Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 11 October 2011
HM Revenue and Customs (Consultation)
On Friday 7 October, HM Revenue and Customs published a consultation on the Social Security (Categorisation of Earners) Regulations 1978 in relation to lecturers, teachers, instructors or those in a similar capacity. Its purpose is to consult on HMRC’s proposal to repeal this part of the regulations.
The consultation document is available on the HM Revenue and Customs website at: http://www.hmrc.gov. uk/consultations/.
Culture, Media and Sport
Olympic Park Legacy Update
Further to the written statement made to the House on 3 March 2011, Official Report, column 33WS, referring to the selection of the preferred bidder for the long-term lease of the Olympic stadium, my colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), the Mayor of London and I have today decided, as joint founder members of Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), that the company should terminate the process for the disposal of the Olympic stadium with immediate effect.
The OPLC founder members have also agreed that the company should now explore alternative options in order to deliver the stadium in legacy, and take into account the commitments which have recently been made in support of the bid to host the World Athletics Championship in 2017.
This decision will remove the ongoing uncertainty and continuing delays in determining a sustainable legacy for this important part of the legacy of the Olympic park.
Defence Vetting Agency: Removal of Agency Status
As part of the programme of work associated with defence reform within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) the Defence Vetting Agency (DVA) ceased to have the status of an executive agency from 1 October 2011.
The DVA was formed in April 1997 bringing together the four National Service Vetting (NSV) organisations serving each of the armed services and the MOD. Since that date the DVA has successfully delivered NSV services to the MOD and its industry contractors, and has also provided similar services to a wide range of other Government Departments. Today it is by far the larger of the two UK Government shared service providers of NSV.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Defence, announced on 22 March 2011, Official Report, columns 49-50WS, the intention to establish a new Defence Business Services (DBS) organisation, bringing together the delivery of a range of corporate service functions to support all areas of the Department from one organisation. The DBS was launched in July, and the NSV function undertaken by the DVA will be provided under a new business model renamed as DBS National Security Vetting.
This change in operating status will have no impact on the DVA’s customers, and will deliver efficiencies and wider savings to Government. In particular, it will reinforce the DVA’s ability to deliver planned business improvements from its new Cerberus IT system to drive up service to its internal and external customers.
Energy and Climate Change
Weightman Report (Fukushima)
Today I have deposited in the House the final report which I requested from the chief nuclear inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, on the events at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear site in March.
Fukushima changed the energy debate around the world. Questions were raised about the extent and safety of nuclear power and people rightfully wanted to know what happened, and whether it could happen again.
Safety is always our number one concern. We needed to understand the facts before making any decisions. That is why I asked the chief nuclear inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, to look at what Fukushima means for nuclear energy in Britain, and what lessons can be learned.
Dr Weightman produced his interim report in May. It was evidence based, and prepared in close co-operation with international regulators. It confirmed that the UK’s current safety regime is working, and that regulators and industry should continue to work together to make continuous improvements to nuclear safety.
The interim report also reassured us that new nuclear can be part of a low-carbon energy mix in the UK. Nuclear energy is important for our energy security now and we want it to be part of the mix in the future.
Dr Weightman’s final report was submitted to me on 30 September, and I am presenting it to the House at the earliest possible opportunity.
I would like to thank Dr Weightman and his team for their hard work. This is a thorough and comprehensive report on the lessons that can be learned for the UK’s nuclear industry. It will help ensure that our regulatory regime remains robust, and that the nuclear industry remains committed to continuous improvement for all existing and future facilities.
The final report expands on the interim report by providing additional information and evidence, widening the scope to include non-generation sites in the UK, such as Sellafield.
It provides background on how to mitigate against radioactive hazards; the differences between reactor technologies in Fukushima and the UK; and the differing approaches to nuclear safety and security in the UK, Japan and the wider world.
The report also sets out a timetable of events at Fukushima, and describes the work undertaken by Dr Weightman and his team.
One of the report’s key findings is that the additional information received since the interim report, including from his own visit to Fukushima and the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation’s own more detailed analysis, has reinforced the interim findings.
As the initial report made clear, the current regulatory safety framework in the UK is satisfactory. Dr Weightman sees no reason to curtail the operation of power plants or other nuclear facilities in the UK. He believes the industry has reacted responsibly and appropriately, displaying strong leadership for safety and safety culture.
