25 Oct 2012 : Column WS23

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS23

Written Statements

Thursday 25 October 2012

Business Rates

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 (Brandon Lewis) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing for consultation drafts of the key regulations that will underpin the business rates retention scheme. The scheme will give all councils a strong incentive to go for growth and could add a £10 billion boost to the wider economy by 2020.

The publication of these regulations in draft form is intended to give local authorities and interested parties greater clarity about the detailed implementation and operation of the scheme. It will also give local authorities the opportunity to make comments on the draft regulations, to help ensure that they work as intended so that billing authorities are able to implement the scheme smoothly.

Five sets of regulations are being published in draft form today:

the Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention) Regulations 2012—which include the key income definition for the purposes of calculating central, billing authority and major precepting authority shares, the making of payments and operation of billing authorities’ collection funds under the rates retention scheme;the Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) Regulations 2012—which provide for calculating whether levy or safety net payments from/to an authority are due and the amount of any such payments, including provision for safety net payments on account;the Non-Domestic Rating (Transitional Protection Payments) Regulations 2012—which make provision for payments to/from local authorities where their income is less/more as a result of the operation of transitional arrangements;the Non-Domestic Rating (Designated Areas) Regulations 2012—which enable local authorities to retain a greater proportion of the income in enterprise zones and new development deal areas. They also provide the means by which authorities will be reimbursed for qualifying rate relief given to ratepayers in enterprise zones; andthe Non-Domestic Rating (Renewable Energy Projects) Regulations 2012—which enable local authorities to retain a greater proportion of income from renewable energy projects.

Following consultation, and subject to the passage of the Local Government Finance Bill, the Government intend to lay regulations in Parliament with a view to them coming into force before the start of the 2013-14 financial year, subject to parliamentary approval.

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS24

I am placing copies of the consultation and draft regulations in the Library of the House. The Government are inviting responses by 23 November 2012.

Energy: Oil and Gas Licences

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy (John Hayes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

After thorough consideration of the applications made in the 27th offshore oil and gas licensing round, I am very pleased to be able to announce an initial tranche of offers of 167 production licences. The number of licence offers is a very good result from this latest licensing round, continuing the trend in recent years of encouraging results.

This demonstrates the continuing attractiveness of the United Kingdom continental shelf as an oil and gas producing province. Oil is a global business and the companies are deciding where to allocate their capital in a very competitive environment. The UK remains a favoured destination, with the industry clearly seeing lots of potential and new opportunities.

These new licences will help us to continue to make the most of our indigenous energy resources.

As required by the habitats directive, my officials have carried out a screening assessment of the blocks applied for. As a result, licences for 61 of those blocks, those which are close to, or in, certain special areas of conservation (SACs) and special protection areas (SPAs), will be subject to environmental assessments before any offer is made. The EU habitats directive requires that appropriate assessments be conducted where proposed activities are likely to have significant effects on any SACs and SPAs. The assessments will examine the implications for these protected nature conservation areas of awarding oil and gas licences, and will be subject to appropriate consultation, before any decision is made on whether to offer any of these blocks.

Details of the offers that have been made can be viewed on the DECC oil and gas website at www.og.decc. gov.uk.

EU: Environment Council

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Davey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Resource Management, the Local Environment and Environmental Science, and I will represent the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 25 October.

At this council, the presidency will hold a legislative orientation debate on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council on ship recycling (First Reading). This item is on the agenda

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS25

as it is currently going through the First Reading ordinary legislative procedure (OLP—formally co-decision) process in the council and the European Parliament.

The presidency has confirmed that the focus of the debate will be on some of the bigger issues such as safeguarding the competitiveness of the EU-flag; enforceability and effectiveness; whether the regulation should be closely aligned with the Hong Kong convention or should introduce additional requirements; and whether it should set out detailed provisions on penalties and access to justice or leave these matters to member states.

Ministers are then expected to adopt non-legislative council conclusions on Rio+20: outcome and follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) 2012 Summit. Rio+20 initiated four intergovernmental processes on: sustainable development goals; a financing strategy; a new high level political forum; and on strengthening the UNEP. This item is on the agenda as the EU’s attention is now turning to implementation. The UK will seek conclusions demonstrating support for the Rio outcomes and a commitment to take a constructive role in follow-up activities, in particular keeping a broad view of what SDGs might look like.

Following the morning session the presidency will host a ministerial lunch which will focus on climate change. The topic of this lunch is a presentation and discussion on the outcome of the Pre-COP 18/CMP 8 ministerial meeting on climate change held recently in Korea, which I attended.

In the afternoon session, Ministers will seek to adopt non-legislative council conclusions on preparations for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). COP18 will take place in Doha, Qatar from the 26 November to the 7 December 2012, and these conclusions will form the basic framework of the EU’s negotiating position at COP18.

