Tuesday 9 July 2013
Scientific Advisory Council
In accordance with Cabinet Office guidance on public bodies, I have launched a review of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council. This review will examine the Council’s form and function as well as its corporate governance procedures. The review is due to be completed later this year and I shall inform the House of its outcome.
Energy and Climate Change
Parliamentary Written Answer (Correction)
I would like to inform the House that a written answer I gave on 18 March 2013, Official Report, column 372W to the hon. Member for Witham was incorrect. The hon. Member asked the Secretary of State how much was paid to officials in (a) his Department and (b) its non-departmental public bodies in bonuses and other payments in addition to salary in each of the last five years; how many officials received such payments; and what the monetary value was of the 20 largest payments made in each year.
The data in the first table in the response was partially incorrect and reported a figure for departmental spend that was too high, due to an administration error with the datasets. The error has now been identified and corrected. The departmental spend was significantly lower on bonus and other payments than previously stated. The original and corrected tables are shown below. All other data provided in the response is correct.
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, how much was paid to officials in (a) his Department and (b) its non-departmental public bodies in bonuses and other payments in addition to salary in each of the last five years; how many officials received such payments; and what the monetary value was of the 20 largest payments made in each year. .
The details of bonus and other payments made in addition to salary by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for 2011-12 are shown in the following table:
Total of bonus and other payments (£)
Number of people receiving payments
Total of top 20 payments (£)
12,000 x 1
10,000 x 5
7,500 x 14
The details of bonus and other payments made in addition to salary by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for 2011-12 are shown in the following table:
Total of bonus and other payments (£)
Number of people receiving payments
Total of top 20 payments (£)
12,000 x 1
10,000 x 5
7,500 x 14
Managing Radioactive Waste Safely
I am pleased to announce today the publication of the third annual report of the Government’s managing radioactive waste safely (MRWS) programme. The programme is focused on implementing the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.
The Government remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long term safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste, and continues to hold the view that the best means of selecting a site for a geological disposal facility is an approach based on voluntarism and partnership.
In line with Secretary of State’s written ministerial statement of 31 January 2013, Official Report, col. 54WS, the Government have been considering what lessons can be learned from the experiences of the MRWS programme in west Cumbria and elsewhere. We have invited views on the site-selection aspects of the ongoing MRWS programme, and the responses to this “call for evidence” will inform a consultation later in the year.
The third annual report can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/managing-radioactive-waste-safely-implementing-geological-disposal-annual-report. I have also written to the chairs of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and I have made available copies in the Libraries of both Houses.
Today we published “Fuel Poverty: a framework for future action”, which sets out the Government’s intention to adopt a new, more accurate definition of fuel poverty. This follows the publication, in March 2012, of the final report of the independent Hills review. We have also tabled amendments to the Energy Bill to put action to address fuel poverty on a more sustainable footing.
The review, conducted by Professor Sir John Hills, provided us with a new understanding of the problem of fuel poverty. Professor Hills’s work demonstrates that fuel poverty is a long-term and structural problem requiring an ongoing effort to mitigate it. We believe it is right to reflect this by adopting the new measurement approach proposed by Professor Hills, which will support a renewed focus on those with the lowest incomes living in the worst homes. This new approach aligns fully with the Government’s wider objectives of saving energy, promoting growth and decarbonising the housing sector.
At the same time, we are proposing amending the statutory framework underpinning fuel poverty. The existing fuel poverty target, contained in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, has the eradication of fuel poverty as its end goal. This is the wrong type of target to focus on given the nature of the problem. Nor is such an approach compatible with the definition we are adopting. We are therefore proposing a new target that focuses on improving the energy efficiency of the homes of the fuel poor.
I believe there is real merit in giving a strong degree of statutory backing to a fuel poverty target and our proposals reflect this. On balance we believe the best way to do this is through secondary legislation. This is reflected in amendments the Government have tabled to the Energy Bill currently before Parliament.
It is also clear that we cannot achieve meaningful progress under this new framework against a target date of 2016. We will put forward our proposals on the date, level and precise form of this new target in due course, should our amendments be approved by Parliament. Our proposals for that target will themselves be subject to debate in both Houses of Parliament.
