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Written Statements

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Afghanistan: Roulement

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Philip Hammond) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The next roulement of UK forces in Afghanistan is due to take place in October 2012. The UK’s current framework Brigade in Helmand, 12th Mechanized Brigade, will be replaced by 4th Mechanized Brigade. The forces deploying include1:

4th Mechanized Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron (204)

Headquarters 104 Logistic Support Brigade

40 Commando Royal Marines

Elements of 847 Naval Air Squadron

857 Naval Air Squadron

The Royal Dragoon Guards

The Queen’s Royal Lancers

4th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 16th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 39th Regiment Royal Artillery

21 Engineer Regiment

Elements of 28 Engineer Regiment

Elements of 36 Engineer Regiment (Search)

Elements of 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographical)

Elements of 101 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Elements of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group

2nd Signal Regiment

Elements of 10th Signal Regiment

Elements of 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare)

Elements of 15th Signal Regiment (Information Support)

Elements of 21st Signal Regiment (Air Support)

1st Battalion Scots Guards

The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland

1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment

1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment

1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles

Elements of 1Regiment Army Air Corps

Elements of 3Regiment Army Air Corps

7 Theatre Logistic Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

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Elements of 6 Theatre Logistic Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

12 Logistic Support Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 9 Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 29 Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps

3rd Medical Regiment

1st Close Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Elements of 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Elements of 101 Force Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

150 Provost Company Royal Military Police

Elements of 101 Provost Company Royal Military Police

Elements of Special Investigations Branch (United Kingdom)

Elements of The Military Provost Staff

Elements of 1st Military Working Dogs Regiment

Elements of 1 Military Intelligence Battalion

Elements of 2 Military Intelligence (Exploitation) Battalion

Elements of 4 Military Intelligence Battalion

Elements of The Military Stabilisation and Support Group

Elements of 15 Psychological Operations Group

Elements of The Defence Cultural Specialist Unit

Elements of The Honourable Artillery Company

Elements of The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry

Elements of 101st (Northumbrian) Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)

Elements of 75 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers)

Elements of 32nd Signal Regiment (Volunteers)

Elements of 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland

Elements of 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment

Elements of 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment

Elements of 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment

Elements of The London Regiment

Elements of 148 Expeditionary Force Institute Squadron, The Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers)

Elements of 150 (Yorkshire)Transport Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers)

Elements of 159 Supply Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers)

Elements of 204 (Northern Irish) Field Hospital (Volunteers)

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Elements of 243 (The Wessex) Field Hospital (Volunteers)

Elements of 102 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Volunteers)

Elements of 103 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Volunteers)

Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Military Police

2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, Royal Air Force

31 Squadron, Royal Air Force

9 (Bomber) Squadron, Royal Air Force

15 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment

Number 7 Force Protection Wing Headquarters, Royal Air Force

Number 2 Tactical Police Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 47 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 30 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 32 (The Royal) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 28 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 216 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 99 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 78 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 90 Signals Unit, Royal Air Force

Elements of 1 Air Control Centre, Royal Air Force

Elements of 33 (Engineering) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of Tactical Supply Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements of 1 Air Mobility Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements of Tactical Medical Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements of 2 (Mechanical Transport) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 93 (Expeditionary Armaments) Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of Engineering and Logistics Wing Royal Air Force Odiham

In addition to the list of formed units, individual augmentees from each of the services will continue to deploy as part of this integrated force package. In total we expect 1,138 individual augmentees to deploy on operations. This will be comprised of 168 Royal Navy personnel; 344 Army personnel and 626 Royal Air Force personnel.

Volunteer and ex-regular members of the Reserve Forces will continue to deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package, and we expect to issue around575 call-out notices. On completion of their mobilisation procedures, the reservists will undertake a period of training and, where applicable, integration with their respective receiving units. The majority will serve on operations for around six months. As part of this commitment, we expect up to six members of the sponsored reserves to be in theatre at any one time.

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In accordance with previous Statements the UK’s conventional force level will draw down by 500 in 2012.

I shall make a further Statement on 4th Mechanized Brigade's planned replacement formation, 1st Mechanized Brigade, nearer the time of their deployment.

1 Where the contribution is 10 personnel or more

Benefits

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Today I am publishing a command paper, Government response to the Public Consultation Bereavement Benefits for the 21st Century. This sets out the Government’s strategy for providing effective support after the loss of a spouse or civil partner, and includes a summary of the responses to the public consultation on how to achieve this.