The final report re-states these interim conclusions and recommendations. It also concludes that the UK practice of periodic safety reviews of licensed sites provides a robust means of ensuring continuous improvement in line with advances in technology and standards.
The final report also emphasises the need to continue the Sellafield legacy pond and silo clean-up with the utmost vigour and determination.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is making tangible, demonstrable progress in addressing these national priorities. It is the NDA’s top priority, and we have ensured that their work in this area is not limited by funding constraints. Reduction of risk and hazard sits at the very heart of the NDA’s mission.
Dr Weightman and his team are satisfied with the responses and actions initiated by Government and industry in response to the interim report.
The final report also re-states the recommendations from the interim report, adding additional detail where necessary. It focuses on areas that should be reviewed to determine whether there are further practicable improvements that can be made to enhance safety.
Dr Weightman has also recommended that regulators, Government and industry review:
the UK’s ability to monitor and provide real-time information in an emergency;
the robustness of emergency control structures and systems; and
continue to promote high levels of safety culture, making use of the National Skills Academy for nuclear and other “nuclear professionalism” schemes.
The final report also confirms the advice given by Dr Weightman at the time of the interim report; namely that he saw no reason to revise the strategic advice on which the nuclear national policy statement was based, or any need to change present siting strategies for new nuclear power stations in the UK.
Dr Weightman’s final recommendation is to invite reports on progress by June 2012, when he intends to report back on implementation lessons.
The European nuclear stress tests have been conducted in parallel to this process, and there are overlaps between the initial findings and the recommendations in Dr Weightman’s reports. Stress testing will continue into next year, and both industry and the Office for Nuclear Regulation will continue to be involved. Dr Weightman’s proposed supplementary report will include further details of the stress test.
Regulators and industry are also continuing to work together to take forward the generic design assessment process for new nuclear reactors, and have extended their timeline in order to take into account the findings in both the interim and final report. Regulators have stated that they hope to be in a position to take decision on the generic design assessment by the end of the year.
In conclusion, I welcome Dr Weightman’s final report, and I encourage the regulators to work closely with industry and other partners to take the recommendations forward. The Government intend to respond to Dr Weightman’s recommendations in more detail by the end of the year.
Choosing a Named Consultant-led Team (Government Response)
Today I am publishing the “Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control—Government response: choice of named consultant-led team” and associated guidance. The response, the contract implementation guidance and the impact assessment have been placed in the Library. Copies of the response are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
This is the response to the questions associated with the proposal to offer patients choice of named consultant-led team in “Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control—A consultation on proposals”. The response to these questions is being published now to help the NHS plan for the next financial year. A fuller response covering all of the remaining questions in the greater choice and control consultation document will follow later this year.
This consultation sought views on the choice commitments first set out in the White Paper “Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS” (Cm 7881). The consultation period ran from 18 October 2010 until 14 January 2011 and I am delighted to report that hundreds of engagement activities were undertaken and 617 unique responses were received. We have heard from patients, service users, clinicians, care professionals, systems providers, voluntary sector organisations and many others. All these contributions have been analysed and have informed the ongoing development of our policy direction reflected in today’s publication.
A significant majority of respondents supported our proposed approach to implementing proposals to offer patients a choice of named consultant-led team at referral as set out in the consultation document. A range of issues were also raised around the need for good quality information to support choice; the impacts on providers’ ability to manage capacity and waiting times; and the development of specialist knowledge by consultant-led teams.
The issues raised in the responses to choice of named consultant-led team have been taken into account in drafting the contractual guidance published alongside this response, and the accompanying impact assessment.
Control Order Powers
Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of the control order powers during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
The future of the control order regime
The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Bill, which makes provision for the abolition of control orders and their replacement with a new, less intrusive and more focused regime, is continuing its parliamentary passage. A copy of the Bill can be found on Parliament’s web site. The home page for the Bill is:
The control order system will continue to operate until its replacement is in force.
The Government’s counter-terrorism and security powers review concluded that there may be exceptional circumstances where more stringent measures may be required to protect the public than those available under the TPIM Bill. Such circumstances would be a very serious terrorist risk that cannot be managed by any other means. The Government committed to preparing draft emergency legislation for introduction should such circumstances arise. The draft enhanced TPIM Bill was published on 1 September so that it can be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.
