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Written Statements

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 10 December 2009

Treasury

Financial Sector

The Treasury has today published a discussion document on possible international options to reduce the cost to taxpayers of financial sector failures. “Risk, reward and responsibility: the financial sector and society” is a contribution to the international debate on the future of the global financial sector.

The document highlights the importance of the financial sector to the UK economy alongside the risks it poses to society. While some risk-taking is inherent in financial sector operations, the recent financial crisis has shown the high cost to taxpayers when risk-taking becomes excessive. The document considers ways in which the financial sector might contribute to the potential costs of any residual risks it poses to taxpayers and to broader social objectives.

I have placed copies of the document in the Library and the document is also available on HM Treasury’s website.

Children, Schools and Families

Early Years Funding

This Government have transformed the provision of early years education and childcare in this country, increasing investment sevenfold since 1997 and creating a universal free offer for three and four-year-olds.

As a result there is now nearly universal take-up of the 12½ hours of free early learning and childcare available to three and four-year-olds, and we remain on course to extend the provision to 15 hours per week from September 2010. The commitment and endeavour of early years providers across the country have been crucial to this success.

In 2007 we announced plans to introduce a single local Early Years Single Funding Formula (EYSFF).

This aims to provide greater consistency and transparency in local decision-making concerning the funding of the free entitlement for three and four-year-olds.

The necessary paving legislation for the EYSFF was included in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, which has recently completed its passage through Parliament. The introduction of the EYSFF was welcomed by Members on all sides of both Houses.

Our intention has been that every local authority should implement the EYSFF from April 2010. In anticipation of this many local authorities have been working hard to prepare for this and have engaged positively with local providers.

However, during the summer it became clear that a significant number of local authorities were experiencing difficulty in developing their EYSFF. More recently, parents and providers, from both the maintained and the PVI sectors, have expressed concerns about the potential adverse impact on provision if the EYSFF is introduced now.

In response to these concerns the Department acted quickly to survey all local authorities, to establish how much progress they had made. This was completed towards the end of November and found considerable variation in terms of their readiness.

The data and information we have collected now suggests that less than a third of local authorities will be in a secure position to implement their EYSFF from April 2010. While it is difficult to generalise about the underlying reasons it seems clear that some local authorities have experienced serious difficulties in obtaining accurate data from their providers, while others have simply found the task extremely challenging.

I have therefore decided to postpone the formal implementation date for the EYSFF by one year until April 2011.

I have asked my officials to invite all local authorities that are confident they are ready to implement their new formulae in April 2010 and who wish to do so to continue as planned. These local authorities will be able to apply to join a pathfinder programme, which currently involves nine local authorities but which we will now expand.

This expansion will increase the capacity of the pathfinder programme to develop practice from which other local authorities can learn.

The Government remain strongly committed to the introduction of the EYSFF in all areas from April 2011. We believe that it is only through the effective implementation of the EYSFF that all providers across the sector can have confidence in local decisions about funding. This 12-month delay should provide sufficient time for concerns to be addressed, without incurring a risk of drift. It will also allow time for more dedicated support to be offered to those local authorities that need it in order to complete the development of their formula.

Revised Schools Admissions Code

Today I have presented to Parliament a revised School Admissions Code (‘the Code’). Subject to the usual Parliamentary procedure, this revised Code will come into force in February 2010.

This statement follows on from previous statements I have made accepting recommendations made by Sir Jim Rose from his primary curriculum review in April 2009, in particular those designed to help improve outcomes for summer-born children, by enabling them to start school from the September following their fourth birthday.

Sir Jim Rose recommended that, subject to parents taking into account their child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class, summer-born children should be entitled to start part school in the September after their fourth birthday. This could be at part-time basis if parents prefer.

A study for the primary curriculum review by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that admissions policies do matter and that, in general, summer-born children are slightly better off in terms of cognitive outcomes at Key Stages 1-3 if they start school in the September following their fourth birthday. The IFS study also reported that summer-born children risk being treated as ‘immature’ in comparison with their older classmates, giving rise to lack of confidence and low self-regard that may limit expectations of them and their expectations of themselves. Furthermore, a literature review by the National Foundation for Educational Research concluded that children who start school later will spend less time in reception class prior to entering Year 1 of primary school, and therefore they may lose some of the educational experience that will develop and prepare them for their school careers.

