Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 6 April 2010
Asset Protection Agency
On 7 December 2009 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the launch of the Asset Protection Agency (APA), an Executive Agency of HM Treasury.
The role of the APA and relationship with HM Treasury has been set out in the APA framework document, copies of which were deposited in the Libraries of both Houses at the time of the announcement.
After careful consideration of the APA’s activities in managing the Asset Protection Scheme (“the Scheme”) since its launch, the Chancellor has decided on a further delegation of decision making to them from HM Treasury. Previously the APA were authorised to make decisions or exercise rights delegated to them in furtherance of the asset management objective. Under the new delegation they will also be able to consider the reduction of risk to the taxpayer when making decisions or exercising any of the rights that have been delegated to them.
This change reflects our continued commitment to run the scheme efficiently and ensure tight management of the taxpayer’s risk.
An amended framework document that reflects this change has been published today and deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The document is also accessible via the HM Treasury website: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk.
Building Society Capital
The Government have published a discussion paper on building society capital and related issues, as announced in the Budget 2010. It will be available from the House Libraries from today and is on the Treasury website.
The discussion paper seeks views on the issues raised by the building societies experts’ group convened by the Government in 2009, including future options for capital raising by building societies in the light of ongoing regulatory reform.
Double Taxation Agreement (United Kingdom and Germany)
A Double Taxation Agreement with Germany was signed on 30 March 2010. The text of the agreement has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.
Valuation Office Agency (KPI)
I have today set the following key performance indicators for the Valuation Office Agency for 2010-11:
To achieve overall customer satisfaction of 90 per cent.
To determine 95 per cent. of housing benefit claims where no inspection is required in three working days.
To enable prompt issue of tax assessments, for inheritance tax and capital gains tax, by clearing all HMRC initial appraisal cases within an average of five days.
To contain reductions in the 2005 rating lists to a maximum of 4.2 per cent. of the total compiled list rateable value, over the entire life of the lists.
To contain reductions in the 2010 rating lists to a maximum of 3.6 per cent. of the total compiled list rateable value, over the entire life of the lists.
To ensure that 96 per cent. of new council tax bandings are right first time.
To complete the compliance reviews of broad rental market areas in England for local housing allowance purposes.
To achieve income from non-statutory services of at least £19 million.
Value for Money
To improve overall value for money on local taxation work by 3 per cent. a year.
To achieve full cost recovery reflecting a 5 per cent. reduction in budget for the year on all work for HMRC.
To have zero data incidents reportable to the Information Commissioner.
Counter-Terrorist Asset-Freezing Regime (January to March 2010)
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 14th of these reports and covers the period January to March 20101.
In the quarter January to March 2010, the Treasury issued no directions designating persons under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. As a result of the quashing of this order, the one extant direction under the order has no effect.
During this quarter, the Treasury gave no new directions under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009.
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 31 March 2010, a total of 226 accounts containing just over £370,0002 of suspected terrorist funds were frozen in the UK.
Reviews under the Terrorism Order 2006
The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review and completed three reviews in this quarter. All three persons had their designation revoked.
Maintaining an effective licensing system is important to ensure the overall proportionality and fairness of the asset-freezing regime, whether the individuals concerned are subject to an asset freeze in accordance with a UN or EC listing, or domestic terrorism legislation. A licensing framework is put in place for each individual on a case-by-case basis. The key objective of the licensing system is to strike an appropriate balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and meeting the human rights and humanitarian needs of affected individuals and their families.
Twenty-four licences were issued this quarter in relation to 15 individuals and/or entities subject to an asset freeze under the al-Qaeda and Taliban and Terrorism regimes.
On 9 February 2010, during the debate on the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill, the Treasury committed to reporting on proceedings taken for any offences under the asset-freezing regime.
In the quarter January to March 2010, there have been no proceedings taken for breaches of the prohibitions of the Terrorism orders or the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order.
