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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 1 December 2011

Business, Innovation and Skills

Further Education Reforms: Building a World Class System

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): The Government are today publishing “New Challenges, New Chances: Further Education and Skills System Reform Plan: Building a World Class Skills System” and the underpinning skills investment statement for 2011-2014, copies of which are being sent to all hon. Members and placed in the Library.

Our vision is for a further education and skills system in England freed as far as possible from central bureaucratic burdens, thus able to respond more effectively to the needs of local learners and employers and so make the maximum possible contribution to renewed growth.

Our plan is based on 10 key policy commitments:

1. We will empower learners—from basic through to higher-level skills—to shape the system through their participation. First-class information will inform their choices, with Government funding focused on supporting students where it can have most impact.

2. We will launch a national careers service in April 2012 to provide information, advice and guidance which both informs and stimulates demand for further education, work-based training and higher education. Lifelong learning accounts will equip learners with the information they need to make the most of their learning opportunities.

3. We will create a vocational pathway as navigable, rigorous and attractive as the academic route, so recalibrating the character of higher learning.

4. We will develop and promote excellent teaching, by establishing an independent commission on adult education and vocational pedagogy to develop a sector-owned strategy and delivery programme. We will also facilitate an independent review of professionalism in the FE and skills work force.

5. We will take further action to ensure that qualifications are of high quality and comprehensible, by improving awareness of the qualifications and credit framework—consulting employers on their engagement in qualification development—and by consulting on the character and function of national occupational standards.

6. We will take action to remove restrictions and controls on college corporations, creating new roles for governors, working closely with other educational providers in post-14 learning, with local stakeholders taking the lead in developing delivery models to meet the needs of their communities.

7. We will continue our programme to free the FE system from central control, building upon the successes already achieved, including further work by the Skills Funding Agency with colleges to remove bureaucratic burdens.

8. We will provide £3.8 billion a year of public funding to the sector and we will create a simple transparent funding system that is both robust in ensuring funding enables high-quality provision that delivers good value for money, and which responds to local needs.

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9. We will empower students by providing better access to quality information to make informed choices, determined by a better understanding of opportunities for further learning and employment destinations. Simultaneously, to assure quality, we will take swift action in relation to failing provision, providing intensive support and, if necessary, intervening to ensure that alternative and innovative delivery approaches are secured for the future.

10. We will build on the growing international demand for practical, technical and higher-level vocational skills. Inspired by the legacy of our achievements at WorldSkills 2011, we will stimulate and support the sector to take advantage of opportunities in the global market.

EU Competitiveness Council (Pre-Council Written Ministerial Statement)

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Baroness Wilcox, has today made the following statement.

The EU Competitiveness Council will take place in Brussels on 5 and 6 December 2011. I shall represent the UK on internal market and industry issues on 5 December, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science will represent the UK on research issues on 6 December.

The internal market and industry substantive agenda items on 5 December will be: a policy debate on enhanced co-operation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection; a policy debate on unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements; agreement of general approach for proposals for a directive regarding interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers; a presentation by the Commission regarding business competitiveness and SME programme; a policy debate on a unified patent court and draft statute; adoption of Council conclusions for the industrial policy flagship initiative; adoption of Council conclusions on impact assessment in the Council; an exchange of views on results from the single market forum; and; adoption of Council conclusions regarding customs co-operation with eastern neighbouring countries.

A number of other items will be discussed under AoB. This will comprise of Commission presentations and updates on the following:

European shipbuilding;

Proposal for a regulation on European standardization;

Proposal to align product harmonisation directives to decision 768/2008 (NLF);

Results of the European tourism forum and informal ministerial meeting;

Results of the conference on the implementation of lead markets initiative and the European innovation partnerships (Warsaw, 26-27 October 2011);

Single Market Act implementation;

Services directive: state of implementation;

Consumer market scoreboard;

Proposal for a regulation on a European observatory on counterfeiting and piracy;

Proposal for a directive on the protection of orphan works;

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights;

Proposal for a directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and proposal for a regulation on online dispute resolution (ODR);

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a consumer programme (2014-2020);

Cohesion policy;

REACH: Report and review in the light of EU competitiveness; and

REACH and the candidate list of substances of very high concern;

Work programme of the incoming Danish presidency.