The majority of local authority areas already operate an entry point in September following a child’s fourth birthday so summer-born children do not have the same education opportunities across the country. Implementing this proposal will therefore provide a fair system for parents, which also gives them more choice to meet their own child’s needs. Research conducted by Sir Jim Rose found that 61 per cent. of parents of children currently in part-time maintained provision and 63 per cent. of parents with summer-born children would move to a full-time provision once offered.

The aim of the policy change is to enable parents to choose between school or other early learning provision for their four years olds. Some parents have a strong preference for their child’s early years experience to take place outside a school setting. I am therefore also making arrangements to enable all children to receive full and part time provision in private, voluntary, independent and maintained nurseries from the September after their fourth birthday up until compulsory school age.

Parents who prefer to delay their child’s starting school would be able to defer a school place until compulsory school age—as they can already do now. But it is right that all children should be in school—playing and learning and developing—from age five.

The four years olds proposal is just one of many recommendations made by the primary curriculum review aimed at giving greater parental choice and improving transition and outcomes for all children, particularly summer-born children and vulnerable groups such as those with SEN, who Sir Jim felt would benefit most from starting school early. We are already reforming the primary curriculum to encourage a smoother transition from early years foundation stage (EYFS) into school by arranging the curriculum in six areas of learning (similar to EYFS areas of learning and development) and free it up for teachers. This supports my proposal by creating an appropriate school environment for all four years olds.

Continuing play based learning into primary schools and ensuring children receive learning experiences appropriate to their age and circumstances is a key feature of the new primary curriculum. Whether in reception classes, or in nurseries, four year olds will benefit from receiving the early years foundation stage full-time.

Also in line with my earlier statement, over the next few months, we will provide information to parents and local authorities about the optimum conditions, flexibilities and benefits to children of entering reception class in the September immediately after their fourth birthday.

Following a consultation on relevant changes, this revised Code will require all admission authorities to provide for the admission of children following their fourth birthday, from September 2011 onwards.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Food Labelling (Occupied Palestinian Territories)

DEFRA has today issued advice to retailers and importers who wish to respond to consumer demand for information about the origin of food that has been produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Importers, retailers, NGOs and consumers have asked the Government for clarity over the precise origin of products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). The label “West Bank” does not allow consumers to distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements.

Rules on the labelling of produce are set by the European Union and require that the place of origin or provenance should be supplied on foodstuffs where omission of such information might materially mislead the consumer about true origin or provenance of the foodstuff.

Since the “West Bank” is a recognised geographical area within the OPTs, labelling produce with the “West Bank” does not infringe EU labelling rules. However, retailers have informed us of consumer demand for more detailed information.

Therefore, in March, the Government arranged a round-table discussion between interested parties to look at how retailers could make labelling clearer for consumers.

We have taken these views into account, and have today issued advice to retailers and importers. This will help them consider how best to respond to consumer demand for information about the origin of food that has been produced in the OPT.

The Government will keep their policy on labelling food imports from the OPTs under review, in conjunction with the European Commission and other EU member states, and in the light of developments in the middle east peace process. The Government believe that that existence, and continued growth, of Israeli settlements poses a significant obstacle to peace in the middle east. At the same time, the clear position of the Government is that we are opposed to boycotts of Israel or Israeli goods. We do not believe that boycotts help engage or influence Israel, or lead to progress in the middle east peace process.

Copies of the advice will be placed in the House Library and on the DEFRA website: www.defra.gov.uk.

South Downs National Park

On 12 November, Official Report, column 32WS, I informed the House that I was confirming the designation of the South Downs national park and signing the orders which set the precise boundary. I am now proceeding to establish a national park authority for the new national park.

On 16 July 2009 I consulted on the membership of the future South Downs national park authority, proposing that the authority should have from 29 to 37 members. I am most grateful to all those who have taken the time to submit a response to that consultation.

There was a diverse range of views expressed, not only on the size of the proposed authority, but also on its composition, and on the representation of those who live in and around the new park. Although several people offered views on how parish seats might be allocated, this is a matter for the parish councils within the park to determine.

The main reasons cited by those in favour of a 37 seat authority or larger were that it would enable proportional representation of all local authorities, as well as enable more “grass roots” representation with parish councils having several seats. While I understand the reasons for many respondents favouring such a composition, it is the case that, once selected to serve on the park authority, members are expected to act in the best interests of the park in its entirety, so any emphasis on weighted representation is not really consistent with that principle.