The Supreme Court Judgment and the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010: As referred to in the 13th quarterly report to Parliament for the period October to December 2009, on 4 February 2010 the Supreme Court quashed the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. 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 10 February 2010 and temporarily validates the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Orders 2009, 2006 and 2001, ensuring that asset freezes under those orders remain in place. The Act expires on 31 December 2010. Before then, the Government intend to introduce more permanent legislation that will establish the terrorist asset-freezing regime in primary legislation. A draft of the legislation, the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill, was published on 5 February 2010. The Bill can be found at:
On 11 March 2010, the Government published a public consultation document which sets out the Government’s approach to terrorist asset freezing and their proposals for more permanent terrorist asset-freezing legislation and seeks the views of the public and other interested parties on the proposals. The consultation document can be found at:
Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2010: On 4 February 2010, the Supreme Court also quashed the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order. Assets previously frozen under that order remain frozen under EC Regulation 881/2002. The EC 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 EC 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.
In order to put in place penalties and establish such a framework, the Government laid new regulations before Parliament, the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2010.
The regulations were laid on 25 February 2010 and debated in the House of Lords on 25 March and in the House of Commons on 30 March. They came into effect at midnight on 31 March.
1The 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.
2This 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 30/03/10. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
Communities and Local Government
Local Government Investments (Revised Guidance)
The Government are grateful for the Communities and Local Government Committee’s second report of session 2009-10, “Local authority investments: the role of the Financial Services Authority”.
The Committee’s primary recommendation is that—
“the Government bring forward the necessary legislative changes to place within the remit of the Financial Services Authority the provision of advice or information relating to deposit taking...” (paragraph 16).
Having carefully considered the recommendation, the Government are not persuaded that such a course would be appropriate. The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued revised statutory guidance on investments that came into force on 1 April 2010. This includes a new recommendation that authorities’ investment strategies should comment on their use of Treasury management advisers. This will encourage officers to make explicit their procedures for using advisers and will give elected Members the opportunity to scrutinise those arrangements.
The revised “Guidance on Local Government Investments” is available at: http://www.communities. gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/1501971.pdf
Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Library of the House.
Sustainable Communities Act
I am today updating the House on progress the Government have made in implementing the Sustainable Communities Act 2007.
The Government remain committed to the Sustainable Communities Act. Local authorities put forward proposals to improve their local area to the Local Government Association (LGA), in its capacity as the selector, last summer. In December the LGA produced a shortlist of 199 proposals which Government are required to consider and respond to under the Act. The Government are working to try to reach agreement with the LGA on which proposals should be implemented. My officials worked very closely with their counterparts from the LGA to set up three discussion panels which provided an opportunity for the proposals to be discussed in further detail between LGA and Government officials. These panel meetings proved to be very helpful in clarifying issues behind proposals from both a Government and LGA perspective and gathering further useful evidence. Consideration of the proposals is ongoing with other Whitehall Departments. Many of the proposals are complex and the Government are investigating further issues raised by the LGA as part of the process. Once again I would like to thank the LGA for their continuing efforts in assisting the Government in this significant task.
In the meantime, I am pleased to inform the House that the Government will be taking action to make progress with the following proposals:
The London borough of Islington asked the Government to make it compulsory for owners of empty business premises (mainly shops) to talk to councils about the possibility of premises being used by the community, if they have been empty for six months. In response we will carry out a consultation, involving Islington and other relevant stakeholders, looking at the challenges behind engaging with landlords and owners.
Wirral metropolitan borough council and South Hams district council asked for communities to have the right to buy privately or publicly owned assets put up for sale in order to develop opportunities for communities to buy redundant buildings and land for community benefit. The Government will undertake an investigation into the challenges and barriers that a community right to buy approach would solve and what other solutions would help.
The London borough of Redbridge, who suggested relaxing the rules on the illumination of some road signs to reduce costs of installation, maintenance, energy consumption and light pollution. The Government are now considering further relaxations to lighting requirements beyond those they made in their 2002 review on this matter and will be undertaking further research into lighting through the national traffic signs policy review to assess the relative performances of lit and unlit signs in a number of environments.
