Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 22 March 2010
Culture, Media and Sport
Public Libraries (Modernisation)
In December 2009 we published our consultation document on the future of public libraries in England and committed to publishing the Government’s vision for libraries in the spring. I have today laid before Parliament “The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries: A Policy Statement” setting out our policies for public libraries in England.
The policy statement builds on the 10-year strategy for libraries published in 2003 “Framework for the Future”. Specifically it sets out:
A Library Offer to the Public: The Government recommend a Library Offer to the public for all public libraries in England. The Library Offer will be made up of a “core offer” of services which all library services should deliver and a “local offer” of services, shaped and delivered at local level. The Government recommend all library authorities make their Library Offer to the public clear and visible to all the citizens in the area—on their website, in library buildings and through any other local marketing opportunities. The Government will review the Library Offer after two years and consider whether to legislate to make it a statutory obligation.
Free internet access: The Government expect that from April 2011 all library services will provide free internet access to users as part of their Library Offer to the public. Government will, under section 8(2)(b) of the 1964 Public Libraries Act, make an affirmative order preventing libraries from charging for internet access.
Support to get online: The Government recommend that all library services provide support and advice for users wanting to get online as part of their Library Offer to the public.
Library Membership from Birth: Research shows that children benefit in many ways from library visits and early access to books and reading. The Government expect that from April 2011 all library services offer library membership as an entitlement from birth. This might be achieved in a number of ways:
Offering library membership at the registration of a birth.
Offering library membership along with child benefits.
Offering library membership with bookstart packs.
E-Books: There are new and exciting opportunities around digital lending. With the launch of a number of different e-reading devices, digital reading is growing in the public consciousness where downloadable audio books are already fully established. Currently 14 library services offer e-book services in England with more planning to launch shortly. All lend for free. The Government believe that e-book lending is likely to form a key 24/7 public service in the future with public library services being accessed from home and on the move as well as in library buildings, and will therefore initiate changes to secondary legislation to guarantee free e-book loans. The Government will under section 8(2)(b) of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 make an affirmative order preventing libraries from charging for e-books lending of any sort including remotely.
The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964: The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (the 1964 Act) sets out the statutory duty for all local authorities to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service set in the context of local need—specifically of those who live, work and study in the local area. The 1964 Act imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to oversee and promote the public library service and to secure discharge of the statutory duties of local authorities as well as providing certain powers to take action where a local authority is in breach of its own duty. The Government judge that the 1964 Act’s imposition of this duty on local authorities is appropriate and that the Secretary of State’s overview role should be maintained.
We have no plans, therefore, to review the primary legislation but recognise that the process of intervention needs modernisation.
Public Libraries (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992: Although the Government do not expect to activate the inquiry rules often, the Government will amend the Public Libraries (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 to modernise the processes by which the Secretary of State intervenes in a library service.
Guidance on processes of engagement and consultation: Best practice guidance is issued in the policy statement on the processes which the Government recommend library authorities consider under their statutory duty. The Government will review this best practice guidance after two years and consider whether to legislate to make the guidance statutory.
Strategic Body for the Sector: The Government are minded to establish a strategic body for the sector as a means of providing a stronger national voice for libraries and improving leadership and development of the sector. As part of the wider review of arm’s length bodies, the Government will consider bringing together the functions of three different organisations—the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Advisory Council on Libraries and the Registrar of Public Lending Right. The Government propose the libraries body has a statutory advisory function, with the formal power to advise the Secretary of State on his role under the 1964 Act. The Government will undertake a business case in consultation with stakeholders and will publish more detail as part of the broader review of arm’s length bodies.
New Delivery Models: As local authorities face a tough spending round with hard choices to be made on front-line services, the Government encourage councils to look at new delivery models for their public library service. The Government believe that the current model of 151 library authorities is unsustainable. If the public are to be offered a comprehensive public library service at the local level, library services will either need to work closely together, merge with other authorities or establish trust models of private/public partnerships. There may also be opportunities to share services with university libraries and collaborate on opening times, access and management of stock.
Armed Forces Equipment
During the defence in the world debate on 15 March I set out my intention to announce a number of important equipment procurement decisions over the coming days that will deliver vital capabilities for the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force, ensuring they are well equipped to undertake future missions.
My approach continues that which I set out in the House on 15 December, and on 3 February with the defence Green Paper that paves the way for a strategic defence review after the general election. Many of the decisions we face in the future of defence will be left for the review but there is also a clear need to maintain momentum on projects that are integral to any future defence programme, and to continue to work to ensure the long-term affordability of the overall programme.
Today, I am pleased to announce the successful outcome of the specialist vehicle competition. This represents a very important milestone towards replacing the ageing combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked), and is one of the highest equipment priorities for the Army.
Preferred bidder status has been awarded to General Dynamics UK for the demonstration phase of the specialist vehicle programme, subject to successful completion of contractual negotiations. This decision was made following a robust assessment of the tenders received, ensuring value for money throughout the life of these vehicles.
The solution offered by General Dynamics UK is based on an upgrade to the ASCOD vehicle that is already in service with a number of European nations. The British variants of this design will employ the 40 mm cased telescoped ammunition and cannon, and provide protection against a wide range of threats. Once in service, this new capability will bring significant benefit to the Army including improved protection, greater firepower, longer-range sensors and sighting systems, and a higher level of reliability.
General Dynamics UK’s proposed solution contains 73 per cent. UK content within the supply chain and the assembly, integration and test facilities at the Defence Support Group Donnington. This ensures the sustainment of UK jobs, UK skills and UK capabilities within the armoured vehicle sector.
We are determined to provide the armed forces with the capabilities they require, and the SV decision follows the announcement of our commitment to order an initial batch of 200 light protected patrol vehicles (LPPV), which we will get to Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The initial batch of 200 vehicles will be funded from the Treasury reserve as an urgent operational requirement. The LPPVs we are assessing through competition are at the cutting edge of technology, providing the optimum balance between protection, weight and manoeuvrability required by our armed forces on operations in Afghanistan.
