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Parliamentary Information Office: ‘VALUE-BASED PRICING’ OF NHS DRUGS

Monday, January 21st, 2013

The Parliamentary Information Office has been following closely changes within our National Health Service and reported last year (2012) on the government’s ideas for ‘value-based pricing’ of drugs, which would remove the final say on whether or not a drug could be used in the NHS away from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

In a report published today, 16th January 2013, the House of Commons Health Committee is highly critical of the delay in setting out precisely what a value-based pricing system for drugs entails.

Following an inquiry into the work of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Committee say that a number of key decisions need to be taken swiftly in order to ensure a smooth change-over to a new system of pricing for the drugs used by the NHS. It also urges greater openness about the results of clinical drug trials and welcomes the new role that NICE will have from April this year in producing guidance for the social care sector.

Value-based pricing
The Committee is highly critical of the delay in setting out precisely what a value-based pricing system for drugs entails. Given that the Government opened its consultation on the issue in December 2010, the Committee says that it is unacceptable that the arrangements for value-based pricing have still not been settled and that those who will have to work with those arrangements are still unclear about what value-based pricing will mean in practice. Industry, patient groups and clinicians all need clarity about how a new system will work and how they can make their views heard, the MPs say; they call for decisions to be taken no later than the end of March this year.

Cancer Drugs Fund
The Committee also notes that there is uncertainty about the implications of the changes proposed for the Cancer Drugs Fund which was introduced by the Government in 2011 to allow clinicians to use drugs that had not been approved by NICE, and which will be superseded by the value-based pricing system. It calls for:

o an assessment of the outcomes for those patients whose treatment has been paid for by the Cancer Drugs Fund

o evidence of beneficial outcomes which should inform the new value-based pricing scheme and applied to treatments of conditions other than cancer

o Clarity about how drugs which have been paid for by the Fund will continue to be available to individual patients.

Access to clinical trials data
The MPs also express concern about the implications for the effectiveness of NICE of recent evidence about access to information from clinical drug trials. They argue that there should be both a professional and legal obligation to ensure that all regulators, including NICE, have access to all available research data about the efficacy and safety of pharmaceutical products which are in use in the UK. All information arising from drug trials concerning drugs that are in clinical use should be in the public domain in an accessible form. The Committee urges the pharmaceutical industry to introduce a new code of practice to make this commitment effective and calls on the GMC to reiterate its guidance to doctors on the conduct of drug trials.

The Committee argues that it should be neither legal nor ethical to withhold research data about pharmaceutical products which are in clinical use. It is concerned that the fact that this simple principle is not universally applied in practice undermines the effectiveness of NICE; the Committee welcomes the current review of these issues by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and recommends that that Committee should examine the nature of both the legal and ethical principles which should cover these issues and how to make those principles enforceable in practice.

Guidance on social care and integrated care
One of the key themes of the Committee’s work in this Parliament has been the need to move to a more integrated system in order to maintain both quality of care and access to care. It therefore welcomes the fact that NICE is to take on responsibility for producing clinical guidance and quality standards in relation to social care. It argues that there is a real opportunity for NICE to help evolve a different model of care by creating integrated standards and clinical guidance.

The MPs say that this should not just be about providing guidance to people in different disciplines who are treating and caring for people with a specific condition, but should also involve advising about the most common associated co-morbidities, including mental illness, and will also need to take account of what individuals want for themselves. Such an approach would be an important step towards a philosophy which emphasises treatment of people not conditions.

Further recommendations
The Committee also makes recommendations about two other significant issues:
It recommends that is important for the credibility of NICE that Patient voice is effectively and openly represented in all its work

It further recommends that NICE guidance should continue to be guidance rather than an instruction and that the NHS should continue to allow local discretion and individual judgments of doctors and patients, but that variations from NICE guidance should be open, transparent and accountable.

Launching the report, the Chair of the Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell MP, said:

“What we were told during our inquiry indicates that the move to value-based pricing of drugs will be a more modest change than has been suggested, but there is a lack of clarity around the whole issue which has persisted for too long. Decisions need to be taken, and the details of the scheme made public to avoid problems with the transition to the new system at the beginning of 2014. We hope the Government will respond positively to our suggestion that this situation should be clarified before the end of March this year. Similarly, there needs to be a proper assessment of what benefits the Cancer Drugs Fund has brought, with those benefits being applied to the treatment of other conditions, as well as providing a clear mechanism for the future funding of treatment for patients whose drugs have been paid for from the Cancer Drugs Fund.

