Written Ministerial Statements
Wednesday 14 December 2011
Business, Innovation and Skills
Foreign Affairs Council (Pre-Council Statement)
The EU Foreign Affairs Council will take place in Geneva on 14 December 2011. The agenda will cover items relating to the eighth World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting to be held in Geneva, 15 to 17 December. I will represent the UK.
The substantive agenda items will be: the position to be taken on the accessions of Russia, Samoa and Montenegro to the World Trade Organisation and mandates for deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTAs) with the middle eastern and north African (MENA) countries.
The Government’s objective for the Council is to support the accessions of Russia and Samoa to the World Trade Organisation and the mandates for DCFTAs with the MENA countries.
Annual European Union Finances Statement
I am today laying before Parliament the annual European Union finances “Statement on the 2011 EU budget and measures to combat fraud and financial mismanagement” (Cm 8232). It is the 31st in the series.
The statement gives details of revenue and expenditure in the 2011 EU budget and covers recent developments in EU financial management and measures to counter fraud against the EU budget. It also includes updated details on the UK consolidated statement on the use of EU funds in the UK and changes related to the multi-financial framework.
Looking forward to future years’ budgets, and particularly in the current economic and financial climate, the Government remain determined to ensure better value for money in EU budget spending, to oppose unacceptable budget increases, and to push for improvements in EU financial management.
I am committed to responding to calls from employers for an education system that develops the future work force with the skills they need. Business leaders say that equipping young people with employability skills—such as punctuality, good communication, reliability and teamworking—should be a top education priority for the Government.
Studio schools offer academic and vocational qualifications, but teach them in a practical and project-based way. Study is combined with paid work placements with local and national employers that are involved in the school.
I am pleased to confirm today that 12 new studio schools have been approved with a view to opening in September 2012:
Bradford International Food and Travel Studio School, Bradford
Da Vinci Studio School of Science and Engineering, Hertfordshire
Discovery Studio School, Stoke-on-Trent
Fulham Enterprise Studio School, Hammersmith and Fulham
Hull Studio School, Hull
Hinckley Studio School, Leicestershire
Hyndburn Studio School, Lancashire
Bournemouth Learning and Achievement Foundation Studio School, Bournemouth
Ockendon Studio School ,Thurrock
Parkside Studio School, Hillingdon
Tendring Studio School, Essex
The Studio, Liverpool
These schools respond directly to the demand of parents, communities and business.
I have approved the very strongest applications today. I fully expect some of the groups that are disappointed today to submit even stronger applications in the future and I encourage them to do so. Indeed, the application process to set up new free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools in 2013 and beyond has already been announced. I want particularly to urge groups to submit applications to set up new schools in areas of deprivation and basic need and where skills shortages are particularly evident.
Energy and Climate Change
UK Oil and Gas Regulatory Scheme (Review)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, in a statement to the House on 14 June 2010, indicated that a review of the regulatory regime for the offshore oil and gas sector would be undertaken. I am pleased today to have deposited in the House the report of that review conducted by a panel under the independent chairmanship of Geoffrey Maitland, Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College, London.
The impetus for this exercise was, of course, the disaster which befell the Deepwater Horizon rig during drilling operations in the gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The tragic loss of life and widespread pollution which arose as a consequence of the blow-out on that rig were a salutary reminder to industry and regulators alike of the need for the highest standards of safety and environmental control in this potentially hazardous industry. Inevitably the incident led to a number of both internal and independent investigations in the US which have shed a great deal of light on the causes of the disaster and given rise to recommendations designed to ensure that the risks of a repeat are minimised.
Given the infrequency with which such serious incidents occur in the offshore industry, it is important that we learn all available lessons from them. I am, therefore, grateful that Professor Maitland and his colleagues have examined the US evidence with obvious rigour and distilled from it such a constructive road map for driving ever higher standards in the UK.
I am pleased to note the report acknowledges as the starting point the strengths of the UK’s safety and environmental control regime and the high regard in which the authorities are held both domestically and by international observers. I trust that the industry itself will be reassured to note that the report also acknowledges the extent to which UK operators and industry bodies have mobilised themselves since Deepwater Horizon in an effort to raise those standards. The review has, however, identified a number of important areas, particularly around the assured implementation of regulatory requirements and the promulgation of best practice, where there appears scope for further improvement.
A great many of the insightful recommendations of the report are characterised by the theme of collaboration, whether that be between regulators, among operators or across those boundaries. In this respect, as one of the responses to the Deepwater Horizon incident, a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) has already been signed between DECC and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). I have asked that the joint board, which has been established as a result, provides advice to myself and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Ministers on the recommendations which are relevant to the regulators. I have also asked my officials to work with HSE and, where relevant, Maritime and Coastguard Agency colleagues in considering with industry the broader recommendations with a view to identifying and embedding the improvements this report suggests are achievable.
