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Written Statements

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 6 June 2013

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 6 June 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

EU Competitiveness Council (Post-Council Statement)

My noble Friend, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (joint with Foreign and Commonwealth Office), (Lord Green) has today made the following statement:

The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 29 and 30 May 2013. I represented the UK for internal market and industry items on 29 May, and Shan Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the UK for research items on 30 May. A summary of those discussions follows.

The main internal market and industry issues discussed on 29 May were: auditing; Single Market Act I and II; smart regulation; industrial policy; modernisation of EU copyright law; and; state aid modernisation. Outside the chamber, there was a lunch discussion on industrial policy.

Council began with an orientation debate on Commission proposals to regulate statutory audits. In a full round table, most member states were prepared to accept the principle of mandatory rotation, with some arguing for a longer period before mandatory rotation, or for a narrower scope. I intervened on a similar vein to this. Some member states remained opposed. On non-audit services, all member states supported the principle of a blacklist only of prohibited services, but with many stressing the need for the list to be more limited, with some pushing for alignment with international standards. I agreed with the principle of a blacklist only, though expressed reservations on any cap in non-audit services. On a final point on the role of the European Securities Markets Authority (ESMA) in pan-European audit regulation, a majority of member states supported the European Board of Auditors’ Oversight Bodies (EBAOB) solution already proposed by nine member states, citing cost and independence as key concerns. I argued this solution was more appropriate and less expensive.

The next substantive item concerned Single Market Act I and II, with the presidency and Commission outlining progress made over the last six months towards adaptation of the legislative proposals arising from Single Market Act I and II. This was an information point only and I did not intervene. Other substantive morning items included Council conclusions on smart regulation, which were adopted without comment.

The lunch discussion focused on industrial policy. Shan Morgan took the UK seat and represented the UK for the rest of the Competitiveness Council.

The discussion over lunch followed on from discussions at a dinner the previous evening on the same subject, which I attended. The main UK messages highlighted the importance of creating the right environment for industries to be competitive, while questioning the need to set a 20% target for industry’s share of the economy. The presidency summed up the discussions in the first agenda item after lunch, reporting on the consensus of the importance of re-industrialisation as a means for employment, and that technical change had opened up various new opportunities which the EU is well placed to benefit from. There were also comments on the importance of energy costs, and the revolution caused by shale gas in the US.

The next substantive agenda item was an exchange of views on the modernisation of EU copyright law, with the Council updated on progress under the Irish presidency on collective rights management, the Commission updating the Council on their ongoing “Licenses for Europe” dialogue, and finally a presentation by Antonio Vitorino on his recent report on private copying and reprography levels. There was a general consensus among member states that the copyright framework needed to be updated to better suit the digital age, and that this work should be based on sound evidence, guided by the principles of technological neutrality, promoting legal offers and providing the necessary protections for creators. Response to the Vitorino report was varied, with the UK’s view that any work in this area should commence after the pending European Court of Justice rulings in this area. This was echoed by many member states.

The final substantive agenda item was a general approach on state aid, with the presidency presenting the current text of the two proposed regulations as a finely balanced compromise. Most member states endorsed the current text, though with some opposing the procedural regulation. Other member states intervened to seek further detailed changes, though were not met with much support. In a broader debate on modernisation, a wide-ranging discussion took place. A significant number of member states asked for further flexibility regarding the Commission’s proposed ban on regional aid to large enterprises in “C” regions. The UK intervened strongly on this point, and also to welcome the regulations as a useful contribution to improving state aid procedures and that state aid was to be used only to address genuine market failure. The presidency concluded that agreement had been reached on the regulations as proposed, and noted the concern of member states concerning regional aid.

Several AOB items were discussed at the Council. The first concerned an update on the state of play of the COSME funding programme, setting out the two remaining issues of size of the budget and settling of the work programme. There was no UK intervention.

