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Written Statements

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Business, Innovation and Skills

Copyright Strategy

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, has made the following statement:

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with the Intellectual Property Office, is today “© The Way Ahead: A Strategy for Copyright in the Digital Age”.

This report set out the policies which will drive the UK approach to copyright in the digital age, reflecting how the UK is working to deliver the right solutions at a domestic level and to help drive the agenda on copyright issues in Europe and internationally.

The core objective of “© The Way Ahead: A Strategy for Copyright in the Digital Age” is to ensure the copyright system supports creativity and promotes investment and jobs while also ensuring that consumers are able to act with certainty and clarity.

Building on the framework for supporting the creative industries set out in the “Digital Britain Report and Creative Britain”, its ambition is to set out a copyright roadmap determining the lessons policy makers should take from the present to help decide where we should go in the future.

This copyright strategy will support fair treatment for creators; secure a viable future for rights holders; allow consumers to benefit from the digital age; and create a simpler system for businesses to operate in.

This copyright strategy highlights three principles that need to be kept in mind in order to create a positive environment for copyright owners, consumers and business.

First, copyright is harmonised at a European level and any action pursued domestically needs to be understood within this context;

secondly, a pragmatic recognition that intervention from Government will not be the most useful action in all areas requiring attention, with it being more beneficial for business and copyright owners to pursue many solutions; and

finally, recognition that Government have a responsibility to serve the interests of all participants in the copyright framework.

The strategy develops a number of policy announcements in the “Digital Britain Report”, as well as encouraging domestic and international actions, which satisfy these three principles. The strategy states that the UK will:

Enable a system of copyright licensing on an opt-out rather than opt-in basis, as is successfully practised elsewhere in Europe.

Take powers to allow “orphan works” that have no clear owner to be used without fear of criminal liability.

Act to monitor the behaviour of collecting societies.

Encourage creative industries to employ standard contract terms and licences that give creators more control over their work.

Enable business to continue to develop new business models, products and services that better meet customer expectations on utility and price, including making it easier to license copyright works.

Ensure consumers respect copyright by encouraging the development of attractive legitimate services and tackling illicit peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Signal its readiness to consider sympathetically Europe-wide moves to let non-commercial users use copyright works without fear of legal complications.

Inevitably there will be some questions about how this work links in with what we are going to do about tackling unlawful peer-to-peer file-sharing. On unlawful file-sharing I am intending to make clear our intention to go ahead with legislation in this area which will establish a proportionate, but effective, way of reducing significantly the level of online infringement which is causing such damage to our creative industries. The approach of requiring internet service providers to send notifications to subscribers identified by rights holders as unlawfully file-sharing, and collecting data on the number of notifications sent to each subscriber which the rights holder can obtain via a court order, has been debated for some time, as has the imposition of technical measures should that approach not produce the results anticipated.

What I will also make clear, however, is that temporary account suspension could be included in the measures taken, something that we floated as part of a Government statement on 25 August 2009. Additionally I will make it clear that we are not expecting the whole cost to fall on internet service providers, but on the basis of a flat fee approach costs will be shared so that both sides can plan and budget. The full details of what we are intending, and the official response to the consultation that closed on 29 September 2009 will be made clear when the legislation is published next month.

The two policies are complementary. It is right for Government to intervene on unlawful file-sharing to help create the space in which innovative business offerings can emerge. But it is also right that this should be done against the background of a fair deal for all parties. Creators and those who invest in creativity must receive a fair reward—the creative industries are built on that precept—but we also need to move to reinstate the respect that copyright should command from reasonable law-abiding people. Without that respect we—and the creative industries—face a much harder struggle.

Copies of the “Copyright Strategy” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Treasury

ECOFIN (20 October 2009)

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Luxembourg on 20 October 2009. The following items were discussed:

Preparation for the G20 finance ministers’ meeting

Ministers received an update on process going forward to St. Andrews. The Council agreed a terms of reference on climate finance, exit strategies and the framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth which the Swedish presidency will take forward to the G20 meeting as the European contribution.

