In the News
Wired - GOV Plus welcomes back its readers from the Christmas / New Year break. This ‘bumper edition’ newsletter, in addition to covering the last week ‘in full’ as normal, also includes our editor’s pick of items published during the break period – especially consultations, the announcement of which you may have missed. Other items can be accessed by going to the ‘Home’ page and clicking on ‘Search for Press releases’ using ‘December 2012’ as ‘Date From’ (plus 'January 2013' as 'Date to') and selecting a specific department, or ‘Any’.
PC&PE: Does improving drug treatment, etc. require de-criminalisation? - The Home Affairs Committee has published its first report on drugs in a decade. After a wide-ranging & in-depth inquiry lasting a year and examining all areas of UK drug policy, the Committee has called for a Royal Commission on the issue.
Whilst it supported a number of steps the Government has taken in its 2010 drug strategy, it believes more needs to be done to comprehensively address the drugs problem in the UK. The report focuses on the need to ‘break the cycle’ of drug addiction, and highlights in particular the need for improved treatment in prisons & wider society, and for early intervention with better education & preventative work.
MoJ: Ensuring Insurance claims for car crashes are ‘real’ - New measures to bring down the number & cost of whiplash claims, including speculative & fraudulent applications have been announced. Action has been taken after figures showed there had been a 60% rise in personal injury claims related to road accidents since 2006, despite vehicles becoming safer and a 20% reduction in the number of reported accidents over the same period.
There were over 500,000 whiplash claims last year – and insurers estimate they add £90p.a. to the average motor insurance policy. The consultation (closes on 8 March 2013) proposes:
* Creating new independent medical panels to improve diagnosis of whiplash injuries
* Options to allow more whiplash cases to be challenged in the small claims court
NAO: Saving the NHS by making it affordable - The NHS made a substantial amount of efficiency savings in 2011-12, according to a report published by the National Audit Office. These savings will need to be sustained & built on in future years if the NHS is to generate up to £20bn of savings in the 4 years to 2014-15.
The NAO found that, understandably, the NHS has started by making the easiest savings first. Although the savings made by NHS providers as a percentage of operating costs are increasing, it is not clear what level of savings is sustainable over time.
DH: Let’s hope the government uses more able negotiators this time – Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has unveiled the Government’s blueprint for changes to the GP contract. The proposals will change the way GPs are rewarded for the care they offer.
Instead of being rewarded extra for routine office functions like record keeping, GPs will be rewarded for steps which directly support & benefit patients. This includes better control of blood pressure & cholesterol, to prevent heart attacks & stroke and assessing patients at risk from dementia.
£ms will be switched into improving care for patients and making better use of taxpayers’ money. The proposed changes will see £164m pounds taken away from rewarding GPs for bureaucratic tick box exercises and re-directed into actions which will directly benefit patients. The BMA’s General Practitioners Committee & other primary care organisations now have 2 months (left) to respond to the Government’s proposals.
NHS Confed: Without proper recuperation the benefit of treatments will be negated - Adopting 6 key principles will help the delivery of effective integrated out-of-hospital care, says a new report by the NHS Confederation and Royal College of General Practitioners.
The report provides a set of principles to lay the foundations for delivering effective integrated out-of-hospital care, and offers local leaders a range of prompts, drivers & enablers to support them to effectively implement the approach.
NHS Confed: Co-ordination is the key to effective service provision - The NHS Confederation is calling on the children's & child health ministers to bring together decision-makers & leaders from children’s health services, education, social care, justice and wellbeing to agree a plan for joining up services in practice.
The demand for action comes as the NHS Confederation publishes a report on behalf of 7 leading health bodies. Children & young people’s health and wellbeing in changing times distils the learning from 4 events attended by 380 child health specialists into recommendations which will protect & improve children’s health services while the NHS undergoes significant reform.
The report’s main recommendation is that the Government must take transformative action to address the lack of policy coordination between different government departments and national bodies. This will smooth the path for joint working in local, regional and specialist services, now that child health services are commissioned by 8 different bodies in the new system.
EHRC: Is it the right time to have a Bill? - Mark Hammond, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has commented in response to the Bill of Rights Commission's report published recently.
SC: First step for 2 future Judges - The Sentencing Council is inviting current LPC & BPTC students to take part in its second mooting competition. The competition aims to promote awareness of sentencing, the use of the sentencing guidelines, and the work of the Sentencing Council among law students. Two winners will get mini pupillages at 25 Bedford Row Chambers and 2 Bedford Row Chambers.
Anyone interested should email us with their name, course, university/law school and email address by 14 January 2013. They will then be sent a case study to submit a plea in mitigation for the written round.