Overall, these proposals will ensure that as we continue to roll out groundbreaking policies to drive improvements to the energy efficiency of the housing stock and to ensure the fuel poor are not left behind.
We will of course continue to deliver the policies which we know are making a difference to tackling fuel poverty. The energy company obligation, which runs alongside the green deal, ensures that help goes to low-income and vulnerable households to enable them to heat their homes more affordably on a long-term basis. The affordable warmth and carbon saving communities policies together should generate expenditure in home thermal efficiency improvements worth around £540 million per year, supporting around 230,000 low-income households annually.
The warm home discount scheme, worth over £1.1 billion over four years, requires energy companies with over 250,000 domestic customers to give a discount on energy bills to their vulnerable customers and those on the lowest incomes. As part of the scheme, this winter over 1 million of the poorest pensioners automatically received a discount on their electricity bill of £130 before 31 December 2012. The Government’s spending review announcement of an increased budget of £320 million for the warm home discount for 2015-16 shows our commitment to continuing action to tackle fuel poverty.
We believe this strong package of measures will help protect the most vulnerable in society against the effects of fuel poverty.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Libya (Bilateral Support)
On 19 June, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, informed the House that at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, the United Kingdom, with other G8 nations, offered to train more than 7,000 troops to help the Libyan Government disarm and integrate militias and improve security and stability of the country. I wish to inform the House that as part of this, the UK has offered to train up to 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel in basic infantry skills.
The Government firmly believe that a stable, open and democratic Libya contributing to wider regional stability and security is in the UK’s interest. That is why we are working closely with the US and other European countries, to lead the broader international effort, co-ordinated by the UN support mission in Libya (UNSMIL), to support Libya’s democratic transition and the Libyan authorities’ efforts to make visible improvements in public security in Libya.
The training of 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel is part of a broader package of defence and security assistance that we have developed with the US, France and Italy to support the Libyan Government’s efforts to increase the effectiveness and capacity of its security and justice sector institutions; and to ensure the state’s monopoly on security. Other aspects include increased training for the Libyan police and further support to improve Libya’s border security through the EU border mission. The Libyan Government specifically requested the UK to provide this training for the armed forces because of the UK’s vast expertise and reputation in this field. The Libyan Government have agreed to pay for this training.
This further assistance builds on the UK’s existing and planned support to Libya on such areas as security; building accountable and human rights compliant security and justice structures; creating transparent and effective financial management, strengthening private sector development and economic governance systems in Libya.
Under current plans prepared by the Ministry of Defence, up to 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel will be brought to the UK. They will visit in a series of smaller groups and will be trained by British Army personnel in basic infantry skills and junior leadership training at the Bassingbourn barracks in Cambridgeshire. We estimate that each course will be for a minimum of 10 weeks. The vetting of trainees will be a key component of this plan. We have requested the Libyan authorities to screen fully all trainees for medical, physical and behavioural suitability. We have sought guarantees from the Libyan authorities that all those successfully trained will return to Libya to be reintegrated into the Libyan armed forces.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working with the Home Office and Ministry of Defence to ensure that security and immigration controls will be maintained on those who arrive to undertake the training. Trainees who do not pass the vetting or immigration assurance processes will not be allowed to travel to the UK.
Detailed planning is under way and we continue to work on the specific terms of our assistance with the Libyan Government. We will also be engaging closely with the local authorities and community. I will update Parliament further as these plans develop.
Civil Penalty Scheme
Last week we published proposals to regulate migrant access to health services and prevent access by illegal migrants to privately rented accommodation, with measures to be taken forward in the Immigration Bill. Today we are launching a consultation on proposals to strengthen and simplify the civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working. The consultation will run for six weeks. A copy will be available in the House Library and on the Home Office website at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice. gov.uk/policyandlaw/consultations/.
Illegal working encourages illegal immigration. It also undercuts legitimate businesses through illegal cost-cutting activity by rogue employers, and is often associated with other forms of exploitative behaviour—including harmful working conditions for employees and tax evasion. The Government are committed to taking action to effectively tackle illegal working. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have recently proposed that the civil penalty against employers who exploit illegal labour should be doubled.
