26th March 2009
OFT Annual Plan '09-'10 Published
The Office oif Fair Trading (OFT) has today published its Annual Plan which will follow four main themes over the next 12 months. Philip Collins, OFT Chairman, said 'These uncertain economic times require the OFT to be active, responsive and flexible in continuing to promote competition and protect consumers. The OFT will continue to take strong and decisive action where necessary to intervene in markets which are not working well for consumers, and will work closely with government, business and consumer groups to enhance public confidence in markets'. Download the plan here
23rd March 2009
ComRes MP Survey into PASC Lobbying Inquiry: Parliamentary Support Strong for Statutory Register
On 5th January, the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) called for a "statutory register of lobbying activity", aimed at increasing transparency in the industry. It recommends that an independent watchdog, funded by lobbyists, should be established to monitor ethical behaviour in the industry. ComRes surveyed 154 MPs to find out what their views are on lobbying and the PASC's recommendations.
The first key finding is that MPs are clearly concerned about the way the industry operates. Only 26% of MPs think that self regulation is working and more than a third (38%) believe that introducing statutory regulation would not be excessive. Broadly speaking, MPs tend to welcome the recommendations of the PASC report. 63% of MPs think there should be a statutory register listing all individual lobbyists and the names of all their clients and half of MPs (50%) agree that an ethical watchdog should be established.
MPs' support is, however, tentative. Only 31% think a register should contain details of all meetings between lobbyists and MPs, and 45% of MPs think a statutory register would inevitably lead to less external input and consultation over legislation. In short, while accepting that "something" needs to change, MPs are not necessarily convinced by each of the options on the table. Click here to sign up to receive Pollwatch, the easily-digestible free monthly polling update from ComRes.
23rd March 2009
DFID Publishes Aid Spending Figures
The Department for International Development has published the 2008 figures showing that the UK is on track in its fight against poverty in developing countries, who are most vulnerable during the global economic downturn. The Official Development Assistance spending for 2008 was £6.3bn, an increase from the £4.9bn 2007 amount. International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said "We are unfaltering in our commitment to help people living in the poorest countries. For some of those who were already living in extreme poverty, the current economic crisis has had a devastating impact". Click here to find out how the UK is helping to fight poverty.
20th March 2009
Dragon's Den Star to Review Entrepreneurial Start-Up Assistance
In a keynote speech to the Federation of Small Businesses annual conference in Newport, Skills Secretary John Denham has announced that Peter Jones from BBC TV's Dragons' Den is to spearhead a review of developing and improving the training opportunites and support offered by Universities and Colleges to entrepreneurs wanting to start up businesses. Denham said "The life blood of new small businesses is the entrepreneurial spirit - the well judged risk that can let a business idea flourish...Besides being one of this country's most successful entrepreneurs, Peter Jones has a substantial record of encouraging entrepreneurship education. He is heading up the National Skills Academy for Enterprise. So I'm delighted that he has agreed to lead the review and to apply his experience and expertise to helping me ensure that DIUS plays its full part in laying the foundations of Britain's future economic success". Peter Jones said "I am personally passionate about raising the nation's entrepreneurial capability and aspirations, which is why I have established the National Enterprise Academy for 16 to 19-year-olds. Building on this, however, I believe we could be improving skills provision in enterprise and entrepreneurship right across the age spectrum and this review will give me the opportunity to engage as widely as possibly with universities, colleges, businesses and other key organisations and explore and examine where significant impact and improvement could be made".
19th March 2009
Councils Urged Towards Better Communication through Ditching 'Impenetrable Jargon and Phrases'
The Local Government Association has urged the public sector to communicate effectively with local people by ditching jargon - especially during the recession. A list of 200 words and phrases, with suggested alternatives to use or simply comments not to use (listed here in brackets), has been published which includes "top-down" ("ignores people") , "slippage" ("delay"), "cautiously welcome" (devil in the detail), "mainstreaming" ("why use at all?"), "thinking outside of the box" ("why use at all?") and "community engagement" (getting people involved). Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said “The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead? During the recession, it is vital that we explain to people in plain English how to get access to the eight hundred different services that local government provides with taxpayers’ money" continuing that "We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide”.
