BISPricewaterhouseCoopers has released a report on the future of the credit card market. Commenting on the report, a Department for Business spokesperson said:  "Two weeks ago the Government launched a consultation on new measures which we believe will give consumers who use credit cards a better deal”.  The consultation closes on 19 January 2010.
The Government is already taking action and is legislating to ban unsolicited credit card cheques in November 2009.  Under the Office of Fair Trading’s Guidance on Irresponsible Lending Practices (coming into force in January 2010) lenders should not to encourage borrowers to increase existing debt.  
Lenders failing to follow the OFT's guidance can be stripped of their credit licences. This could be used to enforce changes to minimum payments and credit limit increases. The Consumer Credit Directive comes into force in June 2010, requiring credit card companies to properly explain their charges.
Press release ~ Review of the regulation of credit and store cards: a consultation ~ Precious Plastic 2010 - Consumer credit in the UK ~ Precious Plastic - Previous editions ~ OFT: Guidance on Irresponsible Lending Practices ~ Credit cards
DfTPorts around England & Wales will have a new planning framework to work in when considering development, following the launch of the Government's new National Policy Statement (NPS) for the sector (which is subject to public consultation – closes on 15 February 2010). It sets out the broad need for additional ports capacity up to 2030 & beyond, taking such things as freight demand forecasts and the economic benefits of ports into account.
The NPS is designed to provide a clear framework for both port developers and the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).  It will play an important part in any decisions taken by the Commission when considering applications for new developments.
Following Royal Assent to the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, ports applications below the IPC thresholds will in future be dealt with by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which will also advise the IPC on marine spatial planning matters and on certain deemed consents.
Press release ~ Consultation on the draft ports national policy statement and associated documents ~ Ports: National Policy Statement ~ Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) ~ Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
DCMS: The Government is seeking further views on whether to allow product placement in programmes made for UK television.  The consultation (closes on 8 January 2010) also asks what safeguards should be in place should the product placement rules be revised. Current rules mean UK television broadcasters cannot include product placement in programmes which either they have made or have been made for them.  
As part of the EU Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive member states have to legally prohibit product placement but are allowed to grant exceptions for certain types of programmes.
Press release ~ Consultation on Product Placement on Television ~ EU Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive ~ Public consultation on implementing the EU audiovisual media services directive
DCSF: Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo has launched a consultation (closes on Tuesday 2 February 2010)on new rules aimed at ensuring that wherever possible births are registered by both parents.  Current arrangements mean unmarried mothers can choose whether or not to register the name of a baby’s father on their birth certificate.  Around 7% of births – on average 45,000 a year – are registered with only one parent.
The new regulations, made under the Welfare Reform Bill (which received its Royal Assent last week), will mean that in most cases, both unmarried parents will be required to register their names on their child’s birth certificate.  The legislation & regulations will be supported by a public awareness campaign, so that parents are clear about what is expected of them.  Information & guidance, for both parents & registrars, will be developed in consultation with key parenting organisations & children’s charities.
The consultation sets out how the information can & should be collated and is aimed principally at registrars.  The Joint Birth Registration regulations will only affect unmarried parents, the majority of whom already choose to register both names at birth.  They are expected to come into effect from January 2011.
Press release ~ The Registration of Births (Parents Not Married And Not Acting Together) Regulations 2010 ~ Welfare Reform Bill ~ White Paper:  Joint Birth Registration (2008)
WAG: The creation of a new central hub to co-ordinate all the help available for householders struggling to pay their energy bills is one of the proposals put forward for consultation (closes on 4 January 2010) in the Welsh Assembly Government’s new fuel poverty plan.  The hub will provide a joined-up service so that people can make the most of the advice, support & funding that is accessible.  It will work with the various agencies, including health and social services, who have contact with vulnerable people on a daily basis.
Other proposals in the plan include:
* Funding will be targeted at those most at risk from fuel poverty.
* Early identification of those most vulnerable to fuel poverty so help can be provided as soon as possible.
* The development of a new, improved programme to help householders reduce the impact of their fuel bills, which will replace the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES).
* Low cost loans for energy efficiency from credit unions
Press release ~ Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) ~ WAG: Fuel poverty ~ WAG: Fuel Poverty Strategy consultation ~ National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) - Fuel poverty
DH: Patients will have legal rights to maximum waiting times for elective procedures & urgent cancer referrals and to a NHS Health Check every 5 years for those aged 40-74, if proposalspublished for consultation (closes on 5 February 2010) are taken forward.
The proposals, set out in ‘The NHS Constitution: A consultation on new patient rights‘, could mean that, from 1 April 2010, patients will have the legal right to maximum waiting times to start treatment by a consultant within 18 weeks of GP referral and to be seen by a cancer specialist within 2 weeks of GP referral.
If the NHS is unable to meet this commitment, it will be required to take all reasonable steps to find a range of alternative providers that can.  This will enable a patient to receive their care more quickly, if this is what they want.  The alternatives could include private providers at NHS prices.
Press release ~ ‘The NHS Constitution: A consultation on new patient rights‘
ScotGov: A new scheme that will better safeguard vulnerable groups and end the need for people to complete detailed application forms every time a disclosure check is required has been announced by the Scottish Government. The scheme will:
*Improve on current disclosure arrangements by replacing the need for multiple 'one-off' checks - which currently cost £23 a time - with a system that continually updates relevant information
* Ensure that people who become unsuitable during their employment are quickly identified
* Allow employers to check records quickly & easily while reducing the time & cost demands on individuals when their circumstances change.