Employers already have a responsibility to check that their employees have the right to work in the UK and, since 2008, this has been underpinned by a civil penalty scheme. This has been successful in requiring employers to make right to work checks and imposing a sanction on those who do not. We are proposing to further refine these requirements to get tougher on employers who continue to exploit illegal labour and increase the sanction to reflect the harm they cause. We are also conscious of the burdens on legitimate business, so we are also proposing a number of measures to significantly reduce the administrative costs of complying with the requirement to make right to work checks. Legitimate businesses will benefit in two ways: from tougher sanctions against rogue employers and from our intention to make it easier for compliant businesses to fulfil their duties.
The Immigration Bill will make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live and work in the UK. We want to ensure that people come to the UK for the right reasons. As we extend a warm welcome to the many migrants who make such an important contribution to life in the UK, we want to see tough action against those who have no right to be here, and also against the unscrupulous employers who exploit them.
The Crossrail project has made significant progress over the last year and has now moved firmly into its main construction phase. There are currently around 8,000 people working at over 40 construction sites across London and six tunnel- boring machines are active underground, with the final two due to launch soon. As of 3 July over 14 km of tunnelling had been completed—representing around 33% of the final total. The project is now over 40% complete. Many significant milestones have been reached including two successful tunnel breakthroughs at Canary Wharf station. The project is well on the way to achieving the target of completing the first tunnels by the end of this year.
While we remain focused on the delivery of the infrastructure, work is now also well underway on planning for and delivering an operational railway. In March a change was announced to the funding of the procurement of the rolling stock and depot contract from one which involved a significant element of private finance to one that is fully publicly funded. This step was taken to ensure that the trains are ready for the opening of the new railway. The overall schedule for the award of the Crossrail rolling stock and depot contract remains unchanged, with a targeted contract award date of mid-2014.
Transport for London (TfL) will be responsible for the operation of the Crossrail services and is leading the procurement of the Crossrail train operator (CTOC). The procurement process has already begun with the pre-qualified bidders having been announced in June. The next step will be the publication of the invitation to tender in September this year, with the aim of awarding the concession in September 2014 and the start of operations between Liverpool Street (high-level) and Shenfield in May 2015. The Department is also working closely with TfL to ensure that the requirements of CTOC are reflected in the new or extended franchises which will operate on the Great Western and Greater Anglia routes.
Crossrail services via the central tunnel are on schedule to be operational from December 2018 with full services operating from late 2019.
The Crossrail board continues to forecast that the costs of constructing Crossrail will be within the agreed funding limits. We expect Crossrail to cost no more than £14.5 billion, excluding rolling stock costs.
All major contracts (excluding the rolling stock and depot contract) have now been awarded. To date, Crossrail Ltd has awarded direct contracts with a value of approximately £6 billion. UK businesses have benefited from the award of 97% of the contracts in the Crossrail supply chain, with 58% of contracts awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises and 43% awarded beyond London and the south-east.
During the passage of the Crossrail Bill through Parliament, a commitment was given that a statement would be published at least every 12 months until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information about the project’s funding and finances.
In line with this commitment, this statement comes within 12 months of the last one which was published on 10 July 2012, Official Report, column 22WS. The relevant information is as follows:
Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Ltd by the Department for Transport and Transport for London in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2013)
Expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (30 May 2012 to 29 May 2013) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
Total expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2013) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
The amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Ltd in the period covered by the statement
1 The total funding amounts provided to CRL by the Department of Transport and Transport for London refers to the expenditure drawn down from the sponsor funding account in the period 22 July 2008 and 29 May 2013. Included within the amount of £4,258,541,482 that was drawn down from the sponsor funding account is £278,023,076 of interim funding that has been provided to Network Rail to finance their delivery of the on-network works between 1 April 2009 and 29 May 2013.
The numbers above are drawn from Crossrail Ltd’s books of account and have been prepared on a consistent basis with the update provided last year. The figure for expenditure incurred includes moneys already paid out in relevant periods, including committed land and property expenditure where this has not yet been paid. It does not include future expenditure on construction contracts that have been awarded.