At the end of the day, the following topics will be covered under any other business:

information from the Commission on the Nagoya protocol on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources (ABS)/proposal for a regulation on EU implementing measures;information from the Belgian delegation on the importance of the EU legislation for meeting environmental objectives—the example of the air quality;information from the Swedish delegation on chemicals in textiles; information from the Commission on the Emissions Trading Scheme in aviation;information from the presidency and the Commission on the timing of auctions of greenhouse gas allowances (back loading)—state of play; andinformation from the Czech delegation on guidelines for the mutual acceptance of low emission zones vignettes and the exchange of best practice.

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS26

EU: Transport Council

Statement

Earl Attlee: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the first Transport Council of the Cypriot presidency (the presidency) in Luxembourg on Monday 29 October.

The presidency hopes to achieve general approach on three proposals:

the first is a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council on common rules for the allocation of slots, repealing council directive 95/93/EC. The proposed regulation has been subject to intense official-level scrutiny by council working groups and these discussions are ongoing. Progress to date has been mixed, but the proposition remains acceptable from a UK perspective. I believe that the resulting regulation could help promote the most effective use of airport slots and build on the existing transparent, market-based approach to encourage the more efficient use of scarce capacity at congested airports, while minimising administrative and financial burdens for industry. However, at this stage, it remains unclear whether or not it will be possible to seek a general approach at the October council;the second is a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the council on the enforcement of certain provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention by flag states. The proposed general approach represents a satisfactory outcome for the UK and I will support it as it allows appropriate flexibility to member states, and will not require the UK to make any substantive changes to its proposed implementation of the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention on flag state responsibilities; and the third is a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the council amending directive 2009/16/EC on port state control. I will support the proposal which will not require the UK to make any substantive changes to its proposed implementation of the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention on port state responsibilities.

An orientation debate will be held on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the council on roadworthiness testing for motor vehicles and their trailers (First Reading). The UK strongly supports the ongoing roadworthiness testing of vehicles as a worthwhile contribution to road safety.

However, the UK is very concerned by the potential cost burden of the European Commission’s proposal as it is currently framed. The UK alone has identified costs of over €1 billion without any discernable benefit in road safety. We have also identified significant administrative burdens embedded in the proposal that similarly would produce no road safety benefit. In the current economic climate, the UK does not wish to see any additional cost to European citizens, businesses or governments unless clearly justified by road safety benefits.

The presidency will be seeking a political agreement on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council amending council regulation

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS27

(EEC) no. 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending regulation (EC) no. 561/2006 of the European Parliament and the council (First Reading). The UK supports the proposal which strikes a sensible balance between improving the security of the tachograph while ensuring that additional burdens on industry and enforcement authorities are minimised.

The council will be expected to adopt a proposal for a council decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, and provisional application of the agreement providing a general framework for enhanced co-operation between the European Union and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol). The UK supports the proposed agreement. It is important that the significant work Eurocontrol performs on behalf of the European Union is put on a sound contractual and financial basis to help ensure value for money from the proposed €40 million expenditure over four years.

Extradition: Concurrent Jurisdiction

Statement

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My right honourable friend the Attorney-General (Dominic Grieve) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has today published interim guidelines to prosecutors on decision-making in certain cases involving concurrent jurisdiction. The guidelines, which take immediate effect, follow a recommendation in the report A Review of the UK’s Extradition Arrangements by the right honourable Sir Scott Baker that there should be more transparency about the principles that are applied by prosecutors in this jurisdiction when determining whether criminal proceedings should be brought here or in another jurisdiction.

The guidelines have been issued on an interim basis and are the subject of a consultation exercise that will last until 31 January 2013. The DPP will publish his final guidelines early next year, once he has considered the responses to the consultation, and any cases that have fallen to be considered by prosecutors during the period in which the interim guidelines have been in place will be reviewed in light of the final guidelines if changes have been made.

The director of the Serious Fraud Office has indicated that his prosecutors will consider themselves bound by this guidance.

Copies of the interim guidelines will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Health: Dementia

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Jeremy Hunt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing a £50 million capital funding in 2013-14 for the NHS and local authorities to work with providers to create care environments to help people with dementia live well with the condition.

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS28

Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society as our population ages and we are determined to transform the quality of dementia care for patients and their families. In March, the Prime Minister launched his challenge on dementia, which sets out the Government’s ambition to increase diagnosis rates, raise awareness and understanding and to double funding for research by 2015.

Research by the King’s Fund demonstrates that good design can help with the management of dementia. People with dementia are less likely to get confused or become distressed within an environment designed with their needs in mind. Examples include an intelligent use of colour to mark out different areas to aid memory, clearer signage and the opportunity to take part in activities such as gardening.

