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Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 16 July 2012
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Miss Chloe Smith): A simple efficient and cost-effective policy framework will meet environmental objectives while supporting growth and maintaining a sound fiscal position. Market-based solutions to price carbon are at the heart of this approach, achieving objectives at the lowest possible cost. Tax policy will be developed in the context of wider Government levers (such as voluntary agreements and regulations) and overlap of policy instruments will be avoided.
The tax is explicitly linked to the Government’s environmental objectives; and
The primary objective of the tax is to encourage environmentally positive behaviour change; and
The tax is structured in relation to environmental objectives—for example, the more polluting the behaviour, the greater the tax levied.
The Government have defined the following as environmental taxes based on these principles. These taxes will form the baseline for the proportion of tax revenues from environmental taxes, against which the Government will be assessed against the coalition’s commitment to increase the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by environmental taxes:
Climate Change Levy;
EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS);
Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme;
Carbon Price Support.
Building on the baseline established here for environmental taxation, the Government will continue to explore opportunities to further green the tax system over the course of this Parliament. There are a number of environmental priorities which could be pursued through the tax system including:
Climate change mitigation; carbon reduction; energy efficiency.
Climate change adaptation; water efficiency, water quality in the environment (diffuse pollution), flood mitigation.
Environmental protection and improvement: waste reduction, protection of virgin resource, biodiversity, air quality.
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|Revenue Forecast for Environmental Taxes|
|Tax||Actual Revenue Raised 2010/11||Actual Revenue Raised 2011/12||Revenue Forecast 2012/13||Revenue Forecast 2013/14||Revenue Forecast 2014/15||Revenue Forecast 2015/16|
|Based on Budget 2012 forecasts including impact of Budget 2012 announcements. Total Revenues as % of GDP = 0.2% (2011/12)|
These are taxes and fiscal instruments which are primarily designed to raise revenue or to achieve other objectives, and therefore do not qualify as environmental taxes on the basis of the Government’s three principles. However these instruments may have an environmental impact due to behavioural change and in some cases may be explicitly designed to do so. On that basis, the Government believe that it is important to make reference to the revenue (or revenue forgone) of transport taxes, levies and exemptions/reliefs in its overall assessment of environmental taxation.
For example, vehicle excise duty is primarily a revenue raising tax but is, for cars bought new after 2001, structured to incentivise the purchase of cars with lower CO2 emissions. Other taxes may include reliefs or exemptions which promote environmentally positive behaviour change but within a wider set of objectives.
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|Examples of Revenue-Raising Taxes and Fiscal Instruments with Secondary Environmental Benefits|
|Tax||Actual Revenue Raised 2010/11||Actual Revenue Raised 2011/12||Revenue Forecast 2012/13||Revenue Forecast 2013/14||Revenue Forecast 2014/15||Revenue Forecast 2015/16|
|Based on Budget 2012 forecasts (*)Based on OBR forecast|
The Government also accept this broad definition but the Government’s definition focuses on the taxes that are explicitly environmental (e.g. climate change levy, landfill tax, aggregates levy etc) and those that are environmentally related but primarily revenue raising (e.g. fuel duty, air passenger duty, vehicle excise duty etc).
Non-departmental Public Body (Pension Reform)
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Danny Alexander):
The Government accepted the recommendations of Lord Hutton’s Independent Public Service Pensions Commission (IPSPC) as the basis for discussion with unions on the reform of public service pensions, Official Report, 23 March 2011,column 951. The Hutton pension reform process was explicitly applicable to public service pensions in general, including non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and other types of public bodies as the interim IPSPC report (page 134) made clear. As announced in the Queen’s Speech on 9 May, the Government intend to bring forward legislation during the current parliamentary Session to provide a consistent legal framework for
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public service pensions. Those reforms will allow the major unfunded public service pension schemes to provide pension benefits to employees of new and existing NDPBs with unfunded pension schemes. In future, new bespoke schemes for NDPBs will be allowed only in compelling circumstances, provided they follow Lord Hutton’s design recommendations. The Government will consider further how to reform funded defined benefit schemes in line with Lord Hutton’s recommendations. Funded defined contribution schemes will not be reformed as part of this process as they do not impose liabilities on the Exchequer. A provisional list of existing NDPBs’ pension schemes due for reform will be published when the Bill is introduced.