“We are also concerned about the evidence we have received that some of the data supplied from clinical trials has been selective and incomplete. This situation cannot be allowed to continue, and we set out a number of practical steps that could be taken now to increase transparency about the results of clinical drug trials and which would benefit everyone: patients, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We welcome the fact that NICE has been given the role of developing guidance on social care and integrated care. This could make a substantial contribution to the establishment of new models of care which focus on the treatment of people rather than conditions, which will be vital if the health and care sectors are to continue to provide comprehensive high quality care in the coming years.”

The Parliamentary Information Office will follow this and other changes within the NHS and continue to report on developments as we go through the months ahead.



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From Parliamentary Information Office : Let’s make ‘Fish the dish’ for 2013

Parliamentary Information Office: NEW ROUND OF THE REGIONAL GROWTH FUND

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Over the course of the last two years the Parliamentary Information Office has been reporting on the allocation of funds set aside in 2010 under the ‘Regional Growth Fund’. We have been watching the progress of the projects funded to form part of a major feature on business regeneration in the next edition of the Parliamentary Yearbook

A new round of the Regional Growth Fund opened yesterday, 17th January 2013, as the Deputy Prime Minister called on businesses across the country to bid for a share of the £350 million cash pot.

The Regional Growth Fund has already helped 180 projects get started, creating and safeguarding local jobs and attracting significant private sector investment.

The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) is a £2.4bn fund that businesses across England can apply to for grants and loans from 2011 to 2015. It is designed to support projects and programmes that lever private sector investment creating economic growth and sustainable employment. Its aim is particularly to help those areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector led growth and prosperity.

In June 2010, the Deputy Prime Minister launched a £1 billion Regional Growth Fund to provide support for projects that offer significant potential for sustainable economic growth and can create new private sector employment. The fund is designed to particularly help areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector make the transition to private sector led growth and prosperity.

At the 2011 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced a further £1 billion for the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), which will be extended into 2014-15. The RGF is now worth £2.4 billion over four years from 2011-12 to 2014-15. It is intended to promote the private sector in areas in England most at risk to public sector cuts.

Announcing the new round, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“The Regional Growth Fund is already proving a shrewd investment by providing a welcome boost to jobs and growth across the country, with thousands of jobs created, businesses expanding into new markets and manufacturing new products. With this next round of funding, I would urge England’s budding businesses to produce top quality bids to access the money that can help them grow.

“There’ll be stiff competition, and we can only invest in those projects that will lead to sustainable jobs and the best value for money. Boosting jobs and growth is our number one priority for Britain right now. That is why I am so pleased to be opening a fourth round of the Regional Growth Fund which supports growth across a range of industries.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“The additional £350 million for the Regional Growth Fund is a big boost for those parts of the country facing structural problems. The fund has already supported a variety of industries – from motor vehicles to life sciences. This goes hand in hand with our industrial strategy.

“But it’s not just about big industry and household names. To date we have supported over a thousand SMEs through Regional Growth Fund programmes which is giving small business the impetus to expand, employ more staff or start exporting. This is the Government’s commitment to growth in action to encourage investment and lead to a more balanced economy.”

The Business Minister Michael Fallon will also encourage firms to apply while on a visit to the manufacturer H V Wooding in Hythe, Kent who obtained funding via the East Kent expansion programme.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said:

“The Regional Growth Fund is playing a pivotal role in supporting business and enterprise. Jobs are being created, money is being invested and the fund is making a difference. This additional round and the improved processes we have put in place will help keep the momentum going.

“Take H V Wooding in Kent, where our support is releasing private investment giving them the confidence to invest, hire and grow. I want more companies to come forward and apply to Round 4 or look out for similar opportunities through their local enterprise partnership.”

The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that the Regional Growth Fund is progressing well with 180 projects having started (89 per cent). Projects from the first three rounds have pledged to create or safeguard a total of 500,000 jobs along with an injection of £13 billion private sector investment into the economy.

On his visit to two companies already benefiting from the Regional Growth Fund in Leeds and Huddersfield, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

“Surgical Innovations in Leeds secured £5.05m of the fund which will see the firm catalysing a health technologies hub for the city and create hundreds of jobs. Cummins Turbo Technology in Huddersfield is able to push ahead with a cutting edge project that will make them leaders in turbo-charging technology.

“Just like in Yorkshire, local economies across the country are seeing the direct benefits of this funding through new jobs and additional investment. That is what the Regional Growth Fund is all about.”

The Regional Growth Fund is helping to rebalance the economy by investing in companies that can create jobs and attract substantial match-funding from the private sector. For every pound of government money, the private sector is putting in six pounds.

