Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 18 September 2012
Banking Act 2009
The Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a report required under section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 covering the period from 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
Cash Ratio Deposit Scheme
Cash Ratio Deposits (CRDs) are non-interest bearing assets deposited with the Bank of England by banks and building societies. They are used by the bank to finance its unremunerated activities, in particular its efforts to secure price stability and the stability of the financial system in general, from which these institutions are key beneficiaries.
The CRD scheme was extended to include building societies, and was placed on a statutory basis, when the Bank of England Act became law in 1998. The scheme was reviewed in 2003, when the threshold above which institutions are obliged to place deposits with the Bank of England, was amended following a public consultation. The outcome of the following CRD review in 2008 resulted in a reduction in the CRD ratio to 0.11% from 0.15%. As part of the CRD scheme review in 2007-08 the Government made a commitment to conduct a further formal review at the latest in five years’ time. The Treasury, working closely with the bank, will now begin that review.
The review will include an assessment of the detailed arrangements of the scheme as well as the continuing suitability of the scheme itself compared to alternative sources of funding. It will also address the impact of the scheme on the eligible institutions. The broad conclusions of the review will be the subject of a public consultation.
Financial Policy Committee's Macro-Prudential Toolkit
I have today laid before Parliament a consultation document, “The Financial Services Bill: the Financial Policy Committee’s macro-prudential tools”.
Establishing the Financial Policy Committee within the Bank of England as the UK’s macro-prudential authority is a key element of the Government’s reforms to the UK’s system of financial services regulation, as set out in the Financial Services Bill. The Financial Policy Committee will identify, monitor and address risks to the stability of the UK financial system as a whole.
It is vital that the Financial Policy Committee possesses the necessary tools to address the systemic risks that it identifies. Alongside broad powers of recommendation, the Financial Policy Committee will also have specific powers to direct the regulators to take action, which will be set out by the Treasury in secondary legislation, subject to the affirmative procedure.
Recognising the importance of these tools, the Government have committed to consulting on its proposals for the Financial Policy Committee’s direction-making powers, during the passage of the Financial Services Bill.
This document therefore sets out the Government’s proposals for the Financial Policy Committee’s initial toolkit, which have been informed by the recommendations of the interim Financial Policy Committee in March 2012.
The Government propose to make the Financial Policy Committee responsible for setting the level of the UK’s counter-cyclical capital buffer and to provide the Financial Policy Committee with a direction-making power to impose sectoral capital requirements.
The Government intend to provide the Financial Policy Committee with a direction power to set, and vary over time, a leverage ratio cap, but no earlier than 2018 and subject to a review in 2017 to assess progress on international standards.
The document contains draft secondary legislation that will provide the Financial Policy Committee with its directive tools and an impact assessment that contains illustrative estimates of the net benefits of these macro-prudential tools.
The Treasury seeks responses to the consultation on the proposals by 11 December 2012, in advance of laying the secondary legislation before Parliament once the Financial Services Bill receives Royal Assent.
Copies of “The Financial Services Bill: the Financial Policy Committee’s macro-prudential tools” are available in the Vote Office, Printed Paper Office and the HM Treasury website.
Tax Policy Consultation and Draft Legislation
The Government’s approach to tax policy making places great emphasis on policy consultation and scrutiny of legislation.
Over the summer, HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs have been seeking the views of interested parties on over 35 of the tax policies announced at Budget 2012. Responses to these consultations will be published on or by 11 December 2012.
As part of the next stage of consultation, draft legislation for these measures, to be included in Finance Bill 2013, will also be published on that date. This will be supplemented by draft explanatory notes and tax information and impact notes. The draft clauses will be open for consultation until 6 February 2013.
Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Guidance)
Guidance has today been issued to civil servants in UK departments on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the run up to the elections for Police and Crime Commissioner roles in England and Wales outside London. The elections will take place on 15 November 2012.
The guidance sets out the need to maintain the political impartiality of the civil service and the need to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes. The period of sensitivity preceding the elections starts on 25 October.
Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Cabinet Office website at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/election-guidance.
