

E-Books: There are new and exciting opportunities around digital lending. With the launch of a number of different e-reading devices, digital reading is growing in the public consciousness where downloadable audio books are already fully established. Currently 14 library services offer e-book services in England with more planning to launch shortly. All lend for free. The Government believe that e-book lending is likely to form a key 24/7 public service in the future with public
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library services being accessed from home and on the move as well as in library buildings, and will therefore initiate changes to secondary legislation to guarantee free e-book loans. The Government will under section 8(2)(b) of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 make an affirmative order preventing libraries from charging for e-books lending of any sort including remotely.

The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964: The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (the 1964 Act) sets out the statutory duty for all local authorities to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service set in the context of local need-specifically of those who live, work and study in the local area. The 1964 Act imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to oversee and promote the public library service and to secure discharge of the statutory duties of local authorities as well as providing certain powers to take action where a local authority is in breach of its own duty. The Government judge that the 1964 Act's imposition of this duty on local authorities is appropriate and that the Secretary of State's overview role should be maintained.

We have no plans, therefore, to review the primary legislation but recognise that the process of intervention needs modernisation.

Public Libraries (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992: Although the Government do not expect to activate the inquiry rules often, the Government will amend the Public Libraries (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 to modernise the processes by which the Secretary of State intervenes in a library service.

Guidance on processes of engagement and consultation: Best practice guidance is issued in the policy statement on the processes which the Government recommend library authorities consider under their statutory duty. The Government will review this best practice guidance after two years and consider whether to legislate to make the guidance statutory.

Strategic Body for the Sector: The Government are minded to establish a strategic body for the sector as a means of providing a stronger national voice for libraries and improving leadership and development of the sector. As part of the wider review of arm's length bodies, the Government will consider bringing together the functions of three different organisations-the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Advisory Council on Libraries and the Registrar of Public Lending Right. The Government propose the libraries body has a statutory advisory function, with the formal power to advise the Secretary of State on his role under the 1964 Act. The Government will undertake a business case in consultation with stakeholders and will publish more detail as part of the broader review of arm's length bodies.

New Delivery Models: As local authorities face a tough spending round with hard choices to be made on front-line services, the Government encourage councils to look at new delivery models for their public library service. The Government believe that the current model of 151 library authorities is unsustainable. If the public are to be offered a comprehensive public library service at the local level, library services will either need to work closely together, merge with other authorities or establish trust models of private/public partnerships. There may also be opportunities to share services with university libraries and collaborate on opening times, access and management of stock.

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Armed Forces Equipment

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): During the defence in the world debate on 15 March I set out my intention to announce a number of important equipment procurement decisions over the coming days that will deliver vital capabilities for the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force, ensuring they are well equipped to undertake future missions.

My approach continues that which I set out in the House on 15 December, and on 3 February with the defence Green Paper that paves the way for a strategic defence review after the general election. Many of the decisions we face in the future of defence will be left for the review but there is also a clear need to maintain momentum on projects that are integral to any future defence programme, and to continue to work to ensure the long-term affordability of the overall programme.

Today, I am pleased to announce the successful outcome of the specialist vehicle competition. This represents a very important milestone towards replacing the ageing combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked), and is one of the highest equipment priorities for the Army.

Preferred bidder status has been awarded to General Dynamics UK for the demonstration phase of the specialist vehicle programme, subject to successful completion of contractual negotiations. This decision was made following a robust assessment of the tenders received, ensuring value for money throughout the life of these vehicles.

The solution offered by General Dynamics UK is based on an upgrade to the ASCOD vehicle that is already in service with a number of European nations. The British variants of this design will employ the 40 mm cased telescoped ammunition and cannon, and provide protection against a wide range of threats. Once in service, this new capability will bring significant benefit to the Army including improved protection, greater firepower, longer-range sensors and sighting systems, and a higher level of reliability.

General Dynamics UK's proposed solution contains 73 per cent. UK content within the supply chain and the assembly, integration and test facilities at the Defence Support Group Donnington. This ensures the sustainment of UK jobs, UK skills and UK capabilities within the armoured vehicle sector.

We are determined to provide the armed forces with the capabilities they require, and the SV decision follows the announcement of our commitment to order an initial batch of 200 light protected patrol vehicles (LPPV), which we will get to Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The initial batch of 200 vehicles will be funded from the Treasury reserve as an urgent operational requirement. The LPPVs we are assessing through competition are at the cutting edge of technology, providing the optimum balance between protection, weight and manoeuvrability required by our armed forces on operations in Afghanistan.

