NICE: The Citizens Council of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which provides public input into the Institute’s work, has published a report on its meeting to discuss smoking & harm reduction.
The public is now invited to comment (by Wednesday 31 March 2010) on the Council members’ views on the theoretical strategy of harm reduction with regard to smoking – an approach not currently used in the UK.  This includes the pros & cons of promoting the switch to alternative products such as medicinal nicotine, alongside supporting smokers to quit.
NICE has not been asked to produce guidance on harm reduction in smoking.  However, should guidance be requested on this topic, the views of the Citizens Council on issues which should be taken into account will be helpful to inform NICE’s independent committees.
Press release ~ Citizens Council report: smoking and harm, with invitation to comment
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has launched a public consultation (closes on 27 April 2010) on proposals to promote high quality health & social care through a new approach to assessments in 2010/11. The assessments will apply to all 152 local councils, 392 NHS trusts and 24,000 adult social care providers.
Complementing its new registration process that focuses on meeting essential standards of care, the commission's further assessments of quality will promote improvement above those basic requirements by providing independent information about the quality of care. The proposals include regular scored assessments of care organisations as well as in-depth special reviews and national studies looking at selected areas of care requiring special attention.
Press release ~ Download a detailed copy of the consultation document and them your feedback online
DfT: Proposals to simplify motorway speed limits for buses, coaches & heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have been published for consultation (closes on 27 April 2010) by the Department for Transport.  The changes are needed because of differences that have arisen between new vehicles (which are fitted with speed limiters) and older vehicles (which are not).
This means that while newer HGVs are limited to 56mph older vehicles are able to drive at up to 70 mph on the motorway.  Similarly, new passenger vehicles with over eight seats are limited to 62.5 mph on the motorway, but older vehicles are able to drive at 70 mph.
This can cause confusion for other drivers and creates a disincentive for companies to invest in safer & more fuel efficient vehicles.  In addition, vehicles with speed limiters are not allowed to use the right hand lane of three lane motorways, but those without speed limiters currently are.
Press release ~ Consultation on Heavy Goods Vehicle and Passenger Carrying Vehicle motorway speed limits
HMT: The Government has published a consultation (closes on 28 April 2010) document on the role the Private Rented Sector should play in supporting the economic recovery and increasing supply in the housing market.  The Private Rented Sector represents around 14% of all households in England, or around 3 million homes.
This HM Treasury consultation is complemented by the Communities and Local Government policy statement - The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps – See CLG item in ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section.
Press release ~ Investment in the UK Private Rented Sector ~ CLG – Private housing
LLUK: Following on from the successful review of the National Occupational Standards for Learning and Development, draft Units of Assessment for the QCF and CQFW have been produced for new qualifications for Assessors and those with responsibility for Internal and External Quality Assurance.  These will shortly be made available to be consulted on and gather feedback, prior to being finalised.
This purely web based consultation will be open & available on the Lifelong Learning UK website from 15 - 26 February 2010. To make sure you receive an update as soon as the consultation goes live please email:
Press release
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has launched a market study to examine when, how & why contracts may cause difficulties for consumers. The OFT intends to look at how well consumers understand typical contracts and how this varies when contracts are, for example, presented online, over the phone, or during a face-to-face sales pitch.
The OFT will also look at how firms approach consumer contracts and any practices which deliberately or unintentionally disadvantage consumers.  The results should be of benefit to firms who are trying to make important terms & conditions clear to consumers buying their products and services.
It will be contacting key parties directly, including Government departments & consumer bodies.  Others who wish to make a submission (by Wednesday 31 March 2010) should click HEREThe study is expected to be completed in Winter 2010.
Press release
BIS: Consumer minister, Kevin Brennan, has announced the next step in the Government’s plan to put in place a body to enforce compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).  

The launch of a consultation (closes on 30 April 2010)on the powers & operation of the body came the day after the new Code of Practice came into force, meaning that the body can be established as soon as possible – See also related ScotGov item in ‘Legislation / Legal’ section.
Press release ~ Taking forward the establishment of a body to monitor and enforce compliance with the groceries supply code of practice (GSCOP)
ScotGov: More people will be able to generate their own green energy under new Scottish Government proposals. At present, many homeowners are able to install equipment including solar panels and ground & water source heat pumps without planning permission.
But, under fresh proposals set out in a consultation (closes on 30 April 2010), there would also be scope to install wind turbines or air source heat pumps without a requirement for planning consent.
Press release ~ Extending Permitted Development Rights For Domestic Micro-Wind Turbines and Air-Source Heat Pumps - consultation
DECC: The Department of Energy and Climate Change has published plans (consultation closes on 26 April 2010) for a scheme to incentivise renewable heat generation at all scales.  This will come into effect in April 2011 and guarantee payments for those who install technologies such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and air source heat pumps – See ‘Public Sector Trade News’ section for more information.
DH: A new government strategy is intended to halve the number of smokers, from 21% to 10% of the population by 2020.  To create a level playing field, the MHRA is consulting (closes on 4 May 2010)on whether to regulate all nicotine containing products (with the exception of tobacco products, which are governed through specific legislation) – See ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section for more information.
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