A number of respondents favoured a “medium” sized authority of around 31-33 members, in preference to the two ends of the range laid out in the consultation paper. While appreciating that this might draw together the best features of both a large and small authority, it would not be large enough to allow it to be fully weighted nor would it be small enough to minimise the additional administrative burden which a larger authority might create.

Those supporting a smaller, 29 seat authority saw it as creating an efficient, cost-effective authority, with faster decision making, and at a lower cost to the taxpayer. The suggested composition was generally 15 local authority, eight national and six parish seats. Although a smaller authority would mean weighted representation would not be possible, it would still allow every local authority one seat.

A further option emerged in the wake of the consultation which is for a 27 seat authority. This is made possible because two local authorities have stated they wish to share a seat. This would reduce the minimum number of local authority seats from 15 to 14. As I have previously confirmed my view that local authorities should have an absolute majority, this would require the Government to respond to the reduction in local authority members by reducing the number of “national” members from 8 to 7. So the overall composition could be 14 local authority, seven “national” and six parish seats.

Having considered each of the above options carefully, and being satisfied that it would be appropriate for Worthing and Adur councils to share a seat, I have decided to opt for a 27 seat authority. In order to ensure that the national park authority keeps in close touch with communities and is able to respond to their concerns, I expect the authority to place a big emphasis on community and stakeholder engagement. I shall now include the 27 member authority in the statutory instrument which I shall lay before Parliament around the turn of the year. With Parliament’s consent, this will allow the national park authority to be established from 1 April 2010 and to become operational from 1 April 2011.

A summary of the responses, plus a list of all respondents, can be found on the DEFRA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/south-downs-membership/index.htm.

Health

Autumn Performance Report

I have today laid before Parliament my Department’s autumn performance report for 2009 (CM 7776). The report is in the Library of the House and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

The autumn performance report provides the second public report of progress on our public service agreements, departmental strategic objectives and value for money targets set for this comprehensive spending review period.

NHS 2010-15

I have today laid before Parliament “The NHS 2010-15: from good to great. Preventative, people-centred, productive” (Cm 7775). The paper is in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

“The NHS 2010-15” maps out how we will build on the achievements of the last decade to create a more preventative and people-centred NHS—a service that is better for patients, but also more productive. It is intended to give the NHS time to plan for the challenges of a new era.

In the past, a tougher financial environment has meant that patients have paid the price through longer waits. But this will not happen this time. We will not back away from the NHS. The Pre-Budget report confirms that we can lock in the achievements of the last decade, while protecting staff and the service as a whole.

The document also sets out how we will continue to improve the NHS, according to the principles set out in the next stage review. It outlines the following key steps:

a new payment system which puts patients first, and ensures they get the high quality care they deserve. A growing proportion of hospital’s income will be linked to patient satisfaction, rising to 10 per cent. of their payments over time. Poor or unsafe care will not be tolerated—payments will be withdrawn if care does not meet minimum standards;

more choice for patients—giving them the right to register with a GP wherever they choose, a guarantee of seeing a doctor in the evenings and weekends in every area, and more access to services—like chemotherapy and dialysis—at home or in the community;

dedicated carers for patients with cancer or serious long-term conditions who can benefit from a more personal approach to nursing. We expect all parts of the NHS to review continually the way long-term conditions are managed and to seek out and adopt best practice. Where appropriate this should include the provision of personalised one-to-one support by a health professional, particularly for the more complex conditions. We will consider and cost the possibility of a patient entitlement in this area. This will benefit millions of people;

new rights to high quality care—including the right for patients to die at home. Enshrining the right to a “good death” is the mark of a civilised health system. The NHS will ensure a dying patient can choose where they wish to spend their final days;

more freedom for hospitals. The best NHS foundation trusts will be free to work across a wider area. We will encourage high-performing foundation trusts based in one area to provide both acute and community services in other areas, if the PCTs in those areas want to commission from them; and

greater emphasis on prevention—we want the NHS to intervene earlier and prevent more disease. We will provide access to personal care plans and health-checks for anyone suffering with a long-term condition. Patients will be invited to discuss and agree their care plan with their clinician, giving them a greater say in their care.