This is in addition to the announcements I made on 15 December, of further reserve funding of £280 million for equipment for Afghanistan including additional vehicles, and £900 million of enhancements from the core defence programme, including 22 Chinook helicopters, an additional C-17, a doubling of our Reaper capability,
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and strengthening our counter-IED capability-funded by savings in lower priority areas, and based on our determination to support the current campaign and our belief that we expect such capabilities to feature in future conflicts.

We are not able to announce the outcome of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme competition today. Following an assessment of the tenders from BAE Systems Global Combat Systems and Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill, we intend to invite the competitors to revise and confirm their bids. Further announcements will be made in due course.

I am, however, pleased to announce that on 19 March we reached agreement with the US Government to purchase three Rivet Joint aircraft and associated ground systems delivering vital capability for the Royal Air Force to replace the Nimrod R1 capability that will be retired from service in March 2011.

The Rivet Joint system was selected following an extensive assessment phase that considered a number of possible solutions. Rivet Joint was selected as it is the only viable option that meets the requirements of our armed forces.

I intend to make further announcements in the coming days about new and additional capability for our armed forces and defence contracts for UK industry.

Departmental Expenditure Limits (Replacement)

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): The following statement replaces information given in the Ministry of Defence previous departmental expenditure limits (DEL) written ministerial statement on 23 February 2010, Official Report, columns 29-30WS.

Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the DEL will be increased by £284,565,000, voted and non-voted, from £39,596,111,000 to £39,880,676,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

ChangeNew DEL








Of which:








Near-cash in RDEL























(*)Depreciation, which forms part of Resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The changes to the resource and capital elements of the DEL arise from:

Voted Resource DEL decrease £33,261,000:


(1) An increase of £100,000,000 Direct Resource near cash relief in RfRl, as agreed with Treasury from the Reserve.

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(2) Resource transfers into RfRl from the Cabinet Office being their contribution to MOD security costs of £6,000,000 transfers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of £6,695,000 and £1,965,000 for the Counter Narcotics Ground Force, and a transfer of £1,002,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office being their contribution to the Information Assurance Technical Programme.

(3) A transfer of £211,000 from the Cabinet Office being their contribution to the Parliamentary Counsel cost (an increase in Administration Voted DEL).

(4) A net decrease in the cash release of provisions of £17,324,000 charged to RDEL (with a corresponding increase in the provision charge scored in AME) to reflect the latest forecast of outturn.

(5) To re-allocate the net resource impact of £35,000,000 for employee benefits under IFRS trigger point 3 from AME to Resource DEL, reflecting the revised control framework for this item.

(6) To reflect the revised, and reduced, resource impact assessment of disclosing three PFI contracts as finance leases under IAS 17, being a credit of £21,000,000.

(7) To reflect the revised resource impact resulting from a reduced service charge credit relating to Annington Homes of £18,000,000.

(8) To reflect the non cash resource impact, in the amount of £26,000,000, of implementing IFRS 17 on three PFI off balance sheet contracts now re-assessed as finance leases.

(9) To reflect the IFRS reduced near cash service charge of £178,000,000 impact of disclosing IFRIC 12 PFI assets on MOD's balance sheet.

(10) To increase Non-Budget Grants in Aid (Non Voted) for the Council of Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) of £4,199,000 in the Central Top Level Budget (TLB) and £4,943,000 in Land TLB; £210,000 for the Marine and Sea Cadets Society by reducing Resource DEL current costs and increasing Non-Budget Grants in Aid with no overall impact on resource.

(11) To increase non budget funding by £10,991,000 from within Resource DEL to reflect the latest forecast of outturn for the Navy Command, Land Forces, and Central TLBs.

(12) To revise sub-head provisions to reflect Resource and Capital revisions in allocations between TLB Holders to match required defence outputs, with no overall impact on DEL.


(1) A net resource increase of £13,430,000 in non- cash depreciation and cost of capital costs to reflect the latest forecast cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(2) A transfer in of £1,832,000 from the Department for International Development (DflD) being their contribution to the Global Pool (RfR2).

(3) To reflect a technical disclosure change by moving £6,729,000 from Voted to Non-Voted expenditure, relating to a transfer made to DflD in Winter Supplementary Estimates (WSE), with no overall impact on DEL.

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