Round 4 of the Regional Growth Fund will close to applications on 20 March at noon and bids will be appraised as quickly as possible. Potential applicants should look out for expressions of interest events in their region for support and further help with the application process. The first of these will be in Manchester on 31 January 2013 and is open to any organisation interested in bidding.

Selected bidders from Round 3 are currently agreeing terms and conditions for their final offers from the accelerated timetable which was announced in October 2012. This process and deadlines will be matched in Round 4 and all offers will be confirmed within six months.

The minimum threshold for Round 4 applications will be £1million.

We shall be adding to the article as there are further developments and any changes to the plans will be reflected in the content. The full report will be published in print and online in the next edition of the Parliamentary Yearbook.




Friday, January 18th, 2013

The Parliamentary Information Office reported last November (2012) that the 2013 G8 Summit of world leaders will take place in Enniskillen, Fermanagh’s county town. On Tuesday 1st January 2013 the Prime Minister announced that the UK’s G8 Presidency will be an economic G8 that deals with big issues in the global economy and prioritises trade, tax and transparency.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has written to fellow G8 leaders to outline his plans for the G8 Presidency.

“As the UK takes over the Presidency of the G8, I wanted to write myself to begin a discussion with you about what we can achieve together. We will be meeting at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June. Northern Ireland’s prospects have been transformed by the peace process of the last twenty years – and it is a mark of the progress made that we can hold a G8 Summit there.

“It is clear that in 2013 the world will continue to face grave economic uncertainty. Our first priority will be dealing with the challenges in our own countries. But as leaders of eight countries making up around half of the world’s entire GDP, the ambitious standards we set and the bold steps we take by working together through the G8 can make a tangible difference by firing up economies and driving prosperity, not just in our own countries, but all over the world.

“I hope that at Lough Erne we can seize this opportunity. At the heart of my agenda for the Summit are three issues – advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency. All of them are areas where I believe the G8 can play a distinctive role, using our commitment to open economies, open governments and open societies to support enterprise and deliver economic growth.”

The G8 (Group of 8) is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the USA and the UK. The EU is represented by Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council. The Presidency of the G8 rotates each calendar year and the country holding the G8 Presidency is responsible for hosting and organising the annual summit, with a number of preparatory meetings leading up to it. The summit is an opportunity for G8 leaders to have frank and open discussions about the important global issues of the day. 2013 is the UK’s turn to shape the G8’s approach to these discussions with G8 leaders holding each other to account and agreeing concrete steps to advance growth and prosperity across the world.

As the chair of the G8, the UK has a unique opportunity to lead in shaping the outcomes of the summit and taking concrete action with other G8 countries to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including important economic and foreign policy issues of the day.

The Prime Minister has announced that he will focus the G8 in 2013 on 3 key areas: open economies, open governments and open societies to unleash the power of the private sector by advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency.


There is no greater stimulus for growth in the world economy than trade and no more important battle than the fight against protectionism. The G8 has collective responsibility to drive forward trade liberalisation. Among G8 countries work is already on going to prepare a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada and work will start next year to begin free trade negotiations between the EU and Japan and the EU and US. An EU-US free trade agreement would be particularly significant – the EU and US together make up nearly a third of all global trade and an ambitious deal between the two could provide an enormous boost to jobs and growth. The G8 leaders’ summit will be an opportunity to show the importance of this ongoing work and to agree how to accelerate progress across our common trade priorities.


The UK’s G8 Presidency will focus on strengthening international tax standards and working on greater international tax information exchange to tackle tax havens. This will build on work that is already underway in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and maintain the momentum set by the G20. And we will work with developing countries to enable them to collect tax that is due to them.


The G8 has a long history of advancing the development agenda – and the UK’s G8 Presidency will be no different. The UK is meeting its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of its gross national income on aid from 2013 and will hold other countries to account for their promises too. With this track record on aid, the Prime Minister plans to use the G8 Presidency to support the ‘golden thread’ of conditions that he sees as critical to the growth and prosperity of countries across the world. These include the absence of conflict, clamping down on corruption and ensuring strong and accountable government.

Transparency and accountability are vitally important to achieve these conditions. Too often, development at the G8 has been about rich countries doing things to poor countries. But at Lough Erne the G8 will focus on getting its own house in order and helping developing countries to prosper in the process. An example of this is mineral wealth. It’s important that developing countries rich in minerals see this as a blessing not a curse. The UK is already leading efforts in the EU that will require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on. The UK’s G8 Presidency will push for greater transparency all around the globe so that revenues from oil, gas and mining are transparent.

