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Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 15 December 2011
Business, Innovation and Skills
EU General Affairs Council (Pre-Council Statement)
The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk): The General Affairs Council will take place in Brussels on 16 December 2011. The agenda will cover structural and cohesion funds. I will represent the UK.
The substantive agenda item will be a policy debate on the structural and cohesion funds for 2014-20.The Polish presidency has tabled three questions for discussion: whether the common strategic framework should be approved by the Council and the European Parliament, or adopted solely by the European Commission; whether country-specific recommendations or national reform programmes should provide a linkage between EU2020 goals and the development needs of regions and member states; and whether funds should be ring-fenced for specific objectives. There will also be an informal lunch which will look at whether both negative and positive incentives are necessary to ensure that funds deliver on EU2020 objectives.
The Government’s objective for the Council will be to ensure the funds contribute to addressing the priority areas to support growth and are delivered in a way consistent with member state’s broader economic strategies.
NICs Holiday Factsheet
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): In line with my commitment during the passage of the National Insurance Contributions Act 2011, I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses a report on the functioning of the NICs holiday scheme.
The report provides information on: the number of applications received, the number of businesses benefiting in 2010-11, the amount by which they benefited and the number of jobs supported through the NICs holiday. The information is presented by region and constituency where possible. To date, just over 10,000 applications have been made for the scheme.
The holiday was announced in the June 2010 Budget and is designed to encourage the creation of private sector jobs in regions reliant on public sector employment by reducing the cost to new business of employing staff. The holiday exempts qualifying new businesses in eligible regions from up to £5,000 of employer national insurance contributions for each of the first 10 employees hired in the first 12 months of business. This is part of a wider set of policies designed to help businesses and stimulate growth in the regions.
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Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): Mr David Anderson QC has completed his first annual report as independent reviewer of terrorist asset-freezing legislation. The report covers the first nine months’ operation of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 and will be laid before the House today.
The Government are grateful to Mr Anderson for his detailed report and will consider carefully his recommendations. The Government’s response to his report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses on or before 15 February 2012.
Public Bodies Reform
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The coalition Government made a commitment to review public bodies, with the aim of increasing accountability for actions carried out on behalf of the state. Royal Assent of the Public Bodies Act 2011 marks an important milestone in this process which will allow Departments to get on with the important task of delivering the reforms I announced on 14 October 2010. Today, I am placing in the Library of the House an updated list of proposals for the reform of public bodies and guidance to support the programme of orders that will follow Royal Assent of the Public Bodies Act 2011. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office.
This Government made a presumption that state activity, if needed at all, should be undertaken by bodies that are democratically accountable at either national or local level. A body should only exist as a quango if it meets one of three tests, to which all existing public bodies have been subjected. These tests are:
Does it perform a technical function?
Do its activities require political impartiality?
Does it need to act independently to establish facts?
Some14 months on from my original announcement, we have made strong progress. We now have a legislative mechanism in place to implement current and future proposals for reform. We have announced that cumulative reductions in administrative spending of £2.6 billion will flow from public bodies over the spending review period. Where legislation was not required we have already completed more than half of the abolitions proposed by the 2010 review, and we have already started the process of conducting regular, triennial reviews of all non-departmental public bodies. These triennial reviews will ensure that never again will the quango state be allowed to spiral out of control.
Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, Cabinet Office;
Committee for Standards in Public Life, Cabinet Office;
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills;
Industrial Development Advisory Board, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills;
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Treasure Valuation Committee, Department for Culture, Media and Sport;
Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, Department for Culture, Media and Sport;
Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs;
High Speed 2, Department for Transport;
Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, Department for Work and Pensions;
Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, Department of Energy and Climate Change;
Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, Department of Energy and Climate Change;
Foreign Compensation Commission, Foreign and Commonwealth Office;
Advisory Committee on the Design of Coins, Medals and Decorations, HM Treasury;
Migration Advisory Committee, Home Office;
Technical Advisory Board, Home Office;
Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, Ministry of Defence;
Central Advisory Committee on Pensions and Compensation, Ministry of Defence;
National Employer Advisory Board, Ministry of Defence; and
Legal Services Board, Ministry of Justice;
Triennial reviews will be based on the success of the methodology applied during the 2010 review of public bodies which looked at whether a function was required and, if it was, whether it should exist at arm’s length from Government. Quangos will be required to meet one or more of the three tests listed above.
Triennial reviews will build on this methodology by including a further stage to examine whether the body’s control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance. As well as an opportunity for continuous improvement the reviews will help departments consider new and more innovative models for delivering services through public bodies.
Once the first tranche of reforms have been delivered, and the process of ongoing triennial reviews is firmly established, the UK public bodies landscape will look radically different and be substantially smaller. We will ultimately have reformed more than half of the 904 public bodies in scope of the 2010 review and the landscape will contain more than 250 fewer public bodies. The landscape will be more accountable, with Ministers taking strategic policy decisions and controlling core costs and releasing the front line to deliver services. Public bodies will no longer be seen as confusing, distant and impenetrable to the public, and Ministers will be clearly and transparently accountable for decisions that should be taken by elected representatives.
The landscape will be smaller, more efficient and will cost less, offering better value for money to the public. Our reforms will also help to realise a power shift away from Whitehall, placing control of the delivery of public services in the hands of people who use them, and contributing to important reforms in health, education and economic growth. Unlike previous attempts to reform the public bodies landscape, our reforms will ensure that public bodies will no longer operate long after their job is complete or continue in a form that is outdated or inefficient. I believe that these reforms will lead to a permanent, and long overdue, shift in the role of public bodies and much clearer lines of accountability.
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Communities and Local Government
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): The coalition Government are committed to turning around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in England by the end of this Parliament.
I am working with Cabinet colleagues and local areas to ensure that these families are supported into education and employment, that their crime and antisocial behaviour are tackled, and, that overall costs to the state are reduced. Louise Casey is leading this work for me, as head of a new troubled families team in my Department.
I can announce today that a total of £448 million will be made available from the existing budgets of six Departments to meet this commitment over the next three years. £420 million of this will fund action and interventions in areas across England by local authorities and their partner agencies, and £28 million will be used to boost the Department for Work and Pensions’ support for troubled families.
Central to the Government’s approach is for local agencies to be to able to clearly identify and focus on their priority families. I am therefore also sending out an estimate of the number of families that should be targeted in each local authority area. I will set clear expectations for results to be achieved with these families, and will use this funding to incentivise local authorities to ensure the lives of these families are turned around, and to give them and their children the opportunity to succeed.