The Government will honour in full the accrued rights earned by all scheme members and, where applicable, will maintain the final salary link for past service for current members. Members of NDPB pension schemes will also benefit from my announcement on 2 November 2011 that no-one within 10 years of retirement on 1 April 2012 will see any change in when they can retire nor any decrease in the amount of pension they receive, Official Report, 2 November 2011, columns 928-29.
Once the major scheme reforms are settled, we will look to begin discussions with NDPB staff and their representatives, whom we invite to work with the Government to ensure the changes are introduced as effectively as possible no later than 5 April 2018.
Business, Innovation and Skills
Retail and Manufacturing Consultation (Government Response)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Norman Lamb): The Government are committed under the red tape challenge to reduce the burden of regulation which acts as a barrier to growth. Unnecessary regulation has to be removed especially if it is outdated and no longer applies.
We are today laying before the House two statutory instruments which will revoke 13 measures identified under the retail and manufacturing themes of the red tape challenge. Three of these measures were introduced to revoke previous instruments.
Many of these statutory instruments were introduced to tackle a specific problem relating to a particular product such as safety issues arising from hood cords on outer clothing or safety standards for prams and pushchairs. While these regulations may be very effective at stamping out the problem they were designed to tackle, they are not flexible enough to deal with new products or practices. The revocation of these measures is beneficial as some of them are based on standards which are redundant.
Prescriptive regulations in the areas covered are no longer necessary and this was the general view highlighted in the consultation responses. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 protect consumers from products
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which are not safe for use, provided the supporting European standards offer an acceptable level of safety protection. In addition to this the issue of price fixing is now covered by the Competition Act 1998 which deals with agreements and practices which prevent, restrict or distort competition.
Bunk Beds (Entrapment Hazards) (Safety) Regulations 1987 (SI 1987/1337)
Children’s Clothing (Hood Cords) Regulations 1976 (SI 1976/2)
Imitation Dummies (Safety) Regulations 1993 (SI 1993/2923)
Wheeled Child Conveyances (Safety) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/2866)
Gas cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989/149)
Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Regulations 1991 (SI 1991/2693)
Gas Catalytic Heaters (Safety) Regulations 1984 (SI 1984/1802)
All-Terrain Motor Vehicle (Safety) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989/2288)
Cooking Utensils (Safety) Regulations 1972 (SI 1972/1957)
Indication of Prices (Beds) Order 1978 (SI 1978/1716)
Child Resistant Packaging and Tactile Danger Warnings (Safety) (Revocation) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/2620)
Stands for Carry-cots (Safety) (Revocation) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/2756)
Magnetic Toys (Safety) (Revocation) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/1347)
Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1554)
Pencils and Graphic Instruments (Safety) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/2406)
2011 Census Results (England and Wales)
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The 22nd decennial census of population for England and Wales was taken on 27 March 2011. Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes the first results in a report that I have laid before the House this morning.
Everyone in the country uses public services at various times—such as schools, health services, roads, public transport, job centres and libraries. These services need to be planned to keep pace with the changing demographics of the country. Government, local authorities, the health service, the education and academic community, commercial business, professional organisations and the public at large all need reliable information on the number and characteristics of people and households if they are to conduct their activities effectively. This need is currently best met by conducting a census every 10 years covering the whole of the population, and by updating the population estimates each year from the census benchmark.
Throughout the UK, broadly the same questions are asked and the information recorded in the same way. This allows the comparison of different groups of people and small areas across the entire nation. It also provides
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the opportunity of comparing various characteristics of the population and, owing to a high degree of consistency between censuses, allows the measurement of change over time.
The results of the 2011 census for England and Wales, which will in total comprise many hundreds of detailed tabulations designed to meet a wide range of users’ needs, are being published in a series of phased releases over the next 12 months. This first release will establish the new baseline for ONS’s population estimates for the next 10 years, and will help to determine the allocation of future local government funding. The release covers estimates of:
the usually resident population by single years of age and five-year age bands, by sex for England and Wales together, for England and for Wales;
the usually resident population by five-year age bands, by sex for regions, counties and local authority areas;
the number of households for England and Wales together, for England, for Wales and for regions, counties and local authority areas;
the number of non-UK short-term residents for local authority areas.
