The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Today my right honourable and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) is laying before Parliament the Government’s response to the consultation on justice and security which was published on 19 October, as well as a response to the report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the same issue. I have also introduced the Justice and Security Bill which aims to deal with three main problems which have arisen with judicial and parliamentary scrutiny of the security and intelligence agencies.
First, a number of civil cases are not being heard in our courts because they hinge on national security sensitive evidence which the courts recognise cannot be disclosed openly. At present the Government’s only option is to try to settle these cases—often for large sums of money—even where the case has no merit.
Secondly, a damaging form of legal tourism has developed which allows someone fighting a case outside the UK to apply to a court in London to force disclosure of intelligence information held by the British, sometimes provided by our allies. This is seriously undermining confidence among our key allies, including the US.
There were 90 responses to our consultation, and the Government are grateful for the wide-ranging views we received. Many respondents recognised the underlying problems that they are trying to address. However, there was considerable concern that plans on CMPs were drawn up in a way that was excessively broad in scope and risked undermining this country’s proud tradition of civil liberties.
The Government’s position has always been that protecting the public should not come at the expense of our freedom. So, we have listened carefully to the views of those responding, including the work of the JCHR. We have extensively revised the measures in order to put beyond doubt that they are proportionate, targeted and include strong safeguards. On our central proposal to introduce closed material procedures (CMPs), we have now ensured that the judge has a more central role and will be able to grant a CMP only in relation to civil cases involving national security evidence—not crime or international relations. Inquests have been excluded, and we were never intending to make CMPs available in the criminal courts. The Bill ensures that no evidence currently heard in open court will be heard in secret in future, but that claims such as mistreatment or complicity in torture brought against the intelligence and security services which cannot currently be heard, can be heard.
The Government are strongly committed to open and transparent justice. However, courts have long accepted that highly sensitive intelligence material—for example, the names of security agents or information about the techniques used by the intelligence agencies—cannot be disclosed in open court. Under current rules, the only way of protecting this sort of material is to remove it from the court room entirely by applying for public interest immunity (PII). A problem arises in a tiny number of cases which hinge on secret intelligence material, where—if a PII application is successful—all, or most, of the material central to the case is excluded from consideration. The result is that these cases are not heard in court at all, meaning that cases have to be settled with no independent judgment on very serious allegations.
The settlement of the civil damages claims brought by former Guantanamo Bay detainees is an example of the inadequacies of the PII system. The evidence the Government needed to rely on in order to defend themselves was highly secret intelligence material, which could not be released in open court. The only option would have been to claim PII for the material. This process could have taken up to three years to complete, but there would still have been no judgment on the claims made: if a PII claim was successful the very material the Government needed to rely upon to defend their actions would have been excluded. The Government’s only practical option was therefore to settle the claims, for significant sums, without admitting liability.
The Government are therefore bringing forward proposals to allow this material to be heard in court in what is known as a “closed material procedure” (CMP) which provides the safeguards needed to ensure that sensitive material can be taken into account by the court, while ensuring that the damage to national security that would arise if it were openly disclosed can be prevented. CMPs are already available in a number of other areas of the civil law. In these cases the CMP would work as follows:
the Minister must first consider whether to make a claim for public interest immunity or whether to advise another to do so.the Minister would then apply to a judge who will determine whether the CMP can go ahead on the grounds that there was some material relevant to the case, the disclosure of which would damage national security. even where a CMP is granted, all evidence currently heard in open court would continue to be heard in open court, including all allegations against the state. only the particular pieces of national security evidence would be heard in closed court, and in relation to these pieces of material the judge will decide whether a summary of the evidence must be made available to the other party for the proceedings to be fair. And, in all cases, a special advocate will have access to material on behalf of the claimant that would currently be precluded. The overall effect for the claimant will be that they receive at least as much information as they would following a PII exercise.
as recommended by the JCHR, judicial reviews of naturalisation and exclusion cases will be heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
Many respondents to the consultation on these proposals made the point that closed material procedures are a departure from the tried and tested fundamentals of open justice. I entirely agree with them in principle—no Government propose measures in this area lightly. But CMPs are already available in a number of areas of law for the good reason that where the courts have recognised that the best option of hearing evidence in open is not available, they provide a fairer outcome than the alternative which is no justice at all. This is recognised by both the domestic and international courts, Lord Woolf finding for example that, “it is possible … to … achieve justice” in a CMP (M v SSHD).