Under this plan services will be reshaped around the needs of patients more radically than ever before. The NHS and its staff will need to adapt as they strive to make the changes necessary, but they will be supported in doing so. The results will be better patient safety, better health outcomes, more satisfied patients—and, ultimately, a stronger NHS.

Home Department

Intercept as Evidence

The Government have no higher duty than to protect the public. A critical tool in this is the warranted interception of communications that allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to gather intelligence about those individuals who seek to do us harm.

Intercept material obtained under a RIPA warrant cannot currently be used as evidence in criminal trials. It has been, and remains, the Government’s objective to find a way to make this possible. In February 2008, the Prime Minister accepted the findings of a Privy Council review, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, which recommended that intercept should be admissible as evidence subject to meeting nine operational requirements, which the review judged to be necessary to protect the public and national security. He set in train the necessary implementation process and established an advisory group, comprising the right hon. Sir John Chilcot, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), and my right hon. And noble Friend Lord Archer of Sandwell, in order to help safeguard intelligence capability and protect the public.

In my written ministerial statement to the House of 16 July I provided an update on the progress of the implementation programme. I said that I would make a formal report to Parliament on the results and conclusions after end of the summer recess.

I am today publishing a Command Paper setting out the work programme’s findings and conclusions. Copies will be available in the Vote Office. I am also placing in the Libraries of both Houses copies of a separate report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by the advisory group. The Prime Minister and I are grateful to the advisory group for its work. I echo their recognition both of the complexity and sensitivity of the work programme and the commitment and thoroughness of officials in undertaking it.

Any implementation of intercept as evidence must, as set out in the original Privy Council review, ensure that trials continue to be fair and that the operational requirements to protect current capabilities are met. As noted in the advisory group’s interim report to the Prime Minister, reported in my predecessor’s written ministerial statement of 12 February and placed in the Libraries of both Houses, there is an intrinsic tension between these legal and operational requirements.

The work programme set out to develop a model for intercept as evidence that successfully reconciled these requirements, based on the approach recommended by the Privy Council review. This model has been subject to extensive practical testing, with the close involvement of senior independent legal practitioners. This testing has demonstrated that the model, if fully funded, would be broadly consistent with the operational requirements. However, it would not be legally viable, in that it would not ensure continued fairness at court. This has been confirmed by a recent European Court of Human Rights case (Natunen v Finland). The result would be to damage rather than enhance our ability to bring terrorists and other serious criminals to justice.

These findings are disappointing. In the light of them, the Government conclude, as does the advisory group, that the model does not represent a viable basis for implementation. However, the Government also share the advisory group’s view that the potential gains from a workable intercept as evidence regime justifies further work. We therefore welcome the group’s suggestion of three areas of analysis, beyond the scope of the original work programme, intended to establish whether the problems identified are capable of being resolved. These areas are to examine:

Further enhancing the judicial oversight available.

Full retention of intercept material alongside alternative review requirements.

Advances in technology which might make full retention and review more manageable.

The Government agree with the advisory group that while continuing to seek innovative and imaginative approaches, these should not be at the cost of the operational requirements, and hence national security or public protection. I am grateful for the advisory group’s agreement to continue in its current invaluable role and for agreeing to be similarly engaged on interception related matters that have arisen in the context of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

The Government will report the results of this activity to Parliament before the Easter recess.

UK Border Agency

A revised version of the framework agreement for the UK Border Agency is being published today. The framework has been updated following the passage of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. The new document reflects, in particular, the transfer of customs functions and staff to the Home Office from HM Revenue and Customs. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Justice

Freedom of Information Act 2000

I have today given the Information Commissioner a certificate under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’). The certificate relates to case FS50100665 from 23 June 2009 in which, in my opinion, the Information Commissioner wrongly found that the Cabinet Office had failed to comply with section 1(1 )(b) of the Act by withholding copies of the minutes of the Cabinet Ministerial Committee on Devolution to Scotland and Wales and the English Regions (DSWR) of 1997. The consequence of my giving the Information Commissioner a certificate is that the Commissioner’s decision notice ceases to have effect.

A copy of the certificate has therefore been laid before each House of Parliament. I have additionally placed a copy of the certificate and a detailed statement of the reasons for my decision in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

This is only the second time this power (the ‘veto’) has been exercised since the Act came into force in 2005 and over that period of time central Government have received approximately 160,000 non-routine requests for information. The decision to exercise the veto in this case was not taken lightly but in accordance with the statement of Government policy1 on the use of the executive override as it relates to information falling within the scope of section 35(1) of the Act.

