Written Ministerial Statements
Monday 20 May 2013
“State of the Estate 2012”
I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008, “State of the Estate in 2012”. This report provides an assessment of the efficiency and sustainability of the Government’s Civil Estate and records the progress that Government are making. The report is published on an annual basis.
The Government have today published the third paper in the Scotland analysis series to inform the debate on Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom.
“Scotland analysis: Financial services and banking” examines how the financial services and banking sector currently operates across the UK, and the implications of a vote for independence on the industry and its customers.
The analysis shows that financial services and banking sector employs around 7% of the total Scottish workforce and contributes more than 8% of onshore GDP to the Scottish economy. As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from and contributes to the UK’s position as a global leader in financial services. The UK is seen as having a strong tax and regulatory environment which supports a competitive financial centre. The size of the industry relative to the UK economy means the UK is resilient to financial shocks and has in the Bank of England a strong and credible lender of last resort. Consumers are in turn protected by the UK’s financial services compensation scheme which guarantees deposits in UK banks up to £85,000.
In the event of a vote for independence, there would be consequences for the financial sector and for its customers, including all individuals and businesses. The most profound implication is that independence would create two separate financial jurisdictions: the continuing UK and a new, independent Scotland, which would require its own legal and regulatory framework.
An independent Scotland would have an exceptionally large financial services sector compared to the size of its economy, making it more vulnerable to financial shocks than as part of the UK. The assets of the whole UK banking sector around 492% of total UK GDP. By contrast, Scottish banks have assets totalling around 1,254% of Scottish GDP, assuming that firms did not make significant changes to their group structure.
The UK has established effective arrangements for protecting consumers of financial services. These ensure that customers benefit from consistent standards and fair treatment across the whole UK. An independent Scottish state would need to establish its own financial consumer protection because of EU requirements that member states have their own schemes for protecting customers’ deposits. The paper also examines the implications of independence on individual’s personal finances, including from bank accounts, pensions, savings, insurance products and mortgages.
The analysis concludes that Scotland has a strong and vibrant financial services industry. As part of the UK, firms and individuals benefit from a world-leading financial services sector and a large, integrated domestic market for financial services with few barriers to business conducted between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Consumers benefit from clear and effective arrangements for protecting their savings and deposits. This position would be put at risk if Scotland were to become independent, fragmenting the market and the bodies that have been put in place to protect customers, creating additional difficulties and costs for households and businesses, as well as for financial services firms themselves.
The paper published today follows the Government’s paper outlining the currency and monetary policy implications of independence, published on 24 April. That paper concluded that the UK currently enjoys a full monetary, political, fiscal and currency union and that none of the currency options under independence would serve Scotland as well as the current arrangements within the UK. The paper also set out that the economic rationale for the UK to enter a currency union with an independent Scotland was not clear.
Future papers from the Scotland analysis programme will be published over the course of 2013 and 2014 to ensure that people in Scotland have access to the facts and information ahead of the referendum.
Communities and Local Government
Fire Services: Knight Review
As outlined in my written statement of 17 December 2012, Official Report, column 70WS, Sir Ken Knight, former firefighter and Government chief fire and rescue adviser, has undertaken a review into the operational efficiency of the services delivered by fire and rescue authorities in England.
I asked Sir Ken 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.
On Friday, I received and published his report, “Facing the Future”. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House and is available on my Department’s website (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/facing-the-future).
This is an independent report and does not, as such, represent Government policy.
I now wish to take time to consider Sir Ken’s findings, and intend to listen to chairmen of fire and rescue authorities, chief fire officers, and representative bodies for their thoughts on the recommendations in the report. The Government will then respond formally in due course, later this year.
I would like to thank Sir Ken for his report, and all those who took part.
Armed Forces Pay Review Body: Medical and Dental Officers
The 2013 main report of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB) and Government response was published on the 14 March 2013. In line with convention, the AFPRB has today published a supplement to its main report making recommendations on the pay of service medical and dental officers. The supplement is later than the main AFPRB report to allow the review body to take into account recommendations from the NHS Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body. The Government accept the recommendations of the report in full. I wish to express my thanks to the chairman and members of the review body for their work in producing the report.
Copies of the AFPRB report are available in the Vote Office.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Balance of Competences
I wish to inform the House that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), and I have today published the call for evidence relating to the environment and climate change report as part of the balance of competences review.