The Bill also aims to ensure the protection of our intelligence sharing relationships and our domestically generated intelligence through reform of what is known as the “Norwich Pharmacal” jurisdiction—which has recently been used to allow someone fighting a case outside the UK to apply to a court in London for access to intelligence information held by the British, sometimes provided by our allies.
The aim of a Norwich Pharmacal application is to force a third party to disclose information which the claimant feels may be relevant to a case they are bringing elsewhere. Although developed in the intellectual property sphere, in the past three years there have been no fewer than nine attempts to use this jurisdiction in relation to secret intelligence which either belongs to the UK Government, or which our allies have shared with us. No other country in the world has such a jurisdiction. Indeed, there is not even a parallel jurisdiction in Scotland.
As the purpose of the proceedings is solely to gain disclosure of material, the Government do not have the option to withdraw from or settle these proceedings. If disclosure is ordered, and the Government do not succeed in an application for PII, the Government must release secret intelligence into the public domain.
We expect our allies to protect intelligence material we share with them from disclosure, and they expect the same from us. The inadequacies in our current ability properly to protect classified information provided by foreign governments has already seriously undermined confidence among our key allies, including the US. Robust legislative measures are essential to restore confidence among our allies, which is vital to our national security.
for agency-held material: the Government intend to legislate to exempt material held by or originating from one of the agencies from disclosure under a Norwich Pharmacal application. for national security or international relations material: the Government also intend to legislate to allow a Minister to sign a certificate in Norwich Pharmacal cases to protect non-agency material which would cause damage to national security or
international relations if disclosed. That certificate can be reviewed on judicial review principles. If upheld, the information could not be disclosed.
These measures have no impact on claims that the Government, or the security and intelligence agencies, have been directly involved in wrongdoing, nor do they prevent someone enforcing their convention rights.
Finally, and very importantly, the Bill will improve parliamentary oversight of the security and intelligence Agencies, most notably giving the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) the power to oversee the agencies’ operations, not just their administration, expenditure and policies—as is the case now. The ISC will be given a wider remit, and will in future report to Parliament as well as the Prime Minister. Parliament will be given the power to vote to reject the ISC’s membership. The power to withhold information from the ISC moves from the heads of the intelligence and security agencies to the Secretary of State responsible for that agency.
The Bill deals with issues of profound importance which go to the heart of our democratic values. The proposals it brings forward aim to improve executive accountability, equip our civil court system to handle sensitive intelligence material, and improve parliamentary scrutiny of the security and intelligence community.
Each department’s business plan sets out:its departmental priorities;the actions it will undertake to fulfil its priorities and when it will take these actions;its expenditure for each year of the spending review; and the indicators and other data it will publish on the cost and impact of the public services for which it is responsible.
a new annex has been added showing each department’s contributions to cross-cutting agendas including growth, social mobility, sustainable development, efficiency, Open Public Services, the Red Tape Challenge and the Civil Society Compact.the structural reform plan sections are more focused on actions that contribute to the Government’s reform agenda; activity representing “business as usual” has been moved to an annex; and
the information strategy section has been replaced by a summary of each department’s open data strategy, which will be published in full later this summer.
We are also improving the way that progress against the plans is reported. We have updated the business plans website, available at http://transparency.number10 .gov.uk/, so that it is clearer, more informative and easier to use. The information will also be published in open formats, so that users will be able to analyse the data more easily.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
2012 is a year of celebration and it was heartening to see how communities across the country came together to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Across the country thousands of street parties were held and I praise local councils for showing the spirit of celebration and taking a flexible approach to local residents’ party plans.
On 29 May, I endorsed and attended the launch of the Jubilee Hour campaign. Jubilee Hour calls on people across the UK to donate 60 minutes of their time to help their local community, to honour the Queen’s 60 years of service.
On 26 May, my department announced the first 12 Portas pilot towns. The pilots will receive a share of £1.2 million; a dedicated contact point in Government to provide advice and support to help identify and overcome challenges to local business growth; have access to free support from retail industry leaders and opportunities to meet and discuss with fellow pilots to enable them to secure the future of their town centres.
Over 370 applications to become Portas pilots were submitted from across the country and in response to the clear appetite my department has opened up a second round competition for a further 15 Portas pilots. Each will receive the same funding as round one winners. The deadline for applications is 30 June.
