Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 4 June 2013
Stamp Duty Land Tax (Avoidance Scheme)
The Government are today tabling an amendment to Finance Bill 2013 to put beyond doubt that a particular stamp duty land tax (SDLT) avoidance scheme is ineffective. The scheme uses the SDLT transfer of rights rules to avoid SDLT on the purchase of UK land. The legislation will have effect from 21 March 2012.
Because of repeated avoidance in this area, at Budget 2012 the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that he would not hesitate to use retrospective legislation to close down future SDLT avoidance schemes.
Acting on this warning it was announced at Budget 2013 that legislation will be introduced in the Finance Bill to close down two schemes, which use the transfer of rights rules, with effect from the date of the Chancellor’s warning, 21 March 2012.
Since then a further transfer of rights scheme has been identified. The Government do not accept that the scheme has the effect intended but to remove any doubt, prompt action is being taken to protect the Exchequer.
Given the Chancellor’s clear warning last year and the announcement at Budget 2013 of retrospective legislation to close down similar transfer of rights schemes, if should have been obvious to both promoters and users of this scheme that it could be subject to retrospective action.
An updated tax information and impact note and guidance note are available on the HMRC website.
Culture, Media and Sport
Women's Business Council
The Women’s Business Council was set up in 2012 to advise Government on how women’s contribution to economic growth could be optimised. I am delighted that they have today published their findings. I would like to thank each of them for their hard work and for the constructive approach they have taken.
The Council’s report clearly demonstrates the importance of ensuring that women are fully able to contribute to the economy of this country. We cannot afford to ignore the additional contribution that women could make, if the barriers to their full participation in the economy could be resolved. This is not just an equality issue; it is a very important economic issue.
The Council has made a series of recommendations for action, by Government and by business, focusing on areas where the economic case for action is clearest.
The Government welcome the recommendations. I am pleased that in many cases the recommendations for Government endorse the Government’s current approach, while suggesting ways to go further.
I can announce today that I will be chairing a ministerial taskforce to drive forward the implementation of these. The taskforce will have a clear focus on economic growth, with Ministers from all the relevant Departments. The taskforce will have its first meeting shortly and will publish a detailed action plan in the autumn.
In the meantime, I am publishing today the Government’s initial response to the council’s recommendations, which details a series of early actions which will start to make a real difference to women’s lives, in each of the four key areas identified for action by the council. These measures will:
broaden girls’ aspirations and help inform their choices at the start of their careers, including encouraging more girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths, and to consider jobs in these areas;
help business culture embrace the benefits of flexible working and support working parents in the second part of their working lives;
ensure that women in the third part of their working lives can utilise their skills and fully contribute to economic growth; and
ensure that women are better supported to set up their own businesses.
The Telecommunications Council will take place in Luxemburg on 6 June 2013. I will represent the UK at this Council.
The first item is a full “tour de table” debate guided by questions from the presidency on the digital agenda for Europe—the role of the telecommunications and ICT sectors. The Commissioner for the digital agenda, Vice President Kroes is planning to launch an initiative with the aim of achieving the goal of a further integrated European telecoms single market. It forms part of the goal to achieve a pan-European digital single market by 2015; though the telecoms single market measures may have a longer timescale before realisation. This new initiative will include legislative measures and we are expecting the outcomes of this debate to inform this package of measures which will be adopted by the Commission before the summer. This package will in turn contribute to the debate at the European Council in October which will focus on digital and innovation issues. We have had initial discussions with the Commission on this initiative.
This debate will focus on two questions: garnering member states’s views on how to realise the ambition of a more integrated telecoms single market and how to realise further pan-European spectrum harmonisation. My intervention will note that while the UK welcomes the idea of a further integrated single market in telecoms in principle, we will need to see the details of the initiative first, before we comment in any detail. I will also state that any proposals will need to strike the right balance between allowing consolidation in the telecoms market but still ensuring that there is vibrant competition.
The next is a progress report from the presidency, followed by an orientation debate on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to ensure a high level of network and information security across the Union. (First Reading—EM6342/13) My intervention will include that we welcome the Commission’s overarching ambition to raise cyber capabilities across the EU and that we will work with Commission and other member states to ensure that any potential legislative measures are aligned. Further, that they do not place disproportionate burdens on businesses or the public sector operating in the EU or create the wrong incentives for sharing information.