This is in addition to the announcements I made on 15 December, of further reserve funding of £280 million for equipment for Afghanistan including additional vehicles, and £900 million of enhancements from the core defence programme, including 22 Chinook helicopters, an additional C-17, a doubling of our Reaper capability, and strengthening our counter-IED capability—funded by savings in lower priority areas, and based on our determination to support the current campaign and our belief that we expect such capabilities to feature in future conflicts.
We are not able to announce the outcome of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme competition today. Following an assessment of the tenders from BAE Systems Global Combat Systems and Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill, we intend to invite the competitors to revise and confirm their bids. Further announcements will be made in due course.
I am, however, pleased to announce that on 19 March we reached agreement with the US Government to purchase three Rivet Joint aircraft and associated ground systems delivering vital capability for the Royal Air Force to replace the Nimrod R1 capability that will be retired from service in March 2011.
The Rivet Joint system was selected following an extensive assessment phase that considered a number of possible solutions. Rivet Joint was selected as it is the only viable option that meets the requirements of our armed forces.
I intend to make further announcements in the coming days about new and additional capability for our armed forces and defence contracts for UK industry.
Departmental Expenditure Limits (Replacement)
The following statement replaces information given in the Ministry of Defence previous departmental expenditure limits (DEL) written ministerial statement on 23 February 2010, Official Report, columns 29-30WS.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the DEL will be increased by £284,565,000, voted and non-voted, from £39,596,111,000 to £39,880,676,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:
Voted Non-Voted Voted Non-voted Total Resource -33,261 222,396 38,660,976 439,112 39,100,088 Of which: Administration Budget 211 - 2,237,948 - 2,237,948 Near-cash in RDEL -100,650 250,355 26,277,470 668,551 26,946,021 Capital 178,695 - 9,227,484 851 9,228,335 Depreciation* -83,265 -8,438,227 -9,520 -8,447,747 Total 62,169 222,396 39,450,233 430,443 39,880,676 *Depreciation, which forms part of Resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
Near-cash in RDEL
*Depreciation, which forms part of Resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
The changes to the resource and capital elements of the DEL arise from:
Voted Resource DEL decrease £33,261,000:
(1) An increase of £100,000,000 Direct Resource near cash relief in RfRl, as agreed with Treasury from the Reserve.
(2) Resource transfers into RfRl from the Cabinet Office being their contribution to MOD security costs of £6,000,000 transfers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of £6,695,000 and £1,965,000 for the Counter Narcotics Ground Force, and a transfer of £1,002,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office being their contribution to the Information Assurance Technical Programme.
(3) A transfer of £211,000 from the Cabinet Office being their contribution to the Parliamentary Counsel cost (an increase in Administration Voted DEL).
(4) A net decrease in the cash release of provisions of £17,324,000 charged to RDEL (with a corresponding increase in the provision charge scored in AME) to reflect the latest forecast of outturn.
(5) To re-allocate the net resource impact of £35,000,000 for employee benefits under IFRS trigger point 3 from AME to Resource DEL, reflecting the revised control framework for this item.
(6) To reflect the revised, and reduced, resource impact assessment of disclosing three PFI contracts as finance leases under IAS 17, being a credit of £21,000,000.
(7) To reflect the revised resource impact resulting from a reduced service charge credit relating to Annington Homes of £18,000,000.
(8) To reflect the non cash resource impact, in the amount of £26,000,000, of implementing IFRS 17 on three PFI off balance sheet contracts now re-assessed as finance leases.
(9) To reflect the IFRS reduced near cash service charge of £178,000,000 impact of disclosing IFRIC 12 PFI assets on MOD's balance sheet.
(10) To increase Non-Budget Grants in Aid (Non Voted) for the Council of Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) of £4,199,000 in the Central Top Level Budget (TLB) and £4,943,000 in Land TLB; £210,000 for the Marine and Sea Cadets Society by reducing Resource DEL current costs and increasing Non-Budget Grants in Aid with no overall impact on resource.
(11) To increase non budget funding by £10,991,000 from within Resource DEL to reflect the latest forecast of outturn for the Navy Command, Land Forces, and Central TLBs.
(12) To revise sub-head provisions to reflect Resource and Capital revisions in allocations between TLB Holders to match required defence outputs, with no overall impact on DEL.
(1) A net resource increase of £13,430,000 in non- cash depreciation and cost of capital costs to reflect the latest forecast cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(2) A transfer in of £1,832,000 from the Department for International Development (DflD) being their contribution to the Global Pool (RfR2).
(3) To reflect a technical disclosure change by moving £6,729,000 from Voted to Non-Voted expenditure, relating to a transfer made to DflD in Winter Supplementary Estimates (WSE), with no overall impact on DEL.
Non-Voted Resource DEL increase £222,396,000:
(1) A net increase in the cash release of provisions of £17,324,000 charged to Non-Voted RDEL (with a corresponding increase in the provision charge scored in AME) to reflect the latest forecast of outturn.
(2) To reflect the IFRS reduced near cash service charge of £178,000,000 impact of disclosing IFRIC 12 PFI assets on MOD’s balance sheet being a charge to Non-Voted resource.
(3) To reflect the Non-Voted impact of an increase in Non-Budget Grants in Aid (Non Voted) for the Council of RFC A of £4,199,000 in the Central TLB and £4,943,000 in Land TLB; £210,000 for the Marine and Sea Cadets Society by reducing Resource DEL current costs and increasing Non-Budget Grants in Aid with no overall impact on resource.
(4) To reflect the Non-Voted impact of an increase in Non-Budget funding by £10,991,000 from within Resource DEL to reflect the latest forecast of outturn for the Navy Command, Land Forces and Central TLBs.