The final figures show that the usually resident population of England and Wales was 56,076,000, an increase of 7% since 2001. The response rate to the census was 94 % nationally, representing a small improvement on the 2001 census. However, response rates have improved markedly in many of the areas that were found to be most challenging in the 2001 census. The published results make full allowance for those people who did not complete a census form.
Although additional processing has been carried out this time, and an intense programme of quality assurance has been undertaken, publication of these figures is six weeks ahead of the corresponding report from the 2001 census. These first results are being made publicly available via the ONS website and are accompanied by a range of supporting information, including the response rate for each local authority area.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency will today publish a similar but separate first release from the census in Northern Ireland. The first release from the census in Scotland will be published by the National Records of Scotland in December.
Further releases over the next 12 months will cover the more detailed results. Within these, data from the full range of questions included in the census will be cross-analysed and presented for a range of geographies down to the lowest level—“census output area” (an output area is, on average, 125 households or 250 people). Strict measures of statistical disclosure control will be applied to each release to ensure that no individual person or household will be identified from the information released.
In line with Government policy on open data, these later releases will be available via the ONS website in a format that will make it easy for organisations and individuals to use the detailed results in their own systems and websites, increasing the use and exploitation of the census results.
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and socio-economic data from a variety of sources with the aim of providing a viable alternative methodology for collecting census data. The outcome of that review will be reported in 2014 in time to implement plans by 2021.
Logistic Commodities and Services (Transformation)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): I can today announce the launch of an initial phase of a planned transformation project within Logistic Commodities and Services (LCS), part of defence equipment and support.
The primary role for LCS is to provide support to military operations and force generation by undertaking procurement and inventory management of all non-explosive commodity items, including food, clothing, fuel, and medical supplies. This also involves the storage and distribution of these commodity items, together with all other non-explosive stock across defence.
The transformation project aims to consider how we can improve inventory management and stock control, rationalise current stock holdings, improve and rationalise storage infrastructure (releasing surplus for disposal), improve commodity procurement and logistic processes, and optimise the size of the LCS organisation. Under the current model, each commodity area operates in isolation. The storage infrastructure itself requires investment to improve its condition and to rationalise the numerous dispersed locations.
This initial phase of the project, the assessment phase, has now commenced and will explore the alternative delivery models available and whether these would represent value for money. This work will explore two options for delivering support in the future; industry integration and an in-house developed value for money benchmark. No decisions on the final operating model or locations will be made until the assessment phase is complete. This phase will take a minimum of 12 months to complete. The formal process of TU consultation will be followed throughout the project.
Deputy Prime Minister
“Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists” (Summary of Responses)
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): On 20 January 2012, the Government issued the Cabinet Office’s consultation document “Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists”. The consultation closed on 20 April.
I am pleased to announce that a summary of responses to the Government’s consultation document “Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists”, has been published today, which sets out our next steps in terms of policy development.
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Taking into account the evidence—including the recently published report by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on the Government’s proposals—we will now develop revised policy proposals with the intention of publishing a White Paper and draft Bill during this Session of Parliament. As part of this process, Government officials intend to meet with a number of respondents to make sure that their points have been fully understood and would be open to meeting any other respondents if they request to do so.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): Over recent weeks we have seen exceptional amounts of rainfall, culminating in the flooding seen in June and most recently over the past couple of weeks. The period from April to June has been the wettest on record and the Government and other agencies have mounted a co-ordinated response in the face of this unseasonal weather.
Earlier in July, areas of south and east Devon received the average rainfall for the whole of July in only 18 hours, with up to 50 mm recorded. Recent flooding has been exacerbated by the wet ground conditions from the exceptionally wet weather through June.