Local authorities will work with their partner agencies to provide focused engagement with each family, and avoid the duplication of effort and resources that has been a feature of so much of the response to these families to date. Delivering this commitment will require the full co-operation of central Government and local government; public sector agencies and voluntary organisations—and the families themselves.
The Government will offer local authorities up to 40% of the cost of intervening in a troubled family, payable primarily on a payment-by-results basis when successful outcomes have been achieved. These successful outcomes will be simple and straightforward: ensuring children are attending school; criminal and antisocial behaviour is reduced, and adults in the family are on the path to employment.
The new programme will also fund an England-wide network of troubled family “trouble-shooters”, who will be appointed by local authorities. They will oversee the work undertaken in their area, such as ensuring families are getting appropriate support, and deploying sanctions where necessary.
This small group of families—representing less than 1% of the population—have a huge impact on the well-being of those around them, and cost the public purse an inordinate amount of money: an estimated £9 billion per year, of which £8 billion is taken up merely in reacting to problems as they arise. This is not a cost that we can afford to bear any longer—either financially or in wasted lives.
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I am delighted to confirm the coalition’s commitment to this vital programme. I will report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister regularly on the progress of Ms Casey’s team and our local partners.
Culture, Media and Sport
Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held on 28-29 November. The UK was represented by the Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Andy Lebrecht, for the culture and audio-visual section of the Council. The Scottish Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, Shona Robison MSP, represented the UK for the sport section.
The Council adopted a decision on the signing of the convention on the legal protection of services based on, or consisting of, conditional access. This convention is an instrument of the Council of Europe which entered into force in 2003 and its regulatory framework is almost identical to the one set out in Council directive 98/84/EC.
The aim of the two legal instruments is to establish legal protection against piracy of technological systems of pay-TV, video-on-demand, etc. They cover both TV and radio broadcasting services and also transmission by internet. After the signature of the convention, the Council will proceed with the proposal for a decision on concluding the convention, which will be sent to the European Parliament with the request for its consent.
Ministers considered that the ratification of the convention by the EU will contribute to raising its profile, encouraging ratification by other countries (only nine countries have so far ratified it, four of which are EU members), and thus extending the legal protection for paid services beyond the borders of the EU. A number of UK TV content providers have stressed the importance of being able to extend the number of countries which co-operate to enforce the legislation on conditional access and thereby to limit piracy in the pay-TV sector. The signing of the convention should support the growth of this important part of the UK digital economy.
The Commission entered two statements to the Council minutes, one regarding the legal base and EU exclusive competence to accede to the convention and another concerning the final clauses of the convention, in particular the voting of amendments and the acceptance of new contracting parties.
The UK supported the adoption of this Council decision but intervened to table a statement at the Council to record its view that, even in the absence of the citation of a legal base in treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Title V, the European Union’s competence to enter into the JHA obligations, which form a small part of the convention, derives from TFEU Title V and accordingly the UK will be bound by virtue of the fact that it has exercised its opt-in under Protocol No. 21 to the treaty on European Union (TEU).
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The Council adopted conclusions on the protection of children in the digital world. The conclusions underline the need to educate children as well as their parents and teachers about how to be safe online. Furthermore, the conclusions also call upon the audio-visual industry to design their services and products so that the protection of minors is fully taken into account. These conclusions were adopted without further discussion.
The Council adopted conclusions on cultural and creative competences and their role in building intellectual capital of Europe. The UK supported the adoption of these conclusions which address the development of synergies between culture and creativity on the one hand, and education, youth, research, business and innovation on the other.
There was a ministerial debate on the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to growth and job creation, focusing in particular on the need for reliable and comparable statistics at European level to better inform policy making. There was universal acceptance of culture’s link to economic growth, as well as the strong need for data in this area. The UK outlined the importance of these sectors to our economy, including exports, and noted that this is an area where Europe has a clear comparative advantage. A number of delegations recalled that as well as economic growth, culture also has a vital role to play in developing social cohesion. A number of member states observed that this work could make a key contribution to the EU 2020 strategy. While there was widespread support for the Commission’s approach to improving data measurement, member states stressed that this should be done in a light-touch way by building as far as possible on existing data and mechanisms.
Under Any Other Business, the presidency provided information on the state of play concerning the procedural arrangements for the appointment of the European panel for the European Union action for the European Heritage Label (EEL). The panel will consist of 13 experts, responsible for selecting sites to be awarded the EHL and for their subsequent monitoring. Four of them are to be appointed by the Council for a three-year period. The Commission presented its recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation. The Commission also presented its proposal for the creative Europe programme which is a new support programme for the cultural and creative sectors, bringing together the current culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes. The Danish delegation outlined their priorities for their forthcoming presidency, in particular examining the new creative Europe programme, developing the cultural dialogue with third countries and promoting digitisation.
The Council adopted a resolution on the representation of the EU member states in the foundation board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the co-ordination of the EU and its member states’ positions prior to WADA meetings. The resolution establishes the practical arrangements concerning the participation of the European Union and its member states in the work of WADA, namely the preparation, negotiation and adoption inter alia of rules, standards and guidelines by the agency. The UK’s concerns over the wording around the co-ordination process and the presentation of the EU position on anti-doping matters were taken into account during the negotiation of the text and the UK was therefore able to support the adoption of the resolution.
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The Council adopted conclusions on the role of voluntary activities in sport in promoting active citizenship. The UK supported the adoption of these conclusions which seek to raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering and improve conditions for the development of voluntary activities in sport.
The Council adopted conclusions on combating match fixing, aiming to foster close co-operation and information sharing between member states, the Commission, the sports world and gambling operators in order to counteract this dangerous trend. The UK supported these Council conclusions which recognise that match fixing is a threat to the very integrity of sport.
The Council held a policy debate on good governance in sport. Autonomy, transparency and responsibility were cited as key elements of good governance, though several member states noted that autonomy should not mean that sports organisations are exempt from law. A number of member states welcomed the contribution that the sub-programme for sport, in the Commission proposal for the “Erasmus for all” programme, will make to tackling match fixing and other threats to sport. The UK welcomed the work on good governance and the upcoming expert group which it will co-chair but stressed that good governance should not be dictated by Government.
Under Any Other Business, the Commission presented its proposal for the Erasmus for all programme, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020. The UK presented a short promotional film on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. The Danish delegation presented the incoming presidency’s priorities which include examining the sport section of the Erasmus for all programme, combating doping and match fixing, developing good governance issues and enhancing voluntary activities.
Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): As part of the Government’s commitment to conduct triennial reviews of their non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), I am pleased to announce today the review of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
The Reviewing Committee (RCEWA) performs the very important role of advising on the principles which should govern the control of export of objects of cultural interest under the Export Control Act 2002 and on the operation of the export control system generally and advises the Secretary of State on all cases where refusal of an export licence for an object of cultural interest is suggested on grounds of national importance.
The triennial review will build on work undertaken by the Department during the review of public bodies, as part of the spending review and will collate and publish the evidence for the continuing need of the Reviewing Committee as an advisory NDPB.
The review of the RCEWA will be conducted by the Department with the support of a small review group made up of key stakeholders with a direct interest in the export licensing process. It will assess its effectiveness,
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accountability and efficiency. It will evidence the continuing need for its functions and examine and evaluate alternative delivery options.
Treasure Valuation Committee
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): As part of the Government’s commitment to conduct triennial reviews of their non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), I am pleased to announce today the review of Treasure Valuation Committee.
The Treasure Valuation Committee provides the very important advisory role of recommending to the Secretary of State valuations for the treasure items brought before it and providing advice on the apportionment of any reward for the treasure item.
The triennial review will build on work undertaken by the Department during the review of public bodies, as part of the spending review and will collate and publish the evidence for the continuing need of the Treasure Valuation Committee as an advisory NDPB.
The review of the Treasure Valuation Committee will be conducted by the Department with the support of a review group made up of key stakeholders with a direct interest in the treasure valuation process. It will assess its effectiveness, accountability and efficiency. It will evidence the continuing need for individual functions and examine and evaluate a range of delivery options.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): In a written statement on 24 May 2011, Official Report, columns 49-50WS, my predecessor, the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), informed the House that, further to the strategic defence and security review, a separate review of the British sovereign base areas in Cyprus would be undertaken.
The study has been completed. The Government accept its recommendations and confirms Her Majesty’s Government’s enduring commitment to the sovereign base areas in Cyprus. The key considerations in affirming this commitment were:
The sovereign base areas are in a region of geo-political importance and high priority for the United Kingdom’s long-term national security interests.
The sovereign base areas provide an adaptable and capable forward mounting base, the utility of which has been amply demonstrated: for example, the basing of RAF aircraft that participated in operations over Libya; the regular deployment of Cyprus-based military personnel to Afghanistan; and the key role played as a logistic hub for operations in Afghanistan.
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In addition, the sovereign base areas are expected to make a significant contribution to logistic draw-down from Afghanistan, as well as to wider humanitarian and conflict prevention activities in the region. They also continue to provide excellent training opportunities in this important region.
The strategic defence and security review 2010 emphasised the fundamental importance of an “ability to remain adaptable for the future”. The sovereign base areas provide the United Kingdom with a unique contribution to our ability to achieve this goal.
Our military personnel, United Kingdom civilians and locally employed personnel in the sovereign base areas make a major contribution to the national security of the United Kingdom and will continue to do so in the future. In administering the sovereign base areas, the United Kingdom will continue to have as its main objectives—the effective use of the areas as military bases, maintenance of a constructive and co-operative relationship with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, and protection of the interests of those resident or working in the areas.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey): I wish to inform the House of the latest position regarding the future basing requirements for the RAF aerobatic team (RAFAT) known as the Red Arrows and of the RAF’s air surveillance and control system (ASACS) units.
The previous Administration announced on 21 May 2008, Official Report, columns 23-24WS, that subject to trade union consultation, the RAFAT would in future operate from RAF Waddington, rather than RAF Scampton by 31 July 2011, although they would continue to use the dedicated airspace above RAF Scampton to enable training for their acrobatic displays.
The previous Administration announced on 28 October 2008, Official Report, columns 25-26WS, the relocation of two air surveillance and control system satellite units. Number 1 Air Control Centre at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey and the Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Scampton, to RAF Coningsby by the end of 2014.
The strategic defence and security review (SDSR) considered a range of constraints on defence basing plans—the available estate, funding provision, plans already in train and the operational commitments of forces. In the light of the changes resulting from the SDSR, and against the background of the budgetary pressures defence faces, I have concluded that it makes sense to review the planned moves of the RAFAT and the control and reporting centre. In the meantime both units remain at RAF Scampton.
No 1 Air Control Centre has now merged and collocated with the Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Scampton and RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey will be closed by the end of March 2012, other than some service families accommodation and a combined mess for personnel at RAF Scampton.
The RAF will now consider future basing options for both the RAFAT and the ASACS units and make recommendations on options to deliver operational effectiveness and value for money. This will include recommendations on whether RAF Scampton should
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draw-down by 2014 as previously announced. This work is expected to complete in 2012 and I will report the outcome to Parliament at that time.
London 2012 Olympics
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): The Government have agreed that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will support the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport by making a significant contribution to the security and safety of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics games. The safety and security operation for the games remains police-led. Work continues on the precise details and numbers of the defence contribution. However, the MOD now expects to provide up to 13,500 service personnel in London, on the Thames, in Weymouth and across the UK, delivering a range of military support to the police and other civil and Olympic authorities.
The MOD has been working very closely with the Metropolitan and Dorset police forces to scope the provision of specialist support to maritime security operations on the Thames and in Weymouth bay. It is currently planned for HMS Ocean to be based at Greenwich and HMS Bulwark in Weymouth bay, providing maritime command and control, accommodation, helicopter and small boat basing, and logistics supply.
We have been building on our existing arrangements to ensure that there will be an appropriate and scalable air security plan. A multi-layered plan has been developed and will include Typhoon aircraft, forward-based at RAF Northolt, helicopters operating from HMS Ocean and appropriate ground based air defence systems.
The MOD will increase the normal capacity of the armed forces in several specialist areas which are routinely provided to the civil authorities, in order to provide an enhanced level of capability and response, including explosive ordnance disposal, military working dogs and the capability to search vehicles and buildings.
In addition to this support to wider security activity, the armed forces will provide 3,500 personnel to support the venue security operation for the Olympic and Paralympic games, rising to 7,500 for the 17-day period of the Olympic games themselves. They will form part of a total venue guard-force of up to 23,700.
A further 1,000 strong military contingency force will be available to respond to Olympic-related civil emergencies. Military personnel will also provide command and control and logistics support for the range of military capabilities involved.