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The research substantive agenda items on 6 December will be: a presentation and exchange of views of the framework programme for research and innovation (Horizon 2020); a Commission overview on progress towards agreeing the Euratom framework programme for 2012-13; adoption of Council conclusions regarding launching of joint programming initiatives on “Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans”; “The microbial challenge—An emerging threat to human health”; “Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe (Clik’EU)”; “Urban Europe—Global Challenges, Local Solutions”; “Water Challenges for a Changing World”; and adoption of Council conclusions on partnering in research and innovation. There will also be an adoption of space Council orientations on the value of space for the security of European citizens.

The research, space and any other business items will comprise of information from the Commission regarding active and healthy ageing; a presentation by the Commission on the European earth monitoring programme (GMES); information from the Hungarian delegation regarding the Budapest declaration on agricultural research; and information from the presidency regarding the report on the high level ministerial group on simplification.

The Government’s objectives for the Council are:

To contribute to a debate on political aspects of the patents package (the patent regulation, languages regulation and the unified patent court);

Confirm agreement with Council conclusions or general approaches with respect to companies registers, industrial policy and customs co-operation;

Further progress on impact assessment in Council;

Express the UK’s initial views on the Horizon 2020 proposals; and

Agree new joint programming initiatives and conclusions on partnering in research and innovation.

Communities and Local Government

New Homes Bonus

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): Today, 1 am pleased to announce the delivery of 159,000 more homes over the last year, and £431 million of Government funding to local authorities.

The new homes bonus is a powerful, simple and transparent incentive for housing growth. It is a key part of the housing growth focus of our national housing strategy, which we published on 21 November. Commenced in April 2011, the bonus is based on the council tax of additional homes and those brought back into use, with an additional amount for affordable homes, for the following six years. It ensures that those local authorities which promote and welcome growth can share in its economic benefits, and build the communities in which people want to live and work.

The bonus will be paid in respect of 159,000 homes from October 2010 to October 2011 including 137,000 extra homes and 22,000 long-term empty properties brought back into use. The allocations also include the first affordable homes enhancement, which totals £21 million in respect of 61,000 new affordable homes.

This means we will pay councils £431 million of provisional new homes bonus for local authorities in England. This includes the second instalment of £199 million in respect of year 1 and £232 million for housing growth in year 2.

We are committed to ensuring that the bonus remains a flexible, non-ringfenced fund, for local communities to spend as they see fit—from reinvesting it in housing or infrastructure, support local services or local facilities, or using the funds to keep council tax down. Local

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authorities are best placed to understand the barriers to growth in their areas, the needs of their local communities and lead a mature debate about the benefits that growth can bring. There are already good examples of local authorities using the bonus in a variety of ways. For example Wychavon is returning up to 40% to the community where growth is taking place. Liverpool are reinvesting in a commitment to deliver 2,000 new homes. The Vale of White Horse is investing in business growth by making the car parks free in the three local market towns of Abingdon, Wantage and Faringdon.

The new homes bonus is a key part of our ambition, set out in the local growth White Paper, to create a fairer and more balanced economy through encouraging growth. It will sit alongside the Government’s proposals to allow local authorities to benefit from economic growth by the local retention of business rates. Our reformed community infrastructure levy allows local authorities to ensure development contributes to the infrastructure needed to support growth and will give people a real say in spending to deal with the impacts of growth on their neighbourhoods.

On top of these provisional allocations, we will address any loss of new homes bonus in areas affected by last summer’s riots through riot recovery funds.

Local authorities will have until 30 December to make representations on their provisional allocations. The Department has written to local authorities with details for making representations on their authority’s provisional allocations and I have also written to all Members of Parliament in England.

A full list of the provisional allocations is being placed in the Library of the House. Further information on the bonus, including the first “New Homes Bonus Bulletin—Unlocking the Bonus” can be found at


A copy of the bulletin is also in the Library of the House.


School Admissions and School Admission Appeals Codes

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I am today laying the revised “School Admissions and School Admission Appeals Codes” (“the Codes”) before Parliament as required under section 85 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Subject to the views of Parliament, these codes will come into force on 1 February 2012. A copy of these codes has also been published on the departmental website, so that schools and local authorities can take account of the technical changes that have been made to the codes since their publication on 2 November.

The White Paper, “The Importance of Teaching”, outlined the intention to

“simplify the code so that it is easier for schools and parents to understand and act upon, while maintaining fairness as the guiding principle”.