We estimate the number of properties affected in England to be at least 3,000, but as final numbers are collated across the impacted areas this could rise to 4,000. Our sympathies are with all those who have suffered flooding, especially those in the worst affected areas including Crawshawbooth, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Dorset. The Environment Agency estimates that 80 properties were flooded over the weekend in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Shropshire. I know that local communities are pulling together as the recovery operation begins in earnest, and I hope that all will be able to return to their homes as soon as possible.
The Government have activated the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to help local authorities affected by the recent floods with the immediate costs associated with protecting life and property in their areas. Exceptionally, the scheme will reimburse local authorities for 100% of their eligible costs above threshold, instead of the standard 85% as stated in the Bellwin scheme guidance. This is in recognition of the particular circumstances around these floods and will give the affected local authorities assurance that such costs will be reimbursed.
Protecting our communities against flooding is a vital area of the work of Government, and I am pleased to say that during the events in June and July to date, the Environment Agency estimates that at least 37,000 properties in England have been protected which would otherwise have flooded, through a combination of flood defences, maintenance work, storage basins and temporary defence measures. An example of the benefit of recently
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completed flood defences is Carlisle—devastatingly flooded in 2005—which has now been saved twice from serious flooding since the defences were built. In addition, flood warnings have been issued to over 167,000 properties.
In our changing climate, we will never be able to completely prevent flooding as we have seen this past fortnight, and also In June. However, through the excellent preparations and work of front-line responders, including the police, fire service, local authorities and the Environment Agency, and the investment being made by Government, we are better prepared for flooding than ever before.
The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) who is responsible for the natural environment and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) will be giving a technical briefing for MPs from relevant affected constituencies this afternoon.
With the immediate outlook continuing unsettled, further flooding is a possibility and the Government and relevant agencies remain vigilant. People should continue to be alert to forecasts and warnings, and be prepared to respond if required.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Afghanistan (Monthly Report)
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 19th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.
On 1 July three UK servicemen were shot and killed by a member of the Afghan police as they left an Afghan check point in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. An Afghan policeman was detained following the attack and an investigation into the incident has been launched. This tragic event will be reported on fully in July’s statement.
In June the UK continued to support job creation and private sector development in Afghanistan, including in Helmand. Through our support to Mercy Corps more than 1,500 male and female students graduated from technical and vocational education and training courses in June. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board approved the first review of Afghanistan’s programme of support, but more work needs to be done by the Afghan Government to progress key reforms. This approval is vital for giving donors the confidence to make long-term funding commitments at the Tokyo conference. Full details of outcomes of the Tokyo conference will be covered in the July report.
The Kabul ministerial conference on the Istanbul process took place on 14 June. I attended, together with Foreign Ministers from the region and supporting countries. The conference endorsed key confidence building measures in security, development and economic affairs. The Secretary of State for International Development visited
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Afghanistan between 30 June and 3 July to press the Afghan Government to commit to key reforms in the run up to the Tokyo conference.
An Extraordinary Session of the Afghan Parliament was held on 21 June to debate governance and corruption issues. Over 150 MPs and Senators attended, even though the Session was held during the Afghan Parliament recess. This was the first time that such a Session had taken place.
Strategic Needs Assessment and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): We will be publishing a consultation document seeking views on draft statutory guidance on the preparation of Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies during the summer recess. “Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies”—draft guidance” will be placed in the Library at the appropriate time. The document will also available electronically at: www.dh.gov.uk/health/category/publications/consultations/.
Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies are about the NHS, local government and communities working together to improve health and wellbeing outcomes and reduce inequalities. The purpose of statutory guidance in relation to this is to:
lay out the statutory duties, which underpin Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies to be undertaken by clinical commissioning groups and local authorities through health and wellbeing boards from April 2013;
explain how Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies and commissioning plans fit together in the modernised health and care system; and
set out how the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy process will enable the NHS and local government, working with their community and partner organisations, to make real improvements to the health and wellbeing outcomes of local people.
We will be consulting on the draft guidance to ensure that it is clear and fit for purpose in supporting health and wellbeing boards in undertaking Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies from April 2013. It is also an opportunity to seek views on what further supportive materials health and wellbeing boards would find useful in undertaking Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies; which the Department can work with sector-leaders to develop.