18th March 2009
UK Unemployment Figures Top 2 Million
The Office for National Statistics has published the latest UK unemployment figures, which show that the number of unemployed people has risen over the 2 million mark to 2.03 million which is the highest number since Labour came to power in 1997. The unemployment rate was 6.5% for the three months to January 2009, which is a rise of 0.5% over the previous quarter and up 1.3% over the year. The number of unemployed people increased by 165,000 over the quarter and by 421,000 over the year. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit has also seen the largest monthly increase since records began in 1971, up 138,400 in February to 1.39 million. Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform Tony McNulty said "These latest figures show the human impact of the global recession. No matter how hard times get, we will not give up on anyone who loses their job and will continue to provide real help to everyone who needs it".
17th March 2009
Brown's Good Samaritan Consumer Assistance Package
Gordon Brown has announced a consumer assistance package aimed at preventing people getting trapped in a cycle of debt and targetted at those struggling to make ends meet due to the economic situation. The Prime Minister took the opportunity of an audience of consumer groups and money advice agencies to set out his commitment to a stronger regulatory regime for banks, announcing a White Paper on modernised consumer rights law. The package includes: fair rules for debt enforcement; national fraud strategy; debt and mortgage advice help; whilst on credit cards, lenders will be stopped from raising credit card borrowing limits where customers have not requested an increase together with ending the practice of firms sending unsolicited credit card cheques. Gordon Brown said "The changes we're dealing with as a country right now are enormous. But we are determined to do our bit - when we see hard-working, hard-pressed people being buffeted about by a storm not of their making, we will never pass by on the other side".
16th March 2009
Chief Medical Officer calls for Alcohol Minimum Pricing
England's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has published his 2008 Annual Report 'On the State of Public Health' looking at alcohol, prostate cancer, chronic pain and antimicrobial resistance. On the issue of alcohol, the Report calls for the recognition of the effects of passive drinking on society, a national consensus on substantially reducing alcohol consumption, and a minimum pricing of 50p per unit to be introduced to reduce the consumption of alcohol and associated harm. Donaldson said "England has a drink problem and the whole of society bears the burden. The passive effects of heavy drinking on innocent parties are easily underestimated and frequently ignored. The concept of passive drinking and the devastating collateral effect that alcohol can have on others must be addressed on a national scale. Cheap alcohol is killing us as never before. The quality of life of families and in cities and towns up and down the country is being eroded by the effects of excessive drinking".
13th March 2009
List of Ministers’ Interests Published
The Cabinet Office has published the first ever List of Ministers’ Interests, which takes forward the commitment made in the Ministerial Code, noting that "The List is not an account of all the interests held by a Minister and members of their family. It is a list of interests which are, or could reasonably be perceived to be, directly relevant to Ministers’ public duties". The Prime Minster lists a "Small number of shares in Raith Rovers (not for financial gain)" and that "One of Mr Brown’s brothers is director of Corporate Communications...and the other is an independent public relations consultant"; Lord Mandelson's entry states that his "financial interests have been transferred into a blind trust"; John Hutton includes that "BAE Systems Submarine Solutions is located in Mr Hutton’s constituency"; Lord Hunt of Kings Heath's "brother- in-law owns an IT Training Company which has a number of Government and local authority contracts. His step son works for a different IT Company, which tests IT security and also has a number of Government contracts"; Hilary Benn "owns one quarter of a small nature reserve in Essex"; Lord Malloch-Brown "entered into a book contract before becoming a Minister. The subject of the book is not related to Ministerial Office. It will not be published until he leaves Ministerial office".
12th March 2009
Government launches Business Guide to Carbon Reduction Commitment
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has launched a guide to assist businesses in preparing for the April 2010 introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the mandatory climate change and energy saving scheme. The Government believes this could help save businesses £1 billion by 2020. Energy and Climate Change Minister, Joan Ruddock, said "Cutting back on energy use and becoming more energy efficient makes economic sense for firms at the best of times, but it's even more important now given the difficult business environment. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is part of a package of measures in the ground breaking Climate Change Act which will help mobilise 5,000 organisations to save over 4 million tons of CO2 a year, equivalent to taking a million cars off the road".