(1) To reflect a technical disclosure change by moving £6,729,000 from Voted to Non-Voted expenditure, relating to a transfer made to DflD in WSE, with no overall impact on DEL.
Voted Capital DEL Increase: £178,695,000:
(1) A further increase in Fiscal Capital Resource of £5,000,000 to reflect Treasury reserve relief for lower capital receipts in Northern Ireland than originally forecasted.
(2) To reflect the capital impact of implementing IFRS 17 on three PFI off balance sheet contracts now re-assessed as Finance Leases of £13,000,000.
(1) To request a net increase in Capital DEL of £160,695,000 to reflect the latest forecast cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan funded from the reserve.
The changes to Resource DEL and Capital DEL will lead to an increased net cash requirement of £935,052,000.
Energy and Climate Change
EU Energy Council (12 March)
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change today made the following statement:
Andy Lebrecht, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the UK at the Energy Council in Brussels on 12 March.
The first item on the agenda was the draft regulation concerning the notification to the Commission of investment projects in energy infrastructure, on which the Council reached political agreement. Most issues, including the UK’s previous areas of concerns (principally in relation to the extra burden on industry and on member state administrations) were resolved during negotiations and agreement was reached with little discussion by member states.
The Council then agreed conclusions on the Commission Communication “Investing in the development of low carbon technologies”, which sets out the strategic approach to energy research in the EU over the next 10 years. The UK is content with the text of the conclusions and pleased that the previous expectation of large increases in member state national spending has now been qualified.
The last substantive item was an exchange of views on the energy aspects of the Commission’s proposed Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth initiative, based on a presentation by the Commission of its Communication published on 3 March. The Commission noted that energy was central to the Europe 2020 strategy, given its relevance to the economy, employment and climate change. In the discussion that followed, member states agreed on the value of the strategy, and on the importance of developing an energy action plan for 2010-14. There was general agreement that the energy action plans should cover energy efficiency, diversification of energy sources and research and development. The UK noted that the EU budget should reflect the 2020 priorities.
The presidency briefly updated the Council on the outcome of the informal Energy Council in Seville in January; on Russia-Ukraine energy relations; and on the latest report on the status of the EU electricity and gas markets. The Hungarian delegation reported on the energy security summit attended by representatives from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in Budapest on 24 February.
The Council ended with a working lunch where Commissioner Oettinger outlined his views on the Commission Work Programme on energy, focusing on policies to meet the 20/20/20 objectives, the need for proper implementation of the internal market package, and energy efficiency. He also emphasised his intention that the energy action plan should look beyond the short-term and set out a route map towards 2020 and 2050.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Marine Management Organisation
I am pleased to announce that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will vest on 1 April 2010 as an executive non-departmental public body.
The MMO has been established by the Marine and Coastal Access Act, and will act as the UK Government’s principal delivery body in the marine area in the waters around England and in the UK offshore area for matters that are not devolved and its centre of marine management expertise. The MMO will bring together a number of marine management activities from across Government, as well as delivering new marine planning, licensing and nature conservation functions created by the Act. This represents a real opportunity to provide an identifiable focus on marine matters and will make a contribution to achieving sustainable development by bringing together delivery of a number of marine functions within a single independent body, enabling integrated implementation of Government policy for the marine area.
The MMO will contribute to the Government’s Public Service Agreement (PSA28)
“to secure a healthy environment in which we and future generations can prosper”.
Its main areas of responsibility will encompass:
delivering an integrated system of marine planning;
delivering a streamlined, transparent and consistent system for licensing marine activities and developments;
contributing to conserving natural resources, eco-systems and species, including the development of marine protected areas;
modernisation and streamlining of the management and regulation of England’s marine fisheries; and
contributing to responses, relationships and returns to the EU and international bodies.
In delivering the functions above, the MMO will work closely with a wide range of UK Government Departments with a policy interest in the marine area—the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Communities and Local Government (CLG), the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The MMO will also deliver specific operational functions on behalf of DEFRA, DfT and DECC.
The MMO also has a requirement to manage its functions with the overarching objective of making a real contribution to the achievement of sustainable development in the marine area and in the wider context. I will issue the MMO guidance on how it should discharge its functions with regard to this objective, and a draft of this guidance will be laid in Parliament.
The organisation will be directed by an independent chair (Christopher Parry) and board, and led by a chief executive (Steven Gant). The MMO will have net operating costs in 2010-11 of £32.3 million. It consists of a headquarters office located in Newcastle, and a network of 18 coastal offices.
I announced on 12 February 2009 that the Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA) would be subsumed into the new body and that it would cease to be a separate Executive Agency. The remit and functions of the MFA will continue to be delivered within the wider remit of the MMO.
Stakeholders will receive the same professional services they currently receive from the MFA. As the MMO develops I expect to see stakeholders gain further benefit because the MMO will deliver:
a coherent, transparent delivery body for independently reconciling conflicting demands and pressures in the marine area including through the introduction of a new, integrated system of marine planning;
a modernised, accessible and streamlined licensing system, leading to structural efficiencies and savings;
a comprehensive approach to the formulation and implementation of policy in the marine area across Government;
an authoritative hub for information exchange and research in the marine area, providing access to its own data and an expert on what other sources are available;
a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and partnership in the marine area providing a single focus for marine management issues; and
the positioning of the UK as the internationally recognised leader in marine management.
Since the Marine and Coastal Access Act received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009, my officials have been working to put in place the necessary legislation to commence and transfer appropriate powers and duties to the MMO to ensure that it is operational from 1 April. This began with the first Commencement Order which came into force on 12 January 2010, establishing the MMO as a body corporate, and is being followed by further Commencement Orders and mechanisms to transfer functions to the MMO. These will come into effect on 1 April.