This consultation will take place over the shortened period of eight weeks due to the fact that the Department undertook engagement with health and wellbeing boards earlier in the year to inform this guidance. We will be publishing the consultation during summer recess to be able to support emerging health and wellbeing boards
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as they refresh their Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and develop Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies in order to underpin their commissioning plans ready for April 2013.
Sector Regulation - Consultation and Implementation
Following Royal Assent of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the Department of Health and Monitor are working on proposals on matters relating to implementation of the Act’s provisions on sector regulation. A number of consultation documents will be published over the next year, setting out these proposals and asking for views.
Today’s document describes what the various consultation documents will cover and sets out the expected timing of the consultations. It is designed to ensure that all those with an interest are aware of and able to read and respond to the consultations. The document also sets the consultations in context by recapping the aims and key components of the health and care modernisation programme as a whole, and of sector regulation in particular.
“Sector regulation: update on plans for consultation and implementation” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
The Police ICT Company
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 the creation of a new police information communications technology (ICT) company.
Last year, I announced that I would help the police service set up a police ICT company to offer forces a route to better services and better deals. Since then, my Department has been working with key partners in the policing community to design a company that will be responsive to their needs and enable police forces to get better value for their ICT spend.
The company is intended to be owned by police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and led by police forces, as customers. Given that PCCs are not elected until November, my Department has been putting in place arrangements to create the company with interim owners. This will ensure that momentum for the company continues and policing partners can lead the shaping and development of its operations, so that a viable company can be offered to the PCCs to take forward once in office.
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I am pleased to announce my Department has now legally incorporated “The Police ICT Company Ltd.”, a company limited by guarantee. The company is jointly owned by the Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the Home Office. The owners are appointing 12 directors from the policing community to form the board of directors of the company so the company will be police-led. The board of directors will be responsible for electing a chair and recommending the appointment of an interim CEO. The APA ownership will transfer to Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) ownership in November, thus providing continuity through the transition.
The purpose of The Police ICT Company at this stage, through its board of directors, is to provide governance and oversight of the activities necessary to make the company fully operational after PCCs are elected. These activities include generating the long-term ownership group, agreeing the governance of the ownership group and development of the business plan and organisational design.
The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) functions transferring to the new company in due course (the Home Office in the interim) will include: ICT strategy, ICT contract management, procurement and service management, and the management and implementation of ICT projects and programmes.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): From today we will be piloting a domestic violence disclosure scheme in Gwent and Wiltshire police force areas, and in Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire police force areas by no later than Monday 10 September 2012.
The pilot will test a process for enabling the police to disclose to the public information about previous violent offending by a new or existing partner where this may help protect them from violent offending. There will be two elements to the disclosure scheme. The first will be triggered by a request by a member of the public (“right to ask”). The second will be triggered by the police where they make a proactive decision to disclose the information in order to protect a potential victim (“right to know”). Both processes can be implemented within existing legal powers.
I am committed to strengthening our response to tackling domestic violence and supporting victims. I want to ensure that the public has confidence that a clear framework exists with recognised and consistent processes for disclosing information that meets their needs. We will therefore consider the learning from the pilot very carefully before deciding on next steps.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (Annual Report and Accounts)
The Minister for Equalities (Lynne Featherstone): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s 2011-12 annual report and accounts. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
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Police Professional Body
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): In December I set out plans to establish a professional body to increase professionalism in policing. In March I announced which of the National Policing Improvement Agency’s (NPIA) functions would transfer to the new body when the agency closes in December.
The College of Policing will protect the public interest, enhance policing standards, identify evidence of what works in policing and share best practice. It will support the education and professional development of staff and officers and it will motivate the police and partners to work together to achieve a shared purpose, including taking a major role in shaping the work of the higher education sector to improve the broader body of evidence on which policing professionals rely.
It will place officers and police staff members at the heart of the profession, helping them exercise discretion and solve problems to fight crime, including by stripping away burdensome bureaucracy and trusting the judgment of skilled professionals.
I am seeking to create a body that will operate independently of Government. During the interim, while we prepare the necessary legislation, I am aiming to establish a company with the intention of replacing it with a statutory body.