In providing this support. Defence will contribute up to 13,500 military personnel at times of peak demand. These numbers will be in addition to the ceremonial role which the armed forces will play during the Olympics, which will showcase our armed forces to the world. I am also pleased to note that a number of service personnel hope to compete on behalf of our nation.
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Defence will continue to be able to support current and contingent operations during the games and my priority will remain the troops we have deployed on operations, including in Afghanistan, before, during and after the Olympics.
Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees Review
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): The Ministry of Defence has concluded a review of the advisory bodies, the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees (formally established under a statutory instrument as the War Pensions Committees). This is in accordance with the Cabinet Office’s recent guidance on public bodies, which took effect from 1 April 2011. This review examined the Committees’ functions, as well as corporate governance procedures. The review concluded that the non-departmental public body model is the best way for them to deliver their functions, in a politically impartial way, in pursuing the interests of those who have served in the armed forces and their dependants.
The 13 Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, covering Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the English regions, provide vital work by developing relationships and agreements with regional organisations to enhance the services delivered to ex-service personnel and their families, in particular those who are vulnerable. They also provide independent advice to both central and local government, health authorities and service providers in local communities. They give local support in promoting the armed forces’ covenant and have actively been involved in the development of local community covenants.
War Pensions Scheme Uprating 2012
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2012 are set out in the following tables. The annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2012 will take place from the week beginning 9 April 2012. Rates for 2012 are increasing by 5.2% in line with the September 2011 consumer prices index.
|(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)||2011||2012|
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Young People in Education, Training and Work
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): The Departments for Education, for Work and Pensions and for Business, Innovation and Skills are today publishing “Building Engagement, Building Futures: Our Strategy to Maximise the Participation of 16-24 Year Olds in Education, Training and Work”. This fulfils the commitment made in “Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers”, the Government’s social mobility strategy published in April by the Deputy Prime Minister.
Increasing the participation of 16 to 24-year-olds in learning and work not only makes a lasting difference to their individual lives, but is central to our ambitions to improve social mobility and stimulate economic growth.
“Building Engagement, Building Futures” sets out how our radical reforms to schools, vocational education, skills and welfare provision will all make a significant difference to young people’s opportunities and support. The Government recognise that in some areas we need to go further, in particular to help the most vulnerable young people, who are at risk of long-term disengagement.
The strategy outlines our plans to support all young people to develop the skills, qualifications and experience they need—to succeed in their careers and make a positive contribution to our society and economy. It sets out how we will ensure that young people are in the best possible position to realise the opportunities available to them as the economy picks up. It builds on recent announcements that we will offer more apprenticeships for young people and provide additional support through the new youth contract, which includes at least 40,000 financial incentives for small businesses to take on a young apprentice.
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(Chris Grayling) and my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning and I have worked together to develop this strategy, recognising the need for coherent policy approaches across education, training, skills and employment. This shared vision will help ensure that all services align in the best possible way to help every young person make progress towards adult life and successful careers.
Energy and Climate Change
Electricity Market Reforms
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne): I am today publishing a technical update to the electricity market reform White Paper “Planning our electric future: a white paper for secure, affordable and low-carbon electricity”(1). The update complements the White Paper published in July 2011 and follows the release of the carbon plan on 1 December 2011, which set out the Government’s long-term plans for UK decarbonisation—making a transition to a low-carbon economy while maintaining energy security and minimising cost to consumers. Electricity market reform is a key tool for achieving this long-term carbon plan.
While the current electricity market has served us well, we face a number of unprecedented challenges. Around a fifth of existing generating capacity will close over the next decade and much of the replacement will be intermittent (such as wind) or inflexible (such as nuclear) generation, threatening our security of supply. At the same time electricity demand could as much as double by 2050, driven by greater electrification of transport, heating and industrial processes.
Our long-term vision for the market is one in which low-carbon generation can compete fairly on cost. This would mean a competitive, liquid market, cost-competitive technologies, and a credible carbon price. Electricity market reform is a set of arrangements to take us through this transition, addressing market failures to help low-carbon technologies compete fairly and to ensure a secure electricity supply.
The electricity market reform White Paper set out key measures to encourage investment in new generating and non-generation capacity (such as demand-side response and storage), reduce the impact on customer bills, and create a secure mix of electricity sources which meets increased demand. This includes supporting the introduction of renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear to meet our low-carbon commitments. The White Paper marked the first stage of the reform process, with a commitment to provide a technical update around the turn of the year. Today I am publishing that update, which completes the strategic framework, setting out:
Our view that the system operator, part of National Grid, best meets the criteria for delivering the feed-in tariff with contracts for difference (FIT CfD) and the capacity mechanism;
Our decision to legislate for a capacity mechanism, in the form of a capacity market;
Detail on work to enable investment decisions for early projects; and
The next steps for the electricity market Reform programme.
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The institutional framework is crucial to ensuring that electricity market reform has a robust, credit-worthy delivery model to drive enhanced investment into low-carbon generation and ensure security of supply while seeking to minimise the cost to consumers. The technical update outlines the institutional framework involving Government setting policy and objectives, the system operator administering the FIT CfD and CM, and Ofgem regulating the market. It includes our rationale for the system operator acting as the delivery organisation, its roles and responsibilities, relationship with Government; governance arrangements and principles for ensuring a credit-worthy structure for the FIT CfD and capacity mechanism contractual arrangements. This model best meets the criteria set out in the White Paper and builds on strong synergies between the system operator’s current role of system balancing and the delivery of the FIT CfD and capacity mechanism.
The provision of secure, reliable electricity for consumers is a key objective for Government. A capacity mechanism provides an insurance policy against the risk of a capacity shortfall. Current estimates suggest that a problem could emerge in the medium term—although accurate forecasting far ahead is difficult. That is why we need to put in place our insurance policy now; so we are covered against all possibilities and can respond as and when we need to.
Having considered the responses to our consultation on possible models of capacity mechanism, and undertaken subsequent analysis on the relative merits of the different options under consideration, the Government intend to legislate for the establishment of a capacity market. A capacity market ensures sufficient reliable capacity is available by providing incentives to invest in new capacity, including generation and non-generation approaches such as demand-side response, or for existing capacity to remain operational. We recognise that non-generation approaches could have advantages in terms of lower costs and reduced impact on carbon emissions. As well as allowing demand-side response and storage to compete on a fair and equivalent basis to generating in the capacity market, we are also assessing whether the right incentives are in place to support the efficient use of electricity, and whether further action is needed.