As part of the consultation process we consulted on a number of key policy changes that are set out below, all of which are intended to deal with issues which we believe create unfairness in the system, or which frustrate or confuse parents.

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The current codes have evolved over a number of years with successive versions adding further regulations in a chaotic and unplanned fashion. As a result, the admissions system has grown unnecessarily complex and bureaucratic, comprising some 130 pages of densely worded text, with more than 650 mandatory requirements. These revised codes are less than half the size of the previous codes and are simpler, fairer and easier to understand. We have removed much of the repetition and unnecessary material, whilst retaining the key safeguards to ensure that school places can be allocated in a clear and transparent manner.

The Department consulted extensively on the codes from 27 May to 19 August and received more than 1,330 responses with 700 from parents, as well as a wide range of interested parties, including local authorities, dioceses and head teachers. Overall, respondents broadly welcomed the proposals to slim down the codes.

These codes make a number of changes to the current codes:

Giving greater freedom to schools to increase the number of places they are able to offer by removing the duty to consult locally and the ability to object when a school increases its admission numbers;

Ensuring that any child who leaves public care through adoption, a residence order or special guardianship order, will continue to be given the same priority although they are no longer looked after by the state;

Making the co-ordination of admissions to primary schools administratively simpler through a single date, 16 April, each year when offers of school places are made from 2014 onwards;

Allowing schools to prioritise the children of staff either employed at the school for at least two years, or who will meet a clear skills shortage;

Allowing infant classes to exceed the statutory limit to avoid separating children from a multiple birth, and for children of armed forces personnel admitted outside of the normal admission round;

Allowing schools to take direct applications from parents for in-year applications;

Prohibiting the use of random allocation as the principal method of allocating places across a local authority area;

Requiring admission authorities to consult on unchanged arrangements only every seven years, rather than three;

Reflecting changes in the Education Act 2011, allowing anyone to object to the schools adjudicator about admission arrangements, and enabling objections about academies’ admission arrangements to be referred to the schools adjudicator; and

Greater clarity on decision-making and related processes for appeals, to ensure greater uniformity and to reduce costs across the system.

In addition, as highlighted in the code, but achieved through individual funding agreements, we will be allowing academies and free schools to prioritise pupils eligible for the pupil premium.

Energy and Climate Change

Nuclear Energy (Government Responses)

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will today publish

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two documents that further demonstrate the Government’s commitment to managing our existing nuclear legacy and sites in a responsible manner:

the conclusions of its consultation on the long term management of UK-owned separated civil plutonium and;

our response to the recommendations for Government contained in the chief nuclear inspector’s final report on events at the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan that was published on 11 October 2011.

Management of the UK's plutonium stocks

The consultation was published in February and set out for public scrutiny Government’s preliminary view on the long-term management of the UK’s plutonium. In particular, the consultation covered the security and proliferation sensitivities associated with continued storage of plutonium, and how these could best be managed in the interests of future generations.

The consultation document made it clear that, although there remain many issues to be resolved before any policy could be implemented, the UK Government believed that there was sufficient information available to make a high-level judgment as to the right strategic policy option for plutonium management. The Government therefore proposed a preliminary policy view to pursue reuse of plutonium as mixed oxide fuel (MOX); converting the vast majority of UK civil separated plutonium into fuel for use in civil nuclear reactors. Any remaining plutonium whose condition is such that it cannot be converted into MOX, will be immobilised and treated as a waste for disposal.

Having considered all responses received during the consultation period the UK Government have concluded that they have identified the right preliminary view. Accordingly, the Government confirm this as the preferred policy. While the UK Government believe they have sufficient information to set out a direction, it is not yet sufficient to make a specific decision to proceed with procuring a new MOX plant. Only when the Government are confident that their preferred option could be implemented safely and securely, that is affordable, deliverable, and offers value for money, will they be in a position to proceed with a new MOX plant. If we cannot establish a means of implementation that satisfies these conditions then the way forward may need to be revised.

The Government are now commencing the next phase of work, which will provide the information required to make such a decision. The next steps towards will see further information being gathered by the Government and NDA through detailed commercial discussions on the market for MOX fuel and the availability of reactors in which it can be burned. Other discussions will focus on detailing the costs and time scales for procuring services or facilities, including a suitable MOX plant, which can be delivered at minimum risk to Government.