The next AOB was the LeaderSHIP item, where the Commission outlined their communication considering how to reinvigorate the European shipbuilding sector. The UK did not intervene, though some did to, for example, welcome the strategy, or to call on the Commission to implement the proposals. There were also calls from some quarters to call for flexible state aid rules in the sector.

At the request of the French delegation, the Commission introduced their proposals to modernise EU trade defence instruments. In a short discussion, there were differing views among the member states that chose to intervene. The UK intervened to welcome the revision of the rules, but also to stress the need that trade defence tools are only used to tackle unfair trade which is damaging to EU producers, and not for other reasons.

For the next AOB, the presidency updated the Council on the discussions that took place at the Informal Competitiveness Council in Dublin earlier in the month, focused on entrepreneurship. There was no discussion on this point.

An AOB was raised by a delegation on the regulations on CO2 emissions from cars and vans. A number of member states intervened on this point, particularly on the issue of “supercredits”.

Following this item there were two further AOBs raised by delegations. The first concerning the Tobacco Products Directive, with some member states concerned on the impact of the proposals on their economies. The UK, and others, intervened to support elements of the Commission’s proposals, stressing the need for a proportionate and evidence-based final text. The second AOB concerned the high-level group on innovation policy management.

The final AOB point to conclude the industry half of the Council concerned the upcoming Lithuanian presidency. The Lithuanian Minister updated the Council on the priorities during their term.

The main research and space issues covered on 30 May were: EU space industrial policy, proposed establishment of a space surveillance and tracking support programme, Horizon 2020, joint programming, high-performance computing, international co-operation in research and innovation, and advisory work for the European research area.

On the space items, the Council adopted conclusions in response to a Commission communication on “EU Space Industrial Policy: Releasing the potential for economic growth in the Space sector”. The Council took note of a proposal for a space surveillance and tracking support programme. Under AOB, the Commission briefly presented its proposals for the funding and operation of the European Earth monitoring programme (Copernicus) 2014-20 (previously known as “GMES”). Their latest proposal reflected the agreement made at February’s European Council that Copernicus should be funded from within the multi-annual financial framework (MFF). It would provide a solid legal base from which to launch the next set of satellites in the “Sentinel” series and support the delivery of downstream applications that would foster economic growth. The Commission emphasised the importance of a swift negotiation on the regulation in order to ensure the programme could launch at the beginning of 2014. The space discussion closed with a short update from the Commission on work to re-evaluate the relationship between the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA). The Commission argued that reciprocal access to the respective decision-making bodies was essential for the relationship to function effectively. The UK intervened to insist that the issue of the Commission role in ESA governance was one that required careful analysis before decisions could be taken by Ministers.

On the research items, the Council adopted conclusions in response to the Commission communication “High Performance Computing: Europe’s place in a Global Race”. These highlighted that HPC is an important asset for the EU’s innovation capacity. The Council then adopted conclusions in response to the Commission’s communication on “Enhancing and focusing EU international co-operation in research and innovation”. The Commission undertook to closely involve member states in the implementation of multi-annual “road maps” for co-operation with selected countries. Council subsequently adopted without discussion a resolution on the advisory work for the European research area (ERA). This resolution agreed that the advisory committee ERAC should be renamed the European Research and Innovation Committee (while keeping the existing acronym ERAC) in order to enhance its advisory role in research-led innovation.

The presidency updated Council on progress in negotiations with the European Parliament on the Horizon 2020 Regulation and associated Rules for Participation Regulation. The presidency noted that seven trialogue meetings had been held with the European Parliament, and that negotiations were now entering a critical phase if a deal was going to be delivered by the end of June. They believed that a compromise package could secure an agreement which did not alter the Council’s agreed position on the reimbursement model. The Commission reiterated the importance of simplification; this was essential to make life more straightforward for participants, and widen participation by reducing barriers to entry. The Council then broke for lunch. After receiving a short presentation from the CERN Council on the European strategy for particle physics, the presidency hosted an informal discussion between heads of delegation on their strategy for the Horizon 2020 negotiations. The UK intervened to support the presidency’s aim of securing political agreement by the end of June, while recognising the need to demonstrate a willingness to compromise on several issues of importance to the European Parliament. Following this discussion the Council reconvened. The presidency concluded without further discussion that a large majority of member states had subscribed to their proposal that simplification and the “flat rate” funding model should be defended and that in exchange the Council could show flexibility on other issues, such as widening participation, a fast track to innovation instrument, some earmarking in favour of renewable energy research, and stronger support for SMEs. As a result of the discussion the presidency noted that they would intensify negotiations with the European Parliament with a view to securing an informal agreement by the middle of June.