This report, which will be completed by the end of 2013, will focus on the application and effect of the EU’s competence in relation to the environment and climate change. Much of the UK’s environment and climate change policy is now agreed at EU level, with comparatively few areas remaining exclusively within the competence of member states. One example of national competence is land use planning, although there are an increasing number of EU requirements affecting planning and development. All aspects of EU environment policy are potentially covered by this report including, but not limited to, air quality, water quality, nature protection, chemicals and waste.
The climate change aspects of the report will include international climate change negotiations, the reduction of collective EU member state greenhouse gas emissions via burden-sharing arrangements and the EU emissions trading system. It will not include renewable energy or energy efficiency, both of which will be discussed in the energy report, to be launched in the autumn.
The call for evidence period will be open for 12 weeks. My Department and the Department for Energy and Climate Change will draw together the evidence and policy analysis into a first draft which will subsequently go through a process of scrutiny before publication towards the end of 2013.
We will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The call for evidence sets out the scope of the report and includes a series of questions on which contributors are invited to focus. The evidence received—subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act—will be published alongside the final report and will be available on: www.gov.uk/review-of-the-balance-of-competences.
Our Departments will pursue an active engagement process, consulting with departmental select committees, the devolved Administrations, businesses and civil society in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the review.
The resulting report is intended to be a comprehensive, thorough and detailed analysis of EU competence for environment and climate change and what this means for the UK. It will aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership and will provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU. The report will not produce specific policy recommendations.
I am placing this document and the call for evidence in the Libraries of both Houses. They will also be published on: www.gov.uk/review-of-the-balance-of- competences.
Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce
I would like to update the House on the work of the tree health and plant biosecurity taskforce which publishes its report today. This is further to my written ministerial statement of 6 December 2012, Official Report, column 74WS in which I outlined the Government’s response to Chalara and the early work of this taskforce.
I asked DEFRA’s chief scientific adviser, Professor Ian Boyd, to establish the taskforce in response to the rise in plant pests and diseases that threaten the UK. I welcome the taskforce’s report, and would like to thank the chairman, Professor Chris Gilligan, and the other members, for their hard work over the past few months. I pay tribute to their insightful approach. I believe their recommendations will lay the groundwork for a radical reappraisal of what we can do to protect the UK from these threats. I am placing a copy of the report in the Libraries of both Houses.
Healthy trees are essential to the natural environment in the countryside and in our towns and cities. They are also central to the economic resilience of our forestry industry, and at the core of our commitment to protect, improve and expand forests and woodlands. Crops and horticultural plants are vital to our food supply and our rural economy. Some of the pests and diseases that threaten our trees and crops, such as “Chalara fraxinea” are now established in the UK; there are many others on the horizon which have yet to reach these shores, but may do so in the future unless action is taken. In its final report, which is published today, the taskforce makes recommendations on what we can do—in a national and international context—to manage established pests and diseases and to improve biosecurity at our borders to prevent further incursion.
Given the importance the Government attach to plant health, I intend to act immediately on some of the key recommendations of the taskforce. A single, prioritised plant health risk register will be produced. This will help ensure that we are able to identify risks from specific pests and diseases and agree priorities for action. It will take account of all the potential pathways of entry and establishment that our globalised world presents. Alongside this, new procedures for preparedness and contingency planning will be developed to ensure we can predict, monitor and control the spread of pests and pathogens. This will help ensure the UK is ready to deal effectively with future incursions of diseases into this country and is also better able to respond to those that are already established.
Proposals for a new EU regime for plant health were published on 6 May and provide us with a timely opportunity to strengthen biosecurity across Europe and help protect the UK from pests from around the world. The principles set out in the taskforce’s report will inform our response to those proposals and I will negotiate vigorously to ensure that the new system provides stronger protection for the UK from plant pests and diseases.
Government alone cannot make the radical changes needed to protect our trees and plants from disease. As we implement the recommendations of the taskforce, we will engage and involve industry, environmental groups and the general public who all have a role to play in helping us to protect our trees and plants from disease. The Government will respond more fully to the work of the taskforce before the summer recess once it has had a chance to discuss the recommendations with stakeholders, at which point I will provide a further update to this House.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Great Britain-China Centre (Triennial Review)
I am today announcing the beginning of the triennial review of the Great Britain China-Centre (GBCC). Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of this Government’s commitment to ensuring that NDPBs continue to have regular challenge on their remit and governance arrangements.