The technical update sets out our high-level decisions on the design of the capacity market. The detailed design of the mechanism will be developed with stakeholders’ engagement from next year. I am also publishing the capacity mechanism impact assessment today which outlines the full economic assessment of the policy options for a capacity mechanism. Our modelling indicates that the introduction of a capacity market should have a limited impact on average electricity bills and could lead to both a small reduction as a result of avoiding very high prices in scarcity periods and less volatile prices.
The White Paper set out the Government’s commitment to work actively with relevant parties to enable early investment decisions for low-carbon electricity generation to progress to timetable wherever possible, including those required ahead of implementation of the FIT CfD. I would encourage developers who meet the characteristics outlined within the technical update to contact DECC to initiate discussions. We are also providing further certainty for existing renewable generators by setting out in more detail the arrangements for renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) from 2027 onwards.
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We have made rapid progress and are now moving to a stage of detailed policy design. Government will continue to work closely with stakeholders through a collaborative process to develop the detailed design of the mechanisms during 2012. To assist this process and maintain transparency a further update on emissions performance standards and feed in tariff with contracts for difference will be published early next year. We intend to legislate for electricity market reform in the second session of this Parliament, which begins in May 2012.
(1) http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/legislation/white _papers/emr_wp_2011/emr_wp_2011.aspx.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Agenda)
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council is on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 December, in Brussels. I shall represent the UK on agriculture matters on Thursday and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) will be representing the United Kingdom on the fisheries items throughout the Council. Richard Lochhead MSP, Michelle O’Neill MLA and Alun Davies AM will also attend.
TACs and fishing quotas for 2012—The annual December negotiation package of fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North sea for 2012.
TACs and quotas for fishing in the Black sea in 2012—Similar negotiations for stocks in the Black sea.
European Maritime and Fisheries Fund—The Commission will present the funding part of the CFP reform package which provides for a new instrument to replace the EFF and to integrate into it spending on the new EU integrated maritime policy.
CAP reform rural development proposal—A public debate focusing on the rural development proposal.
GM approvals—Council vote on approvals for use as food and feed of four GM varieties (three maize and one cotton).
Agricultural products promotions policy—Consideration of Council conclusions commenting on the green paper on promotion measures.
Commission presentation of a proposed regulation on sanctions against countries allowing non-sustainable fishing.
Cypriot item on aid for processed citrus fruit.
Protection of animals during transport—Commission report on implementation of the animal transport rules.
Codex Alimentarius—A presidency report back on the recent meeting of this UN body for international food standards.
Hungarian item on a technical aspect of the authorisation of GM products.
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Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): A review of the independent agricultural appeals panel (IAAP) has been commissioned and will start work today. The IAAP is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by DEFRA, which provides advice to Ministers on appeals made by claimants under the single payment scheme and other CAP schemes administrated by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). This triennial review is part of a rolling programme of reviews that DEFRA is undertaking in line with Government’s commitment to reducing the number and cost of public bodies and ensuring accountability for public functions by examining all non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) at least once every three years.
The IAAP review is to be conducted in accord with Government guidance for reviewing non-departmental public bodies, and will consider the effectiveness of how the functions of IAAP are currently delivered, whether there is a need for the function and the advisory NDPB to continue, and if so, how the function might best be delivered in future. The review will be led by a member for the DEFRA senior civil service who is not involved with the day-to-day business of the IAAP or RPA.
The review will compliment ongoing work by RPA to improve its complaints and appeals procedures. Key stakeholders are being informed of the review and invited to submit views. Further information, including how to participate in the review are available on DEFRA’s website http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/farm-manage /review-iaap.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance
On 13 October, I announced in a statement to the House the conclusions of the Government’s review of policy and practice with regard to the export of equipment that might be used for internal repression, in light of events in the middle east and north Africa. I also announced that the Government had considered how we could strengthen our decision making when we provide security and justice assistance overseas. I said that guidance on assessing the human rights implications of such assistance would be issued to all Government officials and that it would be published before the end of 2011. A copy of the “Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Human Rights Guidance” has now been deposited in the Library of the House.
The guidance is part of a package of improvements that responds to the lessons of this year, and our wider commitment to strengthen and uphold the record of the United Kingdom as a defender and promoter of human rights and democracy. This guidance will assist HMG staff who are called upon to advise on security
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and justice matters overseas. It will ensure greater consistency in the human rights approach to security and justice assistance overseas across HMG; it will assist in the identification and consideration of applicable legal obligations; and it will ensure that our security and justice activities, whilst meeting HMG’s national security priority, are also consistent with a foreign policy based on British values including human rights.
UK security and justice assistance to international partners to tackle threats such as terrorism, serious organised crime and conflict, and to support sustainable development, remains crucial to implementing our foreign policy and development priorities. As well as strengthening our relationships with other Governments and increasing our prospects for future cooperation with security institutions, this type of work can have a direct impact on our national interests. For example, the strategic defence and security review recommended that HMG increase efforts to tackle the terrorist threat at source, overseas. Our counter-terrorism programme aims to do just this by increasing the capacity of overseas authorities, such as the police, military and intelligence, to detect, investigate and disrupt terrorist threats.
At times, this will mean working with countries, institutions or units where we have concerns about their adherence to and respect for human rights and democracy. Often, it is these countries or institutions where security and justice assistance is most needed. While it is in our national interest to continue to provide such assistance, in doing so we must ensure that such assistance supports our values and is consistent with applicable domestic and international human rights obligations.
Today’s publication of the OSJA guidance is a reflection of our determination to ensure that when we provide assistance in these countries, we do so in a manner that promotes, rather than undermines, human rights and democracy.
Making these decisions is not always straightforward. While UK justice and security assistance can help achieve both security and human rights objectives in a given country, it can also present a variety of human rights risks. The OSJA guidance was produced in order to provide practical support to Government officials making these difficult decisions. It provides a clear framework to help officials identify the human rights risks, propose appropriate measures to mitigate these risks and produce a final assessment. It also sets out when the decision to provide assistance should be taken by senior personnel or Ministers. The guidance covers case specific assistance such as the deployment of specialist police officers to assist with an investigation, as well as broader capacity building assistance.
The OSJA guidance already applies to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is currently being rolled out to other Government Departments. An internal review of the guidance will take place in April 2012.