The exercise of the control order powers in the last quarter
As explained in previous quarterly statements, control order obligations are tailored to the individual concerned and are based on the terrorism-related risk that individual poses. Each control order is kept under regular review to ensure that the obligations remain necessary and proportionate. The Home Office continues to hold Control Order Review Groups (CORGs) every quarter, with representation from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to keep the obligations in every control order under regular and formal review and to facilitate a review of appropriate exit strategies. During the reporting period, one CORG was held in relation to some of the orders in force at the time. CORGs in relation to the remaining cases were held just before this reporting period. Other meetings were held on an ad hoc basis as specific issues arose.
During the period 11 June 2011 to 10 September 2011, no non-derogating control orders were made or served. Two control orders have been renewed in accordance with section 2(6) of the 2005 Act in this reporting period. One control order was revoked during this reporting period as it was no longer considered necessary. One control order, made in a previous quarter but never served, expired during this reporting period.
In total, as of 10 September, there were 11 control orders in force, all of which were in respect of British citizens. All of these control orders were non-derogating. One individual subject to a control order was living in the Metropolitan police district; the remaining individuals were living in other police force areas.
Three individuals were charged with breaching their control order obligations during this period.
During this reporting period, 76 modifications of control order obligations were made. Twenty-two requests to modify control order obligations were refused.
Section 10(1) of the 2005 Act provides a right of appeal against a decision by the Secretary of State to renew a non-derogating control order or to modify an obligation imposed by a non-derogating control order without consent. Two appeals have been lodged with the High Court during this reporting period under section 10(1) of the 2005 Act. A right of appeal is also provided by section 10(3) of the 2005 Act against a decision by the Secretary of State to refuse a request by a controlled person to revoke their order or to modify any obligation under their order. During this reporting period no appeals were lodged with the High Court under section 10(3) of the 2005 Act.
Seven judgments have been handed down in relation to control order cases during this reporting period; five by the High Court and two by the Court of Appeal.
On 13 June 2011 a judgment was handed down by the High Court in relation to the appeal brought by BG under section 10(1) of the 2005 Act. In BG v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1478 (Admin), the High Court upheld the Secretary of State’s decision.
On 18 July 2011 the High Court handed down a judgment following the Court review of the imposition of a control order under section 3(10) of the 2005 Act. In Secretary of State for the Home Department v. BF  EWHC 1878 (Admin), the High Court upheld the decision to make the control order.
On 22 July 2011, the High Court handed down a judgment in relation to an appeal by a controlled individual under section 10(3) of the 2005 Act. In BM v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1969 (Admin), the High Court upheld the Secretary of State’s decision.
The High Court handed down a further judgment on 25 July 2011 in relation to two individuals who were each subject to control orders for only a short period of time. In Secretary of State for the Home Department v. CB and BP  EWHC 1990 (Admin), the Court ruled that it was appropriate for it to exercise its case management powers to, in effect, terminate the court review of the imposition of their control orders. The Court also ordered the discharge of the anonymity orders made in these cases. Abid NASEER (CB) and Faraz KHAN (BP) have been granted permission by the High Court to appeal the decision to terminate the Court proceedings.
On 29 July 2011 the High Court handed down a judgment following the Court review of the imposition of a control order under section 3(10) of the 2005 Act. In Secretary of State for the Home Department v. CD  EWHC 2087 (Admin), the High Court upheld the decision to make the control order.
The first judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in this reporting period relates to the appeal brought by AM against the decision of the High Court to uphold his control order. In AM v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 710, handed down on 21 June 2011, the Court of Appeal dismissed AM’s appeal.
The Court of Appeal also handed down judgment in this reporting period in the context of the appeal brought by AH, an individual formerly subject to a control order. In AH v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 787, handed down on 6 July 2011, the Court of Appeal dismissed AH’s appeal.
Most full judgments are available at http://www.bailii.org/.
Right of Access to a Lawyer in Criminal Proceedings and Right to Communicate upon Arrest (Opt-in Decision on Draft EU Directive)
The Government have decided not to opt in at this stage to the directive on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and on the right to communicate upon arrest. The Government have taken this decision in accordance with the commitment in the coalition agreement, which states that we will approach legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.