The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for the GBCC’s function and its form and whether it should continue to exist at arm’s length from Government. Should the review conclude there is a continuing need for the GBCC, it will go on to examine whether its control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance. I would welcome contributions from Members and peers to the review. I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed and I shall also place a copy of the review in the Libraries of both Houses.
My noble Friend Earl Howe, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, has made the following written ministerial statement:
The Government, in collaboration with the Care Quality Commission, Monitor, NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority, are today issuing a joint policy statement to provide further information on the changes to the regulation and oversight of NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts proposed in the Government’s initial response to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry and related clauses in part 2 of the Care Bill.
The policy statement has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members in the Vote Office and to noble Lords in the Printed Paper Office.
Criminal Records Bureau
My hon. Friend the Minister for Criminal Information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
The 2012 annual report and accounts for the Criminal Records Bureau for the eight-month period up to 1 December 2012 is being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
Protection of Freedoms Act/National DNA Database
My hon Friend the Minister for Criminal Information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
There has been significant progress in preparation for the commencement of the DNA and fingerprint provisions in part 1, chapter 1 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. To date, 1,136,000 DNA profiles belonging to innocent individuals have been deleted from the national DNA database. A total of 6,341,000 DNA samples containing sensitive biological material, no longer needed as a DNA profile has been obtained, have been destroyed.
DNA sample destruction is due to be completed by the end of this month, and DNA profile and fingerprint deletion by the end of September. By the time the Act commences in October, only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA and fingerprints retained indefinitely.
The national DNA database (NDNAD) annual report for 2011-12 was today published on the Home Office website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office/series/dna-database-documents.
A report covering the period 2009-11 is also available from the website.
The figures in these reports show the size of the NDNAD before work began to delete DNA profiles in line with the Protection of Freedoms Act. Following the deletions described above, the NDNAD will now be considerably smaller.
These reports, however, still provide valuable detail on the activities and effectiveness of the NDNAD, and are an important part of the Government’s aim for transparency and public confidence in the use of DNA.
A copy of both of the reports will be placed in the House Library.
Our motorways and trunk roads play a vital role in the economic prosperity of this country. This is why this Government are committed to implementing a robust approach to identifying, prioritising and planning where vital investment is needed on this network, to help keep traffic moving and facilitate economic growth, housing and jobs.
In May 2012 we set out in our response to Alan Cook’s review of the strategic road network in England, plans for a new smarter approach to investment planning for this network, through route-based strategies. As part of this we made clear that these documents would see greater collaboration with local stakeholders through local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to determine the nature, need and timing of future investment that might be required on the network. Central to this would be the need to understand local economic growth aspirations and priorities to ensure that investment plans better balance local as well as national needs.
We further outlined that the Highways Agency would produce a small number of strategies to test this new approach and learn lessons before developing a wider programme. Today the Highways Agency is publishing the first three route-based strategies which cover; the M62 between Leeds and Manchester; the A12 between its junction with the M25 and A14 and the A120 east of Colchester; and the A1 West of Newcastle. These documents are available on the Highways Agency website.
We now intend to roll out route-based strategies across the entire network. The production of the first three strategies has generated some key lessons which have informed our thinking on how best to deliver the network wide programme of strategies and prioritise the outcomes.
The strategies will be developed in two stages. In the first stage the Highways Agency will work with local stakeholders to develop a uniform set of route-based strategies for all routes on the network. The strategies will identify performance issues on routes and future challenges, taking account of local growth challenges and priorities. The emphasis for this stage will be on establishing the evidence base as opposed to identifying solutions, which will take place in the next stage. It is intended that this first stage will be completed by spring 2014.
The Highways Agency and the Department will then use this evidence to prioritise and take forward a programme of work to identify indicative solutions which will cover operational, maintenance and if appropriate, road improvement schemes to inform investment plans for the next full spending review in 2015 and beyond. The Highways Agency will ensure they engage further with local stakeholders as the indicative solutions are developed and it is anticipated that this second stage will commence in spring 2014 and complete by March 2015.