The new marine planning function and streamlined licensing regime are currently either under consultation or in development and will come on stream after vesting. Current timetabling anticipates the new licensing regime to be operational from spring 2011, and marine plan areas to be agreed in that timeframe also which will enable the MMO to prioritise and begin work on this first marine plan.
Further details of the MMO’s role and responsibilities are given in its corporate documents: the Framework Document, the Corporate Plan 2010-11 to 2012-13, and the Business Plan 2010-11. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be published on the MMO’s website: www.marinemanagement.org.uk
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (22 March)
The General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council will be held on 22 March in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will represent the UK.
The agenda items are as follows:
Foreign Affairs Council (fac)
Ministers will discuss the EU’s response to Haiti and seek to agree a common position for the global donors’ conference in New York on 31 March. This is likely to include: a common aggregated figure for EU commitment for reconstruction; a long-term plan for economic growth and development; and a commitment to joint programming to enhance aid effectiveness. Ministers will also discuss the creation of an “EU House” in Haiti to enhance co-ordination and represent EU donors not present on the ground. They may also discuss plans for further work on the EU’s emergency response capability.
We expect Ministers to be updated on the latest developments following the tragic earthquake on Saturday 27 February. The UK has responded to specific requests made by the Chilean Government and provided £250,000 to the Red Cross and delivered 600 tents to World Vision through DFID and the MOD. With EU partners, the UK has provided €3 million for the relief effort through European Commission Humanitarian Aid.
Ministers will discuss the work of the new EU Representative for Afghanistan, Vygaudas Ušackas, focusing on his immediate priorities. These include implementation of the EU action plan, follow-up to the London conference and preparations for the Kabul conference. The upcoming EU-Pakistan summit on 21 April may also be discussed.
Follow-up to Gymnich
Ministers will continue their discussions on how the EU’s post-Lisbon structures can deliver more coherent, co-ordinated and effective EU actions, including in its relations with emerging powers. Ongoing planning for the European External Action Service may also be discussed under this item.
Any Other Business: Belarus/Ukraine/Moldova
Under AOB, Ministers are likely to discuss Belarus’s treatment of its Polish minority, internal developments in Moldova and visa issues in relation to Ukraine and Moldova.
Over lunch, Ministers will review recent developments on the MEPP with Quartet Representative, Tony Blair. Baroness Ashton is expected to brief on her visit to the region this week, and the Quartet meeting in Moscow on 19 March. Ministers are likely to agree an EU declaration for the EU/Israel Association Council, which will take place in Brussels on 23 March.
General Affairs Council (GAC)
The GAC will present and discuss the draft Council conclusions for the spring European Council on the 25 and 26 March including points on EU2020 and climate change. On EU2020, we will seek to make progress on the agreement of a comprehensive European economic strategy that delivers strong, sustainable and balanced growth. On climate change, we will seek to ensure continued international focus on the goal of a legally binding treaty.
Departmental Expenditure Limits and Administration Cost Limits (2009-10)
The Department of Health’s overall departmental expenditure limit (DEL) is unchanged from the written statement made on 23 February 2010, Official Report, column 40WS, at £105,564,260,000, the administration cost limit is unchanged at £218,191,000. The impact on resource and capital is set out in the following table:
Voted £m Non-voted £m Voted £m Non-voted £m Total £m Department of Health Resource DEL, of which -100.000 101,795.986 -1,607.778 100,188.208 Administration Budget * 218.191 - 218.191 Near-cash in Resource DEL -100.000 96,935.132 -308.409 96,626.723 Capital DEL 100.000 2,650.151 2,725.901 5,376.052 Total Department of Health DEL 104,446.137 1,118.123 105,564.260 Depreciation ** -902.961 -177.166 -1,080.127 Total Department of Health spending (after adjustment) 103,543.176 940.957 104,484.133 *The total of “administration budget” and “Near cash in Resource DEL” figures may well be greater that the total resource DEL, due to definitions overlapping. **Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since the capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
Department of Health
Resource DEL, of which
Administration Budget *
Near-cash in Resource DEL
Total Department of Health DEL
Total Department of Health spending (after adjustment)
*The total of “administration budget” and “Near cash in Resource DEL” figures may well be greater that the total resource DEL, due to definitions overlapping.
**Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since the capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
The change results from a transfer from the revenue budget to the capital budget of £100,000,000 to meet existing commitments on pandemic flu.
Countering International Terrorism
Protecting the safety of the UK and our interests overseas is the primary duty of Government. International terrorism remains the pre-eminent threat to the security of the United Kingdom.
I have today published the first annual report of the Government’s strategy for countering international terrorism, Contest (Cm 7833). This report provides a written account of our progress against the objectives set out in our strategy over the last year. The report has been developed to be read alongside the 2009 publication of Contest (Cm 7547) which remains one of the most comprehensive and wide-ranging approaches to tackling this threat in the world. Copies of the annual report will be made available in the Vote Office.
The greatest security threat we face continues to come from al-Qaeda and related groups and individuals. The nature of this threat has changed over the last 12 months. Al-Qaeda’s leadership has come under severe pressure in Pakistan and NATO’s presence across the border continues to deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan. However, an increase in the capability of some al-Qaeda affiliates and associated groups, highlighted by the attempted Detroit airline attack, demonstrates the evolving and diffuse threat we continue to face.
Contest explains how contemporary terrorist organisations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear (CBRN) weapons. The availability of information on the internet, changing technology and the theft and smuggling of CBRN materials make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the past. To support delivering our response, I have also published today the United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism which addresses the specific threat posed by terrorist use of CBRN materials. A copy of the strategy will be placed in the House Library.
