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Written Statements

Volume 566: debated on Monday 15 July 2013

Written Statements

Monday 15 July 2013

Treasury

ECOFIN

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 9 July 2013. The following items were discussed.

Presentation of the Lithuanian Presidency Work Programme

The presidency outlined its work programme on economic and financial matters for July to December 2013.

Follow-up to the European Council on 27-28 June 2013

ECOFIN held an exchange of views on the follow-up to the June European Council.

Adoption of the euro by Latvia

ECOFIN adopted the legal acts enabling Latvian accession to the euro in January 2014.

Implementation of the two-pack

Ministers endorsed the code of conduct for the euro area member states on draft budgetary plans and on content and scope of the reporting obligations for euro area member states subject to an excessive deficit procedure.

Follow-up to G20 Finance Deputies meeting on 6-7 June (St Petersburg) and preparation of G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Governors of 19-20 July (Moscow)

Council agreed the EU terms of reference for the forthcoming G20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting. The presidency and the Commission reported back to Council on the meeting of the G20 Finance Deputies meeting on 6-7 June.

Any other businessCurrent legislative Proposals

The presidency updated Council that provisional agreement had been reached with the European Parliament on the market abuse directive/market abuse regulation.

Northern Rock (Asset Management) plc

On 11 December 2012, I informed Parliament via a written ministerial statement—Official Report, column 20WS, that UK Asset Resolution (UKAR) had identified a pool of unsecured loans in the Northern Rock Asset Management (NRAM) portfolio where the loan documentation was not compliant with Consumer Credit Act requirements.

As a result, UKAR’s board commissioned Deloitte to conduct an enquiry into the specific circumstances of the issue, and any implications for UKAR’s broader internal procedures and controls. Deloitte has concluded that the defects in CCA regulated loan letters and statements were created in 2008, before UKAR was established. The summary of the report, along with the recommendations on strengthening risk functions, is being published on UKAR’s website today. UKAR’s board has accepted all of Deloitte’s recommendations and has tasked senior management to develop an implementation plan, which the UKAR board will hold senior management to account on delivering.

The link to the report can be found here: http://www.ukar. co.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2013.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Competition and Markets Authority

I am today announcing that I have launched a consultation on a draft ministerial statement of strategic priorities for the soon-to-be-created Competition and Markets Authority and a first tranche of draft Statutory Instruments updating the competition regime. This follows the Chancellor’s announcement in the spending review last month that the budget of the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be increased by £16 million in 2015-16, to enable it to tackle cartels more effectively and open-up markets to new entrants, disruptive technologies and greater investment. These are major steps in our reform of the competition regime, which should deliver significant economic benefits.

I have also made a decision on the appointments of the first team of non-executive director (NEDs) members to the CMA, and I am delighted to announce the following appointments. Five NED positions will go to Annetje Ottow, William (Bill) Kovacic, Philip Lowe, Carolyn Fairbairn and Alan Giles; and the two panel NED positions will go to Roger Witcomb and Jill May. I am also appointing Roger Witcomb as the chairman of the CMA panel.

All the NED appointees will formally commence their appointments on 1 October 2013 when the CMA is legally established. I have agreed to the ordinary NEDs’ term end dates being staggered from between two and five years in order to avoid recruiting a whole new set of NEDs at the same time. The skills and backgrounds of appointees have been taken into consideration when offering their end date to mitigate against losing members who share the same area of expertise (e.g. competition law or economics) in the same year. The appointments for both Roger Witcomb and Jill May are on the basis of an initial two-year term.

The ordinary NED appointments have been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice (April 2012) and the panel NED appointments were made following the principles of the code.

I have placed copies of the consultations and further details of the appointments in the Libraries of both Houses.

Ordnance Survey

I am today announcing that performance targets have been agreed for Ordnance Survey for the period 2013-14. Ordnance Survey will report externally against these targets as is required of all Executive agencies in Government.

The targets are:

To achieve an operating profit before exceptional items, interest and dividends of £32.4 million for the financial year 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014.

To achieve a free cash flow before exceptional items of £21.4 million for the financial year 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Some 99.6% of significant real-world features greater than six months old are represented in the database.

To continue to reduce the underlying cost base of the core business by 5% per annum measured against a baseline of 2008-09 adjusted running costs.

To achieve a customer index score of at least 80%.

To achieve an innovation index score of at least 80.

These targets reflect Ordnance Survey’s continuing commitment to customers, to continuing sustained achievement against the business strategy that has been in place and developed over previous years, to maintaining and delivering intelligent geographic information to all users, and to offering improved value for money for all, as well as a commitment to Government policies.

Company Ownership (Transparency and Trust)

Today I am publishing a discussion paper which sets out a range of proposals to enhance the transparency of UK company ownership and increase trust in UK business. These measures will help prevent illegal activity; better enable companies to be held to account; and provide businesses, investors, employees and consumers with confidence that companies are acting fairly. They will support the development of a business environment where companies and individuals can operate and invest with confidence.