This should encourage greater accountability and ensure money doesn’t fuel conflict and corruption, but instead is used to provide better public services for citizens.

The combined action on trade, tax and transparency during the UK’s G8 Presidency could lay the foundations of long-term growth and prosperity for generations to come and will support the development of open economies, open governments and open societies.

The UK’s G8 Presidency will also make progress across a range of vital global issues, including foreign policy challenges and supporting Arab Spring countries. The UK’s Presidency will also build on the Olympic Hunger Summit and the US’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, leading the way in the battle against hunger.

And this year the UK will also produce a comprehensive accountability report (CAR) that will show progress against key commitments made by the G8. The report is a concrete example of transparency and accountability at work, a central theme of the UK’s G8 Presidency, and an opportunity to hold G8 leaders to account.

The Parliamentary Information Office will await the Summit with considerable interest and report on events in Enniskillen in June this year.




Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

The Parliamentary Information Office reported last August (2012) on the publication of Sir Adrian Montague’s report, “Review of the barriers to institutional investment in private rented homes”. In response to the recommendations of the Montague report, a new “Build to Rent Fund” has been launched to stimulate new private rented housing supply and to provide opportunities for new institutional investment in the sector.

The new £200 million fund will boost the construction of new homes specifically for private rent, said Housing Minister Mark Prisk.

The Build to Rent fund aims to cut the risk for developers more traditionally used to building homes for sale who are looking to branch out into building homes for private rent.

By financing the construction of rental homes until they are built, let out and managed, the fund will give developers the freedom to build homes specifically for that market with confidence.

Management companies will have the chance to invest in these new rental developments, and developers will then repay the investment from government.

The £200m Fund is a fully recoverable, commercial investment where the public sector will share risk or bridge finance to allow schemes to be built out, managed and let. The investment could be used to cover development costs such as land, construction or management costs.

Once the scheme is fully let the developer will sell on its interest or re-finance and repay the loan/equity.

Launching the new fund, the Housing Minister described it as yet another step to support housebuilding which will help boost the economy, create jobs and strengthen the housing market by providing people with a broader housing choice.

Reviving the rental market

Mr Prisk said that Build to Rent follows recommendations contained in the Montague report into rented homes earlier this year and will help address the varying level of quality across the nation’s private rented sector.

The majority of private rental landlords are small-scale, individual investors. This fund will redress the balance, by stimulating the market in private rented homes for large-scale housing organisations that will in turn help set a new benchmark for landlords across the country.

To kickstart this new, larger scale market for privately rented homes, the minister said that Build to Rent will fund ‘demonstration’ projects to show how it might work.

An expert taskforce will also work to boost investor awareness of the fund and offer practical support to those interested in this new market.

Housing Minister Mark Prisk said:

“A healthy rental housing market must have a broad range of choice across the board. But for it to grow and develop, we must first attract new investors. The Build to Rent fund will support this, helping to build homes specifically for private rent and breathing new life into the sector.

“And by driving this market in housebuilding, the fund will also help create new jobs, build the homes that families need and local people want, and support economic growth across the country.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

“The private rented sector now houses a quarter of Londoners and has the potential to support the delivery of a huge number of new homes in the future. I welcome this funding and I will continue to make the case that investment in London’s housing infrastructure is one of the best ways to deliver much needed construction jobs and economic growth now, while at the same time laying the foundations for our economic growth for years to come.“

The Greater London Authority will lead on assessing the expressions of interest for sites in London. Shortlisting decisions will be made by DCLG, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority. The Homes and Communities Agency will undertake due diligence, contracting and monitoring.

The Fund prospectus was launched on 20 December, and follows a two stage selection process.

Run as a national competition, developers are invited to submit expressions of interest, including core information about their propositions, by noon 4 February 2013.

This will be followed by a due diligence process before shortlisted schemes will be announced from March 2013 and the Parliamentary Information Office will report on the shortlisted schemes as they are announced.



Parliamentary Information Office / Parliamentary Yearbook

Monday, December 17th, 2012

The Government has identified training of new generations of skilled workers as one of the keys to sustainable growth and has committed £1.4 billion to expand the availability of apprenticeships. My company has been selected to appear in a special feature on apprenticeships in the Parliamentary Yearbook and I am most encouraged that the publishers should be promoting the initiative in this way. It is one of the single most important routes to getting youngsters into employment.

Today the impact of Asian entrepreneurs can be seen everywhere in the UK economy and across a wide range of businesses. The community is among some of the country’s largest employers and wealth creators. I am pleased to be a contributor to a report in the Parliamentary Yearbook stressing the importance of Asian business in our route out of recession.