The Government agree that a European directive in this area is a good idea in principle. We believe that it could benefit UK nationals who become subject to the criminal justice systems of other member states. Such a directive could also build greater trust and confidence among the competent authorities of all EU member states who may be expected to accept and act upon decisions or judgments made in other member states. However, a number of provisions in the proposal, as published by the European Commission, go substantially beyond the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and would have an adverse impact on our ability to investigate and prosecute offences effectively and fairly. Given the extent of our concerns on the detail of this directive, we cannot at this stage be confident that all of them will be addressed in the process of negotiations.
Given the importance we attach to the principles of this directive, we intend to work very closely with our European partners to develop a text which takes greater account of the practical realities of the investigation and prosecution of crime and reflects the flexibility which member states need in order to meet the requirements of the ECHR in a way which is consistent with the nature of their justice systems. In the event our concerns about the initial draft of the directive are satisfactorily dealt with during the negotiations, we will give serious thought to whether we should apply to opt in to it once it has been adopted, as our protocol to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union allows. We will consult Parliament about any decision to apply to opt in to the final text.
Further to my statement of 30 March 2011, Official Report, column 23WS, the Department for Transport has today published its response to the consultation on a proposal to allow a 2.05 metre increase in the length of semi-trailers and a maximum overall length for articulated heavy goods vehicles of 18.75 metres.
The research underlying the consultation proposal suggests that high volume semi-trailers have potential environmental, safety and congestion benefits: they would allow up to 13% more loading space than current articulated lorries, resulting in fewer journeys needed to transport the same volume of goods. The research predicts that by 2015 this would reduce lorry miles in the UK by 100 to 180 million a year, meaning reduced congestion, reduced air pollution and reduced carbon emissions (by around 100,000 tonnes a year reduction). The research also found that there would be a net decrease in casualties of around 1.6% from the reduction in lorry miles.
However, the evidence provided during the consultation exercise has identified a number of areas which merit additional investigation. These include possible effects if the number of longer semi-trailers introduced is significantly higher than that predicted by the research and the impact assessment attached to the consultation document; the impacts of longer semi-trailers on road infrastructure and design and on depot and distribution centre infrastructure and design; the impacts on SMEs of allowing longer semi-trailers; and the effectiveness of additional vision/sensor/safety systems fitted to improve detection of vulnerable road users.
The research underlying the consultation proposals was comprehensive. To gather further evidence on such impacts will therefore require a trial of longer semi-trailers in operation. The Department therefore intends to proceed with an operational trial of longer semi-trailers in order to gather practical evidence. Trailers taking part in the trial will operate under Vehicle Special Orders issued under section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The Department considers that the number of vehicles permitted in the trial will need to be limited, but that the number permitted should still allow meaningful evidence to be gathered on the likely take-up of longer semi-trailers across the vehicle fleet as well as their impact on infrastructure. This would require a trial of vehicle numbers that allows operators to swap a sufficient percentage of their fleet over to the longer semi-trailer to enable them to remove standard trailers from their fleet and make an effective comparison of performance.
The responses to the consultation also indicate that different businesses would wish to choose between additional trailer lengths of up to 1 metre and up to 2.05 metres, depending on the nature of their business. The trial provides an opportunity to validate the impacts of each length. The current trailer parc for articulated vehicle above 40 tonnes in the UK is estimated at around 100,000 trailers. The Department intends to proceed with a trial of up to 900 trailers of an increased length of up to 2.05 metres; and 900 trailers of an increased length of up to 1 metre, 1,800 trailers forming just under 2% of trailers on British roads.
Our baseline research shows that the ability to operate longer semi-trailers would provide clear benefits to business and a spur to efficiency and growth. We expect the trial itself to offer a net present value of £33 million, largely due to the financial benefits operators should see over the 10-year length of the trial (around £1,800 per vehicle per year). We would expect many of these benefits to flow through to the consumer.
Participation in the trial will be on a voluntary basis and at the participants’ own risk; there is no guarantee that the use of the longer semi-trailers will continue to be permitted beyond the end of the trial period. The trial will run for 10 years, to allow those businesses wishing to participate the opportunity to cover the costs of investment in the longer semi-trailers. Expressions of interest are invited from today, with the trial starting in January 2012. Information on how to apply can be found on the DfT website.
However, the Department wishes the trial to be closely monitored, to ensure that any significant issues, particularly on safety, that arise are addressed quickly and to ensure that the trial is meeting the Department’s objectives. The Department will therefore appoint an independent contractor to monitor and review trial progress. The contractor will report to the Department on a four-monthly basis; at the end of each trial year the Department will review progress towards objectives, including considering any changes to the length of the trial and the numbers of trailers involved in the trial.