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Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has advised the UK Government that testing of all healthy cattle aged over 72 months for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) can be stopped, following agreement at a FSA Board meeting. It was agreed that the testing of these healthy cattle was no longer necessary as long as the other existing safety controls continued to be enforced vigilantly.
WAG: A new helpline, which will provide a single point of advice for concerned families of patients nearing the end of their lives, has been launched by Health Minister Lesley Griffiths. The helpline, called Dying Well Matters, will be hosted by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and will be available across Wales. The number is 0300 100 2011 and it will be open from 10am to 10pm.
ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has criticised local government’s attitude towards protecting personal data, after 4 local councils were issued civil monetary penalties.
HPA: The Health Protection Agency and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) are reminding UK travellers visiting friends & family or taking winter holidays to follow some top tips to ensure a safe and healthy holiday.
NE: Natural England has announced changes to the regulations affecting the use of imported non-native bumblebees for commercial pollination. The changes – which have been implemented from 1 January 2013 - are designed to help safeguard the health of native bumble bees & honey bees and will see a tightening of the licensing regulations.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DWP: Ministers confirmed recently that the Government would stand by its commitment to protect pensioner incomes and have also ensured that key support for disabled people would go up by 2.2% for next year. The 'triple lock' – a key coalition agreement – will be used for the first time to increase the basic State Pension next year at an above inflation 2.5% to £110.15 a week.
Ministers also confirmed that the main rates of the majority of working age benefits would be increased by 1% for the next 3 years. A new Bill will be introduced as soon as possible to enable the Government to implement the 1% in 2014/15 & 2015/16.
DWP: Ministers have confirmed the final elements of Universal Credit, claiming that 3m families will be better off under the new system by around £168 a month. The majority of these - 75% - will come from the bottom 40% of the income scale.
DfE: Children’s minister Edward Timpson has announced measures to help thousands of children in care in England achieve better grades at school and to help them turn their lives around.
The move comes as the Department publishes its annual statistics on school results achieved by those in care, which show just under 15% of them achieving 5 GCSEs, including English & maths. This is much lower than the 58% of children overall who pass 5 GCSEs, including English & Maths.
To prevent this attainment gap from stagnating or widening further, the Government intends to enshrine in law a Virtual School Head for every council. Their primary focus will be to raise the educational attainment of children in care by getting them the support they need to succeed at school and in later life.
Defra: Defra has approved trials of GM vaccines against prostate cancer & HIV. Both applications have been evaluated by the independent expert group the Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment (ACRE). In line with ACRE’s advice, precautionary conditions have been attached to the statutory consent for the trial to ensure there is no adverse effect on human health and the environment.
DWP: Disabled people receiving care & support to lead independent lives will from 2015 do so under one local streamlined system, Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey announced recently. The Independent Living Fund (ILF), set up over 20 years ago, will be incorporated into local social care arrangements over the next 2 years, to ensure fair, targeted support to those who need it.
DfE: Schools minister David Laws recently said he wanted more pupils to benefit from the Dux awards scheme in 2013. All 24 Russell Group universities will take part in the 2013 scheme, recognising & rewarding top performance & potential in maintained secondary school pupils, and raising their aspirations.
WAG: The Minister with responsibility for Transport, Carl Sargeant, has announced that some people with severe cognitive impairments, for example learning difficulties or autism, are to be entitled to a Blue Badge under plans to extend eligibility for the scheme.
CLG: Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles spelled out 50 sensible savings, a Council Tax freeze and a fair funding deal as the ‘right road’ for councils to protect residents & local services, as a major shake up of local finance was initiated recently.
CO: In the 18 months since its launch, over 300 complaints have been investigated through Mystery Shopper – a Cabinet Office initiative that asks businesses to ‘shop’ bad public procurement practice.
The service which allows businesses to complain about practice both across central government and the wider public sector has helped deliver positive changes in around 4 out of 5 cases Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary Chloe Smith announced recently.
CO: A report published by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, shows the progress on the Government’s quango reform programme (which is now more than half way through) and which departments estimate will reduce the administrative cost of public bodies by at least £2.6bn by 2015. The report also shows that the workforce of public bodies will fall by around a third over the Spending Review period.
CO: Fundamental changes to the way the Government shares its corporate services are set to ‘radically improve efficiency across departments and save taxpayers up to half a billion a year’, the Minister for the Cabinet Office announced recently.
DfT: Councils are invited to apply for a share of the £170m Local Pinch Point Fund to ‘remove bottlenecks on the highway network’.