Over the next few months the Highways Agency will be talking to key stakeholders to: seek further views and lessons learnt on the production of the first three strategies; share their plans on delivery of the wider programme; and to start to seek input to developing the evidence base for the wider programme of strategies. I have seen first hand the willingness of stakeholders to work with the Highways Agency to identify priorities and needs and do hope that they will continue to do so as the strategies are developed.
I am confident that this strong evidence-led approach will enable us to develop investment plans with a longer-term focus and that better balance national and local needs, create healthy pipelines of investment and crucially deliver investment where it is needed most to boost the economic growth and competiveness of this country.
Work and Pensions
On 19 July 2012, the Government published “Supporting separated families; securing children’s futures” (Cm 8399), a public consultation on the draft Child Support Fees Regulations 2013 and the draft Child Support (Ending Liability in Existing Cases and Transition to New Calculation Rules) Regulations 2013.
This statement summarises the changes the Government intend to make in response to the consultation. We will publish a full response later this year.
As previously outlined, once the 2012 scheme has been opened to all applicants and has been shown to be working well, the Government intend to begin a gradual process of ending liabilities on cases in the previous Child Support Agency schemes. Parents in these “CSA” schemes will be invited to consider making their own family-based arrangements for maintenance or to apply to the new child maintenance service, which operates the 2012 scheme.
The Government will also begin charging application, collection and enforcement fees in the 2012 scheme. We have listened to concerns that the proposed 7% parent with care collection fee is too high a figure and therefore we will be reducing the proposed fee to 4%. The proposed fee for non-resident parents will remain at 20% calculated on top of the maintenance calculation.
In addition, we will extend the list of organisations to which an incident of domestic violence and abuse may be reported in order to qualify for the exemption from the application fee to include local authorities, legal professionals and specialist support organisations.
Separately, we have reconsidered our position on the flat rate of maintenance and have decided to set the 2012 scheme flat rate at £7 rather than £10 as previously proposed.
We intend to carefully manage the process of ending liabilities on cases in the CSA schemes so as to minimise the risk of disruption to child maintenance, particularly where maintenance is flowing as a result of enforcement action, such as deduction from earnings orders. We aim to do this in different ways.
First, we will change the proposed order in which liability is ended on CSA cases, starting with those CSA cases where a nil liability has been calculated, and therefore there is no possibility of payment disruption. We expect around 50,000 previously nil-assessed cases to be positively assessed in the 2012 scheme, resulting in maintenance flowing to these children for the first time; we will then end liability on cases that are not currently compliant, again because there is no current payment arrangement to disrupt; followed by any cases that are compliant but not subject to enforcement action, starting with those cases managed clerically. Finally, we will end liability on CSA cases that are in legal enforcement—and where money is flowing—or where money is only flowing as a result of an enforced method of payment. We anticipate this process of ending liability in CSA scheme cases to take approximately three years from start to finish.
Children living in lone parent families tend to be at greater risk of falling below low-income thresholds. By prioritising those cases where no maintenance is flowing, we aim to maximise the contribution of the statutory scheme to the welfare of these children.
Second, we will take a firmer line on which non-resident parents will be given the choice of paying the parent with care directly. We will offer a “compliance opportunity” to those non-resident parents who are subject to enforced methods of payment, such as deduction from earnings orders. We will write to non-resident parents nine months before their CSA maintenance liabilities are due to end, offering them the opportunity to prove their compliance voluntarily by paying via an unenforced method of payment such as direct debit for the final six months of their CSA liability.
Those non-resident parents who accept the invitation and then comply would have access to the “direct pay” option and thereby avoid the collection fee. Non-resident parents who refuse or fail this invitation will, if a case is opened on the 2012 scheme, be placed on the same enforcement method that they were subject to in the CSA schemes, thereby minimising the potential for payment disruption.
Finally, although this statement concerns changes to the statutory scheme, our reforms go wider than this. Our starting point is that children tend to do better when they have a positive relationship with both parents, so we are supporting both parents to play an active and positive role in the life of their child through the help and support for separated families (HSSF) programme. As part of this, we have launched the sorting out separation web app; an HSSF mark; the HSSF telephony network; and an innovation fund to test and evaluate new interventions to help separated parents work together.
Taken overall, these reforms are an important part of the Government’s wider social justice strategy, strengthening the support we provide to families and promoting the welfare of their children.