Brighton and Hove city council put forward a proposal requesting a freedom that would allow surplus produce from allotments to be sold to local markets and shops. In response the Government have been able to clarify that there are no legal restrictions on allotment holders selling genuinely surplus produce. This clarification was made on 3 March within a package of measures that set out the Government’s support for gardeners and growing food in the community. This package also provided clarification to the London borough of Waltham Forest, Birmingham and Sheffield city councils, who have also put forward proposals about allotments under the Act, highlighting existing powers around allotments and the opportunity offered by new “meanwhile” lease arrangements that will make it easier for people to take control of abandoned land while it is waiting to be used.
Newcastle city council, Ryedale district council, and Darlington borough council wanted action to address the problem of large pub and retail companies imposing restrictive covenants on pubs preventing them from operating as pubs when sold. The Ministry of Justice will consult on removing the right of pub owners to impose such restrictions that are leading to pub closure.
Kettering borough council and Redcar and Cleveland borough council asked for changes to rules that would allow the council’s community protection officer service to carry out civil and crime related duties in a combined manner without fear of legal challenge and to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided. They want to change the statutory guidance to allow local authorities to employ single teams of wardens capable of dealing with all civil enforcement issues. The Government recognise this issue and the potential benefits of this request and have committed to undertaking a review of the current rules and any changes that may be needed to allow this idea to move forward.
Kent county council asked for recourse to Government funding to build a lorry park with 3,000 parking places to address lorry traffic problems locally which arise when the Kent police implement “Operation Stack” which enables them to close the M20 in order to hold large volumes of freight traffic.
The Department for Transport and Highways Agency are currently reviewing the existing policy (circular 01/2008) on motorway service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and all-purpose trunk roads and trying to find ways to remove barriers to the development and use of lorry park facilities, rest facilities and improved signing to existing lorry parks. A public consultation on the revised policy is expected to be published within the next few months.
The Government are also looking to review their approach to the use of powers under section 238 of the Highways Act 1980 to promote new roadside facilities for motorists and, in particular, provision for lorry drivers where appropriate to do so. While this will not directly fund developments such as the one proposed by Kent, the approach would help to overcome the hurdle of securing planning approval. Use of these powers would provide an alternative means of securing site approvals. The delivery of the facilities could then be franchised to private operators on a competitive basis which will represent the best outcome for the tax payer in terms of value for money.
There were a number of councils who put forward proposals pressing the Government to focus on improving energy efficiency and incentivising the development of renewable energy within communities. On 2 March we published the “Warm Homes, Greener Homes: A Strategy for Household Energy”, which addresses many of the issues raised by the proposals under the SCA. The introduction by the Government of feed-in tariffs in April this year and the launch next April of the renewable heat incentive will also help to address these critical issues.
West Devon borough council, Herefordshire county council and a number of other councils asked for a much wider role for Post Offices in communities including banking and financial services. In response the Prime Minister has already committed to do just that, and as a result we carried out a consultation to find out what people think about existing products and services offered through the Post Office, and our proposals for the future of the Post Office banking. In response to the consultation the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills made an announcement on the 29 March about the sort of services that Post Offices will be offering in the future.
Wiltshire county council asked for the Sustainable Communities Act process to be ongoing or annual. The existing Sustainable Communities Act requires that the process should not be a one-off. CLG officials have, however, been working closely with Local Works on the development of the Sustainable Communities (Amendment) Bill. The Government wholeheartedly support the current draft of the Bill which, if passed by Parliament, will provide a date for the next invitation for proposals to be issued, and will enable the process of submitting and considering proposals to be improved.
The Government continue to assess the 199 proposals on the shortlist submitted by the Local Government Association. I intend to make a formal decision on which proposals the Government believe should be implemented alongside the associated actions the Government will take, later this year.