Our strategy reaffirms the Government’s commitment to providing financial support after spousal bereavement as an important part of the state safety net. Our primary aim is to improve an out of date system, targeting additional resources on bereavement benefits over a Parliament, to ensure that existing recipients are protected, and that those who claim the new benefit get the help that they need when they need it most.

We are shifting the focus of bereavement benefits, to provide a short-term intervention, helping people deal with the more immediate costs caused by the death of a spouse or civil partner, and to provide some breathing space to start to come to terms with the emotional and practical upheaval caused by this loss.

It will be paid as a lump sum with monthly instalments to avoid the risks associated with making a large lump sum payment. This period is not intended to reflect the time required for “recovery”, but instead to provide a buffer for the immediate financial impact of bereavement. Payments will be disregarded from universal credit and the benefit cap for a period of 12 months.

This refocusing will improve the targeting of bereavement benefits, providing greater support in the period that social research tells us is particularly challenging financially. The strategy also involves ongoing support being provided through other parts of the welfare system, such as universal credit, and contributory jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance, depending on circumstances.

Recipients of the bereavement support payment, who also receive universal credit, or contributory JSA or ESA, will be able to access Jobcentre Plus support on a voluntary basis from three months after bereavement. They will not be subject to conditionality for a further three months. This means that those who need to start work, or change their working patterns after bereavement, receive the support they need to do so.

The Government acknowledge the value of simplifying the rules that govern conditionality easements for bereaved people across the benefit system, so that they are consistent, supportive and easy to understand. These exemptions from conditionality will therefore also apply after the death of a child or partner, where there is no entitlement to bereavement benefits.

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Contribution conditions will be simplified and people will be entitled to receive the full payment as long as their late spouse or civil partner paid national insurance contributions at 25 times the lower earnings limit for any one year prior to their death.

This builds on changes to bereavement benefits in 2001, and on recent fundamental reforms to the welfare landscape. In the same way that universal credit has been designed to create a simpler system of support, the proposed simplification of bereavement benefits will make it easier for people to understand their entitlement, and to be able to plan accordingly.

In order to effect these changes, after legislation has been introduced, existing bereavement benefits will be replaced with the new bereavement support payment. This will not impact those already in receipt of bereavement benefits at that time or payments made under the War Pensions Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

Correction to Lords Written Answer

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): An error has been found in the Written Answer given to the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, on 26 June 2012 (Official Report, col. WA 43). The full answer given was as follows:

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty's Government what sum will be spent between 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2015 on work to replace the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines.[HL872]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever):

Expenditure on the successor submarine programme, over the period requested, is estimated at around £1.9 billion. The total spend on the successor deterrent's assessment phase up until 2015 is £3 billion.

The correct answer should have been:

Expenditure on the successor submarine programme, over the period requested, is estimated at around £1.9 billion. The total expected spend on the successor deterrent's assessment phase up until 2016 is £3 billion.

I apologise to the House for the error in my original answer.

Employment Tribunals

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumers and Postal Affairs (Norman Lamb) has today made the following Statement.

In November 2011, Mr Justice Underhill, outgoing president of the Employment Appeals Tribunal was asked by Government to lead a fundamental review of the rules of procedure for employment tribunals. I am publishing Mr Justice Underhill’s recommendations ahead of a formal consultation exercise on their implementation, particularly given its interest to members of the committee scrutinising the Employment and Regulatory Reform Bill currently before Parliament, and placing copies in the Libraries of the House.

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Mr Justice Underhill was asked to carry out a fundamental review of the rules of procedure for employment tribunals following the Government’s response to the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation in November 2011. This was in response to feedback from stakeholders that the existing rules were overly elaborate and poorly drafted as a result of piecemeal change over recent years. Employers, particularly smaller businesses told us that a fear of employment tribunals was affecting their decision to take on new staff. Mr Justice Underhill was therefore tasked with ensuring the rules were simplified and provided the framework to manage cases flexibly, efficiently, proportionately and where possible, consistently, providing certainty to all parties who participate in the employment tribunal process.

I would like to thank Mr Justice Underhill for the time both he and his working group have given to this important piece of work. He has cut the length of the legislation by more than half, and has simplified the language substantially. He has suggested a number of significant changes that he believes should bring about a better functioning employment tribunal system.