A policy debate then took place on joint programming initiatives (JPIs). The UK intervened to underline the strong UK support for JPIs. These were complex initiatives and member states had invested significant time, money and effort in them. In the UK it was for research councils to make decisions about funding. The Commission called for swifter implementation, in particular in relation to alignment of national strategies.

Under AOB, the Commission updated Council on the state of play on the proposal for a Council regulation on the Euratom research and training programme 2014-18 and on the proposal for the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) programme (these both form part of the Horizon 2020 package). The incoming Lithuanian presidency briefly presented its work programme. The Council also received a short overview of a recently published Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation. This would be discussed in greater detail at June’s Energy Council.

Reducing Burdens on Small Businesses

I am announcing today a strengthening of this Government’s commitment to bear down on unnecessary regulatory burdens on small businesses.

The Government recognise that the burden of regulation falls disproportionately on small businesses. They have therefore already taken specific and concrete steps to reduce the burden of regulation on smaller businesses, for example:

Saving SMEs £388 million by not extending the right to request time to train to businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

Exempting smaller retailers for three years from the display ban on tobacco, which applies to supermarkets and very large stores from April 2012.

Phasing implementation of pensions automatic enrolment, so that small business will not need to comply until June 2015.

This Government are also reducing the burdens of EU legislation by holding the European Commission to account on their commitment to seek exemptions and lighter regimes for SMEs in new proposals. The Commission’s March SME scoreboard published recent examples, several of which are already bringing major benefits for UK businesses, such as the agreement exempting up to 1.4 million UK small businesses from certain EU accounting rules.

We are also reducing the stock of regulation through the red tape challenge. Many changes resulting from this process will help small businesses. Examples include:

Our radical package of employment tribunal reforms is expected to deliver £40 million of savings per year to employers.

We are committed to a major deregulation of entertainment licensing through 2013.

We are freeing around 1 million self-employed people from health and safety law whose work poses no harm to others.

This Government introduced a three-year moratorium on new domestic regulation for micro-businesses and start-ups from 1 April 2011, in order to support growth and establish a period of increased regulatory stability for the smallest businesses.

The moratorium is an important mark of the Government’s aspirations for reducing regulatory burdens on the smallest businesses.

It reflects established evidence on the disproportionate burden that new regulation places on smaller business, as well as their importance for jobs and growth.

We are now building on these achievements by extending the moratorium in the second half of the Parliament to cover small businesses as well as micros. This will now be known as the small and micro-business assessment (SMBA). It will be supported by independent scrutiny from the Regulatory Policy Committee.

All new proposals for regulation will first undergo an initial departmental impact assessment which will be considered by the independent Regulatory Policy Committee, before facing further challenge and scrutiny by the Reducing Regulation Committee (RRC), a sub-Committee of Cabinet. If at any stage, unnecessary burdens on small businesses are identified, proposals will only be cleared if an exemption is granted to smaller businesses—or if disproportionate burdens on small businesses are fully mitigated.

The Government’s default assumption will continue to be that where a large part of the intended benefits of regulation can be achieved without including smaller businesses, then a formal exemption should apply.