The Parliamentary Yearbook is carrying a full report in the next edition on the importance of the life science and research sector. The UK life sciences market is among the strongest and fastest-growing in the world. Biotechnology, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries in the UK have an outstanding track record in drug discovery, a strong academic base and increasing Government support for R&D through investment and tax credits. This much maligned industry is at last receiving the credit it richly deserves.

The Parliamentary Yearbook includes a major Lobbying section giving organisations the opportunity to air a view or make statements to members of both Houses. And this is in keeping with the ethos of our democracy … the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee acknowledged that “The practice of lobbying in order to influence political decisions is a legitimate and necessary part of the democratic process”. But it does of course have to be done in a correct way … and this is where the Parliamentary Yearbook comes in, giving organisations the opportunity to express opinion and present reasoned argument to the Government of the day.

At current rates by 2050, 90% of all adults will be overweight or obese and almost 9 million of us are drinking too much. In an effort to tackle these huge public health challenges and reduce inequalities, the Responsibility Deal forms one strand of action complemented by other approaches designed, developed and delivered by Government and the public sector. One important aspect is of course publicity and this is being headed up by a series of reports in the Parliamentary Yearbook which guarantees through its influential audience that key people in both public and private sectors are aware of the impact that the Deal can have.

Parliamentary Yearbook is Better One

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Parliamentary Yearbook – Parliamentary Information Office: It goes without saying that the Parliamentary Yearbook is a very useful publication and frankly speaking I have been looking for a similar publication for quite some time. The information given in this volume about the MPs and Peers for both Houses of Parliament serves as useful reference material. It is of good use to us in the mission. SA (Diplomatic Service)

Parliamentary Yearbook – Parliamentary Information Office: The Parliamentary Yearbook not only serves as a tool for learning about UK Parliamentary Governance but as a source of acquaintance with the people behind the policies and programmes so beneficial to my country. Indeed the UK Parliament has been brought from Westminster right to our front door in Holland Park. I truly appreciate the fruit of this hard work. SM (Diplomatic Service)

Parliamentary Information Office

THE EU BUDGET 2012/13 – Parliamentary Information Office

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The Parliamentary Information Office is, with constitutional pundits generally, waiting for the results of today’s European budget negotiations prior to the presentation of the EU draft budget tomorrow, 23rd November 2012.

Prime Minister David Cameron will meet this morning, 22nd November 2012, with Herman Van Rompuy, the EU president, who is proposing a deal that would cut the overall budget, but reduce the value of Britain’s annual rebate.

Speaking earlier Mr Cameron said he would be “negotiating hard” against an “unacceptable” EU spending increase and defending the British rebate.

The Commission is to present a new draft budget on Friday 23rd November 2012. After that, negotiations will re-start between Parliament and Council, aiming for a deal to be adopted at the 10-13 December 2012 plenary session and yesterday discussions on the Budget dominated European Parliamentary activity.

Parliament’s President Martin Schulz urged the blocking minority of member states to stop preventing the Commission from paying bills it is legally obliged to pay, in a debate in Strasbourg yesterday, 21st November 2012. These member states’ refusal to agree on an amending budget for 2012 was the reason why budget negotiations broke down on 13th November 2012.

Mr Schulz, referring to the main cause of the current deadlock in the annual budget negotiations, said:

“There are some member states in the Council which are not willing to honour their own promises. They are trying to push the EU to adopt a deficit budget. They may have done this at home, and too often and for a too long, but this house is not willing to accept such procedures at European level.

“This is that a blocking minority of member states refuse to adopt an amending budget to enable the Commission to pay its bills, despite last year’s promise to act promptly to remedy any such shortfalls.”

Mr Schulz added:

“If there are still unpaid bills for 2012, we cannot take any serious decision for 2013.

“The European Parliament is not willing to negotiate in this way. If we do not solve the problems in 2012, the EU will need to pay interest on the delays. This is not a proper way to run a budget, it is not sound financial management”,

During the debate with the Cyprus Presidency of the Council and the Commission, several MEPs from various political groups underlined the same message.

The EU needs an adequate and flexible long-term budget to strengthen its economy and labour market, said most political group leaders in the debate. This was a signal to today’s extraordinary European Council, which will seek a political agreement on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. The Council must agree unanimously, and any deal must be endorsed by Parliament.

“We have to go below the Commission proposal”, said Cyprus Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Andreas Mavroyiannis for the Council, pointing to the budgetary constraints across Europe The latest proposal, tabled by European Council President Herman van Rompuy, “includes all elements necessary for a deal”, he added. This proposal is €80 billion less than the European Commission proposal of €1.033 billion for seven years.

