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Written Statements

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 17 December 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

Fifth Statement of New Regulation

The Government are today publishing the fifth statement of new regulation. This statement reports on regulations within the scope of the “one-in, two-out” rule which are expected to come into force between 1 January and 30 June 2013. The statement also reports on the red tape challenge measures expected to come into force and progress on the targets. It also includes, for the first time, EU measures which are implemented by UK regulations.

In parallel, Departments are each publishing a summary of the regulations they intend to introduce.

I am laying copies of the statement in the House Libraries.


Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010

My noble Friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Sassoon, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

Mr David Anderson QC has completed his second annual report as independent reviewer of terrorist asset-freezing legislation. The report covers a 12-month period (year to 16 September 2012) of the operation of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 and will be laid before the House today.

The Government are grateful to Mr Anderson for his thorough report and will carefully consider the recommendation he has made. The Government’s response to this report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses on or before 14 February 2013.

Communities and Local Government

Fire and Rescue Services

On Friday 14 December 2012, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Baroness Hanham, made the following written ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce that Sir Ken Knight will be undertaking a review into the operational efficiency of the services delivered by fire and rescue authorities in England.

This review, conducted by Sir Ken Knight, former firefighter and outgoing Government chief fire and rescue adviser, will seek to identify ways fire and rescue authorities can pinpoint sensible savings and practical improvements without reducing the breadth and quality of life-saving services that the country’s firefighters are known for.

The review will examine options for savings both within and beyond the current spending review period, including through:

Firefighter training;

Flexible staffing and crewing arrangements;

The use of retained firefighters;


Shared services;

Collaboration with emergency services and other organisations on service delivery and estates;

Sickness management;

Sharing of senior staff;

Locally-led mergers and operational collaborations;

New firefighting technology;

Preventative approaches;

Working with local businesses.

Public safety is always our first concern and this review will make sure no stone has been left unturned in the quest for the most efficient and effective front-line fire service there can be.

The review will commence in January with Sir Ken Knight talking to key partners, and will report in the spring of 2013.

Culture, Media and Sport

Telecommunications Council

The Telecommunications Council will take place in Brussels on 20 December 2012. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, will represent the UK at this Council.

The first item is a progress report from the presidency, followed by an orientation debate (an exchange of views steered by the questions from the presidency) on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (EMI0977/12). The first question asks what areas from this proposal should member states focus on to ensure the progress of this complex piece of legislation. Here, the UK will say that in order to make progress on this proposal, the focus must be on: agreeing the specific details, including technical standards about how this regulation will work in practice; actively consulting and involving service providers and end-users, including business users; and in this process ensuring that this proposal builds on what has already been developed across member states in respect of standards and systems.

The second question asks whether we would agree that setting harmonised minimum security levels for e-identification ensures adequate security for cross-border transactions across Europe. Here, we will say that we must ensure that what is finally agreed is based on a risk-assessment of the appropriate levels of security required.

The Council will then receive progress reports from the presidency on proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/98/EC on the reuse of public sector information (PSI) and proposal for a directive on guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks (EM 16006/11). We will not intervene on either of these items.

The Council will then undertake a full “tour de table” debate guided by two questions from the presidency on the priorities going forward for the digital agenda for Europe (DAE-EM9981/10). This item will also include presentations on the mid-term review of the DAE (with a communication due to be published on 19 December) and the Commission’s annual growth survey 2013.

In the debate, the first question asks for an assessment of progress made on the priorities emanating from the DAE. The UK will say that there appears to be good progress by many member states on meeting the DAE broadband targets. The UK is supportive of these targets and we are aiming to increase both the level of penetration and the availability of higher broadband speeds through a combination of measures. The aim of these is to remove barriers to investment in infrastructure deployment by private companies and develop targeted financial support in those areas of the country—particularly rural areas—where the unaided market will not provide a service. Greater EU broadband coverage will also increase the potential client base for EU businesses in the digital single market. However, there appears to be less progress made in respect of information and communications technology (ICT) services. To improve the chances of success, member states should consider the opportunities that cross-border services offer to EU businesses and citizens. The Commission should also consider intensifying its efforts in working more closely together across directorate-generals.

The second question asks member states to highlight areas where they see the need for more intensive efforts to address perceived challenges. Here the UK will say that the priority for the EU’s ICT agenda should be the establishment of a single market for the digital economy and actions to boost cross-border e-commerce. To achieve this aim, the top three priorities should be: modernising the EU intellectual property framework; securing a balanced legal framework for data protection; and improving infrastructure and encouraging broadband roll out.

Any Other Business (AOB)

There are only three items under AOB. We do not currently foresee the need to intervene on any of these items. The first is a progress report from the presidency on proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA-EM 14358/10).

The second item is a presentation by the Commission on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites, which was published on 4 December 2012.

Finally, the Irish delegation will inform the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency.


Spectrum Release

I wish to inform the House that the Ministry of Defence intends to auction around 200MHz of its radio spectrum usage rights; the preparations for the auction are expected to start at the end of 2013.