During 2009 thousands of people, including British citizens, have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks around the world. There have been no attacks, successful or unsuccessful, by international terrorist groups or individuals associated with them in the UK over the past 12 months. This reflects the resources and capabilities that we have put in place to deal with the threat. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, responsible for setting the UK threat level, currently assess that the UK threat level is severe meaning an attack is highly likely and could happen without warning at any time.
Our response continues to be based at all times on principles that reflect the core values of the UK including human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all.
We recognise that our response must continue to be founded on partnerships across the spectrum from local, national to international. Communities, local authorities, Departments, agencies, devolved Administrations, and overseas partners all play vital roles in the successful delivery of Contest.
We judge that to date Contest has achieved its aim—to reduce the risk to the UK and to its interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.
Joining up Africa: Regional Integration Conference
In partnership with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank, the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, the European Commission and UK Trade and Investment, we organised a conference on African Regional Integration on 4 March 2010 in London. Around 200 representatives of African regional economic communities (RECs), African and development partner Governments, multilateral organisations, business and commercial bodies and civil society attended.
Regional integration is an important political and economic priority for Africa increasingly supported by its development partners. For example, last year the UK supported the North-South Corridor Conference in Lusaka where several African leaders announced plans to improve cross-border trade, reduce transport delays and costs, and promote investment. At that event donors agreed to provide over $2.5 billion of funding to upgrade road, rail, port and energy infrastructure.
The Joining up Africa event aimed to help maintain momentum and support for regional integration, and looked at how African institutions, donors, business and other investors can work better together.
I opened the conference and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also addressed conference guests. Some 30 eminent speakers from a range of backgrounds spoke during discussions on how we can collectively overcome the political, economic and bureaucratic obstacles to greater regional integration. The major organisations represented at the conference agreed to sign an “Outcomes Statement”, which can be found at: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Documents/publications/ Joining%20Africa%20-%20Final%20Outcomes%20 Statement.pdf. Other development partners are being invited to sign this statement as well.
The statement highlights how essential greater regional integration is for Africa’s growth and development. It recognises the urgent need to strengthen and increase support for regional integration as well as the need for more co-operation by all the relevant African stakeholders. The statement calls for action to:
speed up progress with transport, trade, energy and other infrastructure programmes at a regional level and to resolve the obstacles and non-tariff barriers to trade;
involve the private sector more effectively in support of regional integration;
make support for regional integration more effective by applying the key principles of the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action regionally for the first time; and
give more support to the COMESA, EAC and SADC tripartite process and to encourage similar arrangements by the African Union and other RECs as steps to establishing an African Economic Community.
Criminal Legal Aid
The Ministry of Justice is publishing today outline proposals for restructuring of the delivery of publicly funded criminal defence services. This follows the announcement in December 2009 that the Ministry would work closely with the Legal Services Commission (LSC), the Law Society and individual practitioners to develop such proposals by the end of March 2010, and that these would replace the LSC’s planned pilots for best value tendering. Even with the necessary savings and reforms, our system of legal aid—civil and criminal—will still be far and away the best funded in the world.
The Government strongly believe that there must be a significant restructuring of the provision of criminal defence services in order to achieve greater value for money from legal aid, while still ensuring fair access to justice and enabling legal aid providers to remain profitable and sustainable. The Ministry of Justice policy statement proposes that this would be achieved by creating a more consolidated market, in which larger contracts are let to a smaller number of more efficient providers, enabling them to take advantage of economies of scale.
Other features of the proposals include:
contracts tendered across a whole criminal justice system area, and for the full range of services including higher value Crown court work;
opportunities for a range of providers to win contracts, including barristers chambers;
retaining the ability for individuals to choose a solicitor from among those firms that hold contracts; and
fostering innovation and efficiency on the part of providers by minimising contractual burdens, but balanced with strong financial audit controls.
The Ministry of Justice intends to undertake a consultation later this year on more detailed proposals, including a tendering model capable of delivering this restructured market. The Government will wish to consider the views expressed by respondents, including on any alternative options that would ensure the sustainability of criminal legal aid at reduced overall expenditure, before making final decisions.
Copies of the policy statement, “Restructuring the delivery of criminal defence services”, will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document will also be available from the publications section of the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk.
Capital and Income in Trusts
In May 2009, the Law Commission of England and Wales published its report: Capital and Income in Trusts: Classification and Apportionment (Law Com no 315). The report makes three legislative recommendations to reform aspects of the law on the classification and apportionment of income and capital in trusts.
The purpose of these reforms is to simplify and modernise trust law rules that create unnecessary expense, litigation and difficulty to trustees of both private and charitable trusts; to decrease the regulatory burden on the Charity Commission; and to facilitate total return investment by charities.
The Government have carefully considered the report and are pleased to announce that they accept the Law Commission’s recommendations. It is now intended to consult on these reforms and the proposed draft legislation.
Today, Land Registry is launching a formal consultation exercise to seek views on proposals to allow for electronic transfers and to extend the possible use of electronic legal charges (a form of mortgage).
The overarching aim of Land Registry’s e-conveyancing programme is to make conveyancing easier for everyone, with an electronic system that makes buying and selling property less stressful for the public, conveyancing professionals and the other parties involved.
Proposed new land registration rules would prescribe an electronic transfer as an additional kind of electronic disposition of registered land in England and Wales. Existing rules made in 2008 provide for the creation of “standalone” electronic legal charges: the proposed new rules would revoke the 2008 rules and allow for both standalone electronic legal charges and electronic charges accompanying a transfer. There is already provision for electronic discharges. The proposed new rules would, therefore, make it possible, for the first time, to carry out electronically each of the principal conveyancing steps in the typical sale and purchase of a house.
Subject to the outcome of the proposals and the advice and assistance of the Rule Committee, it is anticipated that the new rules would come into force during 2011.
Land Registry has today published a consultation paper “E-Conveyancing Secondary Legislation-part 3”, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
Election Day (Weekend Voting Consultation)
I have laid today before Parliament the Government’s response to the “Election Day: Weekend Voting” consultation.