The presidency will then provide a progress report 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 (First Reading—EM10977/12). The UK does not currently foresee the need to intervene on this item.
The Council will then look at two proposals under the “banner” of digital infrastructure and services. The first item looks at the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks and repealing decision No 1336/97/EC (First Reading—EM16006/11). The UK does not currently foresee the need to intervene on this item.
The second item is a progress report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on measures to reduce the costs of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks (First Reading—EM7999/13). If there is a debate, the UK will say that while we strongly support the Commission’s overall objective to support broadband rollout by reducing the cost of deployment, we do not support the use of a regulation to achieve this.
There then follows a progress report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites, (First Reading—EMI7344/12), which was published on 4 December 2012. The UK does not currently foresee the need to intervene on this item.
Any Other Business
Finally, the Lithuanian delegation will inform the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency. We do not currently foresee the need to intervene on this item.
As our presence in Afghanistan reduces, our requirement for the support of local staff is also reducing. The Government recognise the contribution and commitment of all local staff. They have played a vital role in contributing to our shared goal—a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Without them, the UK’s contribution to the international mission would not have been possible. We pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who have been injured while working with us.
The future of Afghanistan lies in the hearts and minds of such people, who have done so much to move their country forward. Having invested so much already, the Government want to encourage local staff to stay in Afghanistan and to use their skills and knowledge to make it stronger, better able to meet the challenges ahead and to seize the opportunities.
For this reason, we have decided to implement a generous package of training and financial support for our locally engaged staff in Afghanistan. It will provide local staff with up to five years of training or education in Afghanistan in a subject of their own choosing and a living stipend for the full period of training based on their final salary. Staff who prefer not to take up the training package will be offered a second option—a financial severance payment which represents 18 months’ salary. This will be paid in monthly instalments. These options aim to encourage local staff to develop valuable skills and knowledge in Afghanistan so they can go on contributing to a brighter future for themselves, their families and their country.
The Government acknowledge that some local staff, such as interpreters, have worked in particularly dangerous and challenging roles in Helmand. In recognition of this unique and exceptional service to the United Kingdom, these local staff and their immediate families will be offered a third option—resettlement in the UK. In order to help them adjust to life in the UK, they will be offered initial assistance and accommodation including access to benefits, as well as support in seeking employment.
To be eligible for resettlement in the UK, local staff must have routinely worked in dangerous and challenging roles in Helmand outside protected bases. Seriously injured staff, who might have qualified had their employment not been terminated due to injuries sustained in combat, are also included. Local staff who were contracted by the UK, but who mostly worked for Danish or Estonian forces and who meet the criteria above, are also eligible. This approach has been agreed with the Danish and Estonian Governments.
We have always been clear in our desire to recognise the efforts of local staff, and have balanced this against a range of other factors. These include the cost of any scheme, and the potential impact on the UK and on Afghanistan of resettling large numbers of people. In line with previous similar policies, qualification for this redundancy scheme is limited to those local staff who were in post working directly for HMG on 19 December 2012, when the Prime Minister announced the drawdown of UK forces, and who have served more than 12 months when they are made redundant. Those whose employment ended before this date, and those whose employment was ended voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons will not be eligible. In total, we estimate that around 1,200 local staff will qualify for a redundancy package. Of these, we estimate that up to 600 will be eligible for resettlement, although they may choose to stay in Afghanistan to help build its future, supported by the training and financial packages.
Further details of the practical arrangements for applying for and implementing the redundancy scheme will be announced in due course.
Separately from the redundancy package, we recognise our obligations to any local staff who face real threats to their safety or that of their immediate family as a result of their service to the UK. Our existing intimidation policy will remain in place for all local staff, regardless of their date and duration of employment. This ensures that local staff who face real threats to their own and their families’ safety, now and in the future, are supported. The policy offers relocation within Afghanistan and, in the most extreme cases, the possibility of resettlement in the UK. We are currently reviewing the policy to ensure it continues to provide a fair and robust system of assessing threats to, and ensuring the protection of, our local staff.
The UK is strongly committed to the future of Afghanistan and will maintain a long-term relationship based around trade, diplomacy, development assistance, financial contribution to the Afghanistan national security forces and military training. Our future work in Afghanistan will continue to benefit from the talent and dedication of local staff, and we will never forget this.