The Government are committed to tackling issues related to security and human rights in an open and transparent way. This is why we published the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Security Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Related to Detainees. And it is why we have taken the decision to publish the “Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance” today.
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Tobacco Control Legislation
In March 2011 the Government published “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England” which set out how our comprehensive, evidence-based programme of tobacco control will be delivered within the context of the new public health system over the next five years.
The Government take very seriously the need to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking. Each year, in England alone, around 330,000 children under 16 first try smoking and the majority of smokers start smoking regularly before they are 18 years old.
I am pleased to confirm that this consultation will be carried out on a UK-wide basis. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also eager to gain a better understanding of whether the plain packaging of tobacco products could be effective in reducing the number of young people who take up smoking and in supporting adults who want to quit. Participating in this consultation will help them in making decisions about how they wish to take forward this matter in their own Administrations.
It is also important to create a supportive environment for adults who want to quit smoking. Most smokers report that it takes many attempts before they succeed in quitting. Removing sources of temptation that undermine quit attempts can be of great help.
The Government want to make it easier for people to make healthy choices. To do this, we need to understand whether there is evidence to demonstrate that the plain packaging of tobacco products would have an additional health benefit, over and above existing tobacco control initiatives. The Department of Health has, therefore, commissioned an independent academic review of the existing evidence relevant to the effects of tobacco packaging. This systematic evidence review will be peer reviewed and made available alongside the consultation.
In view of these requirements, the consultation will not be available prior to the new year. The consultation will be published in spring 2012 and I would encourage all those with an interest to respond.
National Policing Improvement Agency
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May):
As part of the wider reform of policing, I wish to update the House on plans to phase out the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA),
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to transfer its critical national functions and to establish a police professional body and a new IT company. I am also, today, placing in the Library a summary of the responses that were received in relation to Peter Neyroud’s report, “Review of Police Leadership and Training”.
I am committed to a methodical and careful phase-out of the NPIA in 2012. Good progress is being made. The NPIA’s headcount has reduced by 25%. The NPIA has announced its departure from its site at Harrogate. Some of NPIA’s procurement functions have already transferred to the Home Office, and important detailed work has been done to identify successor bodies for the NPIA’s critical national functions and services that are required to support an effective and modern police service.
In response to the policing leadership challenge set out by Peter Neyroud’s review (which I placed in the House Library in April 2011), I intend to create a new police professional body. This is a unique opportunity to further professionalise policing, creating a body that directly supports police officers at all ranks and civilian policing professionals. It will also create opportunities to open up the closed system of leadership within the police service, to harness greater diversity and experience at a senior level, and to equip the service with the skills it needs to deliver effective crime fighting in a changing, leaner and more accountable environment.
Peter Neyroud, in his review, outlined a policing professional body which held chartered status. This will be an issue for the professional body itself to pursue when it has developed a body of evidence demonstrating it reaches the rigorous criteria required.
Whilst the police professional body will focus on policing in England and Wales, it will be important that it takes into account, and works closely with, forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland, particularly on cross-border issues.
The police professional body will develop policing as a single profession; it will represent the entire service and will act only in the public interest. Chief constables also need to come together for discussion, focusing on key operational issues, when it is in the public interest for them to do so. I envisage a need for a chiefs’ council, and I am working with ACPO and key partners to consider the precise remit of the chiefs’ council and its relationship with the police professional body.
As announced in July, the Government also intend to establish an information and communications technology (ICT) company. The company will be responsible for the procurement, implementation and management of complex contracts for information technology, related business change and outsourcing services, supplying both national and local services for police. The company will be owned by police authorities and subsequently police and crime commissioners, with the police service as its customer. It will provide:
better value to forces for their ICT spend;
greater innovation in police ICT, so that operational officers have better systems;
freedom for chief constables to focus on fighting crime rather than managing ICT;
services and products that support forces and other customers in their drive for inter-operability.
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It will operate in such a way that forces can more quickly, easily and efficiently collaborate and procure IT solutions which meet local requirements.
transfer key national critical operational functions to the National Crime Agency (NCA), which naturally fit with its new national crime fighting remit. Those areas already identified include the Central Witness Bureau, Crime Operational Support, the National Missing Persons Bureau, the Serious Crime Analysis team, and the Specialist Operations centre. In the short term, these important functions will move to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, one of the major precursor bodies to the NCA;
transfer responsibility for the 101 non-emergency phone service, crime mapping, pathology services, forensic and other non-ICT procurement and the programme for implementing Schengen Information System (II) (SIS II), to the Home Office. These moves follow the non-ICT procurement transfers that were completed in October 2011;
hand over, to a lead force, the hosting of the new National Police Air Service;
end the work NPIA currently does advising on value for money by November 2012. In its place, police and crime commissioners will drive value for money in the police service, with further support where necessary.
All other NPIA functions are the subject of further detailed analysis and consultation with the wider police service. I expect to be able to make an announcement about the future of the NPIA’s estate in the spring of 2012.
Of particular note will be reviews into the future viability of Bramshill House and the utilisation of Hendon Data Centre (HDC), which provides vital IT services at the very heart of policing. The HDC review will consider how services should be delivered in the future, by whom, and any transitional arrangements that will be necessary to ensure public safety is protected.
Fines, Confiscation Orders and Fixed Penalties
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (“HMCTS”) has prepared a trust statement providing an account of the collection of revenues which, by statute or convention, 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.
Enforcement of all court impositions is a priority for this Government. The Ministry of Justice has been working closely with the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and others to improve enforcement through a range of current and planned measures. These include “Operation Crackdown”, a targeted blitz on persistent defaulters, telephone and text chasing, action to increasing deduction of court fines direct from salary and benefits, greater use of tracing tools like credit checks, and 24-hour telephone and internet payment facilities.
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We are also exploring how we can reduce the level of “aged debt” on the Government’s books—including fines, compensation and costs orders which have been imposed but have yet to be successfully collected after a minimum of 12 months. In some cases, these date back a number of years—some as far as the early 1990s. We are piloting new approaches with three commercial suppliers to establish the collectability of financial penalties over a year old, testing a combination of techniques and innovation and providing evidence on which to develop a strategy to manage this debt in the future.
The statement shows that in 2010-11 over £497 million of cash was collected by HMCTS—an increase of £25 million on the previous year. The overall total of outstanding impositions increased from £1.5 billion to £1.9 billion. The principal driver for this has been an increase in the use of confiscation orders, which have been more aggressively imposed in the Crown Court over the last year to deprive criminals of assets—their use by the courts in 2010-11 rose by 158%, and accounts for £1.2 billion of the total. In some cases, such as joint criminal enterprise, two separate orders can be issued for the total sum—in one case two individuals are separately liable for the same sum of £92 million, a total order of £184 million.