WAG: A consultation paper seeks views on introducing a process to ensure consistency across Wales for when householders & businesses want to make minor changes to development proposals that have already been approved. Currently the approach taken by local planning authorities varies across the country. Consultation closes on 15 March 2013.
ScotGov: A stakeholders’ consultation on the implementation of the EU Dairy Package has been launched by the Scottish Government. Consultation closes on 21 January 2013.
EU News: The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the best way to improve air quality in Europe. The results of the consultation will feed into a comprehensive review of Europe's air policies due in 2013. The consultation closes on 4 March 2013.
Defra: The Government is pressing ahead with its plans to create Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to protect the UK’s rich marine environment. A consultation outlining the proposals for the first set of sites has been launched and will give coastal communities & those with an interest in the marine environment, the opportunity to have a say in its future.
The Government is proposing to designate around 10,900 km2 of marine habitat in the first phase this year. The 31 proposed sites provide a home to a variety of animals & plants, such as corals, jellyfish and seahorses. The area, roughly three times the size of Cornwall, will mean these are all given greater protection. The Consultation closes on 31 March 2013.
ICO: The ICO has launched a consultation on a new draft code that will help organisations handle subject access requests, while supporting the public in taking control of their personal information. During the last financial year, the ICO handled nearly 6,000 complaints from individuals unhappy that organisations were not complying with the law by allowing them to view their file.
The final version of the code will aim to clear up any confusion, by clearly & simply explaining an organisation’s legal responsibilities and individuals’ rights under the Act. Consultation closes on 21 February 2013.
HMT: The Government has published draft tax legislation, as well as responses to consultations that have taken place over the summer. The legislation will be included in Finance Bill 2013 and implements a number of tax policies announced at Budget 2012 and Autumn Statement 2012. The draft legislation is open to technical consultation until 6 February 2013.
Monitor: The sector regulator, Monitor, has set out how it proposes to enforce the rules for which it will be responsible under the new NHS regulatory regime. Monitor’s priority in exercising its new functions is to ensure that patients’ interests are protected & promoted. The consultation on Enforcement Guidance closes on Monday 11 February 2013.
The guidance comes into effect when licences are granted to foundation trusts, which is expected to be 1 April 2013. All providers of NHS Health Services will require a licence unless granted exemption by the Department of Health. The guidance also applies to new powers granted to Monitor under the 2012 Act to apply competition law in relation to the provision of healthcare services in England.
HEFCE: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is consulting on proposals to develop a new system for alternative providers of higher education. It is envisaged that the new system will involve more robust and transparent requirements in the areas of quality assurance, financial sustainability, and management and governance. The consultation closes on 23 January 2013.
HMT: The Government has launched a formal consultation on raising the maximum interest rate cap for credit union loans from 2% per month to 3% per month. Interest rates will not increase for loans that have already been issued. It will only affect new loans where the credit union chooses to apply the 3% limit. The consultation closes on 15 March 2013.
ScotGov: New proposals for safeguards to the legal system are being proposed in the light of the responses to the Carloway consultation, published recently. The consultation responses show majority support for almost all the recommendations proposed by the independent review of Scottish law and practice, led by senior high court judge Lord Carloway. The consultation closes on 15 March 2013.
WAG: The Welsh Government has launched a consultation to ask for opinions on the delivery of diabetes care in Wales. Together for Health – A Diabetes Delivery Plan is designed to support & inform NHS efforts to prevent & treat diabetes and tackle its consequences across Wales. It also makes clear what the Welsh public can expect of NHS diabetes care by 2015 -16. Consultation closes on 15 March 2013.
EU News: The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the future development of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas in Europe. All interested individuals, organisations and public authorities are welcome to share their views on the possible opportunities & challenges that may arise from the development of such projects and on the best ways to address the challenges identified so far. The consultation closes on 20 March 2013.
WAG: The Welsh Government has launched a public consultation on EU regulations in the dairy sector which could help farmers negotiate a better price for their milk. The regulations, which came into force in 2012, permit producers to establish Producer Organisations, or less formal groups, to help negotiate contracts for milk supply between dairy farmers and buyers.
The regulations also provide options to formalise milk supply contracts, along with a simplified approach to monthly reporting by milk processors. Mr Davies encouraged all interested parties to put forward their views by 21 January 2013.
FRC: The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) recently issued an exposure draft of International Standard on Auditing (ISA) 720 (Revised) “The Auditor’s Responsibilities Relating to Other Information in Documents Containing or Accompanying Audited Financial Statements and the Auditor’s Report Thereon”.