I am today publishing the Government’s response to the consultation conducted last year on Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG) which closed on 23 June 2009. The document sets out a summary of the responses received and also confirms both the amount available for HPDG in 2010-11 and the allocation mechanism for 2010-11 which has been considered in the light of the comments received.
The amount available for local authorities through HPDG will be £146 million, an increase from £135 million paid out in 2009-10. This reflects the importance the Government place on increasing housing supply and increasing the capacity of local authorities to support this by delivering viable land and an efficient planning service. The grant provides a direct incentive for councils to work with partners in the public and private sector to ensure that new homes are built where they are needed. It is additional to mainstream funding and councils have the freedom to decide how best to spend it locally.
In changes to the distribution mechanism we are reducing the threshold of net additional homes needed to qualify for the housing element in recognition of the more challenging conditions in the housing market. We are also introducing additional eligibility requirements for demonstrating land for housing in order to reinforce existing requirements in planning policy statement 3 and increase confidence in the land supply position across the county. This builds on the confirmation set out in the budget that the planning inspectorate will undertake comprehensive checks on land supply and publish the results.
I have placed a copy of the Government’s response to the consultation document in the Library of the House. This will also be available on the Communities and Local Government website.
Culture, Media and Sport
Legal Deposit Libraries (Consultation)
I would like to thank the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel (LDAP) for their recommendations on digital legal deposit and thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation.
My Department has received 57 responses to the consultation from a broad range of stakeholders. This shows how important digital legal deposit is. The consultation, as Members may have expected, has brought up many interesting and varying views and ideas on what the regulations should cover.
Since the close of the consultation, LDAP have provided me with their next set of recommendations on UK Commercial and Protected Online Publications.
I will now be considering all the responses we have received and LDAPs latest recommendations with a view to going out to consultation in September on draft regulations and on UK Commercial and Protected Online Publications content.
Service Medical and Dental Officers (Pay)
The supplement to the 2010 report of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB) making recommendations on the pay of service medical and dental officers has been published today. I wish to express my thanks to the chairman and members of the review body for their report.
The AFPRB has recommended no increase in basic military salary for all defence medical services (DMS) accredited consultants and accredited general medical and dental practitioners. The AFPRB has also recommended a 1 per cent. increase for certain non-accredited officers and a 1.5 per cent. increase for junior non-accredited officers and cadets. In addition, the AFPRB recommended no increase in the values of national clinical excellence awards and distinction awards and a 1 per cent. increase for DMS trainer pay and general medical practitioner associate trainer pay.
The AFPRB recommendations are to be accepted in full, except for the 1.5 per cent. recommendation for junior non-accredited officers and cadets, which will be abated to 1 per cent. mirroring the decision on the Doctors and Dentists Review Body recommendation, with implementation effective from 1 April 2010.
Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.
Gulf Veterans (Mortality Data)
As part of the Government’s continuing commitment to investigate Gulf veterans’ illnesses openly and honestly, data on the mortality of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict are published regularly. The most recent figures for the period 1 April 1991 to 31 December 2009 are published today as a National Statistic Notice on the Defence Analytical Services and Advice website.
The data for Gulf veterans are compared to those of a control group known as the “Era cohort” consisting of armed forces personnel of a similar profile in terms of age, gender, service, regular/reservists status and rank, who were in service on 1 January 1991 but were not deployed to the Gulf. As in the previous release, the “Era” group has been adjusted for a small difference in the age-profile of those aged 40 years and over, to ensure appropriate comparisons.
Key points to note in the data are:
There have been 1,095 deaths among the Gulf veterans and 1,111 in the age-adjusted Era comparison group.
The 1,095 deaths among Gulf veterans compare with approximately 1,828 deaths which would have been expected in a similar sized cohort taken from the general population of the UK with the same age and gender profile. This reflects the strong emphasis on fitness when recruiting and retaining service personnel.
These statistics continue to confirm that UK veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict do not suffer an excess of overall mortality compared with service personnel that did not deploy.