In accordance with the policy, my conclusion rests on an assessment of the public interest in disclosure and non-disclosure of these Cabinet minutes, and of the exceptional nature of the case. While the convention of collective Cabinet responsibility is only one part of the public interest test, in my view disclosure of the information in this case would put the convention at serious risk of harm. As an integral part of our system of Government the maintenance of the convention is strongly in the public interest and must be given appropriate weight when deciding where the balance of the public interest lies.

Having done that, and having taken into account all of the circumstances of this case, I have concluded that the public interest falls in favour of non-disclosure and that this is an exceptional case where release would be damaging to the convention of collective responsibility and detrimental to the effective operation of Cabinet Government. Consequently, this case warrants the exercise of the veto.

1 Annexed to ‘Statement of Reasons’ at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcement240209a.htm

Leader of the House

Parliamentary Standards (Legislative Proposals)

The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) published its report on MPs’ expenses and allowances on 4 November. The Government are grateful to the Committee for its work and welcome the Committee’s recommendations.

The House has sought clarification on the question of what further legislation the Government will bring forward in the light of the CSPL’s recommendations, which I set out in this statement today. The House will wish to be aware that in preparing this statement the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has had constructive discussions with both Sir Christopher Kelly, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I am pleased, on behalf of both the Lord Chancellor and myself, to be able to report to the House that both Sir Christopher and Sir Ian are in agreement with the proposed approach to further legislation and on the amendments set out below.

Many of the CSPL recommendations relate to the substance of a new parliamentary allowances scheme. Others, however, relate to the scope and functions of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), now being set up under the provisions of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 which passed into law earlier this year.

Those substantive recommendations of the CSPL report that relate to the drawing up of the allowances scheme are , of course, under the provisions of the Act, now a matter for consideration by and decision of the new independent authority. The IPSA will shortly be conducting its statutory consultation on a proposed new allowances scheme. Its chair has already made clear that the CSPL recommendations will be central to this consultation.

In relation to the recommendations identified as requiring legislation, the Government’s proposals are as follows:

Power to make deductions from resettlement grant

The Committee recommends that

“where an MP is found to have seriously abused the expenses system or otherwise seriously breached the code of conduct, the Standards and Privileges Committee should always consider recommending that the House reduce or remove the resettlement grant from that MP as part of any sanctions to be imposed and should be prepared to do this for past as well as for future breaches of the rules. The new statutory scheme should empower the House of Commons to impose such a sanction by resolution”.

(Recommendation 33).

The Parliamentary Standards Act already provides that the IPSA’s power to pay MPs’ salaries is subject to anything done in exercise of the disciplinary powers of the House. This enables the IPSA, for example, to give effect to a resolution of the House following an S&P recommendation that an MP should lose salary for a specified time. The Government will bring forward legislation to make the same provision in relation to allowances (including resettlement grant).

Statutory duty of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and openness

The Committee recommends that

“the independent regulator should have a statutory duty to support MPs efficiently, cost-effectively and transparently in carrying out their parliamentary functions”

(Recommendation 41).

IPSA itself is already under a duty to carry out its functions efficiently and cost effectively and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The Government will also bring forward legislation to ensure that there is specific reference to supporting MPs to carry out their parliamentary duties in an efficient, cost-effective and transparent way. (See also response to recommendations 49 and 60).

Register of Financial Interests and Code of Conduct

The Committee recommends that

“responsibility for maintaining the register of financial interests and the associated code of conduct should be removed from the independent regulator and returned to the House of Commons”

(Recommendation 42).

The Government propose to repeal section 8 of the 2009 Act and the consequential references to it.

Pay and pensions

The Committee recommends that

“the independent determination of MPs’ pay and pensions should be entrenched in primary legislation in the same way as expenses. The independent regulator should therefore be given statutory responsibility for setting MPs’ pay levels and overseeing MPs’ pensions as well as for dealing with expenses”

(Recommendation 43).

Provision for pay to be included in the IPSA’s remit was in an early pre-introduction version of the Parliamentary Standards Bill but was removed after representations made in the intensive cross-party talks.