Committee on Standards in Public Life (Triennial Review)
I am today announcing the start of the triennial review of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL). Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that NDPBs continue to have regular challenge on their remit and governance arrangements.
The review will be undertaken by an independent external reviewer, Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, who will want to consult widely with relevant stakeholders, including Parliament, the devolved Administrations, the main political parties, academics, ethics regulators and others with an interest in the work of the Committee. He will be issuing an issues and questions paper in due course and the findings of the review will be published. Peter will be supported in the review by the Cabinet Office. At his request, he will not be paid for his time.
In common with all such reviews, Peter Riddell will undertake the following:
to challenge the continuing need for this NDPB—both its functions and form; and;
if it is agreed that it should remain as an NDPB, to review its control and governance arrangements to ensure that it is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.
The aim will be to complete the review in the autumn.
Communities and Local Government
I would like to update hon. Members on changes to the publication of the Department’s statistics.
Today my Department has announced its response to the consultation on proposed changes to the Department’s statistics. From October this year, we will no longer publish statistics at a Government office regional level. Instead the Department will plan to publish, where appropriate, statistics for local enterprise partnerships and upper-tier local authorities, complementing existing statistics by local authority.
The coalition Government have abolished regional government. The unelected regional assemblies/regional chambers, the Government offices for the regions, the regional FiReControl programme, the regional development agencies have been terminated, as is intended for the regional spatial strategies, subject to the strategic environment assessment process outlined in my statement of 3 September 2012, Official Report, Column 5WS.
The Government office regions were an inefficient tier of administration based on arbitrary boundaries. They did not reflect the areas that local residents most identified with, nor were they areas with common economic problems and market conditions, nor were they the most sensible boundaries for co-ordinating functions such as fire and resilience.
The continuing use of the former Government office regional boundaries no longer provides a coherent framework for assessing public policy. Many of the Government’s policies now use alternative local geographies, for example local enterprise partnerships, the new homes bonus and city deals. Publishing statistics at a regional level is no longer necessary or informative, and we see little point in producing statistics at taxpayers’ expense for their own sake.
The old regional classifications are also misleading—they fail to quantify both the pockets of deprivation that can exist within regions or the differences between rural and urban England, and there is an inconsistency of approach to the size and population of each government region. They are arbitrary lines on a map that have no resonance —in contrast to England’s long-standing cities, boroughs and counties which have a real sense of local identity and popular support, dating back centuries in many cases. England has no history of regional government, whereas it does have a great tradition of local governance that this Government wish to strengthen.
There is also a European dimension to the regions in the form of Eurostat’s nomenclature of units for territorial statistics standard (the appropriately named “NUTS regulations”). It is the view of Ministers that the NUTS1 hierarchy is no longer appropriate for structural funds in England moving forward from 2014. Ministers reject the notion of a “Europe of the Regions” where nation states and national Parliaments are sidelined, and replaced with distant regional governments answerable only to a federal European super-state. Dismantling such arbitrary, unelected regional administrative structures will assist in that goal.
Ministers have carefully considered all the representations made in the consultation. I would note that, for the purposes of historic comparisons, nothing prevents academics and other interested parties from compiling and analysing the open local authority data by the old regional government boundaries if they wish.
The consultation response also notes the implementation of a new form on local authority housing statistics which reduces and rationalises the data we are asking local authorities to provide, reducing burdens on local government. It also reports on the responses on land use change statistics which confirmed their importance for monitoring the outcomes of planning policy. A copy of the response has been placed in the Library of the House.
Research Commissioned by the Previous Administration
Today my Department is publishing the 13th group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration.
This Administration inherited a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were commissioned by the previous Government which we have been publishing in groups themed on a particular topic.
The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our freedom of information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research.
The 16 reports published today represent the findings from 15th research projects at a total cost of £1,453,505. These findings cover the topics of building, planning and the environment.
(i) Evaluation of minerals policy statements (two volumes)—This report by the British Geological Survey considered the implementation of a number of the minerals policy statements and minerals policy guidance notes, and evaluated the impacts of the policy’s implementation. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £60,000.