The full notice can be viewed at http://www.dasa.mod.uk
Energy and Climate Change
Beyond Copenhagen (International Climate Change Plan)
On 31 March I published “Beyond Copenhagen: The UK Government’s International Climate Change Plan” (Cm 7850), setting out the key elements of UK strategy leading up to COP16 in Mexico and beyond.
The strategy reflects the fact there is much unfinished business following the outcome of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009. The conference made significant progress in some areas, but did not live up to our expectations, or those of many countries round the world.
“Beyond Copenhagen” argues that we should build on what was achieved at Copenhagen but also go further.
The main achievement at Copenhagen was agreement of the accord. The accord includes commitments to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2° Celsius, to climate finance approaching $30 billion fast-start finance to 2012 with a long-term goal of $100 billion a year by 2020 and for the first time provides a common international framework that includes all the world’s major economies. Since the summit more than 70 countries (accounting for around 80 per cent. of global emissions) have put forward mitigation targets and actions which, if they deliver at the high end of their ambitions, would be consistent with global emissions peaking before 2020, an important step towards achieving an emissions trajectory consistent with 2°.
The document affirms the importance of delivering against the commitments made in the accord. This includes commitments on emissions reductions, forestry, measurement, reporting and verification and on finance. It highlights the importance both of getting fast-start finance flowing and also of the work of the UN Secretary-General’s high-level advisory group on climate finance, co-chaired by the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia.
The Government continue to believe that this action has to be backed by a comprehensive legally binding agreement. The UK wants to see progress in the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) negotiations towards a legally binding agreement, with progress under the Copenhagen accord built on in the formal negotiations. To ease that process we signal that we would agree to an appropriately designed second Kyoto commitment period provided others enter into a comparable legally binding arrangements.
We also believe we need to strengthen the UNFCCC process and will be working with the Government of Mexico among others to do so.
Copies of “Beyond Copenhagen” have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Skipton Fund (Review)
Further to the Government’s response to Lord Archer of Sandwell’s report on NHS-supplied contaminated blood and blood products, which we published on 20 May 2009, I wish to inform the House that we have decided to bring forward a review of the Skipton fund, which makes ex gratia payments to those infected with hepatitis C as a result of their treatment.
The unintended and tragic consequences of these treatments have seriously impaired the lives of many people, together with those of their families. We have listened carefully to the views of those infected, their families, carers and many in this House, who have told us that our intended review date of 2014 will be too late for many of those affected. Consequently, we have decided that the review will begin as soon as possible this year.
It will be an independently chaired review. The terms of reference, membership and conduct of the review will be agreed in conjunction with the devolved Administrations.
I would also like to take this opportunity to confirm payment of £100,000 to the Haemophilia Society, as promised in our response of 20 May 2009.
I would like to reiterate this Government’s sympathy for those affected by these treatments many years ago, before screening tests and methods of viral inactivation became available. We remain fully committed to supporting them in the best way we can.
Government Strategy Document (Correction)
“Maternity and Early Years—Making a Good Start to Family Life” published on 16 March 2010 contained an error on page 9 regarding the times when babies are offered immunisations. The correct sentence is:
“you will be offered immunisations for your baby when he or she is eight weeks, three months, four months, 12 months and 13 months old”.
An erratum note has been placed in the Library and in the copies that are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office. A corrected version of the document is also available at:
Valuing People Now (Delivery Plan 2010-11)
I am placing in the Library today “Valuing People Now: The Delivery plan 2010-11” which was published on 31 March 2010, to support the implementation of “Valuing People Now, a new three-year strategy for people with learning disabilities” published in January 2009.
The delivery plan sets out the progress made in the first year. It also recognises that there is still more to do to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and their family carers. The delivery plan sets out the key priorities for 2010-11, in particular, to improve employment and housing opportunities and better health outcomes for people with learning disabilities and their family carers.