Preparation for the October European Council

a) Exit strategies

ECOFIN agreed a set of conclusions outlining the principles for design of fiscal exit strategies, reiterating that continuing support for the economy was essential until recovery was established. Ministers also agreed on the need for comprehensive structural reforms to provide the right framework for future sustainable growth and for strengthened national budgetary frameworks.

b) Financing of climate change

Ministers held a discussion on financing aspects of climate change. This will be further discussed by the October European Council.

c) Financial supervision

Ministers took stock of the significant progress made in negotiations on the creation of a new regulatory and supervisory architecture for the European Union. ECOFIN agreed that ongoing national parliamentary procedures must be respected, and concluded that the EU should continue to aim for agreement on the complete supervision package by the end of 2009 in order to have the new system in place as soon as possible.

The Government recognise the benefits of this new system, as set out by the June European Council, for Europe to improve regulatory and supervisory systems for the future and to provide a global lead on regulatory reform. The Government will work to ensure agreement by the end of the year.

European Systemic Risk Board

Ministers then discussed the draft regulation establishing a European systemic risk board (ESRB) and the draft Council decision entrusting the European Central Bank with specific tasks in relation to the ESRB. The UK maintained its Parliamentary scrutiny reserve on the proposals. The presidency concluded that there was broad agreement on the substance of the proposal of the regulation and would take further steps on the Council decision. ECOFIN will return to this in its meeting in December, when Ministers will also address the proposals for the new micro-supervisory structures.

Strengthening EU financial stability arrangements

ECOFIN agreed Council conclusions on the strengthening of EU arrangements to ensure financial stability and provide crisis management in the event of a future financial crisis. ECOFIN will consider this further in its meeting in December.

Taxation: Anti-fraud agreements with third countries

The Council discussed a draft anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein and a draft mandate for the Commission to open negotiations with Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland. The Council broadly agreed on the substance while noting political reservations by Austria and Luxembourg. Discussions will continue at working group level before coming back to ECOFIN in December.

Communities and Local Government

Local Spending Reports

The Government have today published the summary of responses to the second phase of our consultation on local spending reports. The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (“the Act”) places a requirement on the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the production of local spending reports and to consult those likely to be affected before making them. The document has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available on the Communities and Local Government website at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/localgovernment/about/sustainablecommunitiesact

The aim of local spending reports is to assist local authorities, their partners and the community to promote the sustainability of local communities by providing more information about the public money that is spent in their area.

Considerable interest was shown by respondents in the potential that the mapping of local public spending offers in support of partnership working, the delivery of efficient and high quality local services and local transparency and accountability. We recognise the clear expectation of the majority of respondents that the local spending reports should, over time, include more information, from a wider range of public bodies. However, the responses to the consultation which dealt with the purpose and content of future reports did not provide a great deal of information on the likely costs and benefits of developing the reports and the precise way in which they could be used.

The Government remain committed to the provision of information on local spending although we must ensure this is useful, to local authorities, their partners and the community they serve and that the cost of producing this is justified by its benefit.

We, therefore, will be considering the findings of this phase of the consultation in more detail together with evidence from the Total Place initiative, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s work on how Government can use the internet to make non-personal public data as widely available as possible, and the responses to the Strengthening local democracy consultation. Once this is completed we will consult on the proposals that arise from the exercise, as required by section 6(10) of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. We will report back to the House before the end of December 2009 on the next stages in developing local spending reports.

Energy and Climate Change

Sale of Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Land

Today my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord Hunt, made the following ministerial statement:

I would like to inform the House that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is close to concluding its sale process for the disposal of land adjacent to Sellafield in Cumbria.

I hope to be able to announce the successful bidder—who intends to develop the site for new nuclear power generation—shortly.

Proceeds from the sale of this site will be used by the NDA to offset the cost of decommissioning and to further its core mission. A successful outcome of the sale process will further demonstrate that major energy companies are gearing up for significant investment in low carbon energy in the UK.

I will place details of the outcome of this sale process, including the sum raised and the identity of the bidder in the Libraries of both Houses.

Any new nuclear power station development will be subject to the regulatory and other consenting processes.

The land to be sold has been nominated into the Government’s strategic siting assessment process which assesses sites for their suitability for new nuclear power stations. The Government will be consulting on their assessment of the sites that are potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations as part of their consultation on the draft “National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation” which will be published this autumn.

International Development

St. Helena

I announced on 16 March, Official Report, column 40WS, a public consultation on options for access to the island. The consultation has now been completed. A report summarising the responses that were received is now available on the Department for International Development website: http://www.dfid. gov.uk/.

We will consider carefully the views submitted in the consultation, taking into account the current economic conditions.