(ii) Investigating the influence of settlement pattern and morphology on the sterilisation of shallow coal resources—This report by the British Geological Survey assessed the impact on shallow coal resources of using separation zones around urban areas. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £9,000.
(iii) Research to understand the rural impacts of regional spatial strategies—This report by land use consultants noted that the regional strategies were not rural proofed and, had an urban-centred approach and that planned housing provision in rural areas was on a declining trend. This report was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £21,542.
(iv) A quality local development management service—The last Government’s Killian Pretty report recommended that Government should review the then existing national planning indicator (National Indicator 157) on timeliness for progressing planning applications and proposed a new satisfaction with the planning application service indicator. There was concern from applicants, local planning authorities and others that the performance regime focused on the eight and 13-week time-scale targets had unintended effects on behaviours and outcomes. In response the Department commissioned research into alternatives. The research report by Addison and Associates with Arup recommended monitoring 37 different indicators. This report was commissioned in November 2009 at a cost of £72,816.
(v) A tool to assess the impact of EU directives on UK sub-national planning policies (two reports)—This research by Ove Arup aimed to develop a tool to assess the impact of future EU directives on national planning policies. Directives used in developing this tool included the marine strategy directive, the water framework directive and the habitats directive. It noted that EU directives create significant tensions with the need for development to meet demand. The marine strategy directive would cost key business sectors between £439 million to £1.2 billion in additional costs. The research was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £81,025.
Building and the environment reports
(vi) Mapping the standard of existing stock and its turnover—This report by Building Research Establishment considered the work to develop a model of the existing housing stock in England and Wales, which could be used in assessing the impact of current and future policy in relation to energy use, carbon emissions and water consumption. This report was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £56,305.
(vii) Case studies of change of use of dwellings—This report by Faber Maunsell looked at achieving satisfactory acoustic performance for buildings to be converted from industry or commercial use to residential use. Although sound insulation was the main concern of this project, all other relevant requirements of the building regulations were to be considered and methods of compliance outlined. This report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £115,860.
(viii) Lessons from Stamford Brook—Understanding the gap between designed and real performance. This report by Leeds Metropolitan University conveyed the results of a research designed to evaluate the extent to which low-carbon housing standards could be achieved in a large commercial housing development and incorporated into future building regulations. The report was commissioned in 2002 and the Department’s contribution was £215,000.
(ix) The safety of stairs investigated over a range of rise and goings—This report by Building Research Establishment considered people’s use of stairs. It conducted analysis of subjective opinions, objective behaviour on stairs and foot placement data to establish the effect of guidance within part K (Protection from falling, collision and impact) on the design of public, private and institutional stairs and the risk of falling. The report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £219,682.
(x) Investigation of real fires—This report by the Building Research Establishment provided feedback on the performance of real buildings in real fires. The findings noted the overall effectiveness of the building regulations in providing for the safety of life in the event of fire and most of the significant issues that have been identified during this study fell outside the scope of these regulations. The report was commissioned in 2007 at a cost of £241,067.
(xi) Modelling the current and potential accessibility of the housing stock—This report by Building Research Establishment considered the accessibility of the existing housing stock in England with particular reference to its utility for older and disabled people. The report uses data from the English Housing Condition Survey to identify the frequency and suitability of a range of built features within homes to arrive at an overall assessment of their accessibility and future adaptability. The report was commissioned in 2006 at a cost of £56,305.
(xii) Future administration of the energy performance buildings directive quality assurance regime—The objective of the work was to set the long-term standards and quality assurance arrangements for the energy performance of buildings directive (regime and infrastructure, including accreditation schemes and energy assessors), to ensure that robust, repeatable and accurate energy performance certificates, display energy certificates and air conditioning reports were produced in a consistent manner. It was commissioned in June 2009 at a cost of £75,280.
(xiii) Review of the impact of the draft European basic safety standard directive on building regulations—This report by the Building Research Establishment examines the implications of the proposed European ionising radiation basic safety standard directive for building regulations. This research was commissioned in February 2010 at a cost of £24,829.