Other materials, including person-centred planning guidance, Valuing Older Family Carers Now, the Valuing People Now Housing Delivery Plan and a range of housing resources are available at www.valuingpeople .gov.uk/dynamic/valuingpeople6.jsp
Copies of “Valuing People Now: The Delivery plan 2010-11” are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
Swine Flu Pandemic Response
I have previously undertaken to update the House on the negotiations concerning the orders placed by the Government for H1Nl vaccine, at their conclusion. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that we have now reached a mutually satisfactory agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to limit the Department’s orders of swine flu vaccine, and that this settlement will result in savings of around a third of the original value of the total orders with GSK.
I am confident that the negotiated settlement both protects the public purse by obtaining full value for payments made without incurring a cancellation fee and ensures that the United Kingdom remains at the forefront of pandemic preparedness worldwide. The agreement involves the Department taking total deliveries of 34,838,500 doses of Pandemrix, including vaccine received so far. This will allow us to continue with ongoing vaccination programmes and keep a sizeable strategic reserve of vaccine in case the virus mutates. We are also planning to donate 3.8 million doses to the World Health Organisation to boost immunity in Africa before the rainy season.
In addition, the Department will purchase H5N1 “bird flu” vaccine and courses of the antiviral Relenza (to replace the amount of Relenza made available during the response to the swine flu pandemic) as part of the agreement. The probability of a more severe influenza pandemic has not diminished following the swine flu pandemic, and taking measures such as these now will help protect the population in the event of a future pandemic. However, as with other contracts, further details of the agreement are commercially confidential.
This negotiated settlement with GSK follows the decision to cancel the remaining orders with Baxter on 28 February 2010, utilising our break clause in the contract. We entered into more detailed negotiations with GSK because our contract with them did not contain a break clause, in line with their agreements with other countries. These discussions regarding limiting vaccine orders were necessary as our increased understanding of the virus demonstrated that less swine flu vaccines were required. This was partly because the virus has proved mild in most people (although more severe and, tragically, fatal in some instances), but also as scientists established that one dose of the vaccine was sufficient to confer immunity.
Independent Monitoring Commission
I have today published and laid before Parliament my fifth annual report on the operation of the Agreement between the British and Irish Governments which established the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report covers the period 18 September 2007 to 17 September 2008.
In line with a commitment made by my predecessor, this report also contains the audited accounts of the IMC for the 12-month period ending 31 March 2008.
The report covers the 17th and 18th report on paramilitary activity and the 19th report on the leadership of PIRA and assessment of the completion of the transformation of PIRA. It does not refer to the 20th report on paramilitary activity as this fell outside the 12-month period under review.
I am very grateful to the Commissioners of the IMC for the continued commitment, focus and dedication they have shown during this reporting period, and for their continued efforts in promoting and maintaining a peaceful society and a stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland.
Commission on Scottish Devolution
The Government welcome the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on the inter-parliamentary recommendations made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution. The commission, established by the Scottish Parliament in December 2007 and supported by the UK Government, produced its final report in June 2009. The report set out a package of measures designed to review 10 years of experience of devolution and to recommend changes to enable the Scottish Parliament to serve the people of Scotland better, to improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
The Government welcomed the final report from the Commission on Scottish Devolution on its publication and responded formally with a White Paper “Scotland’s Future in the United Kingdom” on 25 November 2009. Of the 63 recommendations, 42 were for Government to consider and 39 were accepted in the White Paper, including a radical package of reform to the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament. The Government signalled their commitment to bring forward legislation as soon as possible in the next Parliament for those matters outlined in the White Paper that require it.
The Scottish Affairs Committee’s consideration followed a letter from the Speaker of the House of Commons to both the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Procedure Committee to ask for their views on how the recommendations in part 4 of the Calman commission’s final report might be taken forward. Part 4 of the commission’s final report related to relations between Parliaments and Governments.