School Funding Reforms
Schools across the country are unfairly funded as a result of an historic and out-of-date system. In March last year, the Secretary of State confirmed that we would rectify these injustices with a new national funding formula, it will be introduced during the next spending review period. The Secretary of State also announced a number of changes to the school funding system to pave the way for a national funding formula. These changes took effect from April 2013.
This started a welcome journey towards a fairer and more transparent funding system, but following consultation with the sector a number of improvements to the initial arrangements need to be made.
The Department carried out a review to understand how the changes introduced in April 2013 have been implemented. We published a document on 12 February seeking views from our partners, and officials also undertook fieldwork in 11 local authorities spread across the country.
We are grateful to the many MPs, head teachers, governors, local authority officers and parents who have taken the time to contribute as part of the review.
Today we are publishing a document which sets out the changes we will be making to school funding arrangements in light of the findings from the review.
In order to maintain momentum towards a national funding formula, we will ensure that more money is targeted to pupils. We will require local authorities to allocate a minimum of 80% of their funding on the basis of pupil characteristics and we will also be setting a minimum amount that each pupil should receive.
In our consultation there was concern about the ability of local authorities to support small schools in rural areas. From April 2014, therefore, we will enable local authorities to provide additional funding for schools in sparsely populated areas.
The document also sets out new flexibilities to provide different amounts of funding to cover the fixed costs of primary and secondary (as well as middle and all-through) schools. These new flexibilities will ensure local authorities can act to take account of varying fixed costs between different types of school. Schools that merge will also be able to keep some of their funding for fixed costs for at least the first year.
We will continue to target support on deprived and vulnerable pupils. Local authorities will be required to target additional funding to deprived pupils in addition to the pupil premium. We are also making changes to ensure that those pupils who are less likely to attain well at the end of the primary or secondary phase are identified and attract additional funding.
We also want to encourage local authorities to provide the right level of additional funding for schools to enable them to support looked-after children, regardless of how long the child has been in care.
We made significant changes to the funding arrangements for pupils with special educational needs last year so we are not making any further substantial changes in 2014. We are, though, intending to require all local authorities to provide notional SEN budgets to their schools on the basis that the school will meet the costs of the first £6,000 of additional support required by a pupil with SEN.
In the document we are publishing today, we are providing the detailed findings from the review, the approach which will be put in place from April 2014 and technical guidance on this for local authorities. Copies of these documents will be placed on the Libraries of both Houses.
Taken together, these changes will further strengthen our funding reforms and will help us move towards our aim of ensuring that pupils attract a more consistent amount of funding wherever they go to school in the country.
Energy and Climate Change
EU Energy Council
In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Luxembourg on 7 June, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.
The presidency is planning to give a progress report on negotiations of the draft directive amending directives relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. The draft directive seeks to address indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions and encourage the transition to advanced biofuels. The presidency has put forward amended proposals but there are still divided views in the Council on them. The UK supports the introduction of ILUC factors into the amended directives and is concerned that the present proposals do not go far enough to address ILUC factors.
The Council is then expected to agree conclusions on the Commission communication on the internal energy market, which was published on 16 November 2012. We are content with the text of the conclusions, which sets out measures for strengthening and developing the internal energy market. We also expect the presidency to report on the outcome of the May European Council but no discussion is envisaged.
There will be a debate on the Commission’s recent communication on energy technologies, which outlines the need for better and cheaper low-carbon energy technologies to be developed faster to help reduce the costs of achieving the EU’s energy-related policy goals up to 2050. The UK welcomes the communication and supports most of the Commission’s messages.
The presidency and Commission will present a report on a number of international energy relations items, including EU-Russia, the International Energy Agency, the clean energy ministerial, the southern corridor, and an EU-Algeria memorandum of understanding on energy.
Finally, the Lithuanian delegation will present the programme for their presidency.
EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework
Earlier this year, the European Commission adopted a Green Paper on “A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies”. The Government will be responding to the Commission consultation to set out how we believe the 2030 framework should look in order to give businesses the certainty they need to invest in low carbon to enable cost-effective emissions reduction and to ensure the EU remains a world leader in low-carbon technologies. The UK Government position on the EU 2030 framework is:
We strongly support EU action to tackle climate change and to help deliver the EU’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees. We remain committed to an increase in the EU climate target for 2020 to 30% and are pushing strongly for urgent structural reform of the EU emissions trading system (ETS) to ensure it continues to incentivise investment in low carbon.