However, where a legislative exemption is not feasible, RRC will only clear new regulatory proposals that provide for a full mitigation of any disproportionate burdens on small businesses and micros. That might include, for example:

extra time for small businesses to comply with new regulations meaning that changes to equipment or processes can be made a time that makes sense for the business;

simplified record keeping requirements for smaller businesses, meaning that those with less staff have to spend less time filling in forms and keeping records compared to larger business;

tailored advice and guidance so that smaller businesses can quickly find out what regulatory changes mean for them in practice;

varying regulatory requirements by size of business, such as inspection frequencies or licensing requirements to ensure a proportionate regulatory approach.

We will also expect Departments to present, as part of the accompanying impact assessment, clear evidence as to the potential impact of the regulation on small businesses and micros, and the effect of their proposed mitigations—including realistic assumptions on levels of compliance.

This change applies now for significant new regulatory proposals that will come into force from 1 April 2014. I have invited the chair of the Regulatory Policy Committee to provide independent challenge to the evidence provided by Departments as part of their “fit for purpose” rating system of impact assessments.

Communities and Local Government

Onshore Wind (Local Planning)

The coalition agreement pledged to decentralise power to local people and give local people far more ability to shape the places in which they live.

Through a series of reforms, this coalition Government are making the planning process more accessible to local communities, because planning works best when communities themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives.

However, current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally led planning system. Much of this stems from planning changes made by the last Administration, which is why we introduced the national planning policy framework and abolished the last Government’s top-down regional strategies through the Localism Act.

Following a wide range of representations, including the letter of January 2012 to the Prime Minister from one hundred hon. Members, and in light of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s call for evidence, it has become clear that action is needed to deliver the balance expected by the national planning policy framework on onshore wind. We need to ensure that protecting the local environment is properly considered alongside the broader issues of protecting the global environment.

Greater community consultation

We have set out clearly in the national planning policy framework the importance of early and meaningful engagement with local communities. The submissions to the call for evidence have highlighted the benefits of good-quality pre-application discussion for onshore wind development and the improved outcomes it can have for local communities.

We will amend secondary legislation to make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications. This will ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.

This will also complement the community benefits proposals announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change today.

New planning practice guidance

The national planning policy framework includes strong protections for the natural and historic environment. Yet, some local communities have genuine concerns that when it comes to wind farms insufficient weight is being given to environmental considerations like landscape, heritage and local amenity. We need to ensure decisions do get the environmental balance right in line with the framework and, as expected by the framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is addressed satisfactorily.

We have been equally clear that this means facilitating sustainable development in suitable locations. Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.

We are looking to local councils to include in their local plans policies which ensure that adverse impacts from wind farms developments, including cumulative landscape and visual impact, are addressed satisfactorily. Where councils have identified areas suitable for onshore wind, they should not feel they have to give permission for speculative applications outside those areas when they judge the impact to be unacceptable.

To help ensure planning decisions reflect the balance in the framework, my Department will issue new planning practice guidance shortly to assist local councils, and planning inspectors in their consideration of local plans and individual planning applications. This will set out clearly that:

the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities;

decisions should take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines and properly reflect the increasing impact on (a) the landscape and (b) local amenity as the number of turbines in the area increases;

local topography should be a factor in assessing whether wind turbines have a damaging impact on the landscape (i.e. recognise that the impact on predominantly flat landscapes can be as great or greater than as on hilly or mountainous ones); and

great care should be taken to ensure heritage assets are conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views important to their setting.

I am writing to Sir Michael Pitt, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate to ask him to draw this statement to the attention of planning inspectors in their current and future appeals. I will inform colleagues in local government to assist them in their forthcoming decision making.

Energy and Climate Change

Electricity and Gas (Market Integrity and Transparency) (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2013

On 13 November 2012, following allegations of market manipulation in wholesale gas markets, I promised to update the House on implementation of the EU regulation on wholesale electricity and gas market integrity and transparency (REMIT). REMIT prohibits insider dealing and market abuse in wholesale energy markets across Europe and establishes a monitoring regime for wholesale energy trading. It also requires member states to put in place an enforcement and penalty regime for breaches of the regulation.