The first part of the paper puts forward measures to ensure we know who really owns and controls UK companies, following our G8 commitments on preventing the misuse of companies. The main elements of this section of the paper include:

Options for the implementation of a central registry of information on companies’ beneficial ownership, maintained by Companies House. We propose that the registry would hold information on individuals with an interest in more than 25% of the shares or voting rights in a company, or who otherwise control the way the company is run. We consider whether information in the registry should be made public, what information is to be provided and how it is to be updated.

A proposal to prohibit the issue of bearer shares. Bearer shares allow the owner of the shares to remain hidden as their name is not disclosed on a company’s register of members. The paper proposes that holders of existing bearer shares should be given a set period of time to convert these shares to ordinary registered shares.

Options to enhance transparency around the use of nominee directors, including whether they should be required to disclose their status to Companies House and who they are acting for. While nominees can be used in legitimate commercial scenarios, their use can allow the true owners of a company to remain hidden.

A proposal to abolish companies from being appointed as directors (“corporate directors”). Although rarely used in the UK, these can result in complex corporate ownership structures which hide the beneficial owner’s true identity.

The second half of the paper discusses disqualification rules and tackling directors who break the rules. This is especially important in the light of the corporate failures that took place during the financial crisis. The main elements of this section of the paper include:

Considering whether to amend the duties of bank directors so that there is a greater emphasis on the responsibility to promote financial stability (following the recommendation made by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards).

Extending the factors taken into account by the court in disqualification proceedings. For example, allowing the court to consider the social impact of a director’s actions, breaches of sectoral regulation and previous business failures when coming to a disqualification decision.

Proposals to give courts the power to make compensation awards against a director when making a disqualification order; and to allow liquidators to sell or assign fraudulent trading actions.

Offering directors education classes or training at the end of their disqualification or a slight reduction in this period if they take up the offer.

Extending the time limit for when disqualification action must be taken. Currently standing at two years, the paper proposes a new five-year limit to take into account more complex insolvency cases.

Changing laws to prevent directors disqualified overseas from being a director of a UK company. The paper also considers allowing disqualification action to be brought against a director convicted of a criminal offence in relation to an overseas company.

The paper invites views from all interested parties by 16 September 2013. It is intended that measures will be implemented through, and at the same time as, transposition of the fourth EU money laundering directive and changes to company law. I will seek to introduce reform by the end of this Parliament.

I remain committed to reducing regulation and burdens on business and will consult on a range of company law deregulatory proposals in the autumn. These proposals will be developed in parallel to measures outlined in this paper to deliver a cohesive package of reform.

I have today also published two further documents. First, the terms of reference for a review of pre-pack administrations. The review will specifically look at whether pre-packs encourage growth and employment and provide value for creditors. Defined as an administration where the assets are sold before an administrator is appointed, concerns have been raised in the past that pre-packs are not transparent, that assets may be sold at below value, that there are conflicts of interested and they unfairly affect competitors.

Secondly, a report on the review of insolvency practitioners fees by the independent reviewer. Emeritus Professor Elaine Kempson of Bristol university. The findings are that where experienced, and usually secured, creditors are in control of proceedings, IP fees are successfully monitored. Where the creditors are unsecured and disparate, controls over fees are not working. The Government will respond to the report later this year.

I have placed copies of the consultations and further details of the appointments in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Arms Trade Treaty

The campaign for the arms trade treaty has enjoyed the strong support of Members in both Houses for over seven years. From before the first diplomatic conference in July, 2012 through to the final diplomatic conference earlier this year, the arms trade treaty has been a top priority for this Government with Ministers lobbying hard for a robust agreement that could achieve the broadest possible support. With the Minister of State for International Development, I attended the diplomatic conference in July 2012 and I attended the diplomatic conference in March this year to support the efforts of our diplomats and to urge the international community to agree on this important issue. The negotiations were hard fought and compromises were necessary on all sides, but the treaty that emerged is robust, implementable and will make a significant difference to international peace and security.

In April, the treaty was adopted with overwhelming support at the United Nations General Assembly. On 3 June, I was extremely proud to sign the treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the day it opened for signature. As one of the seven co-authors of the resolution that first brought this issue to the attention of the United Nations, we have led the international efforts which have resulted in this agreement.

In accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s ratification process, the Government has today laid before Parliament the arms trade treaty under Command Paper No. CM8680 with an explanatory memorandum which sets out the background to the treaty, ministerial responsibility for implementation, and financial implications resulting from ratification.