We must celebrate the success of the 2020 climate and energy package. By 2011 EU emissions were already down 17.6% on 1990 levels (Reference: European Environment Agency).
But we should also learn the lessons from 2008 package—the EU climate deal for 2020 was not sufficiently ambitious, and the renewables target was the product of a time when renewables badly needed a catalyst. The EU has moved on since then; we need to see a new deal on greenhouse gas targets that is ambitious, but which has flexibility to let countries follow their most cost-effective decarbonisation approach.
Looking to 2030, the EU should adopt a unilateral EU target for 2030 of a 40% reduction on 1990 levels. In the context of an ambitious global climate agreement for the period beyond 2020, the EU’s target should increase to up to a 50% reduction on 1990 levels.
We believe that the best way to deliver our low-carbon goal is through a binding GHG target and a strong EU emissions trading system, with flexibility for member states to pursue a wide range of options to decarbonise in the least cost way. While we strongly support renewables to 2020 and beyond, we do not believe a binding EU renewables target would be cost-effective, fit well with our electricity market reforms which incentivise low-carbon generation in a technology-neutral way, or be in line with the Government’s commitment to sector-neutral and least-cost emissions reduction. We support EU action where appropriate to enable increased levels of renewables, such as a renewed focus on research and development under the strategic energy technologies plan and ongoing work to complete the single energy market.
I will be working closely with my EU partners over the coming months to try to ensure that the EU can at the earliest opportunity agree an ambitious but flexible 2030 climate and energy framework.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Supply Networks
I would like to announce to the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and I have asked Professor Chris Elliott, of Queen’s University Belfast, to lead an independent review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks in response to the vulnerabilities recently exposed by horsemeat fraud. I am pleased that he has accepted, subject to the necessary formalities being concluded with Queen’s University Belfast.
On 15 April 2013, Official Report, column 13WS, the House was informed that it was our intention to take forward a strategic review of the horsemeat incident and its implications for the food chain and regulatory framework. We have since concluded that the review should examine food supply networks more widely. We have therefore asked Professor Elliott to provide advice to me and my right hon. Friend on issues which impact upon consumer confidence in the authenticity of food products and any systemic failures in food supply networks which could have implications for food safety and public health. We expect him to make recommendations to support improvements in current systems and to improve consumer confidence.
The review will begin shortly and I anticipate it will take nine to 12 months to complete. My right hon. Friend and I have asked for interim advice in December and for a final report by spring 2014. We have also asked Professor Elliott to provide emerging findings on the European aspects of the review so that we can continue to influence action at a European level and effectively engage in the European Union process.
The reviewer will in due course issue a call for evidence seeking information and views on the integrity of the food supply network, any vulnerabilities and how assurances might be strengthened to support consumer confidence. Food fraud is completely unacceptable and consumers have every right to expect their food to be correctly described. In response to horsemeat fraud, investigations continue at a number of sites across the UK and Europe.
In April, the Board of the Food Standards Agency commissioned Professor Pat Troop to conduct an independent review of that organisation’s response to horsemeat fraud. Professor Troop will be reporting her emerging findings to the board of the Food Standards Agency at its open meeting later today. My right hon. Friend and I expect any strategic findings from the Pat Troop review to be considered in our joint review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks.
The terms of reference for the review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks are being placed in the House Library.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs/Development Foreign Affairs Councils
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 27 May and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended the Development Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 28 May. The FAC and Development FAC were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.
Commissioners Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), Georgieva (International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response), Potocnik (Environment), Füle (Enlargement) and Piebalgs (Development) were in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC and Development FAC.
A provisional report of the meetings and conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/137317.pdf.
Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers agreed conclusions that focused on reiterating the EU’s concern at the situation in Syria especially the humanitarian crisis, highlighting the EU’s support for progress in Geneva based on the principles of the 2012 Geneva communiqué, support for the Syrian opposition and the Istanbul meeting, and post-conflict planning.