A board will oversee the work of the new body and will comprise police and non-police representatives. Democratically elected police and crime commissioners will be represented on the board and the non-police service representatives will ensure the body serves the public interest.
Those NPIA functions transferring to the new body later this year will do so with their allocated budgets until 2015. I will consider future funding options with the board of the professional body once it is established.
The current role of all Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) business areas in developing national standards and police practice will come within the responsibility of the College of Policing. In future, the business area leads will form the core of the College of Policing Professional Committee, chaired by the chief executive, and they will work co-operatively with both the College of Policing and with Chief Constables’ Council in the interests of the police service and the public. As the College of Policing develops there will be greater integration with the work of the business areas.
There is no plan to require individual officers and staff to pay to be members of the College of Policing, for their training or to sit exams. These are issues which the statutory college may consider in the future. The college will not issue any licence to practise policing.
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Inquests (Service Personnel Overseas)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): My honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest of our quarterly statements to the House giving details of the inquests of service personnel who have died overseas. When we make these statements, we remember all of our service personnel who have served, or are now serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we reaffirm our lasting gratitude. We remember the families of those service personnel who have given their lives for their country in connection with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our thoughts are with them. We particularly remember the families of the 10 service personnel who have died since our last statement in May.
In this statement we are announcing the current status of inquests conducted by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, the Oxfordshire coroner, and other coroners in England and Wales. This statement gives the position at 8 July 2012.
To supplement this statement I have placed tables in the Libraries of the Houses. The tables include the status of all current cases and the date of death in each case. They display information about those cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held.
The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice will continue working closely together, with the aim of improving our processes and continuing the Government’s support for the coroners who are conducting these inquests. We will also work closely with the new Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, when he takes up post in September. Once again we would take the opportunity to thank coroners, their staff, and everyone who is seeking to support families and provide information, throughout the inquest process and afterwards.
So that no backlog of inquests will develop, both Departments have provided funding for additional resources since October 2007. Before 1 September 2011, these resources were provided to the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, Mr David Ridley, because RAF Lyneham, within his district, was the venue for the repatriation of service personnel. Following the transfer of repatriation ceremonies to RAF Brize Norton on 1 September 2011, we now also provide additional resources to the Oxfordshire coroner.
Since the last statement there have been seven inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. A total of 544 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 23 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. No formal inquest was held in three other cases. In two of these cases the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident. In the third case, where the serviceman died of his injuries in Scotland, the Lord Advocate has decided not to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
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The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained 11 of the remaining open inquests, the Oxfordshire coroner has retained 17, and 21 are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Hearing dates have been set in six cases.
Six inquests remain to be held for service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. One inquest date has been set. When continuing investigations into the remaining five cases are completed, they will be listed for hearing.
Northern Ireland Security (Update)
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): The Government are committed to putting greater information in the public domain about security threats to the United Kingdom generally. At the time of announcing the winding-up of the Independent Monitoring Commission, I made a commitment to provide bi-annual updates to this House on the security situation in Northern Ireland. I made the first of these statements in February and this is my second such update.
Shortly after coming to office the Government reviewed the security situation and developed a new strategic approach to tackling Northern Ireland related terrorism. We agreed in 2011 an exceptional additional £200 million of investment for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) over four years. This is producing results.
There are still a small number who favour violence and reject democracy. They have no respect for life, no respect for human rights and no respect for the will of the people in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
While the overall threat levels remain the same, however, progress has been made. The excellent work of the PSNI and other partners tackling the current threat has led to some considerable successes in recent months, with some significant arrests, charges and convictions.
There have been a total of 76 arrests so far this year, including arrests by An Garda Síochána in the Republic of Ireland. There have also been 37 charges against those involved in national security attacks brought since January 2012, including a number of charges for serious
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terrorism related offences. A number of weapons and improvised explosive devices have been seized. These combined efforts have had a positive impact. Despite this, however, attacks continue and the intent of groups engaged in Northern Ireland related terrorism remains high.