Local authorities working in partnership with social care providers and the NHS will have the opportunity to bid for a share of £50 million capital funding to invest in 2013-14 in improved care environments to help people with dementia and their carers manage their condition better. The funding is aimed at expanding the range of health and care services offering dedicated dementia friendly environments—and to stimulate further use of supportive environments to help the growing number of people with dementia get the best possible care.

Projects that are successful in securing funds will form part of a national pilot to disseminate best practice and evidence across the NHS and social care system of the best examples of dementia friendly environments. The findings and evidence will be used to develop future guidance in this area, assisting organisations that provide services to people with dementia as well as commissioners of services and local health and wellbeing boards to become one of the best in Europe.

The criteria for applying for funding and the deadline for receipt of applications will be announced shortly. The successful projects will begin from April 2013 and will be subject to national evaluation.

National Minimum Wage

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs (Jo Swinson) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Government have written to the Low Pay Commission setting out what we would like the commission to consider on the national minimum wage. The document contains the Government’s interim evidence on economic and non-economic issues, including the minimum wage rates, the youth labour market and apprenticeships. An updated version of the evidence will be published later when the latest information on earnings and economic forecasts will be included.

A copy of the evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available from the BIS website at www.bis.gov.uk.

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS29

Railways: High Speed 2

Statement

Earl Attlee: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In January the Government announced that we would proceed with plans to build a high speed rail network linking London with Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. High Speed 2 (HS2) will have a transformative effect on Britain, bringing cities closer together and providing the new transport capacity we need to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We need to drive forward with this vital national project. In doing so we need to provide support for those facing the disruption that the plans for the railway are causing, while also protecting the interests of taxpayers who will ultimately pay for compensation. We have been clear throughout that we are committed to providing appropriate compensation and assistance for those affected by the building of HS2.

The statutory system of compensation already provides fair compensation for the vast majority of infrastructure schemes. However, given the particular circumstances of HS2, in this case I believe it is right to go above and beyond what is required by law. Today I am launching a generous proposed compensation and support package for public consultation.

Under the proposals set out today all those living closest to the route of HS2, in the so-called safeguarded area, will be able to choose to sell their home to the Government—whether it is required for construction or not—at any time after the HS2 route is safeguarded, which is currently expected to happen in spring 2013. Those choosing to sell their homes will receive its full unblighted value (that is, what the property would have been worth had there been no plans for HS2), a home loss payment of 10% of the value of the property (up to a maximum of £47,000) and be reimbursed for reasonable moving costs, including stamp duty on the purchase of a new property of equivalent value.

In rural areas we will establish a voluntary purchase zone, extending out from the boundary of the safeguarded area up to 120 metres either side of the line, within which homeowners will have the option to sell their homes to the Government at their full unblighted value at any time after the HS2 route is safeguarded.

For those living beyond both the safeguarded area and voluntary purchase zone but who need to move house during the development of HS2 and find they

25 Oct 2012 : Column WS30

are unable to sell their property, there will also be a long-term hardship scheme under which the Government will buy the homes of successful applicants at their full unblighted value.

In addition, under the new sale and rent back scheme, homeowners whose property will need to be acquired will have the option to sell their homes to the Government early and stay in them as tenants until the properties are required for the railway.

We recognise that the owners of properties above tunnels may also be concerned about the potential impact of HS2 and therefore we are bringing in a series of measures designed to provide confidence in these properties.

Finally, we will work with local authorities, housing associations and affected tenants to agree a joint strategy to replace any social housing which is lost.

I must stress that we have already written directly to all those whose homes we currently expect to need to buy in order to build and operate HS2 on the London-West Midlands route. The wide-ranging proposals set out today reflect the significant nature of the concern that currently exists in the property markets near the HS2 line of route. They are not a reflection of what the Government believe the long-term impacts of HS2 will be. We fully expect that the impacts of HS2 will be considerably less than feared and that property prices will recover over time. However, we recognise that the current property markets near the HS2 line of route may not reflect this.

HS2 will be the backbone of a new transport system for the 21st century, offering the new railway capacity that our country will need to compete and grow. However, we fully recognise that the line will have unwelcome impacts on people living close to the route and I believe that this package of compensation demonstrates the strength of the Government’s commitment to provide the right compensation and assistance to those affected.

Alongside the property consultation published today, we are also publishing a consultation on safeguarding directions for HS2. This will set out the proposed area of land considered necessary to protect the line of route from conflicting developments; that is to say planning permission being granted for developments on land that will be required for the construction or operation of HS2. This will also set the safeguarded area within which compensation measures will apply.

Both consultations will close on 31 January 2013.