In addition to supporting our high streets my department wants to help ensure that local shopping parades, crucial to local neighbourhood economies, are not left lagging behind from lack of investment, anti-social behaviour and competition from online shopping and mega-store discounts. On 6 June, my department published a new guide that builds on the Portas support, giving hands-on practical advice and insights on how to restore local shops into vibrant business areas, highlighting the range of government support on offer to enable them to succeed.
This Government are determined to ensure that local residents get a fair deal on council tax that helps them with their cost of living. On 28 May, my department confirmed plans to amend some technical council tax rules to give elected local councils greater flexibility to help residents through fairer approaches to billing, second homes, empty homes and solar panels. These reforms could allow councils to make up to a £20 reduction in the bill for a typical Band D property in England, or hold bills down by the same amount.
These reforms will give local residents a new legal right to choose to pay their council tax bills in 12 monthly payments rather than 10 months; support the take-up of voluntary electronic billing; give councils greater local flexibility to choose to waive special tax relief on second homes and empty homes and allow councils to use the money to keep the overall rate of council tax down. Reforms will allow councils to tackle long-term empty homes through an empty homes premium. Reforms will also prevent a “sun tax” supplement on bills for homes with solar panels or the need for intrusive inspections where panels are installed by a third party under the “rent a roof” scheme.
The Government’s response to the technical consultation paper on council tax also outlined our plans to consider the issue of family annexes. My department is keen to remove more of the tax and regulatory obstacles to families having a live-in annex for immediate relatives—such as those for teenagers or their elderly grandparents—more commonly known as “granny flats”. While self-contained annexes occupied by those over 65 benefit from a council tax exemption, no form of relief is available for those under that age, and some families unreasonably face two separate council tax bills for one effective property.
While the levels of long-term empty homes are at the lowest levels since 2004, tackling the 720,000 empty properties and bringing thousands of homes back into use is a top priority. On 29 May, my department announced the 20 successful bids from local authorities that will receive a share of the £60 million Clusters of Empty Homes Fund. Empty homes can often attract anti-social behaviour and associated crimes such as vandalism and fly-tipping. By returning empty homes back into use we can provide families with much needed homes, kick start local training and employment opportunities and help to improve local communities.
In addition voluntary and community groups across the country will receive over £25 million to tackle individual empty properties in their area, to ensure that another 5,600 empty homes are occupied once again. In total, the coalition Government are providing £155 million of central funding, rising to £215 million including matched funding, to bring empty properties back into productive use.
We are giving communities the power to decide on future development in their local area and putting planning permission powers firmly back into the hands of local people. Under the new Community Right to Build, communities will be able to approve new local developments without the need to go through the normal planning application process, as long as the proposals meet certain criteria and there is the backing of more than 50 per cent of voters in a local referendum. On 29 May, my department made £17 million available to support communities to deliver building and development projects that the local area needs.
Tackling social housing waiting lists and getting families and vulnerable people into homes is a top priority. The Localism Act 2011 will give local authorities the flexibility to end the main homelessness duty by arranging an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector, without requiring the applicant’s consent. These changes to the homelessness legislation will give local authorities freedom to make better use of good-quality private rented sector accommodation. They are part of reforms to social housing to ensure that the system is fair; that good, affordable housing is available for those who genuinely need it; and that we get the best from our four million social rented homes.
On 31 May, my department published new safeguards to protect families housed in the private rented sector and ensure that safety standards and assurances are in place. This will provide extra legislative protection by preventing local authorities from using poor quality private rented accommodation for households owed the main homelessness duty. The consultation also sets out how homeless families should face the least possible disruption when being offered new accommodation and avoid the upheaval of long-distance moves.
On 6 June, my department strengthened the requirements under competent persons schemes that allow traders to self-check their own work. Organisations that run competent persons schemes now need to be accredited to an international quality standard in order
to operate; have to assess that their members' competence levels and actual work are up to national standards; and be required to promote the membership and use of their schemes.
These measures also ensure that householders have a financial safety net in place such as a guarantee or insurance, to catch them if self-check installers fail to finish work properly or if they cannot be chased through the courts.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Davey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Having considered over 600 written responses from a variety of organisations and individuals, I would like to thank all those who submitted a formal response or participated through the various activities held during the consultation. Feedback from the consultation directed our focus towards four key policy areas: strengthening consumer protection, reducing industry burdens, improving behind-the-scenes operations and revising ECO. I have acted on these areas, and full details of the final policy are set out in the government response.