I have requested that regulators work with industry to produce an agreed response and action plan by July next year.
Revenue Allocations 2012-13 (Primary Care Trusts)
Today I am announcing revenue allocations to primary care trusts (PCTs) for 2012-13.
The PCT revenue allocations in 2012-13 will grow at 2.8%, which represents a real-terms increase, taking account of the Office for Budget Responsibility figure for the GDP deflator in 2012-13. This represents continued positive investment in front-line NHS services.
This means total investment in local NHS services in 2012-13 of £91.6 billion, an increase in excess of £2.5 billion in total allocations assigned in 2011-12. It puts the NHS in a strong position to deliver the Government’s national priorities set out in the 2012-13 operating framework published on 24 November.
To allow the NHS financial stability during a period of transition, the weighted capitation formula, normally used to determine PCTs fair shares of available resources, has not been applied to the allocations. For 2012-13, all PCTs will receive the same percentage uplift in their recurrent allocations.
This will be the last round of allocations made to PCTs as, subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, the NHS Commissioning Board would be responsible for the allocation of resources and pace of change policy to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from 2013-14.
In common with previous practice, I have today written to all hon. Members to inform them of the revenue allocations made to the PCTs covered by their constituencies.
Full details of all local allocations, including details of other, specific allocations (to support primary dental care, pharmaceutical services, general ophthalmic services and joint working between health and social care) have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. They can also be found at
I am launching today a consultation on the cross-Government definition of domestic violence. The consultation will run until 30 March 2012 and a consultation paper is available on the Home Office website. A copy of the consultation document will also be placed in the House Library.
The ambition of this Government is nothing short of ending violence against women and girls. As we set out in our strategic vision—“Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls”—prevention will be key to achieving that ambition. Effective prevention can only happen when it involves all agencies, working together to common goals and common understanding. That is why we are now consulting on a definition of domestic violence that all agencies and all parts of Government should use.
There are a number of aspects to the definition that this consultation considers. We are seeking views on whether the current cross-Government definition of domestic violence is working and should remain. We are also consulting on whether the definition of domestic violence should include younger victims below 18 years of age, including boys, and whether coercive control should also be reflected in the definition.
Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (Fees)
I have today published a consultation paper on introducing fees in the employment tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The introduction of fees to these bodies will relieve pressure on the taxpayer by transferring some of the cost burden from taxpayers to users. It will also encourage parties to think through whether they might settle their disputes earlier and faster by using other less adversarial methods of dispute resolution, such as ACAS conciliation, which will continue to be provided free to users.
At a time of economic difficulty, I also recognise that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service provides a vital service to business, and must play its part in the Government’s determination to confront the structural barriers that create unnecessary delay or cost to business, or impede competitiveness, employer confidence and the creation of jobs.
These tribunals cost the taxpayer over £84 million per annum and currently no financial contribution is sought from users. The Government think it is right that those who cause the system to be used should contribute towards the cost, in the same way as users of other parts of the justice system contribute to the costs of providing the service. Therefore the principle of charging fees is not in question in this consultation.
The purpose of the consultation exercise is to seek views on two options for a fee charging structure in the employment tribunals and the fee structure proposed for the Employment Appeal Tribunal—all of which incorporate safeguards to protect access to the tribunal for those unable to afford fees.
The consultation closes on the 6 March 2012. For those of you who wish to respond the document is available online, at www.justice.gov.uk.
Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea
I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the Council decision concerning the accession of the European Union to the protocol of 2002 to the Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea, 1974, as regards articles 10 and 11 thereof. The UK notified its intention to the Council and to the Commission that it wishes to accept the measure soon after the Council decision was adopted at Transport Council on 12 December 2011.
The Council decision sets out the basis for the Union’s competence in respect of articles 10 and 11 of the 2002 protocol and authorises the Council to conclude the 2002 protocol on behalf of the EU. A separate Council decision relating to the other provisions of the 2002 protocol was adopted in parallel to this decision. The Union has exclusive competence as regards articles 10 and 11 of the 2002 protocol as it affects the jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters in the Union.
The UK has decided to opt in to this Council decision to ensure that it is in a position to ratify the 2002 protocol within the framework of the UN’s International Maritime Organisation, as soon as it is ready to do so. The UK must have opted in to the Council decision if the appropriate provisions on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments are to apply.
The UK strongly supports the entry into force of the 2002 protocol because it will significantly enhance the international regime of liability that exists for damage suffered as a result of the death of, or personal injury to, a passenger and the loss of or damage to luggage, by sea—established by the 1974 Athens convention. The 2002 protocol will require shipowners to maintain compulsory insurance up to approximately £250,000 per passenger per voyage to cover liability in respect of the death of and personal injury to passengers on board ships and significantly raise the limits of liability from approximately £46,000 to £400,000 per passenger on each distinct occasion. It will also introduce other mechanisms to assist passengers in obtaining compensation, based on well-accepted principles applied in existing liability and compensation regimes dealing with environmental pollution. These include replacing the fault-based liability system with a strict liability system for shipping-related incidents and introducing the right of direct action against the insurer.