This proposes significant revisions to the current ISA, which is used as the basis for the Financial Reporting Council’s equivalent standard, ISA (UK and Ireland) 720 Section A. The FRC would welcome comments from interested parties on the IAASB exposure draft by 15 February 2013, before it finalises its response to the IAASB.
MoJ: New measures to bring down the number & cost of whiplash claims, including speculative & fraudulent applications have been announced. Insurers estimate they add £90 a year to the average motor insurance policy. The consultation (closes on 8 March 2013) – See ‘In the News Section’ for more information
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DH: Currently people who need mental health services are not able to make the same choices about their care & treatment as those who use other health services. But the response to the No Decision About Me, Without Me consultation outlines how they will are able to choose from any provider in England when they are referred for treatment from April 2014.
NICE: Greater awareness of hepatitis B & C is needed so that more people who are at risk can be tested & treated for the viruses, according to latest guidance from NICE. NICE also recommends that Public Health England and primary care practitioners should take overall responsibility for tracing the close contacts of people with confirmed and chronic hepatitis B infection.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Academy (HEA) has published 4 toolkits offering practical guidance to those working in higher education (HE) outreach & widening participation. The toolkits are web-based and are available on the HEA website.
The toolkits were commissioned by Higher Education Funding Council England and are designed to support the effective strategy, management & delivery of outreach work to encourage progression to HE. They draw on existing outreach methods & resources, most notably those produced by the Aimhigher partnerships.
NHS Confed: The NHS Confederation's new interactive guide to the Francis Inquiry provides an overview of the inquiry so far and details the key areas they expect to be covered in Robert Francis's report.
Due in January 2013, Robert Francis QC's report into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust will examine the wider health system & make recommendations for system-wide changes to prevent similar failings occurring in the future.
SFA: This week, the Skills Funding Agency has published a suite of information materials to help providers in their conversations with learners & employers. These include a learner frequently asked questions & factsheet and frequently asked questions for providers to use in conversations with employers. They are available on the Student Loans Company's practitioner website, which is now live.
In addition, the FSA will shortly publish case studies showing scenarios for different learners interested in loans, introductory paragraphs to loans that provider organisations can use on their websites and in their publications & resources such as the logo for 24+ Advanced Learning Loans and poster templates. Keep visiting the SLC practitioner website as these additional resources go online.
DfT: Thousands of traffic signs are being brought down across the country as part of a government drive to rid our streets of clutter. Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has urged local authorities to continue the cull. He has also unveiled a new document called ‘Reducing sign clutter’ that provides guidance to local authorities on how to remove unnecessary traffic signs as cost-effectively as possible.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the fragmented nature of farm oversight does not optimise value for money for the taxpayer and continues to burden compliant farmers unnecessarily. The cost to a farm of complying with regulations is on average around a tenth of its net profit.
NAO: The National Audit Office has provided the Committee of Public Accounts with a commentary on the first set of data published by the DWP on the number of people who have moved off benefits and into sustained employment as a result of the Work Programme. The data covers the period June 2011 to July 2012.
NO: A new report, published by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, reveals how people are struggling to get government departments & public organisations to put right basic mistakes, causing distress, inconvenience and, in some cases, financial hardship.
MoD: The Defence Secretary has welcomed Lord Levene's review of progress towards implementing the recommendations of the Defence Reform Review. In a letter to the Secretary of State, Lord Levene congratulated the Department on strong progress made against the 53 recommendations since the publication of the Defence Reform Report in June 2011.
HMIC: A recently published report finds that the police service has responded to the recommendations in HMIC’s 2011 report, Without Fear or Favour: but more needs to be done, and with a greater sense of urgency.
PC&PE: It is ‘not reasonable’ that some home-educated young people have poor access to public examinations, warns the House of Commons Education Committee in a report calling on the Government to ensure fair access and to meet the associated costs.
AS: An Audit Scotland report published last week, Health inequalities in Scotland, says that while overall health has improved in the past 50 years, deep-seated inequalities remain. Deprivation is the key determinant, although age, gender & ethnicity are also factors.
Men in the most deprived areas die 11 years earlier than those in the most affluent, and the gap is 7.5 years for women. People in deprived areas also have higher rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, drug and alcohol misuse, and mental health problems.
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office into the customer service performance of HM Revenue & Customs has concluded that, while the department has made some welcome improvements to its arrangements for answering calls from the public, its current performance represents poor value for money for customers.
CCC: The second report by the Committee on Climate Change assessing the impact of carbon budgets on energy bills confirms that annual household energy bills could increase by £100 in 2020 to support development of low-carbon technologies.