The Real IRA (RIRA), the Continuity IRA (CIRA), and the group that refers to itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) all continue to be very active, as do a number of “unaffiliated”, but no less dangerous, individuals. In June, the paramilitary organisation Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), which regularly conducts brutal shootings against people in Londonderry, attacked the PSNI with a pipe bomb. The PSNI is pursuing a strategy to tackle the actions of both this group and other reckless vigilante organisations, which command little support from the wider community.
Terrorists continue to seek access to funding and weaponry. They have been undertaking training as well as targeting. Paramilitary groups also continue to be involved in a range of criminal activity, often at the expense of their own communities—both to fund their activities and their individual lifestyles.
Since my last statement on 27 February 2012, Official Report, column 16WS, there have been nine confirmed national security attacks (bringing the total to 14 confirmed attacks so far this year). All but one have been pipe bombs, which have primarily been used to attack PSNI officers or their families. These included a device thrown at a property where PSNI were attending a call out and a number of pipe bombs, which were thrown at PSNI officers while carrying out a clearance operation of a suspicious object. In the most recent confirmed national security attack, a pipe bomb was thrown at a PSNI vehicle patrol; the device functioned but did not cause any injuries or damage to the vehicle. The other attack was a large improvised explosive device containing over 600 lb of home made explosive which was abandoned near the Irish border at Newry. This was successfully defused by ammunition technical officers. It was destined to be an attack on the community in Northern Ireland and would certainly have endangered lives.
In addition to the attacks outlined above, during rioting in North Belfast on 12 July a number of shots were fired at police officers who were there to ensure compliance with the legal determination of the Parades Commission and to facilitate the rights of both loyalist and nationalist members of the community. This should be considered nothing less than the attempted murder of police officers.
There have been no serious injuries as a result of national security attacks this year. We cannot, however, be complacent. The devices used have all had the potential to cause death or serious injury. The community in Northern Ireland have had their daily lives disrupted as a result of terrorist activities.
In addition to direct attacks, terrorist groups seeking to attack the police in Northern Ireland have continued to use hoax devices, acts of criminal damage or orchestrated disorder to create fear in the community and draw police into areas in order to attack them. This tactic is designed to make it harder for the PSNI to provide a good community policing service and should be roundly condemned by all. Despite that, confidence levels in
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policing across Northern Ireland have continued to rise. The chief constable continues to place community policing at the heart of his policing plan.
As I noted in my last written ministerial statement on the current threat in Northern Ireland, the UDA and UVF leaderships remain committed to their ceasefires, although individuals associated with these groups continue to be engaged in criminal activity.
Both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups continue to carry out paramilitary style assaults. Republican paramilitary groups also continue to carry out shootings on members of their own community. These attacks are both cowardly and sickening. They show a complete disregard for the human rights of their victims and for their families.
The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland stand by the principle that Northern Ireland’s future will only ever be determined by democracy and consent, as established by the Belfast agreement. This is a settlement that requires all those involved in the political process to pursue legitimate goals through exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
Cross-border co-operation in the area of security is vital. I keep in very close contact with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, and the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD. The levels of co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána to tackle the threat is unprecedented and has almost certainly saved lives.
In conclusion this Government remain committed to tackling the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland. It is vital that we continue to do this in pursuit of our objectives of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland in which everyone has a genuinely shared future.
EU Bus and Coach Passenger Rights
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I will be publishing a consultation on Wednesday 18 July which puts forward the Government’s plans for applying the EU regulation on bus and coach passenger rights. This aims to ensure bus and coach passengers have rights similar to those using other modes of transport.
The regulation, which mainly applies to bus and coach journeys over 155 miles (250 km), lays out the responsibilities of operators and terminal owners in the case of delays, cancellations, accidents and other issues affecting passengers, including disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility.
The public consultation will offer the chance for those affected by this EU regulation to put forward their opinions on domestic enforcement measures, the use of available exemptions and the designation of terminals served by long-distance services where specific assistance has to be provided to disabled people and people with reduced mobility.
I believe that the approach outlined in the consultation strikes the right balance between passenger protection and operator competitiveness. I look forward to receiving responses from interested parties.