(xiv) Glazing under abnormal loads—This report by Buro Happold and the Building Research Establishment addressed the issue of abnormal loads on glazing and the response of glazing systems. The research was commissioned in particular to examine the role of building regulations in mitigating the risks involved from abnormal loads on glazing. It reviewed structural assessment methods currently used to design buildings with glazed systems and assess their adequacy in the area of abnormal loadings. This work was commissioned in October 2003 at a cost of £157,052.
(xv) Safety of masonry parapets—The overall aim of this project was to determine and analyse the most common structural problems associated with masonry parapets and the potential hazards and dangers that may arise. Having identified the problems, conclusions and recommendations need to be made regarding measures that ought to be taken in the specification, design, construction and maintenance of masonry parapets to ensure that they remained safe and structurally sound over the service life of the building. This work was commissioned in October 2003 and cost £61,212.
(xvi) Radon: Current and future performance of radon protective measures—This report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) reviews the performance of radon protective measures in new buildings. The research notes that radon protection measures installed 20 years continue to provide a high degree of radon protection, and were not adversely affected by improvements such as extensions, conservatories, double glazing or insulation. This work was commissioned in February 2010 at a cost of £53,505.
These reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not necessarily a reflection of the current Government’s policies and priorities.
Copies of these reports are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the Houses.
Culture, Media and Sport
The Government are determined to deliver on the commitment to “Inspire a Generation” and secure a lasting sporting legacy from the games. We already know that 1.3 million more people are playing sport every week in England than when we won the bid in 2005 but we also know that we need to maintain the momentum from London 2012. That is why we have put in place the following 10 point sports legacy plan:
Through UK Sport, we have committed lottery and exchequer funding of around £125 million a year over the next four years for elite sport. This will provide the sports’ governing bodies with the certainty they need to put long-term plans in place to try and emulate, or better, the success our athletes have enjoyed in London. In return, and in the volunteering spirit of the games, all funded UK athletes will be asked to offer up to five days a year of their time to inspire the next generation through school and community sport.
World Class Facilities
We have invested in new world class sports facilities that will support community and elite sport for future generations inspired by London 2012. After the games, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) will begin a £300 million construction project to remove the temporary venues and facilities and transform the Olympic site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. On the Olympic park, the stadium, aquatics centre, velodrome and copper box will be transformed into their final legacy configurations and the hockey arena moved to a new location in Eton Manor at the north of the park alongside. The Lee Valley white water centre, the Eton Dorney rowing centre, the Hadleigh farm mountain biking centre and the Weymouth sailing centre were developed or improved for the games and will reopen to elite and community use. There will also be a legacy from the investment made into facilities used as games time training centres including:
Three new facilities—(Europa Gym at Bexley, Redbridge Leisure Centre, Mayesbrook Park).
One temporary facility (Basketball)—Two competition specification floors for use in major events around the country.
Two refurbished athletic tracks—(Mayesbrook Park, Newham Leisure Centre).
Two hockey pitches at the Old Loughtonians club.
Six building and sports floor upgrades—(Barking Abby School, Hackney Community College, Langdon School, Sobell Centre, Rokeby School).
In addition, a number of the temporary facilities used for the games will be relocated to communities across the UK. Considerable progress has been made to date on the disposal of a number of assets including:
Pools: Up to nine pools comprising 3x50 metres and 6x25 metres pools are available for possible relocation to legacy end users. Sport England will lead the management of this process.
Shooting Enclosures: Business cases received from UK applicants for 25 metres and combined 10/50 metres shooting enclosures are being considered at present.
Re-allocation of one of the hockey pitches from the Riverbank Arena to the Richmond Hockey Club (in SW London), where it will also be used by the University of Westminster.
