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The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Minister for Veterans (Mr Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
56 per cent of children to achieve at least 78 points in the EYFS profile with at least a score of six in each of the scales in personal, social and emotional development and communication, language and literacy.
Following the extension of the statutory bus concession in April 2008 to provide free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England, the Government have provided additional special grant funding to local authorities of £212 million in 2008-09, followed by £217 million for 2009-10 and £223 million for 2010-11. This is in addition to the funding that Government provide each year for concessionary travel through the formula grant process, bringing total spending on concessionary travel to around £1 billion a year.
A special grant report, which specified the amounts to be paid to authorities for the three years from 2008-09 to 2010-11, was approved by Parliament in March 2008. The formula used to distribute the extra funding was based on data on eligible local population, visitor numbers, retail floor space and current bus use. As such it was designed to take account of likely demand in areas such as coastal towns, urban centres and other places likely to experience an increase in costs.
There is no evidence that the additional special grant funding is insufficient in total to meet the costs of the new concession. However, I am aware of some distributional issues that have arisen that have led to around 30 (out of over 260) travel concession authorities at risk of a significant shortfall in funding. At the same time, I am aware of other authorities that may have received more funding than they require to meet the additional costs of the improved concession.
It is for this reason that I am today launching a consultation on whether to allocate the special grant for 2010-11 using a revised distribution, which seeks better to match the pattern of costs being incurred by local authorities. Any revised grant distribution developed after the consultation will be published in the form of a special grant report which will itself then be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny in due course.
Earlier this year we also consulted on the way in which concessionary travel will be administered from 2011. Over 200 responses were received to the consultation and we are in the process of considering these responses. I expect to be able to make a further announcement on the outcome of this consultation in due course.
I would like to emphasise that the funding distribution and administrative issues should by no means detract from the success of the national bus concession, which the Government will continue to offer to older and disabled people in England. These changes make no change to either the services pass holders are entitled to use, or to who can receive the concession. Concessionaires themselves should therefore not notice any difference in the service they receive, under the proposals suggested.
The introduction of free off-peak local bus travel throughout England from 1 April 2008 has given the opportunity for greater freedom and independence to around 11 million older and disabled people. No older or disabled person in England now need be prevented from local bus travel by cost alone and the scheme represents a major step forward in tackling social inclusion for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
We come into Parliament not to serve our own self interest-but to serve the public interest. But that is not the impression the public have. We have all acknowledged that, and recognised that to ensure that we have a system in which everyone can have confidence we needed to take action.
To deal with the past we are ensuring that any overpayments-including those which were simply a mistake-are paid back. That is the work that the Members Estimate Committee, which is chaired by you, Mr Speaker, commissioned from Sir Thomas Legg.
We have already taken action to change the current allowance system. In order to allow for the period while wholesale reform of our allowances is being considered we introduced interim measures last May to pare back allowances, as a result of a meeting of the party leaders and the Members Estimate Committee.
We have also recognised that, for the future, it is no longer appropriate for us to set or administer our own allowance system. That is why in July we passed the Parliamentary Standards Act, which set up the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which will decide on our allowances and run the system.
MPs representing constituencies outside London need to be able to live both in their constituency and in Westminster because they need to work in both places. We do not want a Parliament where the only people who can come to Westminster as MPs are those who are wealthy enough to afford to pay for two homes out of their own pocket. Nor do we want to undermine the importance of MPs working in two places-both in the constituency and in Westminster. Both are important. Nor do we want to have a situation where you cannot have your family with you if you are an MP. The Kelly report recognises that the allowances are there so that Parliament works properly on behalf of people in this country:that the constituency link is sustained;that Parliament is not barred to people on modest incomes, and
The acting chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Andrew MacDonald, has been appointed and has begun work and you, Mr Speaker, have today announced that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy has been selected as the new chair-designate of IPSA. I will put the Motion to confirm his appointment to the House in the next few days. The other members of the authority will be appointed shortly.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has already started the work of setting up the new allowance regime for MPs. A new allowances regime will be in place to come into effect in the new Parliament-as recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly.
In the light of this, the Government welcome and fully accept the Kelly report which should be taken as a whole. It will be for the IPSA to take it forward. This is the approach Kelly's report itself recommends.
Mr Speaker, because we decided in July that in future we would play no part in our allowance system and it would be done independently, it does not make sense for us now to vote on the future shape of our allowance system. Instead, that is the job of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. After all, that is what we set it up to do.
The Parliamentary Standards Act lays down that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority must consult MPs and others when drawing up the allowances regime. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will set to work immediately and we expect, following such consultations, it to proceed as quickly as possible to put into effect the Kelly recommendations on allowances.
Sir Christopher Kelly's report is another important step on the road to the public knowing that the allowance system has been put on a proper independent footing, and that we are getting on with our important task of serving our constituents and this country.
This House of Commons has yet fully to resolve this damaging episode. But with clear acknowledgement of the public anger, with firm action already taken, with the Kelly report and the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, this will be resolved.
I have received the 22nd reports of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under Articles 4 and 7 of the international agreement that established the commission and it reports on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.
The IMC reports on the serious threat posed by dissident republicans. It concludes that the activities of both the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, including the murders of Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar and PC Carroll in March, and a number of other extremely serious incidents, are designed to undermine peaceful political progress.
The IMC notes that the completion of devolution could be a potent intervention "because policing and justice would no longer be a point of contention across the political divide" but rather be "a platform for co-operation against those trying to undermine the peace process". The Government remain committed to do all they can to provide a solid foundation for a devolved Department of Justice.
The IMC also acknowledges the very real progress towards decommissioning made by loyalists. It concludes that the UVF is an organisation on its way to going out of business, and that the leadership of the UDA has given a significant lead to change the organisation and shown remarkable commitment and progress in community development. I, too, hope that the UDA will follow through on the commitments it has made and complete the decommissioning process.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions and the Ageing Society (Angela Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
We plan to introduce a new part-week payment for people who move onto state pension from a working age benefit, to ensure that they do not experience a break in payments. DWP customers would also be able to keep the same pay day and pattern of payments when they reach pension age.
In line with current practice for working age benefits, people who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2010 will be allocated a pay day based on the last two digits of their national insurance number, and will be paid in arrears. Customers will continue to have a choice around how frequently they are paid.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (David Hanson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) marked a major step in the protection of privacy. Prior to RIPA, many of the more intrusive techniques which it regulates could be used by any public authority and authorised at any level, for any purpose. There was no comprehensive system of independent oversight, no independent judicial complaints mechanism available in relation to all these techniques, and no means by which Parliament could prescribe the ranks of authorising officers or limit the purposes for which the techniques could be used. In addressing this situation, RIPA ensured that only specified public authorities could continue to use certain key techniques to protect the public, and only if they could do so compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights and, particularly, the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life.
Nevertheless, a small number of local authorities have authorised techniques under RIPA in circumstances when most of us would say it was not necessary or proportionate for them to do so. In order to prevent this happening again, my department published on Friday 17 April a consultation paper entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Consolidating Orders
4 Nov 2009 : Column WS18
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