His procedural changes include: new rules on the way that weak cases that should not proceed are managed; a new rule to provide for a lead case mechanism in multiple case or where cases raise the same point of law, which brings employment tribunals in line with other types of tribunals; a combining of the separate case management discussion and pre-hearing reviews into a single preliminary hearing; and simpler procedures to conclude claims that are withdrawn. The combined effect of these recommendations should be quicker disposal of cases, and an overall legislative framework that is simpler for all parties to understand.

Mr Justice Underhill’s new rules also give employment tribunals a more formal role in promoting alternative forms of dispute resolution. He has also proposed a greater role for presidential guidance, designed to give all parties involved a better idea of what to expect at an employment tribunal, and what is expected of them, while also promoting consistent case handling by employment judges.

We intend to launch an eight-week consultation on the substance of these changes later in the year, before bringing forward amended rules for consideration by both Houses.

European Union Act 2011

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A parliamentary Statement has been laid before the House today, 11 July. This has been laid under Section 8 of the European Union Act 2011. In the opinion of the Secretary of State, the Council decision establishing a multiannual framework for 2013-17 for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, published on 13 June 2012, relates to an exempt purpose within the meaning of Section 8(6)(a) of that Act.

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Copies of the parliamentary Statement are available from the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. Copies of the draft Council decision have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Fire and Rescue Service

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Bob Neill) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today published the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England. The framework resets the relationship between fire and rescue authorities and Government. One of the key principles of which is to acknowledge the proficiency and experience of fire and rescue authorities; and to allow them the freedom and flexibility to deliver the services for which they are respected and renowned without Whitehall prescription.

The priorities in the framework are for fire and rescue authorities to:

identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue related risks their area faces, make provision for prevention and protection activities and to respond to incidents appropriately;work in partnership with their communities and a wide range of partners locally and nationally to deliver their service; andbe accountable to communities for the service they provide.

Fire and rescue authorities face new challenges: the need to deal with the continuing threat of terrorism, the impact of climate change, and the impacts of an ageing population, against a backdrop of change and the need to cut the national deficit. The framework enables fire and rescue authorities to efficiently deliver their services; including working collaboratively with other fire and rescue authorities, or with other organisations, to improve public safety and cost effectiveness. Principally, it is to local communities, not central government, that fire and rescue authorities are accountable.

The framework delivers on the Government’s commitment in their response to the Fire Future Reports, to clearly define national resilience and to set out clear roles and responsibilities in relation to national resilience. The framework also sets out arrangements for fire and rescue authorities to collectively engage with Government on national resilience issues through a new Fire and Rescue Strategic Resilience Board. Through this board, we will take a collaborative approach to national resilience that is based on and drawn from local capability, expertise, knowledge and leadership.

The framework has an open-ended duration which gives fire and rescue authorities greater certainty. The high level, strategic nature of the framework should mean that it will remain unchanged for the medium to long term.

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A copy of the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England has been placed in the Library of the House.

Flooding

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Caroline Spelman) has today made the following Statement.

In 2008 it was agreed that the current statement of principles on the provision of flood insurance between the Government and insurers would not be renewed following its expiry in June 2013.

In order to make sure that insurance for homes at risk of flooding remains widely available and affordable, work is under way to establish a successor arrangement to the statement of principles. Recent events have once again underlined the importance of safeguarding the widespread uptake of affordable insurance.

The central objective of this work is to reach an agreement with insurers whereby insurance bills remain affordable without placing unsustainable costs on wider policyholders and the taxpayer. There is the potential to deliver a new approach that is a step-change better than the current statement of principles, by for the first time directly addressing the affordability of flood insurance.

This is a complex issue, as insurers themselves recognise, and we have undertaken to work with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to look at ways of providing safeguards. A number of proposals have come forward from the industry and we are continuing to consider a range of options.

These discussions have made significant progress. The Government are considering with the industry’s support a way of formalising existing pricing arrangements and maintaining the current cross-subsidy in place between policyholders. This would be by means of an internal industry levy, as proposed by insurers themselves. By reflecting existing arrangements, the levy would avoid increasing costs for those not at risk whilst helping households to continue to afford insurance in flood risk areas.