The right to vote is the basis of our political system. Strengthening our democracy requires the removal of barriers to the exercise of that right, so the system for delivering elections must be accessible and responsive to the needs of voters. To this end, the Government committed to consult on whether moving elections to the weekend might help to make voting more accessible and so potentially raise levels of turnout at elections. The consultation provided a further opportunity for debate about how the democratic process might better be shaped to the needs and preferences of citizens.
The “Election Day: Weekend Voting” consultation paper, published in June 2008, invited views on the merits of moving the voting day from the traditional Thursday to one or both days of the weekend for parliamentary and European parliamentary elections, and local elections in England and Wales; and on the best way to do this. The paper set out a range of issues that would need to be taken into account and invited views and evidence. These included the importance of ensuring that religious groups would continue to have opportunities to vote in a manner consistent with their beliefs, and the practical and resource considerations.
The Government launched the weekend voting consultation with an open mind on whether moving polling day could be expected to support greater participation. I am grateful that many people and organisations responded to the consultation. We have considered carefully the views expressed. It is clear that there is no simple or single solution to raising participation and addressing the issues of low or falling turnout, and the responses reveal that there is a wide range of views on the proposals that were put forward.
An overall majority of respondents favoured retaining election day on a weekday. Evidence provided by local authorities and electoral administrators suggested that a weekend poll, particularly one held over two days, would add considerably to the logistical complexity of running elections, particularly in terms of finding appropriate staff and premises. While a small majority of those members of the public who responded to the consultation supported proposals for weekend voting, there was no evidence that its introduction would have a significant positive impact on participation rates.
Overall, given the lack of consensus in favour of a moving election day, the Government do not propose to move forward with weekend voting at this time. However, recognising that there is some evidence of support among electors—albeit not conclusive here—we believe the issue should be further considered if additional evidence or a stronger view in favour of weekend voting were to become apparent in the future.
The results from the consultation suggest there is continued popular support for remote voting—whether by postal means as now, or potential electronic means in the future. But it is clear from the responses that people wish to be reassured that such methods are secure, transparent and cost-effective. This is an issue that will be kept under review.
The Government are committed to approaching change to the administration of elections in a balanced way to support accessibility and increased engagement but also to ensure that the security and integrity of the ballot is protected. Maintaining public confidence in elections is paramount and it is right that any proposal for change is taken forward only where there is broad support.
Parliamentary Candidates (Guidance on Declaration of Interests)
The Ministry of Justice is publishing today guidance for all candidates at the forthcoming general election to assist them in issuing a declaration of their employment and other interests. The guidance has been produced in response to one of the recommendations contained in the twelfth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on MPs’ expenses and allowances. The report said:
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 nominations process.1
All parties accepted the report’s recommendations.
The guidance recommends that candidates issue a declaration of their interests against a number of categories. These are largely based on the categories of interest that sitting MPs are required to declare in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, with appropriate modifications and additions. These reflect the broader purpose of the candidate declaration of interests, as envisaged by the CSPL report, which is to enable the public to find out more about the background of candidates.
In line with the report’s recommendation, the guidance is advisory only. It makes recommendations of best practice which candidates are encouraged to follow in making a declaration. However, candidates are under no obligation to issue a declaration or to follow the guidance in doing so. Candidates will face no legal sanction should they choose not to publish a declaration, or as a result of the information that they do or do not declare.
Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The guidance has been published on the Ministry of Justice website. The Electoral Commission has also agreed to make a copy of the guidance available through its website. I will be writing to the leaders of all major parties to alert them to publication of the guidance. Separately, officials within the Ministry of Justice will contact directly those prospective parliamentary candidates for whom details are known at the point of publication of the guidance. However, it will ultimately be for candidates to make themselves aware of this guidance.
1 MPs’ Expenses and Allowances, November 2009, p89.
Bloody Sunday Inquiry Report
Publication of the report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry has been long-awaited and it promises to be a hugely significant event in Northern Ireland’s history. But this is also an occasion that will have an enormous impact on the private lives of ordinary people. I am determined to ensure that arrangements for publication are fair and reasonable, and at all times, I intend to act reasonably in recognition of the interests of the families, soldiers and others involved in the inquiry, and of my obligations to Parliament.
I am responsible for publication of the tribunal’s report, once it is delivered to me. I am advised that I have a duty, as a public authority under the Human Rights Act, to act in a way that is compatible with the European convention on human rights (ECHR). To fulfil this duty, I need to take steps to satisfy myself that publication of the report will not breach article 2 of the convention by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk. I am advised that these obligations must be met by me personally, in my capacity as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Although the inquiry is also a public authority under the Human Rights Act, I am not entitled to rely on the inquiry to satisfy my article 2 obligations and I have a duty to assess this myself. I also have a duty to satisfy myself that publication will not put national security at risk, for example by disclosing details of sources of confidential information.
During the course of the inquiry, the Government submitted to the tribunal some material that was relevant to its work but which was too sensitive to be disclosed publicly, usually because it contained information which had been provided to the security forces by individuals. If these individuals could be identified from the details they provided it would endanger their lives. This was explained to the tribunal in public interest immunity certificates signed by Ministers, which the tribunal accepted. I understand that the tribunal does not intend to refer to any material covered by public interest immunity certificates, but I have a duty to satisfy myself before publication that none of this material has inadvertently been revealed in the report. The tribunal also agreed that the identities of a small number of individuals who were engaged on highly sensitive duties should not be disclosed and I need to be assured that these individuals have not been identified.