General Reports and Other Publications
TUC: Rising financial profits have reduced workers' wages and squeezed profits across the rest of the economy, according to a new TUC report. The TUC touchstone extra report - Where have all the wages gone? - examines why salaries have been falling for the last 30 years, where the money has gone & what this means for the economy.
ESRC: The health benefits of 'water clubs' in care homes for the elderly, where residents gather together regularly to drink water, owe as least as much to the social nature of the activity as to the value of drinking water itself, an investigation by psychologists has shown.
The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), supports other findings that interventions aimed at improving individuals' wellbeing & quality of life can be far more effective if they are carried out among groups of people in ways that generate a strong sense of group identity.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has said that a new report published by the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD) will be a central addition to the current debate on effective vocational pedagogy.
CH: Fluctuating prices will create chaotic chain reactions unless governments & businesses get to grips with a new world order defined by resource politics, says Resources Futures, a new report. Mutually destructive trade policies and an ever more unpredictable global environment will add to the cocktail of resource-related fears.
Resources Futures shows that in an interconnected world, volatile prices pose far greater threats than physical scarcities. Shocks reverberate across supply chains when communities protest in Peru, rainfall levels drop in the American Midwest, or a flood hits Australia – often sending global resource markets into a tailspin.
Press release & links
NLGN: A new report from New Local Government Network & CBI reveals that conversations between councils & independent providers of public services are stuck in low gear. This creates a risk that councils will not be able to access the innovative new partnerships they need to manage growing demand, spending cuts and changing social needs.
A plan for this sophisticated commissioning approach is outlined in the report ‘Commissioning Dialogues’, which takes the form of an open & holistic dialogue between local government & providers, of which formal procurement is just one stage.
PC&PE: The Commons Transport Committee has published a follow up report on the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group. Confusion about the role of the new national Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) and mixed messages about local knowledge & coastguard station closures has undermined staff morale across the service and caused an alarming vacancy rate amongst skilled staff, warns the Transport Committee in a review of the government's reform programme for the Coastguard which found that coastguards are ‘disillusioned and confused’.
TWF: A report published by The Work Foundation warns that a lack of positive practice to support people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in work is leaving hundreds of thousands at risk of lost earnings, reduced productive working time and early retirement, with an accompanying strain on both household incomes and the UK welfare system.
Launched as part of the Fit for Work Coalition UK, Taking the strain: the impact of musculoskeletal disorders on work & home lifedraws on a survey 809 people living with MSDs in the UK.
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill has published a report that says the Draft Bill must be 'significantly amended' to deliver only necessary data that law enforcement needs and that the Home Secretary should not be given carte blanche to order retention of any type of data under draft communications data bill.
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office has found that regulation of the consumer credit market is providing benefits to consumers, but that the regulatory regime is not delivering value for money because it is not minimizing harm from unscrupulous trading practices.
IPPR: The new ‘Energy Company Obligation’ (ECO) scheme will only scratch the surface of Britain’s fuel poverty problem and may see the Government backslide on its carbon reduction commitments, according to a new report from the think tank IPPR.
WAG: The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, has welcomed a new report on securing a sustainable & prosperous future for the Welsh Uplands. He said he agreed in principle with the 6 recommendations of Unlocking the Potential of the Uplands.
PX: Foster carers should be able to request that a child in their care is sent to a state or independent boarding school. A new report, A Better Start in Life, by Policy Exchange says every year thousands of the most vulnerable children in the country are moved from one care placement to another. In some instances, children are being moved around the care system more than 10 times within a year.
By providing respite to foster carers & birth parents, boarding school could help keep families together, reducing the number of people entering the care system and reducing the likelihood of placement breakdown for those moving into care.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee has published a report on the Ministry of Justice's language service contract. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, recently said: "Interpretation services are vital for ensuring fair access to justice. Yet when the Ministry of Justice set out to establish a new centralised system for supplying interpreters to the justice system, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
TWF: Rising transport costs are making it difficult for thousands of young people to participate in education & training, leaving many unable to enter or stay in work, according to a new report from The Work Foundation.
This is particularly the case for young people living in rural areas who find it harder to stay in work due to inadequate public transport routes from their homes. The report calls on the government to implement policies that will reduce the transport barriers which exacerbate the youth unemployment crisis.
RUSI: Sovereign Wealth Recovery in failing or corrupt states should be incorporated in planning by political elites & force commanders ahead of any future military or other intervention to expedite a return to stability, according to a new research from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
DECC: A report has found that significant changes to the retail market for road fuels, including the increasing dominance of supermarket forecourts, have not had an impact on the availability of petrol & diesel for motorists.