This work is taking place against a backdrop of significant advances in flood risk mapping and forecasting which in turn is giving insurers the ability to more accurately ascribe the level of flood risk to individual properties.

As this knowledge base expands it will bring considerable benefits, not least in terms of helping Government, local authorities, households and businesses plan for and mitigate the risk of flooding. Investment by all in preventing flood damages from occurring will remain the best and most sustainable way of achieving affordable insurance over the long-term.

The Government and insurers are determined to see insurance premiums remain affordable and widely available, particularly in light of the pressure household budgets are currently under and the pattern of flood events we have seen over recent years.

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The priority is now to resolve detailed design issues including how support would be targeted. We are looking to develop with insurers a model that delivers benefits to households in need of support whilst avoiding poorer policyholders subsidising wealthier ones. We are looking for an approach which also encourages individuals and communities to consider the actions they can take to keep future premiums down.

This measure would be intended to facilitate a gradual change in the market but would still mark a step change in Government’s role in the management of flood risk. As such any proposal will require detailed scrutiny before it could be introduced.

Meanwhile, this Government are continuing to fulfil their role in reducing flood risk by spending more than £2.17 billion on flood and coastal erosion risk management in England over the current four-year spending period. Sixty new schemes are moving into construction this year under our new partnership approach to funding which has already brought forward £72 million in additional investment from other sources. We expect that the benefits of our investment in risk management will be reflected in reduced insurance premiums going forward.

The recently published National Planning Policy Framework fulfils the Government’s commitment to avoid unnecessary building in floodplains and this outcome has been welcomed by the ABI and others. We are helping insurers incorporate the protection afforded by property-level protection measures into their pricing models and, with the industry’s help, are publishing a guide to help households find the best means of accessing insurance in flood risk areas. We are also working with local authorities and other partners to look at the extent to which communities, through acting together, can help to manage the costs of flood insurance.

Intensive discussions with the insurance industry are continuing and we will announce further details in due course. I undertake to update the House at the most appropriate points.

Pensions

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 12 July 2012, we intend to publish the government response to the consultation Revised Implementation Proposals for Workplace Pension Reform which began on 23 March and closed on 4 May 2012. I am grateful to all those who responded with views, thoughts or suggestions.

The response confirms the Government’s timetable for bringing small and micro employers into the workplace pension reforms in the next Parliament and this is reflected in the accompanying regulations.

The Government’s response to the consultation, the amendment regulations and an impact assessment will be available on the department’s website in due course.

I will also place copies of the consultation and impact assessment in the House Library.

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Stephen Lawrence: Review

Statement

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In response to an Urgent Question by the honourable Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) on 24 April, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire) made a statement on my behalf about the continuing allegations that have appeared in the media over recent months of police corruption in the original investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. As my honourable friend said at that time, allegations of police corruption must always be taken seriously. It is essential we ensure that the actions and behaviour of corrupt police officers do not undermine public confidence in the police’s ability to respond to, investigate and fight crime. I undertook to keep the House updated.

On 31 May, the Home Office announced that I had decided to call for an independent, QC review of the work the Metropolitan Police Service has undertaken into allegations of corruption in the original investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

I have asked Mark Ellison QC to carry out this review and he has agreed. Mr Ellison was the lead prosecutor in the successful prosecutions of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He will be supported by Alison Morgan, the junior counsel from the prosecution of Gary Dobson and David Norris.

The review team has agreed terms of reference with the Lawrence family and I will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House. The review will begin in July 2012 and will aim to complete its findings by July 2013. The team will report to me and I intend to publish the review’s report.

The review will address the following questions:

is there evidence providing reasonable grounds for suspecting that any officer associated with the initial investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence acted corruptly?; are there any further lines of investigation connected to the issue of possible corrupt activity by any officer associated with the initial investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence?; and was the McPherson inquiry provided with all relevant material connected to the issue of possible corrupt activity by any officer associated with the initial investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence? If not, what impact might that have had on the inquiry?

The review team is calling for evidence to be submitted to the review for consideration alongside the significant amount of material made available by the Metropolitan Police Service. Evidence should be sent to SLMEQC@ qebhw.co.uk or by post to Stephen Lawrence Review, PO Box 70744, London, EC4P 4DT.

I am grateful to the commissioner for the support he has offered to the review. I know that the Metropolitan Police Service will co-operate fully with the review team.