I intend to establish a very small team of officials and legal advisers to assist me in carrying out this necessary exercise. The team will need to include members drawn from the Ministry of Defence and the Security Service, who are familiar with the material covered by the public interest immunity certificates, but they will be granted access to the report under strict terms of confidentiality and for the sole purpose of carrying out the necessary checks, and they will report directly to me alone. For the avoidance of doubt, and contrary to some press reports, I want to make absolutely clear that this team will not include any legal representatives of the soldiers who were interested parties at the inquiry. In response to a proposal made by some of the families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday, Lord Saville has agreed that this team can carry out the necessary checks on the inquiry’s premises while the report remains in his custody, before it is submitted to me. I have confirmed to Lord Saville that I am content with this proposal. I understand that the report will be made available for checking some time this week.
I believe that these checks are absolutely necessary in order to meet the legal obligations on me. I have listened to the concerns raised with me by representatives of the families of those killed or injured on Bloody Sunday and I have sought to find ways to address those concerns. With this in mind, in addition to supporting the proposal made by the families that the checks take place while the report remains in the custody of Lord Saville, I have also sought Lord Saville’s permission to allow counsel to the inquiry to be present during the checking process. He has agreed to this in principle, making it clear that they will be acting as representatives of the inquiry and not as advisers to me, or those who are reporting to me.
I want to publish the report in its entirety. Should any concerns about the safety of any individual arise, my first course of action would be to consider whether these can be addressed through alternative means. Were I to reach the conclusion, on advice, that a redaction to the text might be necessary, I would consult Lord Saville. In the very unlikely event that any redaction were deemed necessary, my intention would be to make this clear on the face of the report.
Once the checking process is complete, a publication date can be set and the report can be printed. The report will be published for this House, in response to an Order for a Return which I will invite the House to make. It is, of course, possible that a general election might be called in the meantime. Lord Saville has informed me that if it becomes clear that it will not be possible for the report to be published in advance of the Dissolution of Parliament, the tribunal will agree to retain custody of the report until after the general election.
The report must be published first for this House, but I acknowledge the importance of this inquiry’s findings in the lives of a large number of individuals and I have received the consent of the Speaker to facilitate a period of advance sight on the day of publication to those most directly affected by the report’s contents. I will seek to offer advance sight on the day of publication to one representative of each of the families designated as full interested parties to the inquiry and to their legal representatives, without distinction between the families of those killed and of those wounded. Equal arrangements for advance sight will be offered to those soldiers most centrally involved in the subject matter of the inquiry. In keeping with practice for other public inquiries, some Members of this House will also be granted a period of advance sight on the day of publication to enable them to respond to the oral statement which I propose to make to this House on the day the report is published.
I am grateful to the Speaker for his acceptance of the proposals which I have made in relation to advance sight. I will write to Lord Saville, legal representatives of interested parties, the leaders of political parties and others as necessary to confirm arrangements as soon as possible.
National Security Strategy
The safety and security of our citizens is the most important duty of Government. In March 2008, I announced the publication of the UK’s first ever national security strategy (NSS) and today, two years on, I am pleased to deliver a progress report, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. This report outlines the range of work that has been done since March 2008 to ensure that we are best placed to respond to the broad range of national security risks identified in the first NSS, from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, conflict and stabilisation, organised crime, domestic emergencies, to new challenges including piracy and cyber security.
The report explains how the comprehensive framework provided by the NSS, and the first annual update in 2009, has mobilised Government to work together to strengthen our response across a range of fast-moving and interconnected security issues, and to meet rising public expectations about what Government should be doing to protect citizens, while also increasing transparency and accountability on security issues. The new framework ensures that our response is co-ordinated and flexible and that we are able not only to tackle threats as they arise, but also to act early to deal with the drivers of threats and the environments in which they arise.
This work is overseen by the new Cabinet Committee on National Security which was established in 2007, which includes all the relevant Ministers, police chiefs, as well as the heads of the agencies, the Chief of Defence Staff, and others. It has met very frequently on Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as a wide range of other issues. It is supported by the new national security secretariat in the Cabinet Office. The secretariat also co-ordinates national security policy work across Government, including contributing to the Defence Green Paper published in February, and the International Development White Paper “Building our Common Future”, published in 2009. The national security forum established in 2009 ensures that Government work on national security is informed by independent expertise, and the new Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, which will take evidence from Ministers later today, has improved parliamentary oversight.
As a result of this comprehensive whole-of-Government approach, we are better equipped to respond effectively to the immediate threats we face, including terrorism, conflict, serious organised crime and civil emergencies. Today, the Government have published the “CONTEST annual report” (Cm 7833) which sets out progress against our counter-terrorism strategy, updated a year ago and recognised as one of the most sophisticated in the world. We have continued to increase investment—from £1 billion a year on domestic counter-terrorism in 2001 to over £3 billion now, doubling the size of the Security Service and recruiting thousands more counter-terrorism police. We have set up a single border agency with police-level powers, and the new electronic border controls will be covering 95 per cent. of travel by the end of 2010. Watch list arrangements and aviation security more widely are subject to continuous review. But we are committed to combining strong defences at home with decisive action abroad with allies to tackle terrorism and extremism, including building up other countries’ capacity to deal with terrorism themselves. Our priority remains the Afghan-Pakistan border areas—still the largest source of terrorist threat to the UK—but we have also had to respond to the diversifying threat from other countries such as Yemen and Somalia, which are covered in the progress report.
We have developed a comprehensive approach to stabilisation and development in failed and fragile states. In Afghanistan we were the first country to set up in 2008 a joint military-civilian headquarters to integrate the security and stabilisation aspects of our strategy—this team is now leading the stabilisation efforts following on from Operation Moshtarak in Helmand. In February this year we launched the new group of 1,150 skilled and experienced civilians constituting the civilian stabilisation group from which up to 200 can be deployed at any one time. After the recent tragedy in Haiti, a team from the stabilisation group was in the air just 12 hours after receiving a request from the UN.