The budget negotiations are “a test for the EU’s credibility”, said Commission President José Manuel Barroso. “Some people say ‘let’s cut!’ and then pretend it does not make any difference. But a little difference in the EU budget makes a massive difference for the people depending on EU programmes. Just as an example; for every billion cut in the Horizon 2020 programme, 4,000 small and medium sized enterprises lose funding”, he said.

EPP-Group leader Joseph Daul warned that with a budget below 1% of European GNI “we cannot continue the current policies”. Noting that 517 MEPs had voted in favour of a strong EU budget, he reiterated that the EU needs a sound and responsible budget to deliver on existing plans and promises, and added that “investing in the future is the only way out of the crisis”.

S&D group leader Hannes Swoboda, strongly criticised the “everyone for himself attitude” taken by some member states: “We hear people talk about €50 billion less, €80 billion, €100 billion, even €200 billion less. It is a disgraceful race to the bottom, as if the EU budget was merely a numbers game, he said, adding that the EU needs “enough to perform”.

ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt, compared the EU budget with national ones: “The whole debate is ridiculous. We talk about 1% of EU GNI, which is less than the budget of Belgium or Austria. The German and French budgets are both 8 to 10 times bigger than that of the EU. We need a strong EU budget, because pooling resources at EU level is the only way to beat problems at national level. We should be ready to block a deal that goes below the Commission proposal”, he said.

For the Green group, Helga Trüpel said “Chancellor Merkel was wrong when she told us two weeks ago that 27 member states have decided to invest 3% of GNP in research and development. She leads a band of net payers who want to cut R&D by 12% and hide behind the current presidency”.

Conservative Group leader Martin Callanan criticised those “who believe every problem can be solved by more Europe”. He dismissed the idea that the EU budget is an investment budget, noting that 40% of it goes on farm subsidies and 6% on administrative overheads. Mr Callanan nonetheless said that cohesion funds should be maintained for those member states which need it most.

For the EFD group, Nigel Farage said “it is remarkable that the European Union is talking about taking another trillion Euro from EU taxpayers, despite the fact that the accounts have not been signed off for 18 years in a row. If this was a company, the directors, or in this case the Commission, would all be in prison.”

For the GUE/NGL group, Gabriele Zimmer said “the additional funds asked for by the Commission merely reflect the increased tasks given to the European Union. It is not going to be used for more administration. For example, how can the EU continue to combat social exclusion and poverty if there is going to be a cut in the funding to the poorest of the poor? A different attitude must come forward in Council. People have to move away from these narrow, parochial, national interests.”

The declaration, signed a year ago by all member states and Parliament, says: “The Council and the European Parliament ……. ask the Commission to request additional payment appropriations in an amending budget if the appropriations entered in the 2012 budget are insufficient. …… The Council and the European Parliament will take a position on any draft amending budget as quickly as possible in order to avoid any shortfall in payment appropriations.”

The Parliamentary Information Office will report on the outcome of the Council negotiations and, of course, on the draft and final budgets.




Friday, November 30th, 2012

The Parliamentary Information Office, with constitutional pundits generally, is delighted by the announcement yesterday by the Prime Minister that the 2013 G8 Summit of world leaders will take place in Enniskillen, Fermanagh’s county town. No event of this magnitude has been held previously in Northern Ireland

Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that next year’s G8 summit of world leaders will be held at Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister made the announcement during a ‘PM Direct’ question and answer session at a factory in Northern Ireland. During the session Mr Cameron explained that the UK’s G8 Presidency will focus on securing global growth and prosperity through championing open economies, open governments, and open societies.

Mr Cameron described the choice of venue as personal, saying he looked forward to welcoming fellow leaders to Lough Erne to showcase Northern Ireland to the world as a modern and dynamic part of the United Kingdom that is open for business, with huge potential for investment and tourism.

The town of Enniskillen, which is less than 10 miles from the border of the Republic of Ireland, will welcome US President Barack Obama, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin amongst others to its environs in June next year. The event will also see the world’s media descend on the county, in what will be a huge security operation as well as a massive coup for tourism in Northern Ireland and the border region.

The five star Lough Erne Hotel Resort will host the main event of the G8. The 120 room and suite resort which includes conference and banqueting services as well as a popular golf course is in an ideal location for the summit.

Situated on a peninsula on Lough Erne, the resort will make it easy for security to monitor demonstrators who follow the summit.

The resort has five helicopter pads, as well as access to a seaplane and is only a few minutes drive from St Angelo airport.