The spectrum to be sold will contribute towards the Government’s target that at least 500MHz of public sector spectrum will be released by 2020.

The sale will give private operators the opportunity to acquire more capacity to support, for example, the introduction of fourth-generation mobile services to people in cities, towns and villages across the United Kingdom, or to expand wireless access to broadband services, both of which are vital to the UK’s prosperity.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Private Security Companies

The Government aim to raise the global standards of private security companies (PSCs) working in complex and high-risk environments overseas. To this end, we have been working closely with interested partners, including industry and civil society, to establish a voluntary, independently audited and internationally recognised regulatory system that is practicable, effective and affordable.

Certification to professional standards is the next step towards effective voluntary regulation. First the Government endorsed the Montreux document in 2008, in which states commit to observe existing international legal obligations relevant to the operations of PSCs in areas of armed conflict. Secondly, in 2010, an international code of conduct for private security service providers (ICOC) was created. This provides a set of principles to guide companies. The ICOC has now been signed by over 500 PSCs, around a third of them British. We have reviewed options on setting new professional standards to make the code effective. We now intend to issue an HMG publication specifying that ASIS PSC 1-2012 is the applicable standard for UK-based PSCs working in complex environments on land overseas. I will place a copy of the publication in the Libraries of both Houses. Companies, independent auditors and the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) will then take the further steps to enable auditing against these standards to begin.

The ICOC mandated the development of auditable standards to ensure that signatory companies are implementing their commitments under the code. In response to this requirement, the international security trade association (ASIS) was funded by the Department of Defence to develop the standard—“PSC1”—for the regulation of private security companies operating on land in complex environments overseas. This standard was drafted in a multinational and multi-stakeholder forum in which UK Government, UK industry and UK civil society fully participated. It was published in March 2012 as an approved American National Standard and is the only standard currently available for companies operating in this field. PSCs seeking certification in the UK to this new standard will have to be audited by independent third-party auditors accredited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS). Our trade association partners, the Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG), will, in consultation with Government, develop guidance to help British PSCs meet the requirements of the new standards.

Our ambition is to have a single, internationally agreed standard and we therefore welcome the fact that PSCl was recently submitted to the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to be considered for adoption as an international standard for PSCs working in complex environments. This process may take some time. We will review the need for a separate HMG publication of this standard once the ISO process has been completed.

We are also working with other states, industry and civil society internationally to ensure that there should be globally recognised standards and that UK companies are not unfairly disadvantaged by raising their standards. We expect that the ICOC governing board, when established, will advise that certification to the PSC1 standard by suitably accredited independent auditors will meet the code’s requirements for PSCs to have auditable professional standards. We are still consulting with industry and civil society partners on what additional steps PSCs might need to take to obtain full certification by the ICOC that they are meeting the code’s principles but I can confirm that there will be no need for PSCs to go through duplicate auditing procedures to become certified.

The ICOC was drafted with land-based PSCs in mind. However, since 2010 there has been a rapid rise in the number of PSCs working on anti-piracy operations at sea. Although many of the principles relating to PSCs working on land and at sea are similar, there are important legal and practical differences. The Government are therefore also contributing to an international drafting process under the ISO for an equivalent professional standard for PSCs working in the maritime sector. A draft maritime standard was introduced at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in late November. If and when this standard is adopted, UKAS will start the process of accrediting suitably qualified independent third-party auditors to certify UK-based maritime PSCs under it.

Clarity on the standards against which PSCs should be audited is an important step forward in the drive to raise standards in this industry through voluntary action, but independently audited. It is also a practical illustration of the Government’s commitment to human rights and to working with business and civil society to find effective ways to implement our commitments even in the most challenging environments.


Health Council

The Health part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council met on 7 December 2012 in Brussels. I represented the UK.

The Council unanimously agreed a general approach on the breakfast directives, following the lifting of the UK’s parliamentary scrutiny reserve. There was a discussion of the serious cross-border health threats proposal, during which the Cyprus Presidency gave a summary of progress made on this dossier during their presidency. The European Commission reiterated their view that it was important for the co-ordination of preparedness planning to be led centrally. A number of member states emphasised that they felt that it was better for the co-ordination of preparedness planning to be led by member states within the Health Security Committee.

The Council conclusions on organ donation and transplantation were adopted without substantive discussion. A number of member states, including the UK, intervened in relation to the healthy ageing across the lifecycle conclusions in order to underline their support for a future EU strategy on alcohol-related harm.

Under any other business, the presidency provided information about the proposal for health for growth, the third multi-annual programme of EU action in health for 2014-20. Information was provided by the presidency on the transparency directive, with several member states indicating their opposition to the proposals during the discussion. The information point on medical devices was the subject of some discussion, with interventions from a number of member states in support of the Commission proposals. During the information point on food intended for infants and young children and food for special medical purposes, the UK stated its opposition to the use of delegated acts in the proposal. The final points under any other business on salt reduction, cross-border healthcare, the WHO framework convention on tobacco control, the working party on public health at senior-level and asbestos were concluded without discussion. Ireland then outlined the priorities for its upcoming presidency.