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the direct collection of 16% of confiscation orders by value. Enforcing confiscation orders presents a challenge right across Government, as criminals use increasingly complex ways to mask or offshore their assets—it is estimated that over 60% of the total are “hidden” assets or held overseas. All agencies involved in confiscation orders are committed to improving enforcement performance.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has today published a report on the trust statement, and provided a disclaimer with his certificate. This reflects the fact that the IT systems used in the enforcement of impositions are live “case management” systems, rather than accounting systems: they are fully effective in reporting the value of money owed to ensure targeted enforcement, but cannot be used for retrospective reporting of individual transactions for audit. The IT system was rolled out in 2007-8: the requirement to produce a trust statement first arose for 2010-11. We estimate that to implement a new accounting system for these purposes would cost at least £3 million, and would not present good value for public money. We are, however, taking steps to ensure that we are better able to evidence the robustness of the historical figures for audit purposes in future.
Public Bodies Reform
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): Today I have laid before Parliament a public consultation response document; “Response to Consultation on reforms proposed in the Public Bodies Bill—Reforming the public bodies of the Ministry of Justice”.
The response confirms the Ministry of Justice’s intentions in relation to the Department’s bodies included in the Public Bodies Bill, which received Royal Assent yesterday. Reform of these bodies through the powers provided in the Public Bodies Act 2011 will increase Government accountability, eliminate duplication of activity and discontinue activities that no longer need to take place.
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The response confirms the Government’s intention to abolish the following bodies: the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council; Courts Boards; the Crown Court Rule Committee; HM Inspectorate of Courts Administration; the Magistrates’ Courts Rule Committee; and the Public Guardian Board. The Department will also use the powers in the Bill to merge four bodies or offices to create The National Archives as a legal entity to reflect current administrative arrangements. These bodies and offices are: the Public Record Office, HM Stationery Office, The Keeper of Public Records and the Advisory Council on Public Records.
I have decided that the Government should not pursue the abolition of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and that the office of the chief coroner should be established but without the bespoke appeals system that would have been attached to that office. Amendments to that effect were made to the Public Bodies Bill on 23 November during Lords Consideration of Commons Amendments.
The Government continue to believe that there is a need for reform of youth justice in order to increase direct ministerial accountability for this important and distinct area of the justice system. The Ministry of Justice will shortly bring forward new proposals for youth justice reform. The Department will also announce in the new year further details of the timetable for the implementation of the office of the chief coroner.
Orders that give effect to the decisions set out in the response paper will be laid from early in 2012. As provided for in the Public Bodies Act 2011, all such orders will be subject to the enhanced affirmative parliamentary procedure.
Coroner Services (Charter)
The charter will help those who come into contact with coroner services in England and Wales by for the first time setting out the standards that bereaved family members and others can expect to receive. It also sets out what someone can do if they are unhappy with the level of service provided.
The charter forms an integral part of the Government’s plans for reform of the coroner system, and, alongside the appointment of a chief coroner and implementation of most of the provisions in part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, will help to ensure much more consistent standards of service between coroner areas.
The charter consultation closed on 5 September 2011. A total of 135 responses were received from a range of stakeholders including coroners, local authorities, voluntary organisations, medical professionals and members of the public. Our response document summarises the views of respondents, and shows where we will subsequently make revisions to the charter.
Overall, there was support for the charter to be published, as proposed, alongside the Ministry of Justice’s current “Guide to Coroners and Inquests”. This combined document will ensure that people can easily access one document setting out first the processes in a coroner inquiry (the guide) and secondly the standards that can be expected throughout (the charter).
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Hard copies of the final version of the combined guide and charter booklet will be printed and distributed to all coroner jurisdictions in early 2012. The guide and the charter will then be updated as and when changes to the coroner system are introduced in the future.
EU Transport Council
The Council reached political agreement on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a single European railway area (Recast). At its First Reading of the proposal on 16 November the European Parliament made amendments which differed significantly from the Council’s general approach adopted at the June Transport Council. However, the political agreement text only incorporates those amendments that do not alter the general approach, and are acceptable to the UK. The Commission hopes a Second Reading deal can be struck with the European Parliament under the Danish presidency.
The Council agreed a partial general approach on a draft regulation amending Regulation 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport. This proposal would amend the specification for tachographs, which measure hours spent at the wheel by commercial lorry and bus drivers.
a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/106/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the minimum level of training of seafarers to bring the extant directive into line with the latest International Maritime Organization rules; and
a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accelerated phasing-in of double-hull or equivalent design requirements for single-hull oil tankers (Recast). The amendments reflect changes to the international regime for tankers adopted at the International Maritime Organization between 2002 and 2009.
The Council noted a progress report on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network. This item generated substantial discussion. I intervened to acknowledge the importance of good cross-border infrastructure for the single market, but expressed concern about binding obligations proposed and the financial and administrative burdens they would place on member states at a time when fiscal constraints are substantial and also stressed the need for member states to retain their responsibility for planning decisions, processes and implementation. On the proposed increase to the TEN-T budget, I said budgetary restraint must be the priority.
Under Any Other Business, the Commission presented its new proposals on a “better airport package” which covers a recast of the slot allocation regulation, and revisions to the current directives on ground handling and noise which are intended to address issues of capacity,
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growth, environmental concerns and competitiveness. The proposals on ground handling and noise have been recast as (directly applicable) regulations.
The Commission reported on the European aviation safety management system and air cargo security action plan. I intervened in strong support of the European aviation safety management system and to request that the Commission report back on progress at a future Transport Council.
The Commission, at the request of Finland, reported on the current state of play with regards to the aviation EU emissions trading system (ETS). There had been three main developments since the June Transport Council: the US House of Representatives had approved a Bill that would prohibit US airlines from complying with ETS; there had been political messages against ETS emerging from the ICAO Council in November; and President Obama had specifically raised the issue at the EU/US summit on 28 November, noting the need to avoid confrontation. The Commission’s assessment was that while international opposition was strong, so was the EU response. The Commission acknowledged there still could be a challenge in ICAO under the Chicago convention, and that it was important to understand what forms retaliatory action could take. Following a legal challenge from the US Air Transport Association and three US airlines the European Court of Justice will deliver its judgment on the case on 21 December.