The Prime Minister said:

“And there’s another reason I wanted to stand here today, in this factory, is that I want to make an important announcement about a big investment, I hope, that is coming to Northern Ireland. And that is this: next year Britain will be the chairman of the G8 group of countries, eight of the most important and powerful nations in the world .

“And as Chairman of the G8, I get to decide where to hold the big G8 conference next year, on the 17th and 18th of June. And I’ve decided the right place to hold it, is right here in Northern Ireland. And we will be holding the G8 at Lough Erne in County Fermanagh.

“I think this will be a brilliant advertisement for Northern Ireland. I want the world to see just what a fantastic place Northern Ireland is: a great place for business; a great place for investment; a place with an incredibly educated and trained workforce, ready to work for international businesses. And I also, want to show the world what a beautiful place Northern Ireland is and Lough Erne, where I was this morning, is one of the most beautiful places in the entire United Kingdom.

“I hope I won’t have any trouble keeping President Obama off the golf course, because it’s a pretty amazing golf course, but I think it’ll be a great moment for Northern Ireland and I’m really pleased to make that announcement today.

Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers MP, has said that the Prime Minister’s decision to host G8 in Enniskillen is a clear signal of the growing confidence that exists in Northern Ireland. Accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit to Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State said:

“This is a very exciting and important opportunity for Northern Ireland. Bringing the G8 leaders to Northern Ireland demonstrates the growing confidence that exists in this part of the United Kingdom. It will highlight what Northern Ireland, its people and its businesses have to offer to the global community, companies and tourists.

“We are in a global race. G8 will showcase a modern, confident and forward looking Northern Ireland to the world with its potential for inward investment and tourism.”

The President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission have confirmed their participation in the Summit and both President Barroso and President Van Rompuy welcomed the announcement made by the Prime Minister to hold the G8 Summit under the UK Presidency in Northern Ireland. This choice underlines the transformation that has taken place in Northern Ireland, to which the European Union has contributed, notably through the Peace Programme of funding for projects which help reconcile communities.

The town of Enniskillen of course lives in many people’s memories because of the horrific bombing there in 1987 and the following message was sent by The Queen to Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Fermanagh on the 25th anniversary of the bombing, 8 November 2012:

“As we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the bombing at Enniskillen, my thoughts are with the victims, the bereaved, and with all those who continue to bear the scars of this dreadful event. A quarter of a century ago, we were able to draw comfort and strength from the hope that out of the personal tragedies of Enniskillen might come eventual reconciliation between communities. Today, a quarter of a century later, we can all reflect on how far we have travelled along this road; and my recent visit to the people of Enniskillen gave me much reason to be optimistic about the future. My good wishes and prayers are with everyone who will be marking today’s anniversary, and with all those who strive for peace in this country and throughout the world.”


The Parliamentary Information Office will await the Summit with considerable interest and report on events in Enniskillen in June next year.




Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Following the publication of the Government’s report on Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future in December 2010, the Parliamentary Information Office has been closely following progress for major features in the next edition and reported in the Summer last year, 2011, that the Government had allocated £530 million to help take superfast broadband to rural areas

Then yesterday, 20th November 2012 the Government’s plans to roll-out high speed broadband to every home and business in the UK were boosted, following a green light from the EU.

The approval paves the way for the UK’s £530 million rural broadband scheme to start in earnest, meaning that work can commence laying the cables for local authority broadband projects all around the UK. The programme is part of the Government’s commitment to deliver the best superfast broadband network in Europe.

Today’s decision follows a direct intervention from the Culture Secretary in Brussels last week, after several months of delay in Europe.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller said:

“Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy. Superfast broadband is essential to creating growth, jobs and prosperity and the delay has caused frustration within Government. Today’s announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country.

“Britain is in a global race today. To succeed in that race we must have the infrastructure to match our aspiration, providing people who work hard with the tools they need to get on and prosper; this green light will benefit both businesses and communities across the UK.

“Our broadband plans are hugely ambitious – to connect 90 per cent of homes to superfast broadband and ensuring the rest have access to at least 2Mbps. The Government will not allow parts of our country to miss out on the digital age.”

State aid approval means that local authorities can now sign procurement contracts with contractors and begin delivery work on their new broadband infrastructure projects. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has planned a ‘pipeline’ of local authority projects which are currently going into procurement at a rate of approximately one a week.

State Aid refers to forms of assistance from a public body, or publicly-funded body, given to selected undertakings (any entity which puts goods or services on the given market), which has the potential to distort competition and affect trade between member states of the European Union.