Major Sports Events
To maintain the moment from London 2012, we have already won the right to host the following major sporting events throughout the UK:
Rugby League World Cup
BMX Supercross World Series
European Athletics Team Championships
World Youth Netball Championships
World Triathlon Championship Series Final
Rowing World Cup Series
Men’s World Open Squash Championships
ICC Champions Trophy
Ryder Cup (Gleneagles)
Rugby Football World Cup
World Rowing Series (Option)
World Canoe Slalom Championships
European Eventing Championships
World Fencing Championships
World Artistic Championships (M&W)
European Hockey Championships
IPC Swimming European Championships (50m)
World Athletic Championships
Cricket World Cup
And because we know that hosting sporting events delivers significant economic benefits for the country as well as encouraging our young people to take up new sports, we are bidding to host more events including the European swimming championships (2016), the UCI track cycling world championships (2016) and the IOC Youth Olympic games (2018), among many others in the pipeline.
Places People Play
Sport England’s £135 million sports legacy programme. Places People Play was launched in November 2010. This has already:
invested in 12 new large scale multi-sports facilities and over 700 community sports projects;
recruited 22,000 sports makers who have committed to volunteer for at least 10 hours to support sports participation;
launched the club leaders programme which aims to reach at least 10,000 sport clubs;
motivated over 100,000 to sign up for the gold challenge to test themselves in multiple Olympic and Paralympic sports and raise millions of pounds for charity;
Given nearly 98,869 young people the chance to try new sports through the Sportivate programme.
Youth Sport Strategy (Whole Sport Plans)
Also, through Sport England, we are investing £l billion over the next five years in the youth sport strategy to encourage everyone, but particularly young people.
to take up sport and develop a sporting habit for life. This strategy will provide lottery and exchequer funding to:
enable the sports’ governing bodies to create more opportunities for everyone to participate in sport at least once a week;
help local authorities improve sport provision;
support local organisations, well-run clubs, voluntary groups and other partners such as the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust and Street Games;
enhance sport provision at further education colleges and Universities;
upgrade community sports facilities and invest in new facilities;
enable schools to open up their sporting facilities for use by local communities;
rolled out at least 6,000 partnerships between schools and local sports clubs by 2017.
The Government have supported the launch of “Join In”, a programme designed to use the volunteering spirit which did so much to enhance the games and encourage people to give time in the community. Between 13 and 28 August 2012, communities across the UK took part in “Join In Local Sport”. Over 6,000 events took place and early indications from the new Join In trust are that the events attracted over a quarter of a million participants and, of those that took part, 10% volunteered on the day and over 10% signed up for future volunteering.
We have introduced the school games programme, with sponsorship from Sainsbury’s and HRH Prince Harry of Wales as president. Over half the schools in England are already taking part, including primary, secondary, special and independent schools. In May 2012, some 35,000 young spectators cheered on 1,600 elite young athletes in the inaugural national finals in the Olympic park and other Olympic venues. In June 2012, 112,000 young athletes and 15,000 young volunteers took part in county sport festivals around the country and every school taking part in the programme held their own Olympic style sports day.
PE and sport remains an integral part of the school curriculum. Nevertheless, we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure all our children have the chance to enjoy sport in school, to compete against their peers and to promote and celebrate sporting excellence at a young age.
Disability Sport Legacy
We want to inspire more people with disabilities to play sport regularly and for opportunities to be included within all legacy programmes.
Sport England has awarded £1.5 million to the English Federation of Disability Sport to work with the sports’ national governing bodies to increase sports participation by disabled people and make grassroots sport more inclusive.
It has also awarded lottery funding to seven national disability sports organisations—Mencap Sport/Special Olympics GB jointly, British Blind Sport, Cerebral Palsy Sport, Dwarf Sport Association UK, British Wheelchair Sport and UK Deaf Sport—to support and guide national governing bodies (NGBS) of sport and other sports bodies to create opportunities for participation of disabled people.
In addition. Sport England is working with key organisations from the disability sector, such as Disability Rights UK, to bring them together with the sports sector. This will expand the reach and expertise available to the sports sector and bring more disabled people into sport.
In delivering the Youth Sport Strategy, Sport England will confirm the 2013-17 investment into a number of NGBs in December 2012. This investment will for the first include specific targets around delivering an increase in participation by disabled people.