Further workstreams will take forward the requirements for the justification of the whole MOX path from fabrication, through use to disposal, which will be required before UK Government can commit to spending significant capital on procuring a new MOX fabrication plant.

In addition, the Government have concluded that overseas owners of plutonium stored in the UK could, subject to commercial terms that are acceptable to UK Government, have their plutonium managed alongside UK plutonium, in line with a reuse policy. Where

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appropriate and subject to compliance with inter-governmental agreements and commercial arrangements that again, are acceptable to Government, the UK would be prepared to take ownership of overseas plutonium stored in the UK after which it would be managed alongside UK plutonium, again in line with a reuse policy.

While converting the plutonium into MOX is the most credible and technologically mature option, the Government remain open to any alternative proposals for plutonium management that offer better value to the taxpayer, and will seek to gather more data on all options.

Copies of the consultation response have been placed in Libraries of both Houses or can be obtained from the DECC website.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/consultations/Default.aspx? status=28&area=0

Weightman report on events at the Fukushima nuclear site

I welcome the findings and recommendations in Dr Weightman’s report and commend him and his team on the important work that they have undertaken in pulling together information and lessons from the events in Japan.

In the response the Government set out work we have done or intend to do in implementing Dr Weightman’s recommendations, including:

Continuing to work with our international partners on nuclear safety, particularly through the development of the IAEA director-general’s “Action Plan”.

Taking forward work from the nuclear emergency planning liaison group review of the UKs national nuclear emergency arrangements in the light of the experience of dealing with the prolonged Japanese event.

Ensuring that openness and transparency are enshrined in the work we are taking forward to create the ONR as a statutory body.

Copies of the Government response have been placed in Libraries of both Houses or can be obtained from the DECC website.


The Carbon Plan

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): The Government are today publishing the carbon plan, setting out the Government’s long-term plans to meet its carbon targets, including the fourth carbon budget set earlier this year. The plan shows how doing so will set us on a plausible pathway to our 2050 target to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels. The plan will help drive new high-value economic sectors and save billions through energy efficiency.

The carbon plan shows that UK emissions have already been cut by more than 25% on 1990 levels. With the policies already in place the economy will easily exceed the 34% target set for the first 15 years under the Climate Change Act, and would have done so even if the recession had not occurred. Meeting the fourth carbon budget of a 50% cut in emissions by the mid-2020s will not have any additional cost implications during

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this Parliament, but beyond that will galvanise jobs and investment during a decade of mass deployment of key technologies.

In the next decade, the UK will complete the cost-effective measures begun in the previous decade, in particular focusing on energy efficiency. We will also need to prepare for the future by demonstrating and deploying the key technologies needed to entirely decarbonise power, buildings and road transport in the 2020s and beyond. Rather than picking winners, the Government will support the development of a portfolio of technologies for each sector in order to drive innovation and lower costs. As part of the carbon plan, we are publishing the updated list of the key actions that each Government Department and the devolved Administrations are taking in each sector during the lifetime of this Parliament, to provide further transparency and accountability.

In the 2020s, these key technologies will move towards mass roll out. Developing options now will not only reduce the costs of deployment in the 2020s, but it will also enable the UK to gain a long-term competitive advantage.

Up to 2030 and beyond, emissions from the hard-to-treat sectors, such as industry, shipping and agriculture will need to be tackled. This will require a range of solutions to be tested in the 2020s at the latest, such as more efficient practices in agriculture; switching from oil and gas to bioenergy or low-carbon electricity in industrial processes; and deploying carbon capture and storage.

Today’s package represents a significant step forward in our commitment of moving to a low-carbon economy. To the negotiators in Durban working this week and next to make progress on a global agreement on climate change, the carbon plan shows the UK is walking the walk, demonstrating that even in tough times it can be done and living up to our promise to show climate leadership.

To the public and businesses at home, rightly worried about the cost of living and state of the economy, the carbon plan shows that the gradual rebalancing of our economy away from carbon is achievable and, in the long run, highly desirable.

Our national economic interest is to be found in a cost-effective transition to low-carbon. Every bit of progress we make is one more step away from import dependency, away from the emissions that are likely to lead to savage weather impacts, and towards an economy that wastes less and saves more.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Live Animal Exports (Clarification of Minister's Comments)

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): During a debate on 24 October 2011, Official Report, column 146, I made reference to a Mr Onderwater being prosecuted for cruelty following the earlier reference by the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) to business men who were involved with the operation of a livestock ferry at Ramsgate who had been convicted of animal cruelty. I regret the information I gave was not accurate and I wish to apologise to the House.

