|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
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:
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.
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 Our primary aim is to improve an out of date system, targeting additional resources on bereavement benefits over a Parliament, to ensure that existing recipients are protected, and that those who claim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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|