And Sport England’s sporting legacy programme. Places People Play, includes an £8 million inclusive sport fund. This will invest in innovative, scalable and replicable projects that make it easier and more enjoyable for disabled people to take part in sport and physical activity more often.
Within the school games, project ability is a bespoke project, delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, and has been designed to help drive and increase opportunities for young disabled people.
Around 5,000 disabled children in 486 schools have benefited from Project Ability in the first year of the programme. Some 32 sports are working with the programme to create opportunities for children to get involved.
We will continue funding the International Inspiration programme until at least 2014 and will work with the International Inspiration Foundation in developing options for how programme might continue after 2014, including bringing together the work of International Inspiration and UK Sport’s sport for development charity—International Development through sport. Since 2007, this ground breaking sport for development programme has already reached more than 12 million young people in 20 countries around the world.
I will provide quarterly updates to the House on progress with delivery of this plan.
Energy and Climate Change
Fuel Poverty Update
In March 2012, Professor John Hills from the London School of Economics published his final report into the issue of fuel poverty in which he recommended that the Government move away from the current definition of fuel poverty, which he argued was not fit for purpose. At the time we committed to moving to a new framework for measurement and consulting on that approach. Today I am laying before Parliament a consultation which seeks views on the approach we intend to take.
On the definition of fuel poverty, I intend to adopt the overall framework that Professor Hills proposed in his review. I believe that this is a better measure of the problem of fuel poverty than the indicator we are currently using because it will allow us to properly understand the problem, and therefore design effective solutions. By adopting a more accurate measure, this will help us to target our resources at those most in need.
The consultation also considers the question of implications of a change to the definition for the fuel poverty target which is set out the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act. The definition of fuel poverty that we are proposing to adopt is a relative one, while the target is focused on eradication as far as reasonably practicable by 2016. The consultation therefore also seeks views on whether, in changing the definition, we should also seek to align the target with this new understanding of the problem.
Finally, I am also announcing my intention to publish an updated strategy in the new year, which will set out the final decision on the new definition of fuel poverty, our intentions on the target and will be an opportunity to set out a refreshed plan for tackling fuel poverty, to ensure the Government are using their resources as effectively as possible.
The consultation will run until 30 November, and I will set out the Government’s response with our intention on each of the issues as soon as possible after the consultation has concluded.
Meanwhile we will continue to deliver policies that we know are making a difference, through the warm home discount scheme requiring energy suppliers to provide support to low income and vulnerable customers with their energy costs, and the new energy company obligation, which will run in parallel with the green deal, and is intended to focus particularly on households that cannot achieve financial savings without additional support, including the poorest and most vulnerable, and those in hard to treat homes.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Afghanistan (Monthly Progress Report)
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 20th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.
On 8 July at the Tokyo conference the international community, including the UK, agreed to help the Government of Afghanistan meet their country’s development needs for the years up to and after security transition in 2014. Specific pledges were made to 2017, with strong commitments from the international community to provide financial assistance to Afghanistan through the “Transformation Decade” to the end of 2024. This support is vital to ensure that the Government can provide continued stability and prospects for their people when international military troops withdraw at the end of 2014. Our support will depend on the Government taking forward key governance and economic reforms, including on protecting the rights of women and girls, outlined in the Tokyo mutual accountability framework (TMAF). At the request of the Government of Afghanistan, the UK agreed to co-chair the first ministerial review of the TMAF benchmarks in 2014.
The insurgency remains a tangible threat in Afghanistan as the separate attacks in Nimruz and Kunduz provinces on 14 August demonstrated. However, as transition progresses and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) increasingly move to the fore on operations, we are seeing more evidence that violent incidents are being evermore displaced away from the protected communities where the majority of Afghans live. While there are still areas where the insurgent has relative freedom of movement they are finding it hard to concentrate their forces as they would wish. It is likely that they will continue to rely on improvise explosive devices (IEDs), high-profile attacks and assassination attempts as means of conducting their campaign and maintaining relevance.
Insider attacks (incidents where members of the ANSF attack their international security assistance force (ISAF) partners1) remain a serious concern. We are working with ISAF and our Afghan partners to reduce the potential for such incidents, but while being adamant that they will not derail our strategy for transition.