A consultation on key elements of the secondary legislation required to implement the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme has been launched (all close on 2 February 2010).  It is expected the scheme will be introduced before the end of 2010, with implementation being phased in to minimise the administrative burden on individual organisations.
Initial membership will cost £59 with a lower fee of £18 for subsequent records updates - substantially less than in England & less than the existing cost of an enhanced disclosure check and these will be turned around almost instantly. All PVG Scheme Record Disclosures & Updates will continue to be free for volunteers working in regulated work in the voluntary sector.
Press release ~ Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme - Scotland ~ Consultation documents (scroll down for individual consultations)
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced proposals to simplify the structure of the fees it levies on regulated firms and to enhance fairness & transparency. Following a review of its approach for determining the annual fees that firms pay, the FSA is consulting on a number of measures to ensure that fees continue to be set in a fair way, and to make the basis for calculating fees easier for firms to understand.
The FSA is inviting responses to the proposals in its consultation paper by 11 January 2010.  In February 2010, depending on the outcome of this consultation, the FSA plans to consult on fee levels for 2010/11 using this new fee model.
Press release ~ 'Regulatory fees and levies: Policy proposals for 2010/11'
LLUKLifelong Learning UK Scotland has been working with a group of employer representatives & stakeholders for the past year to undertake the refresh of the current Level 3 Modern Apprenticeship (MA) in Youth Work and to discuss the potential for introducing additional MAs in Youth Work which establish a progression route for those interested in Youth Work as a career. 
The group believes the case study report, which accompanies the consultation questionnaire (closes on Monday 30 November 2009), identifies sufficient support for the introduction of a Level 2 MA in Youth Work in line with government policy. LLUK is seeking the views of employers - To find out more please contact ~ Press release ~ Lifelong Learning UK Scotland
HO: Every migrant who enters the UK will require 'permission' to stay under new draft proposals published in Parliament last week. Under measures in the draft Immigration Bill, the 5 current application categories available to migrants will be replaced by one clear concept - 'permission' to be in the UK.  With this new approach, migrants will either be granted permission or refused, making the rules easier for applicants & staff.  Those in the UK must gain permission, or face removal for breaking the law.
The new, temporary, time-limited, permission will be given for a particular purpose to visit, work or study and is subject to conditions such as access to work or public funds.  Permanent residents will be given permission without any time limit or conditions attached.
The draft Bill also proposes a new streamlined power of expulsion replacing the current powers of deportation & removal.  Individuals who are issued with an expulsion order will be required to leave the UK and will not be able to re-enter while the order is in force.  The Government has also published proposals for a new streamlined asylum support system.
Alongside this, the Government has published, the responses to its consultation into the Oversight of the Immigration Advice Sector which was launched in May and aimed to improve the way the sector is regulated.
Press release ~ Consultation document Simplifying Immigration Law - A New Framework for Immigration Rules (closes 3 February 2009) ~ Consultation on reforming asylum support (closes 4 February 2009) ~ Draft Immigration Bill ~ Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) ~ Migration Advisory Committee ~ Consultation Response to the 'Oversight Of The Immigration Advice Sector'
IS: Proposals to allow individuals to submit a bankruptcy application online, or through the post, (rather than in a court) have been outlined by the Government. The proposals, contained in the ‘Consultation on Reforming Debtor Petition Bankruptcy’ (closes on 8 February 2010) will make it quicker & easier for people who are overwhelmed by debts (and have no means of ever fully repaying them) to seek relief through bankruptcy.
It follows earlier consultation carried out by the Government and builds on research conducted in 2007 by The Insolvency Service & the courts, which found that in some parts of England & Wales, debtors faced delays of up to three months between first contacting the court to the making of the bankruptcy order.
Press release ~ Consultation on Reforming Debtor Petition Bankruptcy ~ Insolvency Service ~ Bankruptcy: proposals for reform of the debtor petition process – responses 2008
DCSF: Schools Minister Diana Johnson has launched a consultation (closes on 15 February 2009) on new guidance for schools to ensure that teachers, parents and the Government are working together to send out a clear message that ‘drug, alcohol & tobacco misuse among young people is unacceptable and could damage their futures’.
As well as giving advice on how to handle drugs education in the classroom, the guidance stresses the importance of schools having clear policies in place to deal with incidents with illegal drugs & alcohol on school premises.  Heads are also encouraged to forge stronger links with other local services to help them better identify & support over 1m children & young people who live with one or both parents who have a drug or alcohol problem.
Press release ~ Drugs: Guidance for Schools ~ Drug Education Forum ~ Blueprint drugs education: the response of pupils and parents to the programme ~ Know the Score ~ Young people and Alcohol guidance ~ Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use ~ Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey ~ Youth Alcohol Commission
Defra: The ability of England’s agricultural sector to withstand shocks and remain competitive is the subject of an online discussion forum (accessible until 23 December 2009) launched last week. The discussion is the latest step in engaging with stakeholders on the state of the industry with the aim to identify potential strategies to improve productivity & resilience in the farming industry.
Press release ~ Discussion document
DECC: Energy & Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, claimed that ‘faster & fairer planning decisions on new energy infrastructure were a step closer’ last week when he laid before Parliament draft texts setting out the national need for a low carbon secure energy mix.  He also set out a new policy for the transition to clean coal – See ‘In the News’ section for more information and closure dates.
MoJ: The government has launched a consultation (closes on 21 December 2009) seeking views on implementing a maximum penalty of £500k for serious breaches of the data protection principles – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
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