Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 15 January 2013
EU Justice and Home Affairs Opt-in Decision
The Government have opted in to the European Commission’s proposals for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on insurance mediation (recast) (IMD 2) and proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on key information documents for investment products (KIDs).
The Commission’s objective in revising the IMD is to improve regulation in the retail insurance market in an efficient manner. The proposals for IMD 2 aim at ensuring a level playing field between all participants involved in the selling of insurance products and at strengthening policyholder protection.
The KID proposals aim to improve pre-contractual disclosure and the comparability of packaged retail investment products for consumers. They will do so by obliging manufacturers to produce a comparable and standardised disclosure called a KID, and requiring distributors to provide the KID before the sale.
Both sets of proposals currently include provisions on alternative dispute resolution which impose requirements on the UK’s civil justice system, in terms of the operation of limitation periods and the availability of interim remedies. On this basis the Government consider that the JHA opt-in protocol applies and that the UK can therefore choose whether to opt in.
The Government believe that in view of the wider significance of these proposals it is in the UK’s interests to participate, therefore we have opted in.
Energy and Climate Change
Local Authority Funds
On 19 October 2012, DECC launched a competition for local authorities to bid for £40 million of funding to deliver projects to reduce fuel poverty, help kick-start green deal delivery and help consumers to save money on energy bills through collective switching. Organisations were able to submit stand-alone bids for one of the funds, or joint bids across two or all three of the competitions.
DECC received a fantastic response, with bids received from the majority of local councils in England either for funding for individual projects, or as part of regional-based applications. All three elements of the competition were heavily oversubscribed. In response we have been able to allocate £46 million to the fund.
£31 million to help vulnerable householders keep warm this winter
DECC has been able to increase the funding available for the fuel poverty element so that we can support 61 outstanding projects, helping 169 local authorities across the country improve the thermal efficiency of homes in their area. This money will be targeted at low-income and vulnerable households, helping them cut their energy costs and keep warm this winter and in the future, by installing efficient heating systems and insulation.
In addition to this funding Government are making sure the most vulnerable households get direct financial help from their supplier. Over 1 million pensioners will get £130 off their fuel bills this winter as part of the warm home discount scheme, with the wider scheme helping around 2 million households overall this year. And direct from the Government, all pensioner households under 79 will get £200 winter fuel payment this winter and those over 80 will get £300—these payments will be paid out to an estimated 12.7 million older people in more than 9 million homes.
£10 million to kick-start green deal “Pioneer Places” projects
The green deal, the coalition’s exciting, new and innovative plan to help households in Britain improve their home and save on energy bills, goes live this month. For an introductory period, householders taking out a green deal will also be eligible for a cashback incentive. Householders who use the green deal to make improvements such as loft insulation, solid wall insulation and new heating systems will qualify. Packages could be worth over £1,000.
To help kick-start the green deal, funding has been awarded to 40 successful bids for green deal projects covering over 150 English councils. The money will be used for green deal household energy efficiency assessments, whole house retrofits to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency, and local events and other activities to raise awareness of the green deal. This “Pioneer Places” scheme builds on the £12 million investment already being channelled into seven green deal low-carbon cities, announced last September, enabling even more areas to benefit.
£5 million to set up collective switching schemes—“Cheaper Energy Together”
Money has also been awarded to 31 successful bids under the “Cheaper Energy Together” scheme, covering 94 local councils and eight third sector organisations in England, Scotland and Wales. Collective purchasing and switching is an innovative way for consumers to group together, through a trusted third party, and use market power to negotiate lower energy bills.
A press notice has been issued today including a link to a list of those projects that are to receive funding. A list of the successful projects have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Advanced Boiling Water Reactor
I am today making a statement to the House to let hon. Members know that I have asked the UK’s independent nuclear regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, to conduct a generic design assessment(GDA) of the advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR).
This is the nuclear reactor design by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd which Horizon Nuclear Power intend to use in the new nuclear power stations which they propose to build at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
In October I welcomed Hitachi’s purchase of Horizon Nuclear Power and the confirmation that it intended to proceed with Horizon’s investment in Wylfa and Oldbury. This showed the willingness of international companies to invest in the UK’s low-carbon energy future and the confidence of the market in the Government’s proposals on regulatory reform of the electricity market.
The Government welcome all such investment. However, the nuclear industry in the UK is rightly subject to a regulatory regime to ensure safety, security and mitigation of any potential environmental detriment. Generic design assessment is now an established feature of our regulatory regime, and, as I told the House in December after the completion of the GDA process for the AREVA European pressurised water reactor (EPR), it has shown itself to be an excellent process for rigorous and transparent nuclear regulation.
I am therefore pleased to be asking the regulators to assess the ABWR through GDA. The application is an exceptional one. It is an application for GDA of a reactor design which has already been in operation elsewhere in the world. And it follows the purchase by the vendor and designer of the intended operator of two sites which have been determined in the nuclear national policy statement as potentially suitable for the deployment of new nuclear power stations, and the purchase of the sites themselves.
I therefore think we are right to conduct a separate exercise for this design. This does not rule out a further round of GDA covering other reactor designs which might be built in the UK and we intend to hold such a round at a future date to be determined by market developments and regulatory resources.
As with previous such assessments, the full cost of GDA will be charged to the requesting party which submits the design for assessment.
Police Officers and Staff (Remuneration and Conditions of Service)
This statement is about police pay and conditions. It provides the Government’s response to the police arbitration tribunal’s findings on the recommendations in the final report of Tom Winsor’s independent review of police officer and staff remuneration and conditions.