Justice

Crown Court Means-Testing

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement:

On 14 July 2009, the Government announced the beginning of a consultation exercise on draft regulations to support the introduction of means-testing in the Crown Court in January 2010. On 8 June 2009, the Government had announced their intention to extend means-testing to defendants and appellants appearing in the Crown Court.

The consultation exercise on the draft regulations concluded on 6 October 2009, and a Response to Consultation on the draft Regulations and Supplementary Impact Assessment on Crown Court means-testing is today being published by the Ministry of Justice. I am also taking the opportunity today to lay the draft regulations before Parliament. Those that are subject to affirmative resolution will be debated in due course.

Copies of the Response to Consultation and Supplementary Impact Assessment have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Transport

Correction to Written Answer

I regret to inform the House that some of the figures in the answer given to Parliamentary Question 276453 on 2 June, Official Report, column 298W, to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) about how much (a) the Department and (b) its agencies spent on car hire in each year since 2001 were incorrect.

When preparing an answer to a current question it has come to light that there are some discrepancies with the data submitted for the previous answer given due to two errors in the transposition of data. The Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) has also provided data for the last three financial years, whereas none was given by them for the previous question. They advise that figures are now available following improvements in record keeping and their undertaking of a contract to maintain vehicles on behalf of the Olympic development authority has resulted in an increase in car hire.

The figures have been checked and the correct answer is below.

£

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Department for

Transport

(Central)

0

156,918

188,144

208,126

353,758

220,352

219,380

Executive Agencies

1,045,417

1,806,204

2,002,484

1,966,637

2,385,202

2,467,707

2,756,202

It is not possible to provide costs for the Department for Transport or for the Driving Standards Agency in 2002-03 because the information is not available in a comparable format.

Improving Access to Taxis

The Department for Transport has today published the results from a consultation paper which explored ways of improving access to taxis by disabled people. The analysis summarises the responses to the consultation and has informed the way in which the Department will take this work forward.

The purpose of publishing the results of the consultation is to provide transparency to the Department’s policy and to ensure that it is easily understood. We acknowledge and welcome the input provided by the respondents to the consultation.

The Department will take the opportunity presented by the passage of the Equality Bill to ensure there are regulation making provisions to allow duties to be imposed on drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles designated as accessible by the local authority, to assist wheelchair passengers and carry them in safety and comfort. This largely replicates the duties contained in what was section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which has been carried across into the Equality Bill.

The Department will also be undertaking demonstration schemes in three licensing authority areas, to research the needs of disabled people when using taxis and private hire vehicles, how to tailor the fleet to demand and use patterns and how driver training can assist disabled passengers. The demonstration schemes will provide the basis on which the Department will be able to issue comprehensive guidance to licensing authorities to assist them with improving the availability of taxis and private hire vehicles for disabled passengers.

The Department is also considering the wider legislative framework governing taxis and private hire vehicles to see whether there are any changes which could be made with the objective of enhancing provision for disabled people.

The document summarising consultation responses is available on the Department’s website. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

Driving Disqualifications (UK and the Republic of Ireland)

The United Kingdom has taken the formal legal steps, along with the Republic of Ireland Administration, to mutually recognise driving disqualifications issued to either UK or Irish drivers. This will mean that a UK driving-licence holder disqualified for an offence in Ireland will no longer escape that punishment when they return home. Likewise, a disqualification earned by an Irish driver while in the UK will have their disqualification enforced on their return to Ireland.

The UK has one of the best road safety records in the world and this co-operation between the administrations in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will improve it further.

The UK and Ireland are the first to apply the terms of the 1998 European Convention on driving disqualifications. Following completion of the legal requirements to adopt the 1998 European Convention on driving disqualifications, there now follows a 90 day period after which the law will come into force. This will be on a date early in February 2010, to be notified by the European authorities on receipt of our respective national declarations.

Regulations to bring the agreement into law in Great Britain, The Mutual Recognition of Driving Disqualifications (Great Britain and Ireland) Regulations 2008 (SI.2008/3010), were laid before the House on 25 November 2008.

Wales

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (Framework Powers)

I am pleased to inform the House that the explanatory memorandum explaining the Government’s proposal for a framework power in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill are available in the Vote Office, Library and the Printed Paper Office, and on the Wales Office website (www.walesoffice.gov.uk).