I also wish to inform the House that we have completed a review of Crossrail Act 2008 as required by the process detailed in the document “Post Legislative Assessment—The Government’s approach”. This assessment, five years after the Bill received Royal Assent, evaluates how fit for purpose the Crossrail Act has proved to be to this point in the construction process. I will publish the review before the House rises for summer recess.
In May 2012 the Government introduced primary legislation to Parliament that would create a new offence of driving with a specified controlled drug in the body above the specified limit for that drug. The Crime and Courts Act 2013 sets out the framework for the new offence.
Regulations now need to be made to specify the drugs to be included in the legislation and the limits to be specified. I have today published a consultation seeking views on these regulations. The proposals follow a report published in March this year by a panel of medical and scientific experts which provided specialist advice to the Government on the effects of specific drugs on drivers’ ability.
The introduction of the new offence will reduce the amount of time, expense and effort involved for the police and the courts when prosecutions fail because of the difficulty of proving that a driver is impaired by a particular drug.
In the consultation we have proposed a zero-tolerance approach to deal with those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs as this sends the strongest possible message that you cannot take drugs and drive.
In taking a zero-tolerance approach to these drugs, the Government propose to set the limits at a level that does not catch someone who has consumed a very small amount of an illegal drug inadvertently. In considering what approach to propose for each illegal drug and what limit to set, the Government have weighed up a number of factors including the evidence about the use of the drug when driving, wider drugs policy, and the findings and recommendations from the expert panel.
After considering all of the above we propose to take a zero-tolerance approach to the following eight controlled drugs which are known to impair driving: cannabis, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, ketamine, benzoylecgonine (primary metabolite of cocaine), methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM—heroin and diamorphine).
We have also put forward our approach for dealing with drivers who use drugs which have recognised and widespread medical uses but which can also affect a patient’s ability to drive and are sometimes misused. We know that the vast majority of people who use these drugs are doing so responsibly and safely and that is why our approach does not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed medicines. The limits we propose to set follow the recommendations of the expert panel, which in the vast majority of cases will avoid the new offence catching out drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in accordance with the directions of a healthcare professional or the drug manufacturer. This will avoid inconveniencing the public and taking up police time.
Taken together these proposals will make our roads safer for everyone by making it easier for the police to tackle those who drive after taking illegal drugs and clarifying the position for those who take medication.
The consultation starts today and closes on 17 September 2013 and copies will be laid in the Libraries of both Houses.
I can announce to the House today my decisions regarding safeguarding phase one of HS2—the route between London and Birmingham. Safeguarding directions protect the route of HS2 from conflicting development, and also give many of those who own property in the safeguarded area the right to serve a blight notice and request that the Government purchase their property under the terms of the compensation code.
Between October 2012 and January 2013 my Department consulted on issuing safeguarding directions for phase one of HS2. In total, 3,761 responses were submitted during the consultation period. Following careful consideration of those responses, I have today issued, under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, safeguarding directions to local planning authorities (LPAs) along most of the route of phase one of HS2.
LPAs to whom safeguarding directions apply are required to consult the named authority—in this case High Speed Two (HS2) Limited—on undetermined planning applications in respect of land that is within the safeguarded area. If a LPA is minded to grant planning permission otherwise than to give effect to HS2 Ltd’s comments then the planning application is referred to the Secretary of State for Transport who is able to direct a final decision on the planning application. The purpose of safeguarding is not to prevent development along the route of HS2, but to ensure that any development that does take place is consistent with our plans for the railway.
Safeguarding is also a trigger for statutory blight procedures under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Owner-occupiers of properties within the safeguarded area who want to move may now apply to sell their property to the Government by serving a blight notice. If they meet the relevant criteria they can expect to receive the unblighted open market value of their home, a home loss payment of 10% of the value of their home—up to £47,000—and reasonable moving costs. We do not expect that all properties within the safeguarded area will be required for the railway. Compulsory purchase powers to acquire properties needed for the railway will be set out in the hybrid Bill and can not be exercised until that Bill has Royal Assent.
Information on compensation specifically aimed at those who own property within areas safeguarded for HS2, including application forms, is available at, http://www.hs2.org.uk/ or by phoning the HS2 Ltd enquiries line on 020 7944 4908.