Response to the Committee’s Recommendations and Findings
The Scottish Affairs Committee’s report provides consideration of the recommendations made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution in relation to strengthening co-operation and communication between the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament. These recommendations cover the following areas of co-operation and communication:
Operation of the Sewel Convention between Parliaments;
Increased involvement of Scottish MPs on Public Bill Committees where the Sewel Convention is engaged;
Introduction of a regular “State of Scotland” debate and reconsideration of the “self-denying ordinance”;
Ensuring that Standing Orders allow greater co-operation between committees in the House of Commons and Scottish Parliament;
Consideration of a “Scottish Super Grand Committee”;
Examination of the access arrangements for MSPs and removal of the equivalent barriers in the Scottish Parliament;
Discretion for committees and Parliaments to invite Ministers to appear before committees of either Parliament;
Continued role for MPs and Scottish Affairs Committee in scrutinising the shape and operation of the devolution settlement;
Enhanced communication and co-operation between the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, including appropriate resourcing to enable this to happen and a recommendation for secondment and exchanges of staff.
All of these recommendations relate to the operation of effective inter-parliamentary relations. These are matters for the House, as acknowledged by the Government in the White Paper. Where the committee recommends changes to Standing Orders the Government will give consideration to bringing forward the necessary motions early in the next Parliament.
In the White Paper the Government agreed that a strong relationship between the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament was an essential part of a framework for co-operation within the UK. We also welcomed the support shown by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to consideration of how to strengthen their relationships in its White Paper.
The Government believe that the third report from the Scottish Affairs Committee provides a very positive response and a strong framework for improving co-operation in line with the recommendations from the Commission on Scottish Devolution.
HM Customs and Excise Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions
My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:
On 15 July 2003 Lord Goldsmith, then Attorney-General, announced to the House the publication of the report and recommendations of the Hon. Mr. Justice Butterfield following his review of the then practices and procedures relating to disclosure, associated investigation techniques and case management in Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise’s criminal cases. Lord Goldsmith and the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (John Healey), had invited him to examine the circumstances that led to the termination of a number of prosecutions relating to London City Bond (LCB) in respect of alleged alcohol diversion fraud, in Liverpool Crown court on 25 November 2002.
During the course of the Butterfield inquiry, a number of unrelated prosecutions in respect of alleged money laundering collapsed in circumstances which gave rise to the same issues, and Mr. Justice Butterfield was invited to examine the additional cases as part of his inquiry.
At the same time, the Metropolitan police were conducting a criminal investigation (Operation Gestalt), which initially commenced in relation to the (LCB) prosecutions but which developed additional strands (Operation Tappert) as their inquiries progressed. As a result, Mr. Justice Butterfield suspended the second part of his inquiry into the money laundering prosecutions (to avoid prejudicing the police inquiry) but completed and published his report of the main part of his inquiry in 2003.
The criminal investigations proceeded until their eventual conclusion in 2009 when, in respect of each strand of the investigations, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that criminal proceedings were not justified.
The Attorney-General, with the agreement of the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms), has concluded that it is not necessary or desirable to invite Lord Justice Butterfield (as he now is) to complete the second part of his inquiry. Among other reasons, the passage of time means that any review would be focusing on practices which existed some years ago that have long since changed, and which were essentially of a similar kind to those examined in the report published in 2003. Moreover, the functions of HM Customs and Excise have since passed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs—which is subject to the same inspection and complaints regimes as other law enforcement bodies such as the police—to the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the UKBA.
Finally, a key recommendation of the Butterfield Report, that the prosecution function of HM Customs and Excise should be carried out by a wholly independent prosecuting authority to restore confidence in fair and effective prosecutions, has been implemented successfully under the leadership of David Green QC. The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, established in 2005, now forms an important part of the Crown Prosecution Service under the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Service Stations (Consultation)
I am publishing today a consultation document seeking views on revisions to Department for Transport (DFT) circular 01/2008 on Service Areas and Other Roadside Facilities on Motorways and All-Purpose Trunk Roads in England.