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Mr Onderwater runs a Dutch registered company called Onderwater Agneaux BV. He pleaded guilty on behalf of his company at Folkestone magistrates’ court on 5 July 2010 to six offences of not displaying any sign on his vehicles indicating the presence of live animals contrary to article 6(c) of the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and article 6(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport. The prosecutor was the trading standards department of Kent county council.

Mr Onderwater had also mis-described the cargo of live animals in consignment notes as seafood, frozen meat and boxed meat: the Crown court found this was in order to deceive the ferry companies. Mr Onderwater had been informed on several occasions that he was contravening the legislation by not displaying such signs yet the company continued to commit the same offence in the two months following first detection.

On 1 September 2009, 320 sheep were transported described as meat.

On 30 September 2009, an unspecified number of sheep described as meat for further processing.

On 11 November 2009, 240 sheep described as meat.

On 14 November 2009, 307 sheep described as seafood— Mr Onderwater was driving this lorry.

Also on 14 November 2009, 286 sheep described as boxed meat.

On 19 November 2009, 270 sheep described as frozen meat.

He was fined £1,000 for each offence, with costs of £4,355.

Mr Onderwater represented his company at an appeal against this sentence at Canterbury Crown court on 10 August 2010. On appeal the total fine remained at £6,000 but costs were reduced by £680 to £3,675. His Honour Judge O’Sullivan fined the company £400 for the first offence, £800 for the second offence, £1,000 each for the third, fourth and fifth offences and £1,800 for the sixth offence.

His Honour Judge O’Sullivan said in his sentencing remarks that there was no offence which involved “mistreatment of animals” but that the company’s persistent offending despite being caught made it quite clear that the company had no intention of trying to abide by the regulations. The judge noted that there is a wider use for these signs to indicate the presence of live animals on vehicles and that it is important, for instance, in case of an accident that the cargo can be identified as being livestock so that the necessary measures for safeguarding the welfare of the animals can be put into operation.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Protocol Providing for Additional Members of the European Parliament

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): Following ratification by all 27 member states of the European Union, the protocol amending Protocol No. 36 to the EU treaties on transitional provisions, which made amendments to the composition of the European Parliament, entered into force on 1 December 2011. The protocol was approved for the purposes of section 5 of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 by section 15 of the European Union Act 2011.

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The protocol allotted to the United Kingdom one additional seat in the European Parliament. As the statement on 26 October 2010 by the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) set out, the Electoral Commission undertook an independent analysis to determine which European electoral region in the United Kingdom the new MEP should be assigned to. As a result of its analysis the Electoral Commission, in compliance with its obligations under the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003, decided that the west midlands should be the recipient region. The Government accepted this recommendation.

The returning officer for the west midlands region referred to the results of the 2009 European elections, as if the extra seat had been available in the west midlands electoral region in those elections. This method of filling the seat is in accordance with the terms of the protocol and is in line with the practice of most of the other member states which gain additional MEPs under the protocol. In accordance with the procedure set out in schedule 2 of the European Union Act 2011, the returning officer has declared Anthea McIntyre to be returned as the additional MEP for the west midlands.

This is an interim measure until the next elections to the European Parliament take place in June 2014. At those elections all UK MEPs, including the MEP for this extra seat, will then be elected in compliance with the normal procedure.


Legal Aid Reform (Competitive Tendering)

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): The Government set out their intention to introduce competition for the procurement of legally aided services in “Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales” (November 2010). The consultation paper stated that the immediate focus would be on criminal legal aid, with civil and family legal aid to be addressed over a longer period. The response to the consultation (June 2011) stated that proposals for criminal legal aid competition would be published in a separate consultation paper during 2011. This statement provides an update on the Government’s position in relation to competition and criminal legal aid services, and a timetable for future activity.

The Government believe that competitive tendering is likely to be the best way to ensure long-term sustainability and value for money in the legal aid market. Pressure on legal aid expenditure is likely to continue, increasing the need for further reform of the current arrangements for administratively set remuneration rates in the absence of competition.

