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Mr Patrick McLoughlin - Department for Transport

I wish to inform the House of the latest developments on rail investment and the recent publication of Sir Peter Hendys re-plan in resetting the rail upgrade programme, which can be found on Network Rail website.

In June, I announced that important aspects of Network Rails investment programme were costing more and taking longer. I also announced the appointment of Sir Peter Hendy as the new Chair of Network Rail, and asked him to develop proposals for how the rail upgrade programme could be put on a more realistic and sustainable footing.

Sir Peter Hendy has now provided me with his proposal for how to re-plan our rail upgrades, following his advice to un-pause works on TransPennine and Midland Main Line in September. I have accepted his recommendations, subject to a short period of consultation with relevant stakeholders. His report was published on Wednesday 25 November as part of the spending review announcements. I placed a copy of his report in the libraries of both Houses yesterday.

Firstly, I want to be absolutely clear that no infrastructure schemes have been cancelled. Flagship improvement works to build a Northern Powerhouse in the North and the Midlands are underway, helping to rebalance our countrys economy by creating an engine for growth. Electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Main Line has already resumed and will completely transform the railways by improving city to city connectivity.

Radical schemes such as Crossrail, Thameslink and works on the Great Western will make journeys better, simpler, faster and more reliable throughout the South East and South West. Britains railways are truly on the road to recovery, despite years of underinvestment by successive Governments.

Sir Peter and I are both absolutely resolute in our drive to fix the problems in the planning process for rail enhancements. That is why I asked Dame Colette Bowe to look at lessons learned from the planning processes used for the 2014-19 enhancements programme, and to make recommendations for better investment planning in future. I published her report on Wednesday 25 November, which I have laid as a Command Paper in the House and copies of the report have been placed in the libraries of both Houses.

I have accepted all of Dame Colette Bowes recommendations. My Department, together with Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road, are taking urgent steps to develop and implement a number of actions following her recommendations. These will ensure that an improved approach to planning and delivering rail infrastructure enhancements is put in place. I have placed a copy of my response to the Bowe report in the libraries of the House and on my Departments website.

Building the infrastructure our country needs is incredibly challenging. It depends on hard work and good design and thousands of people working night after night, sometimes in very difficult conditions. Over Christmas and New Year alone, over 20,000 members of Network Rail will be working to deliver the railway upgrade plan. This is a 150m investment, which will provide new station facilities, longer platforms, extra tracks, new junctions and thousands of pieces of new, more reliable equipment to make journeys better.

We must continue to invest. Our railways matter, not just helping people get around, but helping them get on. It is absolutely crucial that our infrastructure is delivered efficiently and continues to represent the best value for money.


Mr David Cameron - Prime Minister

Ahead of my oral statement today, I have placed in the libraries of the House my response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committees 2nd Report The extension of offensive British military operations to Syria.


Mr Jeremy Hunt - Department of Health

I am today publishing an update on the Governments response to the recommendations set out in Kate Lampards report on the themes and lessons learnt from NHS investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile. A copy of the update report is attached to this statement.

On 26 February 2015 (HC Deb, cols 483-486), I advised the House that the Government accepted in principle 13 of the 14 recommendations in Kate Lampards excellent report, including on access, volunteering, safeguarding, complaints and governance. I also asked the chief executives of Monitor and the Trust Development Authority, now brought together in NHS Improvement, to ensure that all trusts review their current practice against the recommendations within three months, and then to write back to me with a summary of plans and progress.

The update report published today provides a summary of actions taken in response to the 13 recommendations for the NHS, Department of Health and wider government. All NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts have responded and those responses have been collated by Monitor and TDA, now NHS Improvement.

In summary, progress has been made against all the accepted recommendations. The vast majority of trusts have already taken action in response to the recommendations or are in the process of doing so. For individual recommendations, at least 80% of providers planned to have implemented them by September 2015, with the remainder due to complete their action by the end of the year.

It is vital that Trusts continue to be vigilant against the dangers of child sex abuse. NHS Improvement are currently reviewing CQCs well-led framework and how it applies to Trusts, setting out expectations of NHS provider boards and their oversight of the organisations they are responsible for. Well-run boards should be able to assure themselves that their organisations have processes in place to ensure effective safeguarding, training and recruitment practices. NHS Improvement will consider how best to reflect the recommendations in this framework in an appropriate fashion.


Justin Tomlinson - Department for Work and Pensions

Later today, I will publish Command Paper Cm 9159, the Governments second response to the independent review of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Assessment. The review was carried out by Paul Gray and published in December 2014.

This paper provides an update of the actions my Department has taken against the short term recommendations identified in the first review and its response to the remaining medium and long-term recommendations.

My Department has accepted all the medium and long-term recommendations in full except the recommendation to put in place and announce a rigorous and qualitative evaluation strategy which we have partially accepted. My Department already monitors all aspects of the PIP process through operational checks, performance monitoring, including the publication of quarterly statistics, and ad hoc analysis. At the right stage in the PIP programme, as the evidence base builds from phasing in full PIP rollout, my Department will develop an appropriate evaluation plan.

Since the Governments first response to this review in February 2015, we have continued to make significant improvements to the PIP process with the average new claimant now waiting 5 weeks for an assessment, compared to 10 weeks in February 2015. My Department has used evidence from previous phases of PIP rollout together with lessons learnt from the first review to ensure we are continuously improving the way in which PIP is delivered. Furthermore we remain committed to working closely with claimants and disability organisations and will continue to do so.

As set out in legislation, there will be a second independent review of PIP which will report by April 2017.

This paper will be available on the GOV.UK website once it has been published.


Mr Shailesh Vara - Department for Work and Pensions

My Noble Friend The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) has made the following Written Statement.

I am pleased to announce the proposed social security benefits rates for 2016. I have attached the table of rates to this statement and I will place a copy of the proposed benefit and pension rates 2016-17 in the House library. The annual uprating of benefits will take place for state pensions and most other benefits in the first full week of the tax year. In 2016, this will be the week beginning 11 April. A corresponding provision will be made in Northern Ireland.

 


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