I am today laying the Electricity and Gas (Market Integrity and Transparency) (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2013 which will enter into force on 29 June. They give Ofgem powers to take action against market manipulation in wholesale electricity and gas market, including the power to impose unlimited fines in the case of breaches of the regulations. Similar regulations will be laid for Northern Ireland. The UK will be one of the first member states to implement REMIT.

Ofgem and the FCA are continuing their analysis of the allegations into manipulation of the gas markets raised in November 2012.

Onshore Wind

Today we are publishing the Government’s response to the onshore wind call for evidence, which ran for eight weeks between 20 September and 15 November 2012. The call for evidence was issued in two parts.

Part A covered community engagement and benefits, and looked at ways that communities can have more say over, and receive greater benefit from, hosting onshore wind farms in their area. It considered a range of issues, including how wind farm developers consult with local communities about their plans, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership , how local economic content can be built up, and whether there are innovative ways of benefiting local energy consumers for example through offsetting electricity bill costs. Part B examined the latest information on the costs of onshore wind in the UK to ensure that the support levels of the technology received through the renewables obligation are no higher than necessary.

We received over 1,100 responses and substantial new evidence from a wide range of stakeholders.

Appropriately sited onshore wind, as one of the most cost effective and proven renewable energy technologies, has an important part to play in a responsible and balanced UK energy policy. It is low-carbon and brings new growth, investment and jobs to the UK economy. It reduces our reliance on imported fossil fuels and helps keep the lights on and our energy bills down. The UK has some of the best wind resources in Europe, and the Government are determined that the UK will retain its reputation as one of the best places to invest in wind energy and renewables more generally. We have also legally committed to ensure that 15% of our energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.

Over 10GWs of renewable electricity was generated from onshore wind in 2011 which is enough to meet the average electricity consumption need of almost 2.5 million households. In addition, since 2010 DECC has recorded announced investments in onshore wind energy totalling over £3.4 billion, with the potential to support around 5,400 jobs.

Community engagement and benefits

It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is sustainable—economically, environmentally and socially.

Although, research shows that around two-thirds of people in the UK support onshore wind, we recognise that many people have real concerns about the siting of onshore turbines in their communities and how they are involved in this process. The measures set out in the first part of the response, together with those being announced in parallel today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, mean communities will have greater say over proposed onshore wind development in their area, and can gain increased benefits from hosting developments that do proceed.

A stronger role for communities

DCLG will introduce changes to the law in England to require onshore wind developers to consult local communities first—before they submit a planning application. This tougher regime will give local people the opportunity to influence proposals at a much earlier stage in the planning process.

DCLG will also issue new and streamlined planning practice guidance, following Lord Taylor’s review, to ensure that planning decisions get the environmental balance right, in line with the national planning policy framework and, as expected by the framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is addressed satisfactorily.

We will issue best practice guidance to onshore wind developers, will lay down higher standards expected in relation to their engagement with communities, and a new register will monitor best practice. At the same time we will assist local communities to gain the skills they need to enable them to engage more confidently with developers.

These actions complement the policy changes that the coalition Government have already put in place through its localism agenda and the recent reforms to planning, which put communities at the heart of decision making.

Investing in communities—benefits, ownership and improving local economic impacts

Communities hosting renewable energy installations play a key role in meeting the national need for secure, clean energy. It is only right that local people should be recognised and rewarded for that contribution. This new package of measures on community benefits will ensure that communities receive a fairer share of benefits associated with onshore wind and are properly empowered to negotiate with developers the type of benefit package that best suits their local needs.

Although many onshore wind developers already offer community benefit packages on a voluntary basis, we challenged them to do more. In response therefore we expect the onshore wind industry to revise its community benefit protocol, including an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England from £1,000/MW of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW/year for the lifetime of the wind farm (usually around 25 years). To complement this we will be producing guidance and setting up a register of community benefits—so that local communities are properly empowered to discuss and negotiate the types of benefit packages that best suit their needs.