The Government believe that tendering criminal defence work for competition, alongside regulatory changes, has the potential to significantly modernise legal aid provision, improve the service provided to legal aid clients, streamline the procurement process and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

Clearly the development of a competition strategy will be likely to have a substantial impact on the market for legally aided services, as will a number of other current developments. These changes will require significant

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levels of engagement between the Government and the profession. We plan to begin these discussions in early 2013 once the key components of our legal aid reform package, the regulatory changes allowing alternative business structures, and the introduction of the quality assurance scheme for advocates have had time to bed down. We will publish a full formal consultation document on the competition strategy towards the end of that year. The indicative timetable for the development of our competition strategy is therefore as follows:

Consultation paper published:

Autumn 2013

Response to consultation paper:

Spring 2014

Tender opens in first competition areas:

Autumn 2014

First contracts go live:

Summer 2015

I would also like to inform the House that we intend, subject to parliamentary approval of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, to implement all of the legal aid reforms in April 2013. This will include the abolition of the Legal Services Commission under the Bill and the creation of the new agency in its place.

Prime Minister

Libya Crisis

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am today publishing in full the National Security Adviser’s review of how the Whitehall machine operated during the Libya conflict and what lessons we can learn, in keeping with the commitment I made to the House on 5 September.

I told the House on 21 March that I believed that military intervention was necessary, legal and right to protect the people of Libya from the brutality of the Gaddafi regime, and I pay tribute to the courage and professionalism of our armed forces during this conflict. There remains much to do to secure a successful transition to a peaceful and prosperous democracy, and we will continue to assist the interim Libyan Government. But our armed forces, our diplomats and development experts who re-established the British presence in Benghazi and Tripoli, and all those in the UK who contributed to the success of the international effort, can be proud of the part they have already played.

The National Security Council proved its worth in ensuring effective co-ordination of this country’s contribution throughout the crisis in Libya. But it is always right to learn the lessons after any conflict. In addition to the areas where things went well, Sir Peter Ricketts’ review has also highlighted a number of lessons for future conflicts, including the importance of swift evacuation of UK nationals; integrating better economic analysis and policy more prominently at the early stages of conflict planning; and establishing a clearer cross-Government process for the negotiation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Copies of the review of lessons learned from Libya have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The review is also available on the No. 10 website.

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Work and Pensions

Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): I am today publishing a consultation document on the calculation methodology for the new statutory child maintenance scheme, to be launched next year.

The Government want to encourage and support parents to make their own family-based arrangements, but are committed to providing a statutory service for those separated parents who are unable to co-operate.

As part of our programme of reforms, the existing Child Support Agency schemes will be replaced over time with a new, efficient scheme for those parents who are unable to make their own arrangements.

The aim of the new scheme is to produce a faster, more accurate and transparent process for assessing child maintenance payments. Payments will usually be based on the non-resident parent’s latest tax year gross income, sourced directly from HM Revenue and Customs. This will make the scheme less dependent on information from non-resident parents and so make it harder for non-resident parents to avoid their responsibilities by not disclosing their full income.

Annual reviews will ensure that cases are kept up to date in a way they are not on the current CSA schemes.

I am also announcing two proposals today which would provide particular benefit to parents with care, who are generally mothers with children.

The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 provided for the flat rate paid by non-resident parents on benefit and low income to be increased from the current £5 to £7. I am today consulting on whether this should be increased further to help ensure more children receive the financial support they need.

I am also consulting on achieving a fairer situation for children to get closer to equalising the financial support for children living with, and those living apart from, the non-resident parent.

The consultation document, the impact assessments and draft regulations will be available on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) and Department for Work and Pensions websites later today. A link to the CMEC website is attached below.

Copies of the consultation document and the impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


EEA Opt-in Decision

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The Government are committed to the free movement of workers within the European economic area, and also to protecting the sustainability and affordability of our welfare systems. As part of that commitment we want to ensure that non-active migrants

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from outside the EU cannot gain access to welfare if they have never worked or paid contributions in the United Kingdom.

In considering proposals to amend the social security provisions of the EEA agreement, we took the view that the proposals would have the effect of extending social security co-ordination to non-active persons moving between the EU and EEA. Furthermore, the proposal was based on treaty powers for the co-ordination of social security schemes in relation to the free movement of workers within the EU (article 48 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union), whereas the provisions related to free movement between the EU and the EEA states.