This circular sets out the Department’s policy on the provision, standards and signing of roadside facilities on the strategic road network (SRN), including motorway service areas (MSAs), motorway rest areas (MRAs), truckstops, and services and lay-bys on all-purpose trunk roads (APTRs).
The Department is now reviewing these policies and as part of this process needs to understand better the views and experiences of those that are affected by them.
The consultation document proposes making a number of changes to existing policy, such as allowing new dedicated lorry parking facilities to be located directly off motorways and requiring roadside facilities to provide recharging facilities for electric vehicles. The responses received during the consultation will inform the consideration of the policy options.
Copies of the consultation have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
I am pleased to announce the targets for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for 2010-11.
1. Maintain the quality of maritime emergency co-ordination and response by the Coastguard.
2a. Helicopters tasked to respond to incidents will be airborne within 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night in at least 98 per cent. of cases.
2b. At each MCA search and rescue helicopter base, a helicopter will be available at least 98 per cent. of the contracted time to respond to incidents.
3. Meet the internationally required targets to inspect foreign vessels in UK ports under port state control arrangements, with an increasing emphasis on inspecting available ships judged to be high risk.
4. Maintain the quality of the UK Ship Register by reducing the level of deficiencies recorded on UK ships inspected abroad, and maintain a position on the Paris MOU white list which is comparable to registers of a similar size and reputation.
5. As a category 1 responder, continue to meet the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act including engagement with local resilience forums (LRF).
6. Respond promptly to potential and actual pollution from ships around the UK coast, drawing effectively on resources including our emergency tugs, and following the procedures set out in the national contingency plan.
The MCA will also continue with their programme of work covering the following safety themes:
Seafarer Fatigue—working with the shipping industry and seafarer unions on a coherent strategy to reduce seafarer fatigue.
Fishing Vessel Safety—working with the fishing industry to improve the safety of small fishing vessels (under 15 metres).
Recreational Safety—working with the agency’s partner organisations (including the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and the Royal Yachting Association), to promote the wearing of lifejackets within the leisure sector and recreational safety more generally.
Vessel Traffic Management—identifying the future requirements of sea space management and the role the agency may perform.
The agency will also monitor its performance through a range of service standards and measured outcomes which will be reported in its published annual report and accounts.
Her Majesty's Land Registry (KPI and Targets)
The following list sets out the key performance indicators and targets that have been set for Her Majesty’s Land Registry for 2010-11.
Percentage of all registrations processed within 15 working days: 80 per cent.
Percentage of registrations processed free of any error: 98.5 per cent.
Percentage of manually processed registrations on which key aspects1 of internal quality measures were achieved: 97 per cent.
Percentage of customers who rate the overall service provided by Land Registry as excellent, very good or good: better than 95 per cent.
Percentage return on average capital employed: 3.5 per cent.
Cost per unit in cash terms2 (real terms3): £33.65 (£21.70).
Other strategic targets
Percentage of transactions4 delivered through e-channels: 65 per cent.
Through voluntary registration, add a further 250,000 hectares of land to the total areas of registered freehold land in England and Wales.
Earn a contribution from add value products and services of 8 per cent. of its income net of direct costs and apportioned product development costs.
Increase gross incremental revenue from all add value products and services by a further £2.6 million above 2009-10 actual.
Deliver the key Accelerated Transformation Programme milestones as detailed in the Accelerated Transformation Programme Plan.
To increase the percentage of staff positively engaged with Land Registry to 50 per cent.
To increase the percentage of staff satisfied with Land Registry’s leadership and change management to 45 per cent.
1The specified key areas are (a) the index map (b) the proprietorship entry and (c) easements.
2Based on the GDP deflator issued by HM Treasury on 24 March 2010 (base year 1992/3).
3The real term unit cost in the base year of 1992/3 was £30.65.
4Transactions are defined as any request for a statutory service provided by Land Registry. Although a transaction has a unit value, this measure reflects the actual number of transactions and not their unit value.