Ministers agreed that a Council decision putting in place the sanctions package for the next 12 months would be adopted before the existing sanctions expired on 1 June. Ministers agreed to end the EU arms embargo and return decisions on arms provision to the member states. They agreed a framework of safeguards to guide those member states who might decide to provide arms: arms can only be sent to the Syrian national coalition for opposition and revolutionary forces, and must be intended for the protection of civilians; member states must require safeguards that ensure delivery to the intended recipients; and Ministers confirmed that existing obligations under the EU common position for arms exports remain in place. Member states said they would not proceed at this stage with deliveries of arms, in order to give time for the Geneva II process to succeed. Separately from this, ministers also agreed to review the Council position on the arms embargo before 1 August, on the basis of a report from the high representative.
Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)
Ministers discussed preparations for the December European Council discussion on defence. Baroness Ashton highlighted the need to spend national defence budgets more effectively in order to develop key military capabilities and strengthen Europe’s defence industry. Baroness Ashton stressed that implementation of the EU’s comprehensive approach was key to a successful CSDP and that the EU needed to improve its civilian missions. There was widespread support from Ministers for Germany’s recent non-paper on civilian CSDP, of which the UK is a co-signatory, with an emphasis on improving mission planning, speed of deployment and access to funding. Other member states also raised maritime security, cyber security, the need for CSDP to complement NATO, the utility of regional approaches to European capability development, the EU’s role in the western Balkans and the timing of Baroness Ashton’s report on EU CSDP.
Middle East Peace Process
The planned discussion on the middle east peace process was postponed until the June FAC.
Baroness Ashton updated Ministers on her meeting with the Iranian chief negotiator Jalili in Istanbul on 15 May where Baroness Ashton had stressed that Iran needed to consider seriously the E3+3’s confidence building measures.
Baroness Ashton briefed Ministers on the high-level donors’ conference on Mali which took place in Brussels on 15 May. More than €3.25 billion had been pledged, including €520 million from the EU. Baroness Ashton said that progress was being made on the political front and that preparations for the handover from African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to the UN were going well. Ministers agreed conclusions that confirmed the importance of the political process and national reconciliation.
Baroness Ashton welcomed the Somalia conference held in London on 7 May which had demonstrated strong international support for Somalia. The Foreign Secretary noted that the London conference had served as good preparation for the EU Somalia conference to be held 16 September. The Foreign Secretary highlighted the €350 million in new pledges made at the London conference and stressed the need for this to be delivered quickly to improve Somalia’s justice systems, police, armed forces and public financial management.
Baroness Ashton reported back on her 21-22 May meeting with the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, which had agreed an implementation plan following the 19 April agreement on northern Kosovo. Baroness Ashton informed Ministers that the implementation plan had now been approved in both capitals. Rapid implementation of the agreement was needed ahead of discussions in the June General Affairs Council and European Council, which will include consideration of a date for the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia.
Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures, including:
The Council authorised member states to sign the arms trade treaty with respect to matters falling under the exclusive competence of the Union. It encouraged member states to sign the arms trade treaty at the solemn ceremony in New York on 3 June or at the earliest possible date.
The Council amended legislation implementing the EU restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya. Changes were made to take account of modifications adopted by the UN Security Council.
The Council extended the EU police mission in Afghanistan until 31 December 2014.
The Council allocated a budget of €110 million to the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo to cover the period from 15 June 2013 until 14 June 2014.
The Council noted the comprehensive annual report on CSDP and CSDP-related training 2012, and approved its conclusions as a basis for further actions to improve training in the field of CSDP.
The Council authorised the opening of negotiations with Libya for an agreement on the status of the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya).
The Council took note of the third report on member states’ progress in facilitating the deployment of civilian personnel to CSDP missions.
The Council approved an administrative arrangement between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, with a view to its conclusion by the EDA steering board. The arrangement sets out procedures for a mutual exchange of information as well as for Serbia’s participation in EDA projects and programmes.
Development Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers endorsed conclusions on the overarching post-2015 agenda that set out the high-level EU position on preparations for a future framework in advance of the September millennium development goals review event. Ministers agreed that the post-2015 and Rio+20 follow-up processes should converge. The International Development Secretary said it was vital that the EU send a clear message on the need for an integrated agenda leading to one set of goals, while remaining flexible in international negotiations to the positions of partner countries on the detail. The conclusions will now proceed to the EU Environment Council on 18 June and be considered for adoption at the General Affairs Council on 16 June.