In focusing on the nature and content of the proposal rather than the cited legal base, the Government came to the conclusion that the appropriate legal base was article 79(2)(b) TFEU, which allows the EU to adopt measures concerning the free movement rights (including social security rights) of third-country nationals. Article 79(2)(b) lies within title V of part III of the TFEU, and so the Government considered whether they wanted to opt in to the measures; and we concluded that we did not want to opt in.

In negotiations we continued to argue for a change to a title V legal base, and that the UK’s position be reflected in the text, but were unsuccessful. The decision on the position to be adopted by the EU was put to the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in June 2011. The Government expressed our serious concerns over the legal base for the proposal, and noted our right to take further action. The Council decision was none the less adopted, and a further decision giving effect to the measures was adopted in the EEA Joint Committee on 1 July 2011.

In parallel with these processes, we considered across Government the options, including legal action, open to us and we have decided to take direct action in the European Court on the basis that the article 48 legal base is incorrect and that the Council decision is therefore invalid. That action was initiated on 16 August by submitting an application on behalf of the UK to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

I believe this action demonstrates how seriously the Government take our obligation to protect our rights under the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

Mobility Component in Residential Care

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): The Government are today announcing that the mobility component of disability living allowance will not be removed from people living in residential care homes and that the mobility component of personal independence payment, which will replace disability living allowance, will also be payable at both the standard or enhanced rate to people in residential care homes provided they satisfy the entitlement conditions.

In the spending review 2010 it was announced that, from October 2012, the disability living allowance mobility component would be withdrawn from people in residential care homes after 28 days. Our aims have always been to ensure not only protection of public funds but also that disabled people who live in residential care homes retain their independence and are not prevented from getting out and about.

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In response to concerns raised about this proposal, the Government announced that they would not remove the mobility component from people in residential care homes from October 2012 and that it would look again at the underlying evidence and gather more, before reaching a final decision on the way forward for the new personal independence payment. We have now gathered and reviewed further evidence, including the helpful contribution provided by Lord Low’s review. Although this does show that the issue of mobility needs for people in residential care homes presents a complex and varied picture there was insufficient evidence of overlaps in funding provision to justify the withdrawal of the mobility component.

Having listened to the concerns raised and carefully considered the evidence, the Government will now table an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill for consideration at Lords Report stage to remove the provision which allows for withdrawal of the mobility component of personal independence payment from residential care home residents.

UK Disability Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): I am pleased to announce that today the discussion document, “Fulfilling Potential”, was published. This sets out the Government’s vision of enabling disabled people to fulfil their potential and have opportunities to play a full role in society.

“Fulfilling Potential” invites disabled people and their organisations to help shape future policy and develop a cohesive new cross-Government disability strategy. This will be a key part of our commitment to breaking down the barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities faced by disabled people in Britain today.

“Fulfilling Potential” outlines three main areas for discussion: realising aspirations, increasing individual control and changing attitudes and behaviours. It seeks practical ways of making a real difference to disabled people’s lives, even in these difficult economic times.

The Government inherited a wide range of relevant strategic thinking including the Life Chances report, the Independent Living Strategy, and the Roadmap 2025. We will build on this and on the UK’s commitment to the UN convention on the rights of disabled people. We will work closely with the devolved Administrations to share best practice and strategic approaches.

Following a three-month engagement period, we will publish our new strategy in spring next year.

Welfare Reform Bill (Conditionality and Sanctions Contingency Fund Advance)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The Department of Work and Pensions has obtained approval for an advance from the contingencies fund of £800,000 to allow for the development of IT. This amount is part of the proposed investment in conditionality and sanctions changes of £3 million agreed at the time of the spending review.

In October 2012, the conditionality and sanctions project will introduce a claimant commitment, designed to give greater clarity to claimants about the consequences of failing to comply with their job seeking or work

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preparation requirements. This will be underpinned by a more robust sanctions regime with tougher sanctions for repeated non-compliance, and a revised hardship regime. These changes will align current key benefits with the proposed policy for universal credit, which will simplify the migration of existing claims on to universal credit from 2013.

The advance from the Contingencies Fund will allow essential work to commence on detailed process design

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and IT changes, to enable the implementation of the new conditionality and sanctions regime in advance of universal credit.

Parliamentary approval for additional resource and capital of £3 million for this new service will be sought in the supplementary estimate for the Department for Work and Pensions. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £800,000 will be met by a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund.