17 Dec 2013 : Column 83WS

Written Statements

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Government Deregulation

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): The Government are today publishing the seventh statement of new regulation. This statement reports on regulations within the scope of the one in, two out rule which are expected to come into force between 1 January and 30 June 2014, and gives an account of Government regulation and deregulation to date. The statement shows that the sum total of Government deregulation between January 2011 and December 2013 will be to reduce the net annual cost to business by around £1.2 billion.

The statement also reports on the red tape challenge measures expected to come into force and progress on the targets; and EU measures which are implemented by UK regulations.

In parallel, Departments are each publishing a summary of the regulations they intend to introduce.

I am placing copies of the statement in the Libraries of both Houses.


Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sajid Javid): My noble friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Deighton, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

Mr David Anderson QC has completed his third annual report as independent reviewer of terrorist asset-freezing legislation. The report covers a 12-month period of the operation of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 and will be laid before Parliament today.

The Government are grateful to Mr Anderson for his thorough report and will consider carefully the recommendations he has made. The Government’s response to this report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses on or before 11 February 2014.

Communities and Local Government

Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Stephen Williams): I am pleased to announce that I am today laying before Parliament the fourth report required under the provisions of the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004.

The report considers the progress towards the sustainability of the building stock in England over the preceding two years and Wales up until the end of 2011 when the setting of building regulations was devolved to the Welsh Assembly. The Welsh Government will be publishing their own report for 2012.

The report covers changes made to building regulations over the period and their expected impact, plans for future legislation, and proposals for the setting of targets in relation to sustainable buildings. The report also

17 Dec 2013 : Column 84WS

covers changes in the energy and carbon efficiency of the building stock, the extent to which buildings have their own facilities for generating energy, and the recycling and reuse of construction materials over the period.

This Government have, during the period of the report, continued to work to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock, with the introduction of the green deal and changes to building regulations, most recently the strengthening of the requirements for new buildings in part L (conservation of fuel and power) of the building regulations.

The average energy efficiency rating for homes in England has continued to improve steadily during the period of the report and carbon dioxide emissions from the domestic sector are estimated to be 6 million tonnes lower in 2011 than 2009.

Culture, Media and Sport

Telecommunications Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): The Telecommunications Council took place in Brussels on 5 December 2013; the Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, represented the UK.

The first two items were progress reports from the presidency on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to ensure a high-level of network and information security across the Union. (First Reading - EM6342/13), followed by the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on measures to reduce the costs of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks. (First Reading - EM7999/13). There were no major interventions on either of these items.

This was followed by the only substantive item, which was an “orientation debate” guided by a paper and two questions from the presidency. The first question related to the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a connected continent. (First Reading - EM13562/13 and 13555/13 + ADDs 1-2). It asked member states to indicate which of the actions contained in the proposal they regard as priorities; and whether it was appropriate to carry out such actions at EU or member state level. Commissioner Kroes opened the debate by noting the difference in pace between the Council and Parliament in discussing this file and expressed concern that there had been little progress in Council since the October European Council, compared to that of the European Parliament.

There then followed an extensive debate in which all member states intervened. All began their interventions by welcoming the overall objectives of the package in terms of completing the telecoms single market and the associated growth opportunities. However, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden, called for the prioritisation of other, more advanced, legislative proposals over the connected continent package, in particular the proposals on electronic identification, broadband cost-reduction and network and information security. France, along with others, also forcefully questioned the speed

17 Dec 2013 : Column 85WS

with which this proposal was drawn together and called for the Commission to re-examine the rationale and evidence behind several parts of the package.

There were mixed responses to the individual components of the package. Many member states, including the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Italy, did not want to see Commission gaining any further competency over spectrum management, especially national auctions, although there was recognition, that there were some gains to be made from closer co-ordination between member states. On the roaming proposal, many member states supported the reduction of EU roaming charges, but noted that the current proposal was too complex, unlikely to achieve its desired effect and may have a negative impact on competition. Opinion was mixed regarding the net neutrality proposal. Spain and Hungary supported the draft proposal, while UK and Latvia did not. Similarly, member states views on the consumer protection elements of the package were also mixed. They were supported by Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Luxembourg and UK, while Germany Austria and Ireland were concerned that the current draft would erode their currently high-level of domestic consumer protection. France added that the proposals did not add any value to their domestic regime and were opposed on this basis, while Malta and Luxembourg were concerned about the effects of them on smaller electronic communications operators.

The second question considered the conclusions of the October European Council that covered several aspects of the digital economy—for example, cloud computing, big data and digital platforms—that are currently either unregulated or rely on “soft” regulation. The presidency asked if any regulatory framework was required and whether regulation should be at member state or EU-level. The major focus of this discussion was on big data and cloud computing. All member states began by recognising the importance of these two areas and the need to make progress. However, responses about how to achieve this were mixed, with some calling for further regulation and others pressing for a light-touch approach. Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia supported further work in this area, including the development of specific European frameworks. However, Sweden and the UK called for a light-touch approach and did not support further regulation on cloud and big data. However, it was recognised that the use of standards could help form any common framework.

During summing-up, Commissioner Kroes stated she saw the debate as a turning point. She suggested that Council supported an extensive examination of the connected continent proposal under the Greek presidency, and that there was high-level consensus on the need for action on spectrum, net neutrality and consumer protection, while acknowledging that roaming may be more difficult to reach agreement on. However, she also called for further progress under the current Lithuanian presidency.

The presidency largely agreed with the Commission’s assessment, although felt that the views of member states on parts of the package were more strongly held and differed from those that the Commission suggested. They would therefore hand this file over to the Greeks to begin detailed work on the file. However, in a procedurally unusual move, Commissioner Kroes challenged the presidency’s conclusions, as she believed that member states’ were calling for work to begin under the Lithuanian presidency. The presidency disagreed with this view, which was supported by an intervention from France.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 86WS

There then followed two items under AOB. There were no major interventions on either of these items. The first was an update from the presidency on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks and repealing decision No 1336/97/EC. (First Reading - EM16006/11). The second item was an update from the presidency on the proposal for a regulation from the European Parliament and of the Council on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market. (First Reading - EM10977/12).

Finally, the Greek delegation informed the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency before Council adjourned until the next meeting in June 2014.

Energy and Climate Change

Oil and Gas Exploration

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Michael Fallon): I have today published a regulatory road map for onshore oil and gas exploration and a strategic environmental assessment, which represent important steps for onshore oil and gas exploration, including shale gas.

The Government are keen to explore the potential for shale gas in the UK, which could bring major benefit in terms of growth, jobs and energy security. However we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment. These documents will help ensure this and enable a sustainable and successful industry for the long term.

First, the regulatory road map sets out the process operators should follow when seeking to drill for onshore oil and gas in the UK. The content is primarily for unconventional oil and gas operations—specifically shale gas and coal-bed methane developments—but many of the processes described will apply equally to conventional operations.

The road map is intended as a first point of reference, so that operators, planners and the public can see the overall regulatory process. This will help operators in particular by making it clear what they need to do and when, while providing useful links to more detailed guidance.

The road map does not contain any new policy but sets out the current process in one place. It also reflects the regulatory differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It focuses on the exploration and appraisal phases, rather than production and decommissioning.

The road map can be viewed on the gov.uk website and will be kept up to date to reflect changes in regulation.

I have also today published for consultation an environmental report on our proposals for further onshore oil and gas licensing in areas of Great Britain.

The report identifies, describes and evaluates the likely significant effects on the environment of DECC’s proposals to invite applications for new licences, and of reasonable alternatives to that plan; and how these effects can be reduced or offset.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 87WS

This report is a necessary part of the process of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), required by EU law.

The consultation will be open until 28 March 2014. Once the consultation responses have been taken into account I will issue a “post-adoption statement” which will summarise how the Government intend to proceed in relation to the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round.

The environmental report can be viewed on the gov.uk website.


Healthy Living and Social Care

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): In November 2012, the Department launched the healthy living and social care theme of the red tape challenge. The Department sought comments on regulations affecting business and civil society through the red tape challenge website and responses from a range of different groups were received on a number of areas.

The Department looked at 555 regulations covering four areas: public health; quality of care and mental health; NHS; and professional standards. This builds on earlier work done to look at 255 regulations under the red tape challenge medicines theme.

We carefully considered the comments received through the red tape challenge website, alongside an internal audit of departmental regulations, the results of which have already been published. Using this information and running a rigorous challenge process we identified the healthy living and social care regulations that could be abolished or improved. I am proud to announce the results of this process here. Of the 555 regulations considered, the Department is proposing to abolish 128 regulations and improve 252 others. This means that 68% of the regulations under the healthy living and social care theme will either be abolished or improved.

The Department is responsible for key areas of public protection, and many of its regulations are therefore essential to protect patients and the public by ensuring essential standards are maintained. Nevertheless, we have actively embraced the regulatory reform agenda. There are a number of proposals the Department is looking to take forward, including:

simplifying a large number of professional standards regulations following the Law Commission’s recommendation;

working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to address the problem of duplication of inspections between the Care Quality Commission and local authorities through the focus on enforcement review of adult care homes;

updating the nursery milk regulations to make them fit for purpose to help effectively deliver a scheme that is efficient, sustainable, and gives better value for money;

improving the operation of the healthy start scheme, that provides vouchers for fruit and vegetables, milk and formula milk to low-income pregnant women and children under four. The Department will work with retailers to explore and implement practical ways to make the paper vouchers easier to handle by the end of 2015-16;

implementing the recommendations to review the human tissue legislation, which will potentially bring benefits to the

17 Dec 2013 : Column 88WS

regulated sectors through improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulators; and streamlining regulation; and

revoking the regulations which ban the sale of HIV home testing kits, and this is expected to benefit business significantly and have positive wider benefits for the public. The Department is taking forward work to implement this and other changes identified through the red tape challenge process by the end of this Parliament.

However, we do not want to stop there. Some of the comments the Department received through the red tape challenge related to non-regulatory issues. For example, comments received about the deprivation of liberty safeguards suggested that while the measures were important, the number and complexity of some of the forms made it difficult and time consuming for people to use them. In response the Department plans to tackle this in 2014 by both reducing the existing number of forms and redesigning them so that they are easier to use. Another non-regulatory improvement will be a reduction in the amount of unnecessary guidance issued by the Care Quality Commission when they introduce new fundamental standards of care, saving people time in familiarising themselves with it.

I am pleased with the outcomes of the healthy living and social care theme and the work that went into identifying regulations the Department can abolish or improve. The Department is committed to continue to look at how it can minimise burdens on both business and health care professionals. The Department is currently looking at opportunities to reduce burdens for those on the front line of healthcare and is engaging with relevant organisations and health professionals to progress this.

Details on the regulations the Department proposes abolishing or improving have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed paper Office. The details can also be seen at: www.redtapechallenge. cabinetoffice.gov.uk/home/index/.

NHS Commissioning

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt): NHS England’s board has today agreed its clinical commissioning group planning guidance and allocations. Final documents will be published on the NHS England website by Friday 20 December and copies will be placed in the Library.

As we set out in the mandate to NHS England, the NHS needs to change to meet the needs of an ageing population. This guidance will help commissioners develop plans for services that more closely address the needs of local populations and deliver better integration of health and social care services.

The planning guidance sets out the priorities for commissioners. Commissioners are asked to plan for the next two years, with a specific emphasis on improving health, reducing health inequalities and moving towards a parity of esteem for mental and physical health.

In order that such an important decision is considered objectively, free from party political considerations, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 made how health funding is allocated between different areas of the country a responsibility of NHS England.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 89WS

The NHS England board has today made decisions on how to distribute its budget so patients benefit. This includes allocating funding for individual clinical commissioning groups.

The Government have protected the overall health budget and NHS England has today decided that every CCG in England will continue to benefit from at least stable real-terms funding for the next two years. Those areas with fastest growing populations will benefit from more rapid growth in funding.

By reflecting changes in population around the country and better targeting where the pockets of deprivation are located, the NHS can offer the best services where patients need them most.

House of Commons Commission

Palace of Westminster (Restoration and Renewal)

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): Following their consideration of the pre-feasibility study on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster in October 2012, the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee agreed that the next more detailed study should be carried out by an independent third party and that it should focus on the costs and technical issues associated with the remaining options.

The contract for an independent options appraisal (IOA) has now been awarded to a consortium led by Deloitte Real Estate and including AECOM and HOK. This follows a rigorous evaluation and selection process. Work on the study is expected to begin early in 2014.

The palace will require very significant renovation in the years to come. The Commission and the House Committee recognised in 2012 that doing nothing is not an option. They accept their responsibilities as custodians of a great iconic building and the need to ensure its future. Selection of a preferred way forward is expected to occur during the course of the next Parliament, not this one.

The contract for the IOA will set a maximum price of £2,019,295 and a fixed price (which may be lower but not higher) will be agreed two months into the contract once the consultants have become familiar with the extensive survey work already done on the palace.

International Development

Independent Commission for Aid Impact (Triennial Review)

The Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening): On 21 March 2013, I announced the commencement of the triennial review of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). I am grateful to ICAI for its continuing valuable work and I am now pleased to announce the completion of that review.

ICAI’s role is to provide independent scrutiny of UK aid spending in order to deliver value for money for British taxpayers and maximise the impact of aid. Its specific functions are to:

i) produce a wide range of independent, high quality and accessible reports setting out evidence of the impact and value for money of UK development efforts;

17 Dec 2013 : Column 90WS

ii) work with and for Parliament to help hold the UK Government to account for their development programme, and make information on this programme available to the public; and

iii) produce appropriately targeted recommendations to be implemented and followed up by the UK Government.

The triennial review of ICAI concludes that the functions performed by ICAI are still required, subject to some refinements to promote clarity and maximise value for money. In particular, the review recommends that ICAI should also focus on in-depth thematic reviews addressing wider development issues, alongside retaining the ability to produce shorter reports on topics of particular interest to stakeholders, which may include the country level. The review further concludes that an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) continues to be the most effective way of delivering these services.

The review also looked at the governance arrangements for ICAI in line with guidance on good corporate governance set out by the Cabinet Office, and found that ICAI’s arrangements largely comply with this guidance. In the few areas where there is not full compliance, it makes some recommendations in this respect, which will be implemented in full prior to the next ICAI contract period beginning May 2015. The review also makes suggestions regarding the role of the International Development Select Committee in ICAFs work, given the unique position of ICAI as an advisory NDPB that reports directly to Parliament.

The final report of the triennial review of ICAI will be made available on the gov.uk website and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.


HM Courts and Tribunals Service Trust Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has prepared a trust statement providing an account of the collection of revenues which are due to be paid to HM Treasury. The statement includes the value of fines and confiscation orders imposed by the judiciary; fixed penalties imposed by the police; the value of collections; the balances paid over to third parties including victims of crime, the Home Office and HM Treasury; and the balance of outstanding impositions.

We welcome the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) report on the trust statement which recognises the improvements in financial reporting made by HMCTS. The C&AG has, for the first time and subject to two specific exceptions, given an opinion that the trust statement presents a true and fair view of the transactions and balances reported.

The statement shows that we have continued the year-on-year improvement in the levels of collection. During 2012-13 more than £495 million has been collected from offenders, an increase of £11 million compared to 2011-12. Almost £59 million in compensation was paid to victims of crime—of which £25 million was funded by criminals’ cash and assets recovered through confiscation orders. In addition, following a change to the victim surcharge HMCTS is able to report increased receipts for victim support with £11 million being collected and paid in the year to support this work.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 91WS

Confiscation orders are one of the key mechanisms available to the Government to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes. The value of the order imposed, which is often very high, is based on the criminal benefit attributed to the crime and may, therefore, exceed the value of realisable assets that are known to the court at the time of imposition. Crucially, an outstanding order stops the criminal benefiting from the proceeds of crime and ensures that, if the assets are discovered in the future, they can be seized.

Confiscation orders comprise 70% (£1.4 billion including interest) of total outstanding impositions. All available actions and sanctions are taken to recover this debt and bring it to account as expeditiously as possible. However, around one half of this amount—excluding interest—cannot be collected as it includes £109 million (8%) relating to individuals who are deceased, deported or who cannot be located, £84 million (6%) relating to orders which are being appealed and cannot be enforced while under appeal; and £136 million (10%) relating to orders where all the assets have been assessed as hidden following the conclusion of financial forensic investigations. In addition there is a further £339 million (24%) of interest accrued on confiscation orders which are outside agreed payment terms.

Cracking down on those who do not pay is an absolute priority. The agencies involved in the enforcement of confiscation orders, including the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service take every step to tackle outstanding debt including the addition of interest and imprisonment for those who do not pay. In relation to the outstanding fine debt the sanctions include taking deductions from offenders’ benefits or their earnings and seizing and selling their property and goods. Those who do not pay can also be imprisoned.

Criminals go to extraordinary lengths to hide the proceeds of their crimes by transferring funds abroad and concealing them with friends and family, but we are succeeding in recovering more money every year. The agencies responsible for enforcement are building better relationships with overseas authorities and engage specialist forensic teams to track down hidden assets. The 2012-13 trust statement analyses the confiscation order debt value by lead agency to assist the users’ comprehension of the contribution made by agencies involved in the enforcement of confiscation orders.

HMCTS recognises the importance of the recommendations made by the National Audit Office value-for-money study on confiscation orders and will work with our partner enforcement agencies to address those recommendations and ensure that criminals continue to be deprived of the proceeds of crime.

Legislation to allow HMCTS to obtain data from HMRC and DWP to be used for the purposes of setting fines and enforcing outstanding payment amounts came into force on 11 December 2013 and will allow HMCTS to increase the use of the attachment of earnings sanction. HMCTS has also rolled out a programme to implement the use of direct debit payments which can be used where outstanding fines are paid in instalments. The direct debit payment process will be easier for enforcement staff to administer than standing orders and should help to improve collection rates.

HMCTS has recently published an OJEU notice seeking a commercial partner to help increase collections, reduce enforcement costs and, importantly, ensure more

17 Dec 2013 : Column 92WS

criminals pay. A new national system has been implemented to manage the collection of fixed penalty notices, with all of the police forces having transferred to the new platform by June 2013.The continuing improvement the agencies are making combined with our future plans will ensure that more criminals pay and that taxpayers get better value for money.

Presumption of Death Act 2013

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): On 20 June 2013 the then Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) announced she would make a further statement regarding the timing of commencement of the Presumption of Death Act 2013 (“the Act”) before the end of 2013—[Official Report, 20 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 39WS].

When my hon. Friend made her statement in June regarding the Act it was expected that the work on the rules of court, regulations and associated procedures necessary to bring the Act fully into force would be completed in time for commencement to take place in April 2014. However, as my hon. Friend stated, this was not certain. In the event, the necessary work has not yet been completed. The proposed commencement of the Act will therefore be delayed until the next available common commencement date, 1 October 2014. I will make a further announcement to confirm the actual commencement date of the Act in due course and in any event before the summer recess.

On the same date, my hon. Friend also announced that the Ministry of Justice intended to publish a consultation paper on the possible creation of a status of guardian of the property and affairs of missing persons in 2013—[Official Report, 20 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 39WS]. Work on this paper is progressing and publication will take place as soon as possible in 2014. I will make a further announcement in relation to the publication of the paper in due course and in any event before the Easter recess.

Prime Minister

Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) reported in June 2013 on foreign investment in critical national infrastructure. The ISC raised concerns about the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) and recommended that the National Security Adviser undertake

“a substantive review of the effectiveness of HCSEC as a matter of urgency”.

The Government responded in July to the ISC report, agreeing that a review would be carried out. This has now been completed and shared with the Chair of the ISC. An executive summary of the review has been published. Copies of this have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government’s main conclusion, which reflects discussion with the Chairman of the ISC, is that oversight of HCSEC should be enhanced, and that GCHQ should take a leading and directing role in its future senior appointments.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 93WS


Network Rail

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): Today the Office for National Statistics announced that, following a review, Network Rail will be classified as a central Government body in the public sector. This is an independent statistical decision taken by the Office for National Statistics in light of the European system of national accounts 2010 (ESA10) manual from Eurostat which comes into force across the EU from 1 September 2014.

The Government welcome the ONS review and have always been committed to the transparent reporting of public liabilities. The change in Network Rail’s classification will mean that the company’s net debt, currently some £30 billion, will appear on the Government’s balance sheet. The Office for Budget Responsibility noted in its “Economic and fiscal outlook” published on 5 December, that this will likely increase public sector net debt by about 2% of GDP and public sector net borrowing by 0.2% of GDP on average. The Government remain committed to their plans to reduce the deficit and will continue to do so by taking difficult decisions to cut public spending and prioritise investment in infrastructure to deliver a stronger economy and fairer society. The new classification will be implemented from 1 September 2014 and will apply from April 2004. Until then Network Rail remains in the private sector.

I am committed to ensuring that Network Rail maintains the operational flexibility to continue to deliver a safe, punctual rail network and increased capacity for our busy railways and that it is able to attract a high calibre of staff, while still providing value for money and being accountable to Parliament.

My Department will agree appropriate accounting and governance adjustments for Network Rail to ensure it can continue to deliver world-class railway infrastructure when the company is reclassified for statistical purposes on 1 September 2014. I have accordingly agreed a memorandum of understanding with Network Rail that sets out how we will work together to develop and agree that framework. This memorandum has today been published on my Department’s website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This Government remain committed to the railway. The ONS decision on the classification of Network Rail does not affect the planned improvement and investment in the railways, including Network Rail’s £38 billion settlement for the planned running of and investment in the railway in the five years from 2014. This Government’s plans for HS2 and the rail franchising programme set out in March this year are unchanged. The Office of Rail Regulation will remain the economic and safety regulator for the railway and the ONS decision will have no effect on rail fares, performance, punctuality, timetables, or safety. My Department will continue to consider how to best secure the benefits of private investment in rail infrastructure and work with Network Rail to deliver the best possible railway for the benefit of the whole industry, its passengers, and the taxpayer.

17 Dec 2013 : Column 94WS

Work and Pensions

Automatic Enrolment Annual Thresholds

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): I am today announcing the proposed automatic enrolment thresholds for next year.

It is intended to lay an order before Parliament in the new year which will include the following:

£10,000 for the automatic enrolment earnings trigger;

£5,772 for the lower limit of the qualifying earnings band;

£41,865 for the upper limit of the qualifying earnings band.

I am also placing a copy of the analysis supporting the proposed revised thresholds in the House Library.

These papers will also be available later today on the www.gov.uk website.

Disability and Health Employment Strategy

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): Later today we will publish the Command Paper Cm 8763 “The disability and health employment strategy: the discussion so far”.

There are 11.5 million working-age people in Great Britain with a long-term health condition. More than half—6.5 million—are classified as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, because they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

At any one time, some of these people will be unable to work, and we will continue to provide them with financial support. However, many disabled people and people with health conditions can and do work, and the employment aspirations of too many people remain unfulfilled. A number of factors contribute to this loss of potential, for example: entrenched beliefs about what individuals are capable of; an employment support that does not always meet people’s individual needs; and an inflexible benefits system.

This Government are already doing much to tackle these issues, including:

the implementation of many of the recommendations in “Getting In, Staying In, Getting On” has focused resources on tailored, personalised support for individuals, rather than on “one-size-fits-all” institutions and programmes;

our work to enable disabled people to fulfil their potential and have opportunities to play a full role in society through the fulfilling potential strategy series;

the introduction of universal credit, which aims to ensure work always pays;

the introduction of personal independence payment, a new disability benefit designed to better reflect today’s understanding of disability and deliver a benefit that is fairer, more transparent and sustainable;

the first national disability employment conference in July 2013, at which the Prime Minister launched our two-year disability confident campaign, working with employers to increase the employment of disabled people, and now including a series of regional events;

17 Dec 2013 : Column 95WS

the development of a new mental health and employment resource pack to improve the employment support that Jobcentre Plus provides for individuals with mental health issues; and

the development of the Health and Work Service, as recommended by the sickness absence review. The service is due to start in 2014 and will support individuals with health conditions or impairments to stay in work.

However, we are determined to do more to enable disabled people and people with health conditions to get into, stay in and progress in work. This paper is the next important step in developing our approach and widening our focus. To do this, we need to concentrate

17 Dec 2013 : Column 96WS

on the skills, capabilities and aspirations of all individuals, offering the right support, early on, to those who need it. We need to focus on employers, so they are confident and able to employ and retain disabled people and people with health conditions. We need to ensure that all disabled people and people with health conditions can make a smooth transition from education to work.

In this paper, we set out a range of proposals to further improve our employment support, both for disabled people and for people with health conditions who do not consider themselves to be disabled. This will be followed next year by a further paper setting out our delivery plan.