PC&PE: The Government’s plans to extend planning permission exemptions are based on an inadequate impact assessment, warns the CLG Committee in a report. By failing to take account of the social & environmental effects, the same proposals also ignore 2 essential requirements of the sustainable development policy set out in the National Policy Planning Framework, say the MPs.
PC&PE: The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has published its first report. The report contains the Commission’s consideration of the Government’s draft Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill and associated proposals which give effect to the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB).
PC&PE: The House of Lords Committee on Adoption Legislation has called on the Government to widen the scope of a proposed new adoption measure. The Government’s proposed ‘fostering for adoption’ duty is designed to encourage councils to place looked after children with foster carers who can then go on to adopt them, providing continuity & stability.
The Committee also report on the Government’s proposal to remove any requirement to give consideration to ethnicity when placing a child with adopters. The Committee does not find that this is necessary but recommends an alternative amendment to the legislation which accords ethnicity an equal place within the list of the child’s needs and characteristics.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee has published its findings on British Broadcasting Corporation: The severance payment awarded to the BBC's former Director General. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said: "Public servants should not be rewarded for failure. But that was exactly what happened when the BBC Trust paid off the former Director General, George Entwistle”.
PC&PE: The Education Committee has welcomed the overall direction of the Government’s proposed legislation to reform provision for children with special educational needs (SEN), but warns that the NHS Constitution cannot be allowed to prevent the imposition of much stronger duties on commissioning boards to ensure that adequate, joined-up services are put in place across the country.
PC&PE: The Energy and Climate Change Committee has published its report into Consumer engagement with energy markets.
IEA: For too long the government has been pushing up living costs through over-regulation & taxation. The poverty lobby has failed to tackle this basic cause of poverty in the UK, instead focusing on redistribution through the welfare system.
A new report from the IEA shows that by eliminating government interventions in areas such as planning, energy markets & childcare; living costs can be reduced dramatically, taxes could be cut, and the welfare state could be reformed to meaningfully address poverty in Britain.
The research in Redefining the Poverty Debate: Why a War on Markets is No Substitute for a War on Poverty, estimates that these reforms could make some families up to £750 a month better off.
PC&PE: The Environmental Audit Committee has published the report of its inquiry into the Energy Intensive Industries Compensation Scheme. The Government's £250m compensation scheme to help energy intensive companies with the cost of carbon must be tightened up to avoid over-compensating large companies already profiting from the over allocation of EU Emissions Trading System allowances.
DfE: Children who have speech, language & communication needs should be helped as soon as possible, new research has concluded. The Better Communication Research Programme makes 3 main recommendations and also recommends that data guidance on special educational needs for schools should be reviewed. This would be to encourage teachers to focus on children’s individual profile of needs, rather solely on labels when deciding on what support to provide.
DH: People want to see tighter restrictions around the cosmetic surgery industry in a bid to protect patients from some of the more aggressive sales techniques according to an interim report published by the NHS Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh’s review into cosmetic interventions.
Legislation / Legal
LC: The Law Commission has identified the areas of UK electoral law that will come under scrutiny in a forthcoming review. The review, which will be conducted jointly with the Scottish Law Commission & the Northern Ireland Law Commission, aims to reform the law relating to elections & referendums across the UK.
Electoral law in the UK is spread across 25 major statutes. It has become increasingly complex & fragmented. In addition, recent years have seen a steady increase in the numbers & types of election. Each type of election comes with its own set of rules & systems, and combining different types into one electoral event introduces yet more layers of electoral law.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Constitution Committee has published its report on the Defamation Bill. In their report the Committee says that the Bill may not provide publishers with a 'sufficiently robust and succinct defence' against defamation claims on the basis that publication was in the public interest. The Committee question whether clause 4 of the Bill adequately reflects the case law on 'Reynolds privilege', which was established by the Law Lords in 1999 in Reynolds v Times Newspapers.
The Committee also considers how the recommendations in the recent report from Lord Justice Leveson on the culture & practices of the press interact with the proposals for reforming defamation law. The Committee also says that more detail should be included in the Bill about the proposed defence for operators of websites.
LC: The Law Commission is recommending that the offence of scandalising the court should be abolished & not replaced. Following a 3-month consultation, the Commission has concluded that the offence of scandalising the court is an infringement of freedom of expression and out of step with social attitudes.
HMT: The Financial Services Bill, which will deliver fundamental reform of financial regulation in the UK, has received Royal Assent. The Bill, which has now become an Act of Parliament, will be known as the Financial Services Act. It sets out a clear and coherent regulatory framework, replacing the uncertainty & inadequacy of the failed Tripartite system. The Act comes into force from 1 April 2013.
