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Written Statements

Volume 507: debated on Monday 8 March 2010

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 8 March 2010

Treasury

Terrorist Asset-Freezing

In a written ministerial statement on 10 October 2006, Official Report, column 11WS, the then Economic Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Ed Balls) undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK’s counter-terrorism asset-freezing regime. This is the 13th of these reports and covers the period October to December 20091.

Asset-freezing designations

In the quarter October to December 2009, the Treasury issued no directions designating persons under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006.

The Treasury gave 39 new directions under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009. All of these were in respect of persons designated under earlier orders.

There were no financial sanctions designations of persons with links to the UK made at the UN or at the EU, in relation to the terrorism or al-Qaeda and the Taliban asset-freezing regimes.

As of 5 March 2010, a total of 229 accounts containing just over £370,0002 of suspected terrorist funds were frozen in the UK. This figure is lower than previous quarters, primarily because some frozen assets were surrendered to the Legal Services Commission to repay legal aid, but also reflecting that some funds have been unfrozen as a result of delistings in this period.

Reviews under the Terrorism Order 2006

The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review and completed 42 reviews in this quarter; 39 persons remained designated under the Terrorism Order 2009. Three persons had their designation revoked.

Licensing

Licensing is the means by which the UK gives effect to exemptions in asset-freezing provision whether related to UN or EC Regulations or domestic terrorism legislation. Each licence is considered on a case-by-case basis. The key objective of the licensing system is to strike a balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and the humanitarian rights of individuals and third parties affected.

Seventy-one licences were issued this quarter in relation to individuals and/or entities subject to an asset-freeze under the al-Qaeda and Taliban and terrorism orders.

Litigation

The Advocate-General’s opinion on the household benefits policy: EC Regulation 881/2002, implementing UN financial restrictions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the EU, states that it is an offence to “make funds available directly or indirectly for the benefit of the designated person” without a licence from a competent authority. The Treasury’s interpretation of this provision, as set out in a written statement to Parliament by the then Economic Secretary on 3 July 2006, Official Report, column 25WS, is that it includes the provision of state benefits to the spouses or partners of designated persons where they are living together in the same household.

The Treasury’s interpretation of the relevant provision of the EC Regulation is the subject of litigation. The Treasury’s position was upheld in the UK by the High Court and then the Court of Appeal. Following referral of the case by the House of Lords to the European Court of Justice, the ECJ Advocate-General issued an opinion on 14 January 2010 indicating that in his view, the provision should be interpreted narrowly and should not include the payment of state benefits to the households of designated persons. A final ECJ decision is expected within the next few months.

When the ECJ clarifies the interpretation of EC Regulation 881/2002 on this matter, the Treasury will review its policy and make any changes that are needed to give effect to the Supreme Court’s judgment. In the meantime, as set out in my written ministerial statement of 5 February 2010, Official Report, column 31WS, I have made changes to how we implement the licensing of household benefits to ensure that our approach remains fair and proportionate.

Developments

The Supreme Court Judgment and the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010: On 4 February 2010 the Supreme Court quashed the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. My written ministerial statements of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 54WS and 3 and 4 February 2010, Official Report, columns 11WS and 31WS refer.

The Government fast-tracked temporary legislation to prevent suspected terrorists’ assets from being unfrozen. The Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010 came into force on the 10 February and temporarily validates the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Orders 2009, 2006 and 2001. The Act:

Maintains existing asset-freezes under the Terrorism Orders;

Includes a retrospective provision to protect the financial sector from damages claims for maintaining asset-freezes in the period between the Supreme Court’s Order quashing the Terrorism Order 2006 and the Act coming into force;

Allows further designations to be made under the Terrorism Order 2009.

The Act expires on 31 December 2010. Before then, the Government intend to introduce more permanent legislation that will establish the asset-freezing regime in primary legislation. A draft of the Bill was published on the Treasury’s website on:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/finsanc_assetfreezing bill_draft_050210.pdf.

The Treasury will be launching a public consultation on this draft Bill and I will be making a further statement on this shortly.

Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2010: Assets frozen under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order 2006 remain frozen under EU Regulation (881/2002). The EU Regulation is directly applicable in UK law, but secondary legislation is required to provide for penalties for failing to comply with the prohibitions in the EU Regulation and to establish a UK framework for the effective administration of asset-freezes against persons listed by the EU as being associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

The Government laid the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2010 on 25 February 2010. As noted in my written ministerial statement of 3 February, we have chosen to make these regulations subject to the affirmative procedure so they can be properly debated by Parliament.