Following consultation, this week I am laying before Parliament the key statutory instruments which establish the market framework of the Green Deal and ECO, subject to the affirmative procedure. I am laying these instruments alongside the final impact assessment, which evaluates the net present value of the policies. My department has simultaneously published associated research which informed our final conclusions. Later in June I will lay before Parliament a second tranche of more minor Green Deal statutory instruments subject to the negative procedure. I will also be bringing forward the Green Deal code of practice and modifications to energy licences and codes.
Having taken over this programme four months ago, I have spent this time talking to stakeholders and understanding how to ensure successful delivery. Mindful that we are creating the foundations for a market that will run through to 2030, and in light of representations I have received, the regulations I am laying today provide for a carefully managed introduction of the Green Deal starting this autumn.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the Green Deal legislation, accredited certification bodies will be able to submit applications to register with the Green Deal registration and oversight body from August. The certification bodies will then be able to register
those assessors and installers they have certified. Similarly, potential Green Deal providers will be able to apply for their approval. This will allow participants time to seek formal authorisation ahead of the introduction of the Green Deal framework in the autumn. It is important that the market will be able to test systems properly during the first weeks following the introduction of the Green Deal framework and ahead of the first fully completed Green Deal plans in early 2013. In the meantime, the energy company obligation (ECO) legislation I have put before Parliament today will ensure that a new ECO is established from October this year. This will mean that an estimated £1.3 billion worth per year of energy efficiency and heating measures can be delivered across Great Britain. This will be directed to vulnerable and lower-income households and carbon saving measures. The Government remain absolutely committed to tackling fuel poverty.
An important aspect of preparations is training the workforce, and I took an obligation in the Energy Act 2011 to report to Parliament on what steps I have taken to encourage Green Deal installation apprenticeships. On 8 March 2012, in co-operation with Asset Skills and Construction Skills, I announced £3.5 million to train up to 1,000 Green Deal insulation installers, and 1,000 Green Deal assessors to our new national occupational standard for Green Deal assessment. This training will also include the validation of existing installer training courses to meet the new Green Deal PAS 2030 requirements and the training of trainers to ensure quality training courses are available. I welcome the wide support from industry for this initiative and the huge level of interest reported by the sector skills councils. We believe the Green Deal has the potential to support up to 60,000 jobs in the insulation sector alone, more than doubling the number of jobs in the sector, and making a real contribution to green growth.
We will work with the insulation sector to explore the value of a second tranche of funding for training later in the year to help those moving from CERT and CESP and into related Green Deal installations. In addition to this, my department will continue to work with employers and the sector skills councils to ensure that the Government's wider apprenticeship frameworks support not only the Green Deal, but also green and sustainable construction more generally.
We have created a robust legal framework which enables a market in energy efficiency to flourish. We are committed to ensuring the interests of Green Deal providers and financiers remain protected to maintain the security of Green Deal asset and thus secure the lowest possible cost finance for consumers.
It is only sensible to keep regulations under review and, for the sake of transparency, I will commit now to review these regulations, in consultation with appropriate stakeholders, before 31 January 2018 and to publish the conclusions in a report. The report will set out the objectives of these regulations and assess the extent to which they were achieved, whether they remain appropriate and, if so, the extent to which they could be achieved with a system that imposes less regulation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Climate Change (Greg Barker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 26 March 2012 I reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to growing the UK market for renewable heat technologies by announcing further support for the domestic sector under a second phase of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme (RHPP). At the same time I set out our delivery timetable for providing longer term support for households, expanding the non-domestic scheme and transparent plans for staying within our budget for this year.
In March we consulted on a mechanism for more effectively managing the RHI budget in the short term. Today, I am pleased to publish our response which will ensure we have a stand-by budget management mechanism in place this summer, enabling the sustainability of the scheme by allowing us to keep within the budgetary limits set by the comprehensive spending review (CSR). Further, I can confirm that we are on track to consult on longer term proposals in July 2012 as planned.
To ensure the supply chain can be maintained with the available funds in this spending review period, we have set an upper limit of £70 million for 2012-13. However, it is important to note that the funding amounts announced in the spending review for 2013-14 and 2014-15 are unchanged.
The upper limit of £70 million ensures that the 2013-14 budget of £251 million would be enough to pay for existing installations and new installations, were the 2012-13 limit to be reached. A higher limit for 2012-13 would leave insufficient funds available in the following year for new installations and therefore could be very damaging to the renewable heat industry.