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Fuel Quality Directive
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): Today I am publishing our response to the comments received in the consultation on our proposals to expand the scope of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) Order 2007 to include non-road mobile machinery.
The fuel quality directive (articles 1 and 7a(2)) requires that suppliers of fuels used in non-road mobile machinery should be obliged to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensities of the fuels they supply. Our preferred approach for implementing this requirement of the directive is to amend the current RTFO Order 2007. However, given concerns about the sustainability of some biofuels, it is important that this change does not at this point result in an increase in the absolute volume of biofuel supplied in the UK.
Moreover, following concerns raised during consultation on engine compatibility and storage issues relating to biofuel used in non-road mobile machinery, we have, as announced previously, delayed making this change immediately so as to give industry and transport users time to prepare in terms of infrastructure and information. The requirement will come into force in April 2013. We understand the need for gas oil users to have accurate information on biofuel content. We hope the delay will give them time to engage with gas oil suppliers to ensure that biofuel-free gas oil will be available. DFT guidance on improving the flow of information between non-road mobile machinery users and fuel suppliers is available at the following link:
The Secretary of State for Transport (Justine Greening): Today I am publishing a consultation document detailing proposals to simplify the process of applying for the stopping up or diversion of a highway, where this is required for the purpose of property development.
The Penfold review examined various development consents, additional to planning permission, which developers must apply for. It identified measures the Government could take to minimise the burden of complying with and administering these consents, while maintaining the essential benefits that they protect.
We propose to permit applications for a stopping up or diversion order to be submitted at the same time as applying for planning permission, whereas under existing legislation the developer can only apply after securing planning permission, and are consulting on options for devolving decision making to the local authority level.
These measures were committed to in the 2011 autumn statement and will help to deliver the Government’s growth agenda, by removing unnecessary burdens faced by businesses, speeding up the application process and removing unnecessary bureaucracy. They will play a useful role in encouraging investment and therefore growth in local communities.
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Most of the policy options in the consultation will require primary legislation to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as it applies to England. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, we intend to deliver this through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Justine Greening): Today I am announcing my high level output specification (HLOS) for the railway, as required by the Railways Act 2005. Covering the period from 2014 to 2019, it describes my vision for a railway which is more financially and environmentally sustainable, which supports economic growth and which delivers for its passengers and freight customers.
I am confirming £16 billion of public support for rail in this period, which will support £9.4 billion of infrastructure enhancement. Some £5.2 billion of this has previously been committed, including Thameslink, Crossrail and electrification of the Great Western main line and in the north-west and Yorkshire. The additional £4.2 billion includes:
A new electric spine—a passenger and freight corridor linking the core centres of population and economic activity in the east and west midlands and Yorkshire with the south of England, which includes electrifying the midland main line.
Further targeted electrification alongside this, including the Great Western main line from Cardiff to Swansea and the
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Welsh Valleys; between Micklefield and Selby in Yorkshire and between Walsall and Rugeley in the west midlands.
Increased rail capacity for commuters, with over £700 million to be invested on the most congested routes in London and the south-east and over £400 million for other cities, including completing the northern hub that will link key northern cities bringing clear benefits to Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester Leeds and Sheffield. Taken with Crossrail, this will provide for 120,000 additional commuting trips per day into London in the morning peak and 20,000 into our other major cities.
Further investment on Great Western main line, including at Bristol and Oxford stations as well as additional track capacity on the approaches to Bristol.
Over £900 million investment in funding for smaller schemes to improve:
Today’s announcement represents another historic landmark in the regeneration and modernisation of Britain’s railway. This Government’s vision for the railways is clear—a railway system that is faster, more reliable, less crowded, and more green.
Just as we are dealing with the budget deficit, so we are also determined to deal with the massive infrastructure deficit we inherited. Rail is just one part of an unprecedented programme of transport investment this Government have put in place to drive growth and job creation in the UK economy. We are building HS2, investing £1 billion in strategic road schemes and supporting 56 local road schemes, as well as supporting light rail and bus projects.
Previous Governments have under-invested in rail. We will not repeat those mistakes. This is a Government with a long-term vision for a modem and efficient rail system that supports growth and improves competitiveness.