Now there is a clear consensus that IPSA should take on responsibility for pay and pensions, the Government will bring forward legislation to give IPSA the power to set, as well as to administer, the MPs’ pay system, after consulting the Senior Salaries Review Body. The powers for both pay and pensions would therefore take effect in 2011-12. MPs’ pay in 2011-12 would then be set by the IPSA on the basis of the SSRB recommendation for that year. Pay in 2012-13 and subsequently would be set by the IPSA following consultation with the SSRB and others as appropriate.

Breaches of the rules on expenses

The Committee recommends that

“responsibility for investigating allegations about breaches of the rules on expenses should be vested in the independent regulator, which should be able to appoint its own compliance officer for this purpose. The compliance officer should be able to conduct an investigation on his or her own initiative, at the request of the independent regulator, or in response to a complaint from a member of the public or an MP”

(Recommendation 44).

Provision for the IPSA to appoint an officer responsible for investigations and compliance, who would act at arm’s length from the other functions of the IPSA, was included by the Government in the original draft of the Parliamentary Standards Bill but was amended after strong representations from the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee. As there is now clear consensus on this, the Government propose to amend the Parliamentary Standards Act to provide for a compliance officer to be appointed by the IPSA through a process of fair and open competition. The compliance officer will be an independent office holder. The powers of the compliance officer to investigate complaints will be similar to those presently vested in the Independent Commissioner. The powers in relation to sanctions will be significantly different (see below).

Enforcement powers of the IPSA

The Committee recommends

“that the independent regulator’s enforcement regime should be strengthened by giving it the power to:

Compel MPs to cooperate with the new body, including through the provision of relevant information.

Require the repayment of wrongly paid or misclaimed sums, with associated costs if appropriate.

Impose, subject to the procedural safeguards laid out in the Act, its own non-parliamentary sanctions for breaches of the expenses regime (including where necessary of a financial nature) analogous to those available to HMRC and DWP, without the need to report to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards”

(Recommendation 45).

The Parliamentary Standards Bill which the Government presented to Parliament contained provisions allowing the IPSA to recommend sanctions. They were removed during the Bill’s passage.

As it now appears that allowing sanctions to be imposed directly by the regulator is acceptable, the Government will introduce amendments to the 2009 Act to give the compliance officer the power to impose sanctions, namely a civil penalty, as well as requiring restitution of wrongly paid allowances. Repayments, monetary penalties and costs will also be made recoverable as a civil debt. In addition, the Government will provide a route of appeal from the decisions of the compliance officer to the first-tier tribunal. Since allowances claims are not covered by privilege, there should not be any difficulty in this regard.

Cases could still be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges if it is felt that parliamentary sanctions are also needed or to the prosecuting authorities if the offence of making false declarations may have been committed.

Lay members of the Speaker’s Committee

The Committee recommends that

“the Speaker’s Committee on the independent regulator should include three lay members drawn from outside Parliament who have not previously been MPs or peers. They should be chosen through the official public appointments process and formally approved by the House”

(Recommendation 48).

The Government propose to bring forward legislation to provide for the appointment of lay members of the Speaker’s Committee.

General duty to act openly and transparently

The Committee recommends that the independent regulator should be placed under a general duty to act openly and transparently, to give reasons for any revisions to the expenses scheme, and to report, and take account of, the views of the general public as well as the House of Commons (Recommendation 49).

Section 5(4) of the Parliamentary Standards Act requires the IPSA to consult a number of people and bodies in preparing an allowances scheme, including “any person the IPSA considers appropriate”.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 already applies to the IPSA, including a duty to issue a publication scheme.

The Government are however content to bring forward amendments to the 2009 Act to add an additional requirement that the IPSA must give reasons for its revisions to the allowances scheme, to give reasons for adopting a determination in respect of MPs’ pay, and to consult the general public. (See also response to recommendations 41 and 60.)

Sunset provisions

The Committee recommends that

“the sunset provisions in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 should be repealed”

(Recommendation 53).

The sunset provisions, set out in section 15 of the Act, were inserted in the House of Lords. They deal with the code of conduct on financial interests and the position of the independent commissioner for investigations. As both the role of the IPSA in relation to the code and the commissioner are to be repealed, the sunset clause has no further purpose and therefore can be similarly repealed.

Publication of claims

The Committee recommends that

“the independent regulator should continue to publish, at least quarterly, each individual claim for reimbursement made by MPs with accompanying receipts or documentary evidence. The information published should not be confined to claims actually reimbursed”

(Recommendation 60).