Although many of the responses from vehicle operators supported the development of tractor units with a safer more aerodynamic frontal design, it was evident from the majority of responses received from vehicle manufacturers that they are unlikely to progress with the development of improved frontal designs at this time. Therefore, the Department has decided not to include tractor units with an extension of up to 0.4 metres for improved frontal designs in the trial. However, we are keeping the situation under review.
Commission on Devolution in Wales
I informed the House on 19 July that the Government would establish an independent Commission on Devolution in Wales this autumn to review the present financial and constitutional arrangements in Wales. I said that I would make further announcements after recess.
I am now able to inform the House that the Commission will be chaired by Paul Silk, Clerk to the National Assembly for Wales from 2001 to 2007 and a former Clerk in this House. He will be joined on the Commission by two independent members. They are:
Dyfrig John CBE, Chairman of the Principality Building Society;
Professor Noel Lloyd CBE, a former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Aberystwyth University.
In addition, there will be four party political members who are each nominated by one of the four political parties in the National Assembly for Wales. They are:
Professor Nick Bourne (Welsh Conservatives nominee);
Sue Essex (Welsh Labour nominee);
Rob Humphreys (Welsh Liberal Democrats nominee); and
Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym (Plaid Cymru nominee).
The Commission members have, between them, extensive expertise and experience in financial and constitutional matters in relation to Wales. I expect the Commission to consult widely on its proposals, and to make recommendations likely to have a wide degree of support.
The terms of reference for the Commission reflect the fact that it will carry out its work in two parts. In part I, the Commission will look at the case for the devolution of fiscal powers to the National Assembly for Wales, and recommend a package of fiscal powers that would improve the financial accountability of the Assembly, and which are consistent with the United Kingdom’s fiscal objectives.
In part II the Commission will look at the powers of the Assembly, and recommend modifications to improve the present constitutional arrangements.
The Government worked closely with the Welsh Government and all the parties in the Assembly in drafting the terms of reference. The full terms of reference for the Commission are attached at annex A, and I have also placed copies in the Library of the House.
The Commission will report to me and, in relation to part I, also to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It will be supported in its work by a small secretariat of civil servants drawn from the United Kingdom Government and the Welsh Government. It will make every effort to report on its recommendations in relation to part I in the autumn of 2012, and on part II during 2013.
Commission on Devolution in Wales—Terms of Reference
An independent Commission will be established to review the present financial and constitutional arrangements in Wales. It will carry out its work in two parts:
Part I: financial accountability
To review the case for the devolution of fiscal powers to the National Assembly for Wales and to recommend a package of powers that would improve the financial accountability of the Assembly, which are consistent with the United Kingdom’s fiscal objectives and are likely to have a wide degree of support.
Part II: powers of the National Assembly for Wales
To review the powers of the National Assembly for Wales in the light of experience and to recommend modifications to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the United Kingdom Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to better serve the people of Wales.
In undertaking part I, the Commission should:
provide independent advice on the case for improving the financial accountability of the National Assembly for Wales consistent with the fiscal and constitutional framework of the United Kingdom;
consult widely on a package of fiscal powers which would improve the financial accountability of the National Assembly for Wales;
make recommendations on whether a package of fiscal powers could be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales which are likely to have a wide degree of support; and
consider and make recommendations on how best to resolve the legal and practical implementation issues from devolving a package of fiscal powers, including consistency within the United Kingdom.
Part I will be completed before work on part II begins.
In undertaking part II, the Commission should:
examine the powers of the National Assembly for Wales, and in particular:
the boundary between what is devolved and non-devolved;
whether modifications to the boundary should be made at this stage; and
any cross-border implications of such modifications;
consult widely on any proposed modifications to the current boundary;
make recommendations on any modifications to the settlement likely to have a wide degree of support; and
consider and make recommendations on how best to resolve the legal and practical implementation issues from those modifications.
The Commission will not consider, in part I, the Holtham Commission’s proposals for funding reform in Wales, including Welsh Ministers’ existing borrowing powers, which are being dealt with through a separate bilateral process between the United Kingdom Government and the Welsh Government; and, in part II, the structure of the National Assembly for Wales, including issues relating to the election of Assembly Members.