The European Commission monitors and controls State Aid in the EU. Member States are obliged to notify and seek approval from the Commission before granting State Aid. This gives the Commission the opportunity to approve or refuse to approve the proposed measure.

The projects which will be affected first by this clearance and whose residents will be the first to connect to superfast broadband, are Wales and Surrey. Projects in Cumbria, Rutland and Herefordshire and Gloucestershire are expected to follow shortly afterwards.

Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Highlands & Islands are still progressing their procurements. North Yorkshire’s project began implementation in July as it already has state aid approval. Lancashire’s project has completed procurement and is currently awaiting the Commission’s decision on its own separate notification of state aid.

A further eight projects are currently undertaking their procurements using the Broadband Delivery Framework (Norfolk, Suffolk, Wiltshire, Devon & Somerset, Northamptonshire, Kent & Medway, Lincolnshire and Hampshire). The first four of these launched their invitations to tender at the beginning of July and are now nearing the point of agreeing a contract with their supplier.
Shropshire will launch its procurement next week.

All the remaining rural broadband projects are expected to complete their procurements by summer 2013.

The Parliamentary Information Office will continue to monitor and report on progress as we go through the months ahead.

Web: Parliamentary Information Office



Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The Parliamentary Information Office has been following closely changes within our National Health Service and has reported over the course of this Parliament on the progress in the reforms proposed

Yesterday, 13th November 2012, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt delivered the first mandate from the Government to the NHS. In a landmark moment for the health service, the Mandate sets out what every patient in England can expect from GPs, hospitals and the wider NHS.

The Mandate marks a historic shift from narrow, process-focused targets to a clear ambition for a modern service that concentrates on results and is a central strand of the Government’s determination to improve the quality of people’s experience of the NHS.

The Mandate sets the ambitions for the health service for the next two years and will be issued to the NHS Commissioning Board – the new independent body tasked with ensuring the best possible result for all patients in the NHS.

It  is structured around five key areas where the Government expects the NHS Commissioning Board to make improvements.

·         Preventing people from dying prematurely

·         Enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions

·         Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury

·         Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care

·         Treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm

It sets out clear priorities including improving early diagnosis, cutting premature deaths from the biggest killers, improving care for new mothers and better help for dementia sufferers.

The Mandate signals the Coalition Government’s commitment to an NHS that is able to meet patients’ needs and expectations in the face of growing demand. Crucially, it puts quality of care at the heart of what people can expect, with a clear requirement for the health service to treat every patient with dignity and respect, and for the best care to be available no matter where they live.

The Mandate has been drawn up following consultation with the public, health professionals and key organisations across the health system between July and September 2012. Through it, the NHS will be measured, for the first time, by how well it achieves the things that really matter to people.

The key objectives contained within the Mandate include:

·         improving standards of care and not just treatment, especially for the elderly and vulnerable

·         better diagnosis, treatment and care for people with dementia

·         better care for women during pregnancy, including a named midwife responsible for ensuring personalised, one-to-one care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period

·         patients will be able to give feedback on the quality of their care through the “Friends and Family Test” starting from next April. So patients will be able to tell which wards, A&E departments, maternity units and hospitals are providing the best care

·         by 2015 everyone will be able to book their GP appointments online, order a repeat prescription online and talk to their GP practice online. This will help people better manage their health and care

·         treating mental and physical health with equal priority. This means everyone who needs mental health services having timely access to the best available treatment

·         preventing premature deaths from the biggest killers

·         by 2015, everyone should be able to find out how well their local NHS is providing the care they need, with the publication of the results it achieves for all major services

The Commissioning Board will be given a budget of over £95 billion for 2013/14, in order to deliver the objectives set out in the Mandate.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said:

“The NHS is one of the finest institutions in the world and we are working with health professionals to keep it that way.

“Never in its long history has the NHS faced such rapid change in our healthcare needs, from caring for an older population, to managing the cost of better treatments, to seizing the opportunities of new technology.

“This mandate is about giving the NHS the right priorities to deal with those challenges. We do not want an NHS that focuses on narrow performance indicators but instead looks at true measures of whether all of us are receiving the highest quality of care.

“By focusing on what matters to patients, and giving doctors and other health professionals the freedom to deliver, we will make sure the NHS stays relevant to our needs and ensure this country’s proudest creation remains its finest.”

The new NHS will be locally led and locally responsive. While the Government will continue to set overall goals for the NHS, the decisions on how to deliver the objectives in the NHS Mandate will be made by the people who know patients best – doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

The Parliamentary Information Office will follow this and other changes within the NHS and continue to report on developments as we go through the months ahead.



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