A properly regulated arms trade will help states to meet their legitimate defence and security needs to protect their citizens. The arms trade treaty will make a difference. It is the first legally-binding, truly global commitment to control exports of conventional arms. By introducing internationally-agreed standards for the arms trade it will reduce human suffering by preventing arms from being used in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It will also help to combat terrorism and crime by steadily reducing the unfettered proliferation of weapons.

Since opening for signature on the third of June, over 70 states have signed the treaty and Iceland has become the first to complete ratification. Our commitment to the treaty now is as strong as ever, our goal has always been to secure a robust treaty that can be implemented by all. We will only accomplish our aims if the arms trade treaty is rapidly and effectively implemented. Fifty ratifications are required to bring the treaty into force. We will be working hard to encourage states to sign and to ratify, to ensure swift entry into force. Like the negotiations on the treaty itself, this will take time and require the considerable efforts and persistence of a broad coalition of supporters. Universal adherence to the arms trade treaty must be our ultimate goal.

Hong Kong (Sino/British Joint Declaration)

The latest report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was published today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office). The report covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2013. I commend the report to the House.

Health

Liverpool Care Pathway

The independent review of the Liverpool Care Pathway has been published today. I commissioned this review in January 2013 in response to concerns raised by patients, families, carers and a number of clinicians. The review was undertaken by an independent panel chaired by the noble lady, Baroness Neuberger.

People who use health and care services have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion by staff with the skills and time to care for them properly. We all want our own and our loved ones’ final days and hours to be pain-free and dignified, with individual needs prioritised and respected, and with families and carers fully involved.

I recognise and value the high quality of much of end of life care across the country. On behalf of the Government, I would like to convey my continued support and appreciation for the work that so many doctors, nurses and others do on a daily basis to care for the dying. While most patients certainly are receiving high-quality care and many families and carers are being properly involved, we need to make sure that this is the case for everyone.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was introduced to improve end of life care by setting out principles for how the dying should be treated, whether they are in hospital, at home, in a care home or in a hospice. The review heard that when the Liverpool Care Pathway is operated by well-trained, well-resourced and sensitive clinical teams, it works well. However, it also heard too many examples of poor practice and poor quality care, with families and carers not being properly involved and supported. This has to change.

The review made a number of recommendations to Government and other health and care organisations. The Government will consider fully the recommendations of the review and over the coming months will be working with these organisations, stakeholders and charities to inform a full system-wide response to the review’s recommendations in the autumn. However, I can announce at this point our intention for the Liverpool Care Pathway to be phased out over the next six to 12 months. Instead, an individual approach to end of life care for each patient will be introduced, with a personalised care plan backed up by condition-specific good practice guidance and a named senior clinician responsible for its implementation.

In addition, the Care Quality Commission will be undertaking thematic work on end of life care, and the three new chief inspectors—of hospitals, social care and general practice—will consider end of life care issues as they develop their new approach to inspections. To support these improvements to end of life care, I am also writing to the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council to highlight both the need for effective guidance on supporting nutrition, hydration and sedation for the dying, but also to stress the importance of the professional regulation issues raised by the report.

However, it is clear that we need to take action immediately. I can therefore announce:

to ensure immediate action for patients, families and carers, I have written to all NHS hospitals asking them to undertake a clinical review, led by a senior clinician, of each patient who is currently being cared for using the Liverpool Care Pathway or similar plans for the final days and hours of life to ensure that the care they are receiving is appropriate. I have also asked them to ensure that arrangements are put in place to provide assurance that every dying patient now and in the future has a named senior clinician responsible for their care. I will be writing in similar terms to those responsible for dying patients being cared for outside of hospital;

it is equally important that the concerns about care are properly investigated and resolved. I will ensure that people who have a complaint about the care given to a dying patient on the Liverpool Care Pathway or similar plans have access to an independent assessment of their case should they want it. I have also asked all NHS hospitals to appoint a board member with responsibility for overseeing any complaints about end of life care and for reviewing how end of life care is provided; and

the review also recommends that incentives paid to hospitals to promote a certain type of care for the dying should cease. In response, I am asking NHS England to work with clinical commissioning groups to implement this immediately.

I would like to thank Baroness Neuberger, the review panel and their support team for their hard work and commitment. Finally, I would also like to thank all the contributors to the review, and in particular the families and carers of patients.

“More care, less pathway: A review of the Liverpool care Pathway” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Home Department

Powers of Entry

My noble Friend the Minister for Criminal Information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

The Protection of Freedoms Act (POFA) 2012 requires Ministers across Government to undertake a review of powers of entry over a two-year period due to conclude in early 2014. The Act requires Ministers who are Members of the Cabinet with responsibility for powers of entry to examine their powers and to consider whether they are still necessary, proportionate and contain sufficient safeguards.

Ministers are required to report on outcomes of the review to Parliament by 1 May 2014.

During the passage of the Act, Ministers agreed to provide an update of progress of the review and I have today placed copies of the second six-month progress report in the Library of the House.