The Union has already adopted EU Regulation 392/2009 on the liability of carriers of passengers by sea which incorporates the 2002 protocol into EU law and ensures the uniform application of the 2002 protocol in the EU from 31 December 2012. It is, however, important that the UK and other EU member states ratify, or accede to, the 2002 protocol to ensure that both instruments apply simultaneously within the EU as soon as possible. Such an approach will greatly simplify the application of Athens regime in the shipping industry.
A copy of this statement has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Local Authority Major Transport Schemes
Following the 2010 spending review the Government committed to a £1.5 billion programme of investment in major transport schemes promoted by local authorities, recognising the impact that such schemes can have on growth and the economy.
Our aim was to ensure that the programme of investment for the spending review period would be affordable, would promote growth and would achieve better value for money for the taxpayer. All local authority promoters with schemes already in the pipeline were challenged to improve their scheme design, reduce costs and secure a greater proportion of funding from local sources.
In February 2011 we confirmed funding for the first nine of these schemes and announced an expanded development pool of 45 schemes that would be considered in more detail.
The local authority promoters of the development pool schemes were invited to submit revised funding bids in September 2011. Funding for 20 of these schemes was confirmed on 29 November as part of the autumn statement.
I am today announcing funding for a further 21 schemes as follows. These represent a mix of road and public transport schemes across England.
A684 Bedale-Aiskew-Leeming Bar Bypass1
Bath Transportation Package
Beverley Integrated Transport Plan
Camborne-Pool-Redruth Transport Package
Chester Road (Birmingham)
Coventry-Nuneaton Rail Upgrade
Croxley Rail Link (Watford)
Elmbridge Transport (Gloucester)
Leeds Inner Relief Road Maintenance
Loughborough Town Centre Transport Scheme
Luton Town Centre Transport Scheme
Morpeth Northern Bypass
North Fringe to Hengrove BRT (Bristol)
Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR)2
Nottingham Ring Road
Pennine Reach (East Lanes Rapid Transit)
South Yorkshire Bus Rapid Transit Phase 1 (Sheffield/Rotherham)
Sunderland Strategic Corridor
Worcester Transport Strategy.
1The Department has offered North Yorkshire county council a lower level of funding than that applied for. The council has until the end of January 2012 to accept this offer.
2Subject to Norfolk county council agreeing to fund a package of sustainable transport measures in Norwich city centre.
This is a major programme of investment. The schemes announced today will cost £854 million with a DFT contribution of up to £586 million in this spending review period and beyond. The total DFT contribution to all 41 schemes will be up to £972 million, compared to the £1.575 billion that was previously requested for these schemes prior to the spending review—a 38% reduction. This means that a far greater number of schemes can go ahead than would otherwise have been the case.
All the schemes announced will now be able to progress towards construction subject to securing any remaining necessary planning and statutory approvals and subject to confirmation of value for money where material changes to the scheme have been proposed.
We are not yet able to make decisions for a further four of the development pool schemes.
In two cases, we have not yet been provided with sufficient evidence to allow us to assess the schemes’ value for money. These are the Leeds new generation transport (Trolleybus) and South Essex rapid transit schemes. In these cases the promoters will have until 31 March 2012 to provide the necessary additional information, and we will make decisions within two months of receipt.
The Waverley link road proposed by Rotherham borough council is opposed in its current form by Sheffield city council, whose land is required for the proposed route. We recognise that there is a case for additional transport capacity in this area but the currently proposed scheme does not appear to be deliverable. We are inviting Rotherham to work with Sheffield and other stakeholders and to propose a resolution to the issue by 31 March 2012.
We recognise the critically important role that transport improvements could play in the regeneration of the Bexhill-Hastings area and the economic case underpinning the Bexhill-Hastings link road, though we are also aware of concerns regarding the proposed scheme, including its environmental impact.
Before we take a final decision on the scheme we want to be sure that it offers the best approach for regenerating the area and also to consider other transport options to achieve this, including local trunk roads such as the A21, A259 and local rail. We also want to consider whether further environmental mitigation measures could be deployed to address the impacts of the proposed Bexhill-Hastings scheme.
Over the next three months the Department will work alongside the scheme’s promoters and other local and regional partners to gather further evidence on the optimal solution for the area. We would intend to make a decision swiftly thereafter.
Details of each of the schemes and the funding offered by the Government are available on the DFT website and will be followed by a more detailed document setting out the details of our decision-making process, and information on our assessment of the schemes.