In the event of having to use the stand-by mechanism, a notice period of one week would allow for a much higher trigger point for suspension of the scheme (£67.9 million, 97% of the £70 million limit) compared with one months’ notice (£56 million, 80% of the £70 million limit) and would also reduce the chances of scheme suspension being triggered unnecessarily.
We recognise the need to provide comprehensive information on current and forecast scheme expenditure and make it publically available. To do this we will provide a weekly information update on our website, tracking our committed expenditure. If required we will also provide an estimated date of suspension prior to the formal notice period, in the event of an unexpected surge in uptake such that suspension is likely to be triggered.
I would like to thank all those people who helped us develop these plans. I can confirm that after careful consideration, should we need to use the stand-by mechanism, this will be done when the spend in 2012-13 is forecast to reach £67.9 million with a formal notification period of one week. Given current uptake figures, we do not currently envisage having to use this mechanism. However, we have learnt from our previous experiences and want to provide assurances to the market and the public that we are spending money on the RHI in a sustainable way.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science (David Willetts) has today made the following Statement.
The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 30 and 31 May 2012. I represented the UK on research issues on 31 May, and Norman Lamb, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, represented the UK on the internal market and industry issues on 30 May. A summary of those discussions follows.
The main internal market and industry issues discussed on 30 May were: the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) programme, mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ), digital single market & governance of the single market, the public procurement directive, online & alternative dispute resolution, and the unified patent court.
A partial general approach was agreed on the COSME proposals. Agreement covered everything except the budget figures, which will be inserted when the overall 2014-2020 EU budget is agreed. The UK argued against the suggestion to remove provisions in Article 19(2), which is a key provision to strengthen governance arrangements, and also argued against strengthening the tourism provisions.
An orientation debate was held on MRPQ. The UK intervened to call for more transparency and mutual evaluation of regulated professions to be carried out sooner rather than later, and to note a concern about any move to six years and 5,500 hours training for doctors. We were supported by several member states on the transparency point, and the Commission agreed to carry out a pilot transparency exercise.
Over lunch, there was a discussion on Single Market Act I and Single Market Act II. The presidency focused discussions on two questions regarding the challenges facing Europe relating to growth, and what actions should be included in the new Single Market Act. The UK intervened to state that we needed to create the right conditions for private sector growth by, for example, putting into place a proportionate and enabling regulatory framework, inspiring confidence in businesses and
consumers to invest and spend, and by removing the low level barriers and frustrations that take time and energy to overcome.
On priorities for the forthcoming Single Market Act II, we stated the need fully to implement the services directive, see a programme of single market governance enforcement measures, the need for prioritisation of the digital single market and for an ambitious package of better regulation measures.
A second orientation debate focused on two aspects of the public procurement dossier—e-procurement and governance. The presidency opened the debate by outlining its proposal to remove the governance structures from the proposals (focusing on tasks to be carried out by member states instead) and recalling the need to be ambitious and move to e-procurement by 2016. On e-procurement the UK, along with nine other member states, argued for a more gradual transition, noting that there are still some technological issues to overcome. Other member states called for a shorter deadline, whereas others supported the 2016 deadline. The presidency concluded that given the variation in views a 2016 deadline may appear to be appropriate. On governance, most member states supported the presidency approach, and we specifically noted our opposition to the reciprocity instrument.
Ministers agreed a general approach on online and alternative dispute resolution (ODR & ADR). The presidency had tabled an amendment that excluded government-funded further and higher education from the scope of the directive, which was an important UK objective. The UK intervened to support the text, and to explain why the exclusion was needed and why it would not affect other member states.
The final substantive point concerned the unified patent court, which was scheduled for political agreement. No new proposals or amendments regarding the draft agreement were put forward in advance of the Competitiveness Council and, while there was a brief discussion on the location of the central court with the UK setting out the case for London, there was no change in member state positions, nor was there any discussion on substantive policy issues. We expect this issue to be discussed again at the European Council in June.
There were three AOB points on internal market and industry. The first concerned state aid modernisation. The Commission set out its aims for reform of the state aid regime over the next 18 months. Debate was not anticipated, but several member states intervened to support the thrust of the initiative. The UK intervened to emphasise the need to protect the single market and focusing efforts on limiting distortive aid.
laying down the rules for participation and dissemination in Horizon 2020, the council decision establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon 2020 and the council regulation on the research and training programme of the European Atomic Energy Community complementing Horizon 2020; progress reports on the proposed decision on the strategic innovation agenda for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and amending regulation establishing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology; and adoption of council conclusions on European innovation partnerships.