We will also be exploring ways to make it more attractive for communities to invest in wind projects themselves, through the recently issued call for evidence on community energy. A joint DECC/DEFRA £15 million rural community renewable energy fund will also provide loans and grants to rural communities for initial development and planning work.

We will be working with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the local economic and employment potential of onshore wind projects are maximised. We will also produce supply chain guidance so that all parties—developers, local business and local people are equipped to respond to these opportunities.

The package of measures that DECC, DCLG and the onshore wind industry is announcing today provide a rigorous framework that will bring about real change and introduce more understanding, fairness, trust and mutual benefit between communities and the onshore wind sector.

We will be working across Government over the next 12 months to deliver this change.

Costs

We are committed to ensuring that support levels represent good value for money to the taxpayer and that they reflect the true costs of deploying the technologies. As the costs of deployment fall so will any support.

We have already reduced the support level for onshore wind under the renewables obligation from April 2013 by 10% (from 1 ROC/MWh to 0.9 ROC/MWh to reflect changes in costs). We carried out the second part of the call for evidence to check that this reduced support rate remained appropriate.

A large amount of new cost data have been rigorously analysed by economists and engineers within the Department.

The latest evidence shows that costs remain within the bands set out in the renewables obligation banding review. The mid-point estimates have, however, increased slightly, due to higher costs of planning, and operation and maintenance contracts. The change in the midpoint estimate of costs is less than 5% and thus within the original range.

As this evidence does not show a significant change in costs, it does not meet the legislative requirements for a further review of RO support levels.

This decision ensures ongoing value for money for the consumer and provides more certainty for developers, ensuring continuity of support as contracts for difference are introduced as part of our electricity market reforms. DECC will of course continue to monitor the costs of renewable energy technologies, in accordance with the provisions in article 33 of the Renewables Obligation Order 2009.

Conclusion

The measures that make up our response to the call for evidence will allow the deployment of onshore wind to the level necessary for our energy security and renewable energy goals, but will also ensure that communities will have a greater say over proposed onshore wind development and will receive more reward for hosting those developments that are taken forward. This is an important sector that is driving economic growth and I am determined that local communities should share in these benefits.

1 Sources: quarterly renewable electricity table ET 6.1; and quarterly electricity table ET5.1.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/energy_stats/source/renewables/renewables.aspx.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/energy_stats/source/electricity/electricity.aspx.

Average household consumption (GB, 2011) can be found in the our regional electricity statistics here:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/energy_stats/regional/electricity/electricity.aspx.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Hazardous Waste (National Policy Statement)

Having considered consultation responses and the report of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the draft national policy statement for hazardous waste which was laid before Parliament on 14 July 2011, I am today laying (under sections 9(8) and 5(4) of the Planning Act 2008), the proposed national policy statement for hazardous waste. The Government’s response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee report (under section 9(5) of the Planning Act 2008 was laid earlier this morning.

A written response to the consultation is also being published on the Department’s website at: www.gov.uk.

National policy statements are critical to the new planning system, which will help developers bring forward hazardous waste projects of national significance without facing unnecessary delays. Decisions will be taken in an accountable way by elected Ministers taking social, environmental and economic impacts into account. The process will also ensure that local people have an opportunity to have their say about how their communities develop.

The hazardous waste national policy statement sets out our need for new hazardous waste infrastructure to manage the hazardous waste. Despite measures to prevent and minimise the production of hazardous waste, arisings have remained significant despite the economic downturn. DEFRA’s “Strategy For Hazardous Waste Management in England”, issued in 2010 sets out the Department’s policies for the management of hazardous waste, which are essentially to manage it in accordance with the waste hierarchy, so that we recycle or recover the waste where possible and reduce amounts sent for final disposal. That strategy set out the types of facility needed, some of which are nationally significant.

We look to the market to provide these facilities. The waste industry is best placed to consider the most appropriate types of technologies to use. Government’s role is to provide the right framework and encouragement to the private sector to bring the necessary infrastructure forward. This national policy statement sets out the framework in which decisions for applications for development consent for hazardous waste infrastructure will be made and should provide industry with the clarity it needs to bring forward applications for development consent for new infrastructure for hazardous waste.