Antonio Tajani, Commissioner responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, updated Ministers on recent developments within the Galileo programme and indicated that since the successful launch of the first two satellites in October the system was now up and running with real momentum behind it. The Commission also presented its proposed regulation on Galileo governance and exploitation.
Before the Council, I met Ministers from Finland and Ireland, the German State Secretary, and the Northern Irish Transport Minister to discuss items on the Transport Council agenda, in particular TEN-T. In a separate discussion after Transport Council, I exchanged views on TEN-T and better regulation with the Siim Kallas, the Transport Commissioner.
The UK did not participate in the vote on one item on the A point list, namely article 81 based Council decision authorising the EU to accede to the 2002 protocol to the Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea. The UK has, however, subsequently notified its intention to opt in to the Council decision.
The Danish delegation presented the work programme of their forthcoming presidency of the EU. The incoming Danish presidency’s overarching aim in the transport sector will be “green growth” and they will take forward work on current Council dossiers. For example, they will be seeking to reach a Second Reading agreement with the European Parliament on the recast of the first railway package. They will also commence work on proposals included in the recently published Commission work programme, such as the airport package and the proposals on driving licences and the satellite navigation programmes, as well as on an expected proposal on enforcement of the maritime labour convention. Their main priorities are the TEN-T guidelines and the airport package, especially ground handling and noise reduction proposals.
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Red Tape Challenge (Reform of Road Transport Regulations)
The Secretary of State for Transport (Justine Greening): In May, my Department launched the road transportation theme of the red tape challenge—part of the Cabinet Office’s project to review all of the outstanding regulations currently on the statute book. Following a detailed process of challenge, stakeholder discussion and public feedback, I am now pleased to announce the results.
Within the road transport red tape challenge, my Department put forward every secondary regulation relating to road transportation for public discussion—415 in total. Some 376 of these are judged still to be live, and of these I propose to scrap, merge, simplify, amend or improve 142—well over a third. The detailed breakdown I propose is:
||Keep as is||Improve||Scrap||Moved (1)|
|(1) Moved regulations will be finalised under a different section of the red tape challenge.|
Scrapping the regulation requiring motorists to hold a paper counterpart to their driving licence by 2015—saving drivers up to £8 million;
Improving the regulation surrounding the notification process for vehicles that are not in use on the road (Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN). Once drivers have notified the DVLA that their vehicle is SORN, they will no longer have the burden of annual SORN renewal;
Only issuing hard-copies of V5C vehicle registration certificates for fleet operators when needed (with the potential to offer the same to private motorists);
Introducing a limited exemption from drivers’ hours rules so that those who also drive as Territorial Army reservists in their own time can continue to do so.
Removing the need for an insurance certificate. The Department for Transport will work with the insurance industry on removing the need for motorists to have to hold an insurance certificate.
Abolishing the requirement for drivers to prove they have insurance when applying for tax, meaning 600,000 more people will be able to tax their car online. This has been made possible by new checks of existing databases for insurance under new continuous
insurance enforcement rules. (The DVLA’s records are now compared regularly with the motor insurance database (MID) to identify registered keepers of vehicles that appear to have no insurance).
We will look at experience in other countries on driver certificates of professional competence (CPC)—the qualification for professional bus, coach and lorry drivers. In particular, to see if we could remove the need for some sectors, such as farmers who drive stock to market, from needing a CPC.
Local authorities will now have to ensure business interests are properly considered as part of any future proposed workplace parking levy scheme. They must show they have properly and effectively consulted local businesses, have
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addressed any proper concerns raised and secured support from the local business community.
Abolishing the regulations on the treatment of lost property on buses. Bus companies currently have to wait 48 hours before they can throw away perishable items left on the bus.
Overall, this represents an ambitious programme of deregulation, some elements of which will represent a major shift in the way my Department does business. I am pleased with the results of this section of the red tape challenge and the deregulatory mindset it has helped foster. I look forward to similar outcomes from the ongoing rail and maritime theme and next year’s examination of aviation red tape.
Work and Pensions
European Social Fund Support for Troubled Families
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): I am pleased to announce today that the Government have put in place additional support in England for troubled families and where either no one is working or there is a history of worklessness across generations.
This support, which is funded through money received by DWP in England from the European social fund, will offer these families the opportunity to engage in work related activities, address issues which are preventing them from working and enhance their chances of returning to the labour market either directly or through the Work programme. This supports the wider cross-Government agenda on troubled families led by Louise Casey, to help turn around the lives of such families.
The provision will be employment focused and tackle barriers which prevent individual family members from returning to the labour market. The provider will take a whole family approach with support being tailored to meet individual needs. Local authorities in England have a key role identifying families who are ready for this specific support and have been working with the DWP providers to enable this to happen. This joint working and engagement will be ongoing.
Workplace Pension Reform
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): I am pleased to announce that today we have achieved key milestones that will help secure a robust, efficient workplace pensions system for the 21st century.
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First, we are publishing “Meeting future workplace pensions challenges: improving transfers and dealing with small pots” (Cm 8184). This paper sets out actions that the Government are taking to make sure people get the most out of the money they save:
We will abolish short service refunds for defined contribution occupational schemes. These rules jeopardise pension savings for low to median earners and will not be part of the automatic enrolment world. We expect this rule change to happen as soon as 2014, provided we are able to implement an accompanying solution for small pot transfers at the same time. A full impact assessment is being published alongside the paper to take account of this change.
Abolishing short service refunds will create more small pension pots for defined contribution (DC) occupational schemes, but this is part of a much wider problem. We anticipate that automatic enrolment and a highly mobile jobs market will lead to around 4.7 million additional small pension pots in our pension system by 2050. The burden of these small pots is compounded by the fact that systemic barriers, like cost and complexity, prevent people from moving and consolidating their pensions into one place.
So our paper seeks views and evidence from stakeholders on how we can reduce the number of small pots and improve transfers. We discuss possible solutions: ranging from minimal changes to the current system to an automatic transfer system where pension pots can be collected in one or more “aggregator” schemes or could follow people from job to job. We welcome feedback on these possible approaches.
Alongside this paper we are also publishing a consultation on the 2012-13 review and revision of the automatic enrolment thresholds. This consultation invites contributions to inform how we take this review forward for the first year of automatic enrolment live running. It is important that we get this review right—so that we target the correct group for automatic enrolment while carefully weighing the cost to business and the impact on the pension industry.