Building on the successful work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, established in 2006, we published an updated strategy for tackling organised crime in July 2009, strengthening the shared assessment of harm and risk across SOCA, the police and other agencies, and set up a new strategic centre for organised crime in the Home Office to drive activity across Government. A new Ministerial Committee devoted specifically to organised crime will meet for the first time this month.
In relation to work to improve our resilience against domestic emergencies, the preparations put in place by the Government, National Health Service and local responders allowed the UK to respond quickly and minimise the disruption caused by the H1N1 pandemic, and the World Health Organisation has described the UK as
“in the vanguard of countries worldwide in preparing for a pandemic”.
Work continues on our critical infrastructure resilience programme as a response to Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the floods in the summer of 2007. We publish today the first products of that work: “A Strategic Framework and Policy Statement”; “The Sector Resilience Plan for Critical Infrastructure 2010”; and “Interim Guidance to the Economic Regulated Sectors”. This work forms part of our wider efforts to reduce the vulnerability of national infrastructure and essential services to disruption from natural hazards. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
One of the fundamental principles underlying the NSS is the commitment to tackling long-term challenges early by paying attention to the drivers of insecurity, such as poverty, inequality and poor governance, climate change, and competition for energy and other natural resources. The 2009 International Development White Paper identified the need to focus more of our development efforts in conflict-affected and fragile states, and on state-building and peace-building objectives in these countries. The Department for Energy and Climate Change, established in October 2008, plays a critical role in leading our response to climate change and in developing a strategic approach to energy security. The Government’s response to Malcolm Wicks’ review of international energy security will be published shortly.
The NSS also covers work to secure the UK’s interests in a range of environments where security challenges may arise, including the cyber, maritime and space domains. Last summer, we published the first ever cyber security strategy and, in September, established the office for cyber security and the cyber security operations centre. These new structures co-ordinate efforts across Government to ensure both that public sector systems are fully protected, and that citizens and businesses can take full advantage of the huge opportunities presented by cyberspace while reducing the risks that it poses to the UK, including from foreign actors or criminal, negligent or reckless activity. We are also developing a new national partnership to inspire talented young people to take up careers in information security to meet the need for highly skilled cyber security specialists.
As announced in the 2009 NSS update, we have been reviewing the security of the maritime domain, including piracy and counter-terrorism. A key area where we can strengthen our response to potential maritime incidents is through the integration and central co-ordination of maritime surveillance systems. I can announce today that work is beginning to establish a new multi-agency National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) based at the Ministry of Defence’s joint headquarters in Northwood. The Cabinet Office is also currently leading a review of the security of the UK’s strategic interests in space.
In relation to nuclear security, the “Road to 2010” White Paper, published in July 2009, set out our response to the full range of nuclear challenges the UK faces, in preparation for President Obama’s nuclear security summit in April, and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference in May. The Government are putting in place a package of enhanced nuclear security measures to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to tackling the threat of nuclear terrorism, and to encourage other nations to follow suit. These include confirming our commitment to renew the G8 global partnership beyond 2012, with a renewed focus on nuclear and biological security; inviting an IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to Sellafield; providing further funding to the IAEA nuclear security fund, to address the most urgent nuclear security needs overseas; and ratifying the two key international instruments for nuclear security (the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material). We have also just launched the UK’s National Nuclear Centre of Excellence.
As the first NSS explained, the global security context is dynamic, interconnected, and unpredictable, and we are committed to strengthening our capacity to monitor risks, anticipate future threats, and respond accordingly. We have increased our horizon scanning capacity and better co-ordinated its use across Government to help us anticipate and prepare for future threats. We are publishing today the 2010 edition of the National Risk Register (first published in 2008), copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. It reflects our latest assessment of the risks of terrorism, natural hazards, and man-made accidents which may significantly affect human welfare in the UK. Alongside this, we are publishing updated Crisis Response Arrangements (copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House) and beginning a public consultation on community resilience.
In the two years since the publication of the first NSS, we have made important progress, working together across Government and backed up by the hard work and dedication of the armed forces, security services, police and others. The nature of the threats we face, from piracy and cyber crime to terrorism and nuclear proliferation, is varied and ever changing, but we will continue in our endeavours to secure the UK, its values, its interests and its people.
Blue Badge Reform Programme
The Department for Transport has today published a consultation document containing proposals to ensure that the Blue Badge Scheme is more consistently administered, to clamp down on badge abuse and to help more people with severe mobility problems to access services more easily.
The proposals form part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Blue Badge Reform Strategy, published in October 2008.
Key proposals include:
Improving scheme enforcement through amendments to primary and secondary legislation.
Widening eligibility criteria through secondary legislation.
Improving funding to local authorities to help them deliver improved eligibility assessments.
We have been working closely with stakeholders in the development of these proposals and will consult on other aspects of the reform programme later in 2010 and 2011.
A copy of the consultation document and associated impact assessment has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Work and Pensions
I am setting out today how my Department can play a key role in the Government’s plan to halve the budget deficit within four years. Through our employment programmes the Government have invested £5 billion to ensure that we can help people back into work as quickly as possible and this investment has helped to keep unemployment much lower than was previously expected. This, in turn, has helped to reduce the cost of out-of-work benefits: the claimant count planning assumption, published in the 2009 pre-Budget report would lead to a reduction in benefit expenditure of some £10 billion over five years, when compared with the assumptions used in Budget 2009.
My Department has a key role in helping to reduce Government borrowing. By helping more people back into work, DWP can help individuals as well as reduce expenditure on out-of-work benefits. It is important that this can be done as efficiently as possible, and I have today published a document—“Delivering more for less: the efficiency programme of the DWP”—showing how my Department has consistently delivered value for money by reducing back-office costs, sharing costs across Government and increasing the productivity of its staff. Due to these efficiency programmes, it has been possible to increase the quality of the services that we offer to customers, at the same time as reducing the cost to the taxpayer.