PC&PE: Proposed changes to family justice have been broadly welcomed by the Justice Committee in its report scrutinising the draft Children and Families Bill, but the Committee maintains significant concerns about the draft clause on shared parenting.
LC: The Law Commission has been asked by Government to consider whether two existing groups of offences dealing with hate crime should be extended.
ScotGov: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has launched a consultation setting out proposals on how a new licensing regime for air weapons will work, using new powers devolved in the Scotland Act 2012. It is estimated that there could be as many as half a million unlicensed air guns in Scotland. Consultation closes on 15 March 2013.
LGA: Councillor John Merry, Vice-Chair of the LGA's Children & Young People Board, has responded to the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report on looked-after children and youth offending.
TNA: As of 1 January 2013, the government has begun its move towards releasing records when they are 20 years old, instead of 30. A Commencement Order that brings into force the relevant parts of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, plus two transition orders have all been signed and laid in Parliament by Lord McNally, the Minister responsible for the 20-year rule.
MoJ: New measures are being put in place to support separating couples at the time of year when the number of people considering separation & divorce is at its peak. Experts say the post-Christmas period is when the most enquiries about separation & divorce are made – so much so that the first working day in January is dubbed 'Divorce Day' by many in the legal sector.
The average cost of resolving property & finance disputes caused by separation is approximately £500 through mediation for a publicly funded client, compared to £4,000 for issued settled through the courts. The average time for a mediated case is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
CBI: Proposed EU pension changes would force £350bn of extra costs on UK businesses, hit long-term growth by a potential 2.5%, slash 180,000 jobs and cut the value of pensions, according to independent analysis commissioned by the CBI.
The European Commission wants to impose a new funding regime for pensions, which would force employers to divert hundreds of billions of Euros into defined benefit schemes. Under the plans, pension schemes run by individual employers would be required to implement similar changes to those proposed for insurance firms – which under the EU’s ‘Solvency II’ process would have to hold enough funds to pay out for a once-in-200-years catastrophe.
EU News: The European Business Schools Women on Boards Initiative is migrating their 'Global Board Ready Women' list of 8,000 women into an online database. The women on this list all fulfil stringent criteria for Corporate Governance as defined by publicly listed companies and are well qualified and ready to go on boards as of today.
EU News: EU inventors will soon be able to get a unitary patent. After over 30 years of talks, a new regime will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80%, making it more competitive vis-à-vis the US & Japan. MEPs cut costs for small firms and tailored the regime to their needs, in a compromise deal with the in a compromise deal with the Council endorsed by Parliament.
The international agreement creating a unified patent court will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after 13 contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France & Germany are among them.
The other two acts would apply from 1 January 2014, or from the date when the international agreement enters into force, whichever is the latest. Spain & Italy are currently outside the new regime, but could decide to join in at any time.
EU News: By the end of the year new EU rules to better care for passengers when travelling by sea & inland waterway will be protected by a set of minimum rights anywhere within the European Union. As from 31 December 2012, passengers travelling by sea have the right to claim compensation for loss or damage in the event of accidents.
PC&PE: The House of Lords EU Committee has called for a more coordinated & more flexible approach by the EU & its Members States to external migration policy to help Europe address its demographic challenges and deliver economic growth over the decades ahead.
EU News: The Commission has adopted pan-EU rules on a minimum list of elements to be included in a medical prescription taken by a patient travelling from one EU country to another. The provisions for a common way to identify the patient, the prescriber and the prescribed product, are to be put into national law by the Member States by 25 October 2013.
EU News: Plans for ‘youth guarantee’ schemes to ensure that no young person in the EU is without a job for more than 4 months won strong support in the Employment & Social Affairs Committee recently. MEPs voted a resolution calling on EU employment ministers to agree in February 2013 to a Council recommendation that all member states introduce these schemes.
EU News: The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the best way to improve air quality in Europe. The consultation closes on 4 March 2013 – See ‘Consultation’ section for more information.
EU News: The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the future development of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas in Europe. The consultation closes on 20 March 2013 – See ‘Consultation’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CO: Charity trustees can now apply to set up a new form of charity – Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) – which will make it easier for people to set up & run a charity and protect them from being personally liable if the organisation runs into financial problems.
BIG: Hundreds of children with mobility issues are to get support to gain new skills & confidence during residential breaks as part of a nationwide Lottery good cause roll-out recently. 64 projects share in £14.8m from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme which aims to help those most in need and build stronger communities.