The UK continued to support the development of the local economy in Helmand province. UK aid has delivered technical and vocational education and training to more than 7,300 Helmandis, giving them the skills to get jobs and start businesses in the emerging private sector. Our assistance is also helping local government officials in Helmand take control of vital infrastructure, including roads, canals and irrigation systems.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).
1Also known as green on blue attacks.
Proceeds of Crime
Following the debate in the House of Commons on 12 June, the Government decided not to opt in at this stage to the draft directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the European Union (European Union Document No. 7641/12).
The Government welcome the overall aims of the directive and recognise the benefits of increased international co-operation to recover assets held overseas. However having analysed the contents of the directive, and consulted with policy and operational partners, the Government identified a number of issues with the directive, including a serious problem with article 5 of the directive which introduces provisions on non-conviction based confiscation in limited circumstances.
The UK has strong powers which are successfully used to tackle criminal finances. Our powers are already compliant with or stronger than many of those contained in the directive. As the directive offers no direct benefit and the risk to our domestic regime posed by article 5 is sufficiently serious, we decided that the best course of action is not to opt in at this stage.
We will take a full part in the negotiations on the directive and will seek to shape it in the national interest before carefully considering the case for a post-adoption opt-in.
Legal Aid Reform
During Commons consideration of Lords amendments stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, the Government undertook (17 April 2012: column 226)1 to consider whether to extend legal aid for advice and assistance to welfare benefits cases in the first-tier tribunal where these involved a point of law. The vast majority of tribunal appeals do not involve points of law, but the Government said that where these could be identified by an independent person they would consider making legal aid available.
Having considered the matter carefully, the Government consider that a system of independent verification is not feasible. But they will make available, subject to merits and means tests being satisfied, legal aid in the form of advice and assistance for those welfare benefit cases in the first-tier tribunal where the first-tier tribunal has itself identified an error of law in its own decision.
Under tribunal rules, when the first-tier tribunal receives an application for permission to appeal, it must first consider whether to review its own decision. The tribunal may only undertake a review of its decision if it is satisfied that there was an error of law in the decision. If the tribunal reviews its decision, it may invite representations from parties as part of that review. Alternatively, it may take action as a result of the review (in effect, to change its earlier decision) without first giving every party an opportunity to make representations; in that case any party that did not have an opportunity to make representations may apply for such action to be set aside and for the decision to be reviewed again.
Legal aid will be available to assist appellants in these two situations: to make representations when invited by the tribunal, and in relation to an application for action to be set aside and for the decision to be reviewed again where representations were not sought. We intend in due course to lay an order under section 9 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, for approval by each House, to reflect this position.
The Legal Services Commission intends to begin a tender for welfare benefits work in 2013. The tender will cover the work described above, and advice and assistance for onward appeals on a point of law in the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court as described in paragraph 8 of part 1 of schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. One of the criteria for awarding contracts in this tender will be price competition.
The indicative timetable for the welfare benefits contract is:
Pre-Qualification Questionnaire Stage
Invitation to Tender
Existing welfare benefit contracts are due to expire in March 2013. In order to ensure that advice and assistance will be provided for welfare benefit cases within the scope of legal aid, we will put in place appropriate interim measures from April 2013.
Local Major Transport Schemes (Next Steps)
Earlier this year we launched a consultation paper setting out options for how we should devolve funding and prioritisation of local major transport schemes following this spending review period.
Transport is vitally important to local economies, and new infrastructure can provide the missing links that are often so crucial in getting economies moving and creating opportunities for new investment and employment.
We want to ensure that decisions on new transport infrastructure are made more efficiently, and at a more local level than previously. Local enterprise partnerships are well placed to understand how transport investment can be used to boost economic recovery and growth and that is why we want them, working with local authorities, to have a key role. Indeed more Government funding was announced yesterday for local enterprise partnerships to boost their ability to contribute to the growth and jobs agenda.