1 The detail that can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.

2 This figure reflects account balances at time of freezing and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 05/03/10. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.

Health

Jobs First

I am today announcing the seven sites that have been successful in applying to be Jobs First demonstration sites.

Jobs First is an initiative that will support people with moderate to severe learning disabilities to use their personal budget to purchase the services they need in order to progress towards paid employment. The project will also demonstrate varying forms of support brokerage which will assist people with learning disabilities to prioritise employment within their support plan.

This approach will be demonstrated and evaluated in seven English local authorities over a 12-month period until March 2011. A number of local authorities were approached to take part in the project.

The seven Jobs First demonstration sites are:

Essex County Council;

Oldham Council;

Leicester City Council;

London Borough of Newham;

Herefordshire Council;

North Tyneside Council; and

Northamptonshire County Council

These seven local authorities will start to implement Jobs First in April 2010 and the project is expected to run for 12 months. The findings from the project will support Government policy on disability equality and worklessness.

NHS Constitution

The Department has today published a revised NHS constitution alongside the Government response to the consultation on new patient rights.

The NHS constitution brings together in one place what the NHS does, what it stands for and the commitments it should live up to. It describes the values and enduring principles of the NHS. To guarantee that the NHS constitution remains relevant, it has to keep up to date with public priorities and developments in medical technology, and evidence.

A three-month consultation launched on 10 November 2009, “The NHS constitution: a consultation on new patient rights”, set out proposals for new rights to be included in the constitution. The proposals included a right to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of GP referral, or to be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of GP referral, or, where this is not possible, for steps to be taken to offer a range of alternative providers.

The consultation also sought views on a right to an NHS health check, which assesses an individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease, for all people aged 40 to 74.

Over 8,000 people responded to the consultation. Following careful consideration of the responses, the Department has today published a revised NHS constitution, including a new right on waiting times. This new right will commence on 1 April 2010 and will be established in law through directions to primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. We also intend to introduce a right to an NHS health check in 2012, and will continue to explore the introduction of further entitlements as NHS services continue to develop.

The revised NHS constitution and the Government response to the consultation have been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Transport

Airport Public Safety Zones

I would like to announce that the responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the Government’s public safety zone (PSZ) policy has been transferred from the Department of Transport (DfT) to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

PSZs are areas of land at the ends of the runways at the busiest UK airports within which development is restricted in order to control the number of people on the ground at risk of death or injury in the event of an aircraft accident on take-off or landing. There are currently 31 UK airports with PSZs.

Following an internal DfT review, it was concluded that the administration of PSZ policy should be carried out by the CAA. The CAA has, therefore, taken over responsibility for the implementation of new PSZs and the review and update of existing PSZs. DfT will retain overall policy responsibility for PSZs.

I have today published an updated circular on the “Control of Development in Airport Public Safety Zones”. DfT circular 01/2010 updates and replaces DfT circular 1/2002 to take account of this transfer of administrative responsibility from the Department for Transport to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The PSZ policy itself and the guidance in the circular to local planning authorities, who apply the PSZ policy, remains the same. I have placed copies of the updated circular in the Libraries of both Houses.

Eco-driving Training

The Department has today issued a consultation document on options to increase the uptake of eco-driving training for drivers of large goods vehicles (LGVs) and passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs).

Emissions from freight movements stem primarily from the road sector, with LGVs representing 20 per cent. of total domestic transport greenhouse gas emissions. The Department’s preliminary analysis showed that if 90 per cent. of LGV drivers were eco-driving trained, and continued to drive in that manner, up to 3 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved over a five-year carbon budgetary period and £300 million in fuel costs could be saved for the industry per year.

As part of the Government’s carbon reduction strategy for Transport, “Low Carbon Transport: A Greener Future”, published in July 2009, the Department therefore committed to exploring how to achieve a 90 per cent. uptake of eco-driving courses for LGV drivers, and to consulting on the options for doing so, including whether making eco-driving training a mandatory part of the EU driver certificate of professional competence (Driver CPC) will help us do this. This consultation document fulfils that commitment.

The consultation seeks views on three options for achieving a 90 per cent. uptake of eco-driving courses for LGV drivers: no change on the current approach, where eco-driving training continues to be undertaken on a voluntary basis; a non-regulatory approach aiming to increase the promotion of the benefits of eco-driving training, through increased marketing or improved best practice; or regulatory change, where eco-driving training becomes a mandatory part of the Driver CPC.

Because the Driver CPC applies to both LGVs and passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs), the consultation also considers the possibility and implications of making the eco-driving training a mandatory part of the Driver CPC for both categories of driver.

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