As part of the proposed amendments to the 2009 Act to give effect to recommendations 41 and 49, which require the IPSA to act transparently, the Government will bring forward legislation to place on the IPSA the duty to publish claims made and allowances paid, with such details as it considers appropriate. The 2009 Act already requires IPSA to determine procedures for the circumstances in which findings of investigations should be published. (See also response to recommendations 41 and 49.)

There are three further recommendations which would require legislation to achieve, but on which it has been accepted that immediate legislation is not necessary.

Publication of electoral candidates’ financial interests

The Committee recommends that

“all candidates at parliamentary elections should publish, at nomination, a register of interests including the existence of other paid jobs and whether they intend to continue to hold them if elected. The Ministry of Justice should issue guidance on this in time for the next general election. Following the election, consideration should be given as to whether the process should become a statutory part of the nomination process”

(Recommendation 37).

The Ministry of Justice is working on the guidance. The Ministry of Justice will discuss the approach with the Electoral Commission and others as appropriate before guidance is issued, in time for the next general election. A decision about whether to implement this on a statutory basis will, as the Committee suggests, be taken in the next Parliament.

Hon. Members who are members of devolved legislatures

The Committee recommends that the practice of permitting a Westminster MP simultaneously to sit in a devolved legislature should be brought to an end, ideally by the time of the elections to the three devolved legislatures for May 2011 (Recommendation 40)

This is not strictly an issue about MPs’ allowances. The Committee recommends that this provision should be in place by May 2011 and the Government will consult interested parties before implementing it in the next Parliament.

Term of office of IPSA Chair

The CSPL recommends that

“the chair of the new regulatory body should be appointed for a single, non-renewable five year term. The other members of the new body should in principle be appointed on the same basis, but some flexibility may need to be shown in relation to those appointed in the first round”

(Recommendation 47).

Paragraph 4(1) of schedule 1 to the 2009 Act provides for the chair of the IPSA to be appointed “for a fixed term not exceeding five years”. Paragraph 4(3) provides that “a person who has held office as a member of the IPSA (whether as the chair or an ordinary member) may be re-appointed as a member once only, for a further period (whether consecutive or not) not exceeding three years”.

The CSPL acknowledges the need for flexibility in relation to the first round of appointments. The Government accept the principle of the recommendation, but believes that amendments to the legislation are not required now. They could be made at a later date if still required.

Transport

Autumn Performance Report 2009

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:

I have today published my Department’s Autumn Performance Report for 2009 (CM7737). Copies have been laid before Parliament and placed in the House Libraries.

The report provides Parliament with details of progress on performance against the departmental strategic objectives, value for money and public service agreements, using data available up to November 2009.

Consultation on HGV Testing Exemptions

The Department for Transport has today issued a consultation document on our proposals to remove or modify some of the exemptions from the statutory annual roadworthiness testing scheme which currently apply to certain categories of heavy goods vehicles.

I have placed copies of the document in the House Library.

Local Transport Act 2008:Quality Contracts Schemes

The Local Transport Act 2008 includes provisions designed to make bus quality contracts schemes—the London-style model of bus contracts—a more realistic option for local transport authorities throughout England and Wales. The Government are today announcing that these provisions will come into force, in England, on 11 January 2010.

Supporting regulations will be laid before Parliament within the next few days and statutory guidance, applying in England from 11 January 2010, is being issued today. The Government are also today beginning the process of recruiting members of a panel of persons from which members of QCS boards will be appointed. QCS boards are independent boards with a remit to provide an opinion on whether proposed quality contracts schemes in England meet the statutory public interest criteria, and on whether due process has been followed.

Copies of the statutory guidance, the Government’s response to the consultation and the recruitment pack for QCS board panel members are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will also be available on the Department for Transport’s website.

Airport Economic Regulation

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:

In March, the Government consulted on a number of proposals designed to modernise the framework for the airport economic regulatory regime and put passengers at its heart. The review primarily seeks to ensure that economic regulation improves the passenger experience and encourages timely and appropriate investment.

Having considered responses to the consultation, I intend to introduce as soon as parliamentary time will allow a package of reforms that:

Modernise the statutory duties of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in this area. The Government will replace the CAA’s existing duties with a single primary duty to promote the interests of end consumers of passenger and freight services at airports. In order to provide clarity about the additional factors the CAA need to take into account when making decision, the Government will also be introducing new subordinate duties.