I have placed a summary of the responses to the safeguarding consultation in the Libraries of both Houses, and am publishing a command paper detailing the Government response to the consultation on safeguarding HS2. Both are available at http://www.hs2.org.uk/ safeguarding.
It should be noted that sections of the HS2 route in both Bromford and Ealing have not yet been safeguarded, pending a decision on whether there should be bored tunnels in these locations. These proposed design changes are the subject of a consultation launched in May 2013. I expect to announce my final decisions later this year.
Without HS2, key rail routes connecting London, the midlands and the north will soon be overwhelmed. HS2 will link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, serving one in five of the UK population. But the Government have always recognised the impact of HS2 on those living along the line of route. Issuing safeguarding directions brings certainty to many owner-occupiers living in the safeguarded area who can now apply to have their homes bought. I can assure the House that we will seek to process blight notices swiftly so that those who qualify can move as quickly as possible.
Work and Pensions
Workplace Pension Reform
I am pleased to announce that later today the Government will publish their response to the call for evidence on the impact of the annual contribution limit and transfer restrictions on the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST).
Automatic enrolment into workplace pensions represents a step change in the pensions landscape. A crucial part of the automatic enrolment landscape is NEST which was set up by Government to ensure all employers have access to a high-quality, low-cost option for workplace pension provision. While the market has always provided for larger firms and higher earners, NEST was created specifically to ensure that smaller firms and low to moderate earners also have access to quality pension provision.
To ensure that NEST focused on this “target market” the previous Government legislated to constrain NEST in two particular ways—an annual contribution limit, currently £4,500 a year, and restrictions on transfers in and out of NEST, which prevents bulk transfers of existing schemes and limits transfers by individual scheme members.
In summer 2010 the Department for Work and Pensions commissioned an independent review—“Making automatic enrolment work”—to consider whether the framework for automatic enrolment was fit for purpose. The review concluded that the basic architecture, including NEST, was appropriate, but that the constraints on NEST should be lifted in 2017.
More recently the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended in 2012 that the constraints should be lifted at once, expressing concern that some firms might not be able to use NEST, resulting in consumer detriment. Government responded in late 2012 with their call for evidence to seek views on the future of the NEST constraints.
Requiring NEST to focus on this target market has been very successful. As a large number of medium and smaller firms will start enrolling their workers in the next few years, now is the time to focus on helping these firms get ready. With its special focus on those workers with lower earnings, NEST will be a key part of the solution as it has thought hard about its design; it has aimed its research, communications, use of language, investment and decumulation strategies at its target market. It is working, and we need this to continue. Therefore, to make sure we achieve our aim of getting people saving, we have decided that NEST must continue to focus on its target group without any distractions.
The responses to the call for evidence revealed a perception that the restrictions placed on NEST prevent it from serving the low to moderate earners and smaller employers it was intended for. The reality is quite the opposite. With mandatory contributions of just 2% on a band of earnings, with at least 1% from firms, no employer contributing at this level or the full 8% will exceed the annual contribution limit.
However, we need to look to the future and ensure NEST remains influential in the marketplace, by continuing to help drive up standards and best practice. The minimum contribution will rise to a combined contribution of 5% from October 2017 and 8% from October 2018. Therefore, in line with the recommendations of the independent “Making automatic enrolment work” review, I intend to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to lift the contribution limit from 2017. This will give employers the certainty they need that NEST will continue to be an appropriate scheme for them and their workers when minimum contributions rise, or should they choose to contribute more.
With regard to individual transfers, we agree that NEST should be part of the automatic transfer solution for which we are currently legislating. Therefore we intend to lift the restrictions on individual transfers in and out of NEST to coincide with the start of the “pot-follows-member” regime. The ban on bulk transfers will remain in place until the end of the main roll out period for automatic enrolment in April 2017, when it will then be lifted.
We believe that the creation of NEST has played a crucial role in the early success of automatic enrolment. NEST has focused on its target market and has innovated to serve the needs of those in that market. As automatic enrolment moves on to cover medium and smaller firms we want NEST to continue its excellent work, while signalling now that beyond 2017 NEST will be put on a similar footing to other providers in the wider pensions market.
The Government response document will be available on the gov.uk website later today (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications), and I shall place copies in the Libraries of both Houses.