I am pleased to say that our consultation proposals were met with approval from the majority of respondents, particularly local authorities and local enterprise partnerships. A summary of the responses received was published in July. I have today published firm proposals, confirming that, in all of the key areas, the Department will proceed on the basis as set out in the consultation paper.
I fully support the key objective of removing Whitehall from the process of making decisions on which local schemes should or should not go ahead. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the new local decision makers have arrangements in place to achieve the value for money that we know the right schemes can deliver and to take account of other important factors such as environmental impact. Most respondents accepted the need for robust local assurance frameworks and we will shortly publish detailed guidance on this, to enable local areas to submit their draft frameworks by December.
Transparency is also essential, to ensure that priorities are widely publicised and understood and can be effectively shaped by local people that have a key interest in them. Evaluation will also assume an even greater importance, to enable all parties to look critically at whether key outcomes were achieved and to learn lessons for future investment decisions.
We have asked local areas to confirm the geographical basis for their local transport bodies by 28 September. When they have done so, I will set out indicative funding levels that each area should use as a planning assumption. I can confirm that the distribution of funding between different areas will be on a simple per capita basis. The total level of funding available will of course be subject to decisions made in future spending rounds.
I look forward to working with local transport bodies over the coming months as we embark on this transition to a truly decentralised system and they begin developing their infrastructure plans for post 2015.
High Speed Rail (Phase 1 Consultation)
The Government’s decision on 10 January 2012 to take forward proposals for a national high speed rail network followed a major public consultation exercise that attracted around 55,000 responses.
The decision to proceed took account of a range of evidence including analysis by my Department and High Speed Two Ltd of issues raised in consultation as well as comments from a wide variety of interested parties through a range of engagement approaches. The Government’s independent response analysis consultants, Dialogue by Design (DbyD), carried out a detailed analysis of the consultation responses and a summary of their analysis was published alongside the Government’s January decision, with an addendum report published in July:
“High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future—Consultation Summary Report”, available at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/publications/hs2-consultation-summary.
“High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future—Addendum”, available at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/publications/high-speed-rail-addendum/.
Since publishing the addendum report in July, it has become apparent that a further very small proportion of responses were not fully analysed by DbyD. For these responses, the answers to one or more of the seven consultation questions were omitted from DbyD’s analysis. In total, approximately 0.4% of answers provided to individual consultation questions were affected.
The table below shows how many of the seven consultation answers were omitted from the analysis in each case:
Number of question responses not analysed1
Number of respondents
1Because not all respondents answered all seven questions, there are 20 respondents in total for whom all the questions they answered were omitted.
The cause has been identified as technical errors in transferring data captured from online consultation responses to the consultation analysis database held by DbyD.
My Department asked for supplementary analysis from DbyD and this work concludes that the responses,
“do not provide any information that was not already included in the previous Consultation Summary Report or would have made a difference to the substantive content or balance of that report”.
Inclusion in the original analysis would not have changed the substance of DbyD’s findings, nor affected the considerations which informed the decisions following the consultation.
All those who submitted the responses affected will be contacted with details of their particular cases.
Today I am publishing an interim response to the consultation that closed on 24 August detailing proposals to streamline the process of applying for the stopping up or diversion of a highway, where this is required for the purpose of property development.
This interim response is considering only option 1 of the consultation. The remaining options and consultation responses will be considered and a full response, including proposals for a way forward, will be published by the end of November.
The foundation of all three of the main policy options is a speeding up of the process by allowing stopping up and planning applications to run concurrently, namely option 1.
The large majority of respondents, comprising three main groups, namely developers, local authorities and those affected by stopping up decisions, gave broad support for allowing stopping up and planning applications to be made concurrently, with agreement that it would speed up the process and reduce burdens. We will seek an early legislative opportunity to implement this change.
The Government committed to improving the stopping up application process in the 2011 autumn statement and this will help to deliver the Government’s growth agenda, by removing unnecessary burdens faced by businesses, speeding up the application process and removing unnecessary bureaucracy. The change will play a useful role in encouraging investment and therefore growth in local communities.
This interim response to the consultation document will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Department’s website.