Introduce a new licensing regime that is flexible and targeted. The new regime gives the regulator sanctions and enforcement powers to incentivise licensee compliance.

Introduce a new framework of merit based appeals to ensure the regulator is accountable for the decisions it makes.

Enhance passenger representation within the aviation sector. To ensure that passengers have an independent and influential advocate with an end-to-end journey perspective, the Government will introduce legislation to make Passenger Focus the passenger representative body for aviation. Passenger Focus will build on the firm foundations established by the Air Transport Users Council.

Promote the financial resilience of major airports. In October, this year I brought forward the announcement on financial resilience in order to provide as much certainty as possible for the industry and its investors, and support sustained investment. In this announcement I said that the Government intended to consult on two further financial aspects and this consultation is published today.

A few responses to the consultation raised the importance of connecting regional economies to London airports and international destinations. The Government recognise this issue and will commission research to gather further evidence.

This package of reforms is intended to provide a modern and flexible economic regulatory framework for airports which I believe reflects best practice in other regulated regimes and promotes the interests of passengers, investment, as well as the principles of Better Regulation.

I also intend to consult on further proposals to update the regulatory framework for aviation.

The Government commissioned Sir Joseph Pilling to carry out a strategic review of the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that it remained able to meet current and future challenges. He described the CAA as a “highly successful organisation” and concluded that it remained appropriate to have a specialist aviation regulator, with a broad range of functions from safety to economic regulation. But he also identified that changes were needed to modernise the CAA’s legislative and governance framework. In particular, he considered it important that the CAA’s role should be to safeguard the public interest, and he recommended that we make it absolutely clear in the legislation that the CAA’s primary responsibility is to the public rather than the aviation industry.

I am consulting on proposals giving the CAA a clear statutory focus, consistent with our international obligations and aligned with Better Regulation principles, by assigning new objectives to the organisation. These will apply to most of the CAA’s functions and will ensure that the CAA focuses its attention on pursuing the interests of consumers and seeking environmental improvements while maintaining a high standard of safety.

To support the CAA in delivering its objectives, I am also proposing to give powers to enable it to obtain relevant information and make arrangements for that information to be made publically available where this is in the interests of consumers or those affected by aviation. The CAA would only be able to use this power where it could demonstrate that the benefits of publishing information outweighed the costs.

I also want to see the CAA’s governance and enforcement arrangements aligned with modern regulatory practice. I am proposing to give the CAA access to a range of civil sanctions, which will address concerns previously expressed about the disproportionate and inappropriate nature of criminal sanctions for certain offences.

We have looked at financial protection for air passengers following the failure of the XL Leisure Group in 2008. This highlighted the need to reform the ATOL scheme which provides reimbursement and repatriation in the event of insolvency.

We are committed by European legislation to provide financial protection for passengers on package holidays. We decided in 2005 not to extend this to all flights. Although that remains the right decision, the concept of a package holiday has become blurred by the way many holidays are sold through mix-and-match components. Consumers must be able to make informed choices. My objective now is to create a clear boundary of protection, and this objective is shared by the travel trade. The consultation puts forward several options for this.

I am also consulting on a number of measures to rationalise the process for making airport byelaws. The main aims are to modernise and streamline the existing airport byelaw-making process and increase the level of consultation with interested parties during the preparation of airport byelaws.

The proposals in this consultation will provide strategic direction for the CAA and help it regulate the aviation industry in tune with modern needs.

Copies of the decision document, both consultation documents and associated publications have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

Equality 2025

In line with good practice on non-departmental public bodies, the Office for Disability Issues commissioned an internal review of ‘Equality 2025: the UK Advisory Network on Disability Equality’ in June 2009. The review recognised that Equality 2025’s remit of offering Government advice and expertise on disability equality issues remains valid and recommended it should continue unchanged. The review also recommended developing Equality 2025’s strategic role as an ‘expert group’ and streamlining its size. I have broadly accepted these recommendations and officials are now working towards their implementation. The full list of review recommendations is available on the Office for Disability Issues’ website at: www. officefordisability.gov.uk.

I am pleased to announce that the Office for Disability Issues intends to publish the report of the review of Equality 2025 in the first half of 2010. The document will be available on the Office for Disability Issues’ website and will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.