Agenda for Change
Commissioner Piebalgs introduced a Commission/ EEAS paper updating member states on progress on implementation of the EU aid reform programme set out in the “Agenda for Change”, and reiterated his conviction as to its core principles. Joint programming and demonstrating results were particularly important, as well as blending grants and loans to leverage more money for partner countries.
Ministers welcomed the opportunity to scrutinise progress at a political level and many were positive about joint programming. The International Development Secretary called for more action on the results framework so the EU could better demonstrate value for money, and for more information on progress on gender equality, empowerment of women and private sector development.
Food and nutrition security
Ministers agreed conclusions on food and nutrition security in external assistance setting out a new EU policy framework to enhance maternal and child nutrition and a new EU implementation plan. The Irish presidency noted the important work being done by the UK through the G8 presidency and encouraged the EU and member states to support the UK’s “Nutrition for Growth” event on 8 June.
2012 Official Development Assistance (PDA) Targets
Ministers adopted conclusions on the annual report 2013 to the European Council on EU development aid targets. Commissioner Piebalgs said it revealed a worrying trend and urged member states to take the necessary steps to meet the 0.7% ODA commitment. This was not just about charity but investment from which the EU would benefit in terms of security, immigration and job creation.
European Development Fund
The Council established the EU position on the financial protocol concerning the 11th European Development Fund for 2014 to 2020. In total, €31.5 billion will be available for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states in that period. Ministers also noted that Somalia had acceded to the ACP-EU partnership (Cotonou) agreement.
The EU approach to resilience
Ministers agreed conclusions on the EU approach to resilience setting out guiding principles and priorities for implementation.
The International Development Secretary briefed Ministers on UK G8 presidency priorities, including forthcoming events on trade, tax and transparency, the “Nutrition for Growth” event being co-hosted with Brazil and the leaders’ summit at Lough Erne. The UK and France had recently signed up to the extractive industries transparency initiative. The Minister also gave an update on the work of the global partnership, which was well placed to support the EU’s efforts on post-2015.
The meeting ended with an informal lunch with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson where discussion focused on the post-2015 agenda.
CCTV and Surveillance Camera Technology
My hon. Friend the Minister for Criminal Information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
The Government favour the use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems as a crime fighting and public protection tool. They support the use of overt surveillance in a public place when it is in pursuit of a legitimate aim; necessary to meet a pressing need; and proportionate, effective, and compliant with any relevant legal obligations.
Like the public, the Government expect that where CCTV is deployed it is as effective as it can be in meeting its stated purpose and has appropriate privacy safeguards.
The public must, however, have confidence that such surveillance is appropriate and proportionate, and that those who operate the camera systems, or use the images and information they capture, demonstrate integrity in so doing and can be held to account.
This is why the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 now requires the Government to put in place a regulatory framework for surveillance camera systems comprising a code of practice and a surveillance camera commissioner. The appointment of Mr Andrew Rennison as surveillance camera commissioner was announced in a written statement on 13 September 2012, Official Report, column 14WS.
On 7 February 2013, I issued a written statement to the House announcing arrangements for a period of statutory consultation in relation to the preparation of the code of practice required under section 29 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for the regulation of surveillance camera systems (the code).
We have now given careful consideration to the 134 submissions made in response to that consultation exercise, and are today publishing the Government response. Our response summarises comments and views expressed about the preparation of the code and about the position of the three non-territorial police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in relation to the code. It also provides detail about further amendments made to the code in the light of consultation and says more about plans for implementation and review of the code once it is brought into force.
The code is being laid before Parliament today, along with the necessary draft affirmative order to bring it into force. Copies will be available in the Printed Paper Office.
This code provides a single source of bespoke guidance and is intended to increase understanding of existing legal obligations in relation to the overt use of surveillance camera systems in public places, and to promote good practice—particularly in encouraging: regular reviews of whether use remains justified; greater transparency, and; the effective use of a system in meeting its stated purpose through working to relevant standards.
The draft code also establishes a framework within which the surveillance camera commissioner can fulfil his statutory functions and publicise how this will be done, while retaining some flexibility to enable him to influence and respond to future developments in surveillance camera technology and practice.
A copy of the Government response to consultation will be placed in the House Library.