FSA: An American company has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market phosphated distarch phosphate as a novel food ingredient.  A ‘novel food’ is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997.
The company, MGP Ingredients Inc., proposes to market its phosphated distarch phosphate as an added source of dietary fibre for use in a range of foods, including white bread, processed breakfast cereals, pasta, cakes, biscuits & crackers and starch-based snack foods. Comments by 13 December 2009 please.
Press release ~ Phosphated distarch phosphate: MGP Ingredients
ScotGov: New fire safety guidance is set to reduce the financial & administrative burden on Scotland's estimated 7,000 B&B and self-catering businesses. The sector had raised concerns with the Scottish Government that previous fire safety requirements were complex & prohibitively expensive.  The new guidance developed to directly address these concerns will maintain fire safety levels while reducing the average investment in safety equipment by over 90%.
The new proposals (consultation closes on 4 February 2010) would require all B&B owners to apply an agreed level of fire safety cover, consistent with the size & risk profile of the property.  On average, a B&B business would be required to install around £1,300 of safety equipment.  Independent analysis of average cost of compliance under the previous guidance is £15,376.
Press release ~ ScotGov:  Fire and Rescue Services ~ New practical fire safety guidance for small bed and breakfast and self-catering premises
MoJ: Should the Government abolish the edited version of the Electoral Register or should it be retained but with changes made to who can purchase it? These were 2 of the 6 proposals put forward by the government as it launched a public consultation (closes on 23 February 2010) on the future of the Edited Register.
The Edited Register is a record of the names & addresses of electors who have opted to have their details made publicly available.  'Electoral Registers - proposed changes to the Edited Register' seeks views on the recommendation (no. 19) in Dr Mark Walport & Richard Thomas's independent review of the use of personal information in the public & private sector that the Edited Register should be abolished.
Press release ~ 'Electoral Registers - proposed changes to the Edited Register' ~ Independent review of the use of personal information in the public and private sector
HMT: The protections enjoyed by UK mortgages borrowers are to be strengthened under new proposals (to be implemented through secondary legislation) published by the Treasury. The Government is publishing a consultation document (closes on 15 February 2010), which sets out its proposals to:
* extend the scope of FSA regulation to include second-charge mortgages
* extend the scope of FSA regulation to include buy-to-let mortgages
* protect borrowers when lenders sell on mortgage books to third parties
Press release ~ Consultation document ~ Directgov: Mortgage Help
DH: A pilot to help patients get innovative new drugs not currently available on the NHS has been launched for consultation (closes on 8 February 2010) by Health Minister Mike O’Brien and Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson. The Office for Life Sciences (OLS) Blueprint published in July 2009, detailed the Government’s commitment to create an ‘Innovation Pass’ pilot to allow patients with rarer diseases access to highly innovative new drugs which are not yet appraised by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), and where there is limited data on their effectiveness.
As the number of patients using these drugs is small, the lack of current evidence available means that NICE are not able to conduct a full assessment for their use on the NHS.  During the 3-year pilot, the Innovation Pass will allow valuable data to be collected on the impact of these new drugs on patients and their cost effectiveness, helping contribute towards a future NICE appraisal.
Press release ~ A Consultation on proposals for the Innovation Pass pilot ~ Office for Life Sciences (OLS) Blueprint ~ BIA (BioIndustry Association) ~ NICE
NE: A formal consultation (closes on 26 February 2010) on 12 proposed new marine conservation sites has started. The sites are being put forward as the latest additions to the ‘Natura 2000’ network of European protected areas designed to protect important habitats, species and birds.  Following this formal consultation process, site proposals will be submitted to Government and Ministers will decide which site recommendations to submit to the European Commission in August 2010.
The 12 proposed new sites consist of 10 possible Special Areas of Conservation (pSACs) and 2 potential Special Protection Areas (pSPAs) which incorporate a range of important habitats & species - from the sandbanks of the Outer Wash and southern North Sea to areas in the Irish Sea that are important for birds and to the cold water coral reefs off north-west Scotland.
Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Countryside Council for Wales are asking consultees to comment on the scientific reasons for proposing the sites and on the assessment of the likely impacts of the site designation on marine industries such as fishing, recreation, sand & gravel extraction, windfarms and the oil and gas industry.
Press release ~ NE: How to get involved ~ JNCC’s web site ~ CCW website ~ Natura 2000 network ~ JNCC – Marine Protected Sites
DH: The Bill that is intended to help individuals with the highest care needs remain independent for longer has been introduced in Parliament by Health Secretary Andy Burnham. The Personal Care at Home Bill guarantees free personal care for 280,000 people – including those with serious dementia or Parkinson's disease – and, will also help around 130,000 people who need home care to regain their independence. A related consultation closes on 23 February 2010 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
CLG: Housing Minister John Healey and Rural Minister Dan Norris have backed councils with cash & support to kickstart plans to build homes people can afford, where they want to live & develop rural areas to meet the needs of local people.
Councils with the best proposals for rural towns & villages will be given specialist advice to develop masterplans for new neighbourhoods of high quality housing that will include green spaces, commercial & business premises, shops and services.  The new neighbourhoods will make the most of existing buildings, help provide homes for local people and help rural businesses who often find it difficult to recruit & keep staff priced out of rural communities.  The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) will be involved in assessing bids & in administering the fund.  The closing date for bids is 15 January 2010.
The latest figures from the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) show that the lowest house prices in rural areas are 7.4 times the lowest annual incomes, compared to 5.5 times the lowest annual incomes in urban areas.  The average house is now over £40,000 more expensive in rural than in urban areas.  The government is therefore consulting (closes on 18 February 2010) on proposals to incentivise landowners to bring forward additional land for rural affordable housing. 
Press release ~ Rural masterplanning fund prospectus ~ Taylor Review into rural housing and economies ~ Government response to the Matthew Taylor Review: Implementation plan ~ Defra: Affordable Rural Housing ~ Community Land Trusts (CLTs) ~ Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) ~ Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) ~ Consultation: Guidance for local authorities on incentivising landowners to bring forward additional land for rural affordable housing on rural exception sites ~ Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) – Rural Housing
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