The proposed national policy statement for hazardous waste will be designated if a period of 21 sitting days elapses without the House of Commons resolving during that period that the statement should not be proceeded with, pursuant to section 5(4)(a) of the Planning Act 2008.

Home Department

Asylum Support (Rates)

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 enables the Home Office to support asylum seekers while their application to remain in the UK is determined, and some failed asylum seekers who temporarily are unable to return home. Under these arrangements we provide the claimant and any family members with free fully furnished and equipped housing with no bills to pay, as well as modest rates of financial support to meet their essential day to day living needs.

I have carefully considered whether those rates of financial support are adequate for the purpose set by Parliament, which is to meet the essential living needs of those asylum seekers and their dependants who would otherwise be destitute. I have concluded that they are, and so I am announcing today that the rates will be frozen for the current year.

Justice

Criminal Cases Review Commission

On Friday 19 October 2012 I made a written statement to Parliament announcing the triennial review of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I am pleased to announce the conclusion of the review and publication of the report today.

Established by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 as an executive non-departmental body in 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission undertakes reviews of possible miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a view to referring appropriate cases to the courts.

The review has concluded that there is a continuing role for the Criminal Cases Review Commission and that it should continue as an executive non-departmental public body. The Commission has been assessed as having a green rating overall for the standards of corporate governance and the recommendation of the report relates to two areas where it has been identified that improvements can be made in order to more closely follow good practice for public bodies.

The triennial review has been carried out with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders and users, in addition to the commission itself the review was publicised on my Department’s website and stakeholders were invited to contribute through a call for evidence and through meetings. In addition to the project board which oversaw the review, a critical friends group challenged the evidence used to make conclusions. A peer reviewer also challenged the evidence for stage two of the review.

I am grateful to all who contributed to this triennial review. The final report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prime Minister

Intelligence and Security Committee Report

I am grateful to the Intelligence and Security Committee for its valuable work and its latest report, entitled “Foreign Involvement in the Critical National Infrastructure” (Cm. 8629).

Following consultation with the Committee over matters that could not be published without prejudicing the work of the intelligence and security agencies, the report has been laid before the House.

Transport

EU Transport Council

I will attend the final Transport Council of the Irish presidency (the presidency) taking place in Luxembourg on Monday 10 June.

There will be a progress report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Connecting Europe facility. In general, I support this proposal and welcome the progress that has been made. However, on the transport side, there remain some issues relating to transport corridors which we are working to resolve.

The presidency intends to agree general approaches on four proposals.

The first is a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the rail system within the European Union (Recast) (part of the fourth railway package). I fully support this proposal and the adoption of a general approach by the Council.

The second is a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles and a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council directive 1999/37/EC on the registration documents of vehicles (roadworthiness package). There are some issues to be resolved on the technical roadside inspection of commercial vehicles aspect of the package where we are concerned about the inclusion of vans. I will express this concern at Council and I will seek to limit the impact on vans. I will be supporting the presidency proposal for a directive on the registration documents of vehicles.

The third is a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on occurrence reporting in civil aviation amending regulation (EU) No 996/2010 and repealing directive 2003/42/EC, Commission regulation (EC) No 1321/2007 and Commission regulation (EC) No 1330/2007. I fully support this proposal and the adoption of general approach by the Council.

The last is a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on marine equipment and repealing directive 96/98/EC. This proposal originally contained provisions that would have imposed significant new burdens on the UK maritime industry, such as requirements for electronic tagging and the submissions of patents. During negotiation, we were able to secure the removal of these provisions, and bring the proposal back into line with the existing regime and minimise its impact on business. The UK now supports all the objectives of the proposal, and is content with the current version.

Under any other business, the Commission will present its proposals on the ports policy review and air passenger rights. The Commission will also provide information on the aviation emissions trading scheme (ETS), aviation price transparency and passenger ship safety.