Finally, there was a lunchtime discussion of the joint action plan on medical devices, which was brought forward by the Commission earlier this year. All member states outlined the progress they had already made, and emphasised the need for a strong EU regulatory framework for medical devices.

NHS Consultants and Junior Doctors' Contracts

I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the report by the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) “Review of compensation levels, incentives and Clinical Excellence and Distinction Awards schemes for NHS Consultants”. The report has been laid before Parliament today (Cm 8518). The report was to all four UK Health Departments. I am grateful to the chair and members of the DDRB for their report.

The recommendations in the report are wide ranging. As well as making recommendations on a new approach to national and local awards, it suggests the contract needs to recognise different stages in a consultant career by introducing a break point in the pay scale and a new principal consultant grade, that would cover up to 10% of the consultant work force at any one time.

The report sets out the case for change and the Government accept the key principles underlying the report. In particular, we agree that clinical excellence awards should recognise current not past excellence and that there is a compelling case for changes in the consultant contract. Local NHS organisations need to have a consultant contract that meets their needs and is fit for purpose for the future.

I recognise that there may be some concerns within the medical profession over the report. The Government are therefore committed to work with the profession on these recommendations with a view to reaching agreement with doctors’ representatives on how they should be implemented.

I am particularly mindful of the position of doctors who hold current pensionable and consolidated awards and on the impact of the DDRB’s proposals for national awards on the most senior doctors including clinical academics. It will be important to ensure that their reward packages remain competitive so that we continue to recruit and retain the most able consultants in the UK and provide appropriate incentives to encourage clinical excellence and innovation; not only in patient care but also in medical research and teaching.

The Government do not necessarily accept that consultants should be prohibited from holding awards simultaneously in the old and new schemes. This will depend on the final scheme design and should be considered as part of transition planning to ensure that all consultants retain appropriate incentives for continued excellence while avoiding paying twice for the same activities.

I am also prepared to consider the issue of pensionability of future awards as there is nothing inherent in a career average pension scheme that prohibits this. I therefore believe that longer-term national awards can remain pensionable. I would also be prepared to consider affordable proposals on pensionability of future local awards.

In advance of these discussions, we intend shortly to launch a specific consultation about discontinuing two anomalies in the current schemes.

We wish to work with the profession and employers to ensure that pay arrangements for doctors are affordable and sustainable in the long term. We will therefore also be seeking to agree changes to doctors’ contracts to better support seven-day working in the NHS. A move to seven-day working must be approached alongside better availability of community services and primary care. An NHS fit for the future needs to be delivering the same quality of service at the weekend as it does during the week and pay arrangements need to reflect this.

We are also today publishing a report commissioned from the NHS employers organisation by the four UK Health Departments on the junior doctors’ contract. The incentives in the current contract operate in a way that militates against the best quality training and restrict the service contribution made by doctors in training. We therefore wish to agree changes to ensure pay arrangements for juniors are also fit for purpose.

I am ambitious to see early progress on implementing these changes. I would wish to see a heads of agreement reached by the spring of 2013 on changes across both contracts with the intention of implementation beginning from April 2014. With the agreement of the devolved Administrations, this will be taken forward on a UK-wide basis, while respecting any differences arising from devolved responsibilities.

Copies of both reports are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The report on the junior doctors’ contract has been placed in the Library.

Home Department

Arab Spring Asset Recovery Task Force

On 26 September the Prime Minister announced at the UN General Assembly that the UK will create a new cross-Government taskforce to return assets stolen by members of the former regimes of the Arab spring countries. The taskforce has now started work to accelerate our existing effort to return stolen assets to the Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian people.

We have established a multi-agency team, under a single operational-lead, involving staff from the Home Office, Serious Organised Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service. Leading members of the team have already visited Cairo to forge links with their counterparts in the Egyptian authorities. As well as posting a CPS prosecutor and a Metropolitan police financial investigator to Egypt, we will also post a regional asset recovery adviser to the region to assist the authorities in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

In addition to the operational response, I want to make sure that we have the necessary tools and powers to ensure that the UK is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption. We have already pushed for changes to the EU sanctions regulations, which came into effect on 27 November. They have been amended to allow better information sharing between EU member states and Arab spring countries.

The taskforce will also conduct a review of the UK’s legal framework for providing assistance to other countries seeking to repatriate stolen assets. Michael Beloff QC has been instructed to provide independent expert advice to inform the review.

The taskforce will lead diplomatic work to rebuild the UK’s good reputation on asset recovery, and we will seek opportunities through our G8 Presidency in 2013 to encourage greater partnership working between the G8, Arab spring countries and other regional allies.

This is important work, and we are making good progress, but it will take time to achieve the results we want. Asset recovery requires painstaking work to identify and trace hidden assets, while ensuring the proper judicial processes are followed to confiscate them. There is a moral imperative for this work to be carried out swiftly; the taskforce brings a new energy and focus to this endeavour.