10 DS: Downing Street has named Magic Breakfast and Friends of the Elderly as its 2 charity partners for 2013 and DS staff will pledge time throughout the year to support the charities’ work:
* Magic Breakfast provides free, healthy breakfasts to school children, boosting attendance, punctuality, concentration & behaviour
* Friends of the Elderly reaches out to older people at risk of loneliness and isolation
DCMS: A consultation on whether to change the minimum amount of proceeds that a Society Lottery has to return to good causes will be launched in 2013 the Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced recently.
The consultation is a response to the changing lottery market, including the increasing use of professional lottery managers’ and umbrella schemes, such as the Health Lottery, which promote several lotteries under one banner.
The consultation will explore ways of ensuring that the market delivers the maximum benefit to good causes, including those supported by the National Lottery and will look at whether there is a case for changing the minimum percentage of proceeds that society lotteries are required to apply to their good causes, which is currently set at 20%.
TPT: 10% of young people feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life, warns The Prince's Trust Youth Index, which reveals that young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) are more than twice as likely to feel unable to cope as their peers.
Business and Other Briefings
WAG: The Welsh Government is inviting Welsh companies to participate in trade missions to the United States, China and Canada in 2013. Government supported places are now available for multi-sector trade missions to the U.S. West Coast from 10-15 February, Chongqing, China from 2- 9 March and Montreal, Canada from 21-26 April.
FRC: Following consultation, the Financial Reporting Council has published a revised version of actuarial standard TM1 (AS TM1) which sets out the assumptions to be used in annual statutory money purchase pension illustrations (SMPIs).
WAG: The Welsh Government’s new £6.5m Business Wales ‘one-stop-shop’ service to support the sustainable growth of small enterprises is now up & running with a network of 11 offices around Wales. The creation of a dedicated business support service for small enterprises was one of the recommendations in the Micro Business Report for Wales.
This brief announces HMRC's change in policy on first time water connection charges supplied at the same time as the supply of water.
The VAT exemption for research is being withdrawn as the UK has been notified by the EU Commission that it does not comply with EU legislation. The UK has accepted that this is the case and plans to withdraw the exemption from 1 August 2013.
Brief on the new voluntary scheme for motor and boat dealers selling adapted vehicles or boats under the zero-rated disability scheme.
Brief on scrapping of VAT Notice 701/59 and replacement by two new Helpsheets.
CO: Energy for Growth, a new initiative using government buying power to boost the UK energy industry and save taxpayers money, has been announced by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.
The Government Procurement Service (GPS), part of the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group, is the UK’s largest energy customer, spending £1.5bn a year on gas & electricity. GPS buys energy for 75% of the entire public sector which accounts for 3% of total UK energy demand. In 2013 it will open a pilot to diversify 2% of its demand, worth £25m a year.
Contracts will be offered direct to renewable generators for a set proportion of their capacity for up to 25 years. This will appeal to new projects which can bank on the guaranteed business to attract investment. As well as helping renewable generators, the pilot will save taxpayers around £155m over 15 years by agreeing the very best price in return for the financial security offered. If the pilot is successful, over the next 5 years GPS will diversify up to half its entire energy portfolio, currently worth £750m.
DCMS: The DCMS rural superfast broadband programme reached a major milestone recently as Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire became the first community to be connected, with download speeds of up to 80mbps.
GPS: As part of the Government Procurement Service’s commitment to improve access to Government business for SME’s, they are running a webinar to explain how to bid for, and win, more Government business – with specific emphasis on GPS procurements. The webinar will address the issues identified by SMEs, illustrate the opportunities that exist and how to make the most of them.
The webinar will take place on 15 January 2013 from 11.00 – 12.00 and will consist of audio & slide images with a facility to receive & address questions from the audience. The webinar will be chaired by Stephen Allott, Crown Representative for SMEs, Cabinet Office, and the panel will include senior category specialists from GPS.
NHS Confed: To inform the review of the proposed provider ratings system, the NHS Confederation is hosting an event on behalf of the Nuffield Trust, where members can have their say and make their voice heard. Taking place on Thursday 22 January 2013 in London, they are seeking representatives from across their membership to attend & input into the review.
Further information about the review, along with information on how to submit responses to the call for evidence, can be found on the Nuffield Trust website.
TNA: Now in its seventh year, Who Do You Think You Are? Live returns to London's Olympia between 22 & 24 February 2013. This is the UK's leading family history event offering genealogical experts, informative workshops, resources from libraries, museums & archives and all the major online resources as well as dozens of family history societies, all under one roof.
The National Archives returns to the show this year, with a new theatre open for two sessions on each day. A team of their experts will be on hand to give advice on how to use their enormous collection of records, and will also be taking part in the Society of Genealogists' workshops and Ask the Experts sessions.
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