On 27 March last year I laid a statement to respond to Tom Winsor’s final report of the review of remuneration and conditions police officers and staff, in which I announced that I was directing the Police Negotiating Board to consider proposals relating to pay for police officers in England and Wales as a matter of urgency.
The Police Negotiating Board did not reach agreement on some important proposals in the final report, and these were referred to the police arbitration tribunal. The tribunal has now provided its recommendation and reasons, which I received on 6 December. The tribunal considered eight recommendations from the Winsor final report. The tribunal accepted one recommendation in its entirety, accepted three proposals with modifications and did not approve one other. The tribunal recommended that three related recommendations around compulsory severance should be the subject of further discussions in the Police Negotiating Board. I have today placed a copy of the police arbitration tribunal report in the House of Commons Library.
I am grateful to the tribunal for its careful consideration of these important issues. I have now considered the tribunal’s report thoroughly and I have decided to accept its recommendation and I am minded to implement the package of reforms it has put forward.
These reforms build on the changes we implemented following part 1 of the review, which I announced in a statement on 30 January last year. They continue our programme to modernise police pay and conditions so that they are fair to both officers and the taxpayer. They include measures to retarget pay to reward contribution, increase local flexibility and make important structural changes to enable further reform.
The tribunal deferred proposals around compulsory severance for further negotiations. These will be considered alongside other longer-term proposals I have asked the Police Negotiating Board to consider by July 2013.
We remain committed to the review’s principles and objectives, in particular to modernising management practices and to developing the vital link between pay and professional skills. The development of the skills agenda is an essential part of both modernising pay and conditions and of our wider programme of police reform and developing professionalism. This is something that the College of Policing will take forward in the context of the time scales recommended in the Winsor review.
Existing police pay and conditions were designed more than 30 years ago which is why we asked Tom Winsor to carry out his independent review. Police officers and staff deserve to have pay and workforce arrangements that recognise the vital role they play in fighting crime and keeping the public safe, and enable them to deliver effectively for the public and these reforms support the objectives I set out in the review’s terms of reference to:
use remuneration and conditions of service to maximise officer and staff deployment to front-line roles where their powers and skills are required;
provide remuneration and conditions of service that are fair to and reasonable for both the public taxpayer and police officers and staff;
enable modern management practices in line with practices elsewhere in the public sector and the wider economy.
In reaching this decision, I have had regard to a number of vital considerations, including:
the review’s three key objectives as set out above;
the tough economic conditions and the Government’s wider economic objectives, which include reduction of the deficit and the challenging but manageable reduction in Government funding to the police over the spending review period;
the need to maintain and improve the service provided to the public, taking account of a strong desire from the public to see more police officers and operational staff out on the front line of local policing and also recognising that there are less visible front-line roles that require policing powers and skills in order to protect the public;
the particular front-line role and nature of the Office of Constable, including the lack of a right to strike;
the Government’s wider objectives for police reform, including developing professionalism in the police and the creation of the College of Policing, the introduction of police and crime commissioners, the reduction of police bureaucracy and collaboration between police forces and with other public services;
the Government’s wider policy of pay and pensions in the pubic sector, and its proposals on long-term pensions and reform of the police;
the review’s analysis of the value of officer’s remuneration and conditions, as compared to other workforces;
parallel work by the police to improve value for money, including collaboration with the private sector;
the impact of the recommendations on equality and diversity.
The Government’s reform programme is working: crime is falling and public confidence is high. It is imperative that the police are able to benefit from these further reforms as soon as possible, and I will therefore immediately begin the process of amending the police regulations and determinations to implement the tribunal’s recommendation, including making any necessary consequential and ancillary changes.
Appointment to the UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Dame Angela Watkinson) has been appointed as a full member of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in place of the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Oliver Heald).
The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) has also been appointed as a full member in place of the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who becomes a substitute member.
The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Jonathan Evans), the hon. Member for Bolton North East (Mr Crausby) and the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs Riordan) have been appointed as substitute members in place of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) and the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi).
Baroness Wilcox and Baroness Buscombe have been appointed as substitute members in place of Lord Ahmad and Lord Boswell.
Work and Pensions
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 contains provisions for the abolition of the discretionary social fund scheme and the post of the social fund commissioner. The provisions about community care grants and crisis loans will be commenced on 1 April 2013 and the provisions about the social fund commissioner’s post will be commenced on 1 August 2013.
The budgeting loan scheme will however remain in place for claimants in receipt of existing legacy benefits until they migrate to universal credit.
There will be no change to how budgeting loans are to be delivered. In relation to requests for reviews, claimants who are dissatisfied with the outcome of an initial decision will still be able to ask for a review in the first instance by Jobcentre Plus.
The Independent Review Service which carries out second-tier reviews will be closed at the same time as the social fund commissioner’s post is abolished. Arrangements have therefore been put in place for the office of the independent case examiner to undertake a second-tier review for claimants who remain dissatisfied with their budgeting loan decision.
National Employment Savings Trust
Later today the Government will publish a response to the consultation document “National Employment Savings Trust (NEST): Proposals for amendments to the NEST Order”.
In addition, the Government intend to lay the National Employment Savings Trust (Amendment) Order 2013 before Parliament later today. Subject to the approval of both Houses, this is scheduled to come into effect from 1 April 2013.
The amending order will ensure that NEST’s statutory framework is updated to reflect current automatic enrolment requirements and to ensure that NEST continues to operate efficiently for the employers and members who use it.
I would like to thank the organisations who responded to the consultation. I will place a copy of the Government’s response in the Libraries of both Houses, which will also be available on the Department’s website: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2012/