Council agreed a partial general approach on the Horizon 2020 core regulation. Agreement did not cover the budget figures, which will be inserted when the overall 2014-2020 EU budget is agreed. I intervened to support retention of excellence as the primary funding criterion, the provisions in relation to funding of embryonic stem cell research and maintaining an appropriate balance between funding different sizes of project. I urged the Commission to bring ITER back within the multiannual financial framework. I argued for participants to have the option of being funded on the basis of actual indirect costs.
Ministers took note of presidency progress reports on the remaining Horizon 2020 legislation (the regulation laying down the rules for participation, the decision establishing the specific programme for implementing Horizon 2020, the regulation on the research and training programme of EURATOM and the decision and regulation relating to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)).
The council endorsed conclusions on European innovation partnerships (EIPs) restating the importance of engaging member states in the process at an early stage and ensuring that EIP steering boards included balanced representation.
The council also received an update from the Commission on the development of the innovation headline indicator, and a report on the work of the Strategic Forum for International Science & Technology Cooperation (SFIC) in 2011-12.
During lunch Ministers discussed the results achieved by the EIT since its establishment in 2008, and mechanisms for improving the links between higher education, research and innovation (the so-called “knowledge triangle”). I intervened in support of delegations calling for a more realistic budget than proposed by the Commission in view of the fact that the EIT was still a relatively unproven instrument.
A new fit-for-purpose Regulatory Framework for the Higher Education Sector
. Over 200 responses to the White Paper were received, and over 150 responses to the technical consultation.
We are today publishing the government response to both consultations. This provides a summary of respondents’ views and describes the progress Government are making to deliver a strong, financially sustainable and high quality HE sector; promote a better student experience; foster social mobility and widen participation; and create a more responsive higher education sector in which funding follows the decisions of learners and successful institutions are freed to thrive. The response includes an announcement that we will reduce the “numbers” criterion for university title from 4,000 higher education students to 1,000. This will widen access to university title for smaller, high quality providers, and is expected principally to benefit many of the long-established colleges represented by GuildHE.
The White Paper set out proposals for primary legislation to create a new regulatory framework. Many responses to the White Paper stressed that we do not yet know the full effect of the new funding arrangements, which will come into effect for academic year 2012-13. Hence, it cannot be clear what form of regulatory framework will be appropriate. We will therefore not at this stage be introducing changes to primary legislation, but will move our reform agenda forward primarily through non-legislative means.
The Government response also announces that we will arrange for alternative providers, and those FE colleges that do not receive HEFCE funding, to be treated alongside other providers of higher education in being covered by limits on their numbers of publicly-funded students. We will consult later this year on the process for applying these changes. We will also review how existing quality assurance arrangements affect alternative providers, including FE colleges offering HE. We strongly support both existing HE providers and the entry of alternative providers and FE colleges into the HE market, and these measures will create a more level playing field.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Pensions Act 2008 introduces a duty on employers automatically to enrol jobholders into a workplace pension scheme. A jobholder is defined in the Act to include an individual “who is working or ordinarily works in Great Britain under the worker’s contract”.
A minority of workers may be “qualifying persons”—that is individuals employed under a contract of service and whose place of work under that contract is sufficiently located in another EEA state so that their relationship with their employer is subject to the social and labour law relevant to the field of occupational pension schemes of that EEA state.
It is possible that a small number of individuals will have “dual-status”—being both a qualifying person and a jobholder simultaneously. This overlap means that there is a potential conflict between the employers’ duties automatically to enrol eligible jobholders and pension providers being able to offer a suitable product for this purpose.
It is my intention to lay regulations exempting European employers from automatically enrolling “dual-status” workers and ensure that employers are able to comply with the employers’ duties required by the Pensions Act 2008.
and the associated impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and will be available later today on the department’s website: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2012/
I would like to update Parliament on the loan to Ireland. Parliament will be aware that in July 2011 the Chancellor committed in principle to lower the interest rate on the bilateral loan to Ireland. Following the agreement last year, the Treasury has now in principle agreed the new, lower interest rate on the bilateral loan to Ireland. The new rate will represent the UK’s cost of funds plus a small service fee of 0.18%. The UK’s cost of funding is defined as the average yield on gilt issuance in the six months prior to the disbursement of a tranche. This is subject to the loan agreement being revised to reflect the new rate.