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Written Statements

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

Written Statements

Monday 18 November 2013

Energy and Climate Change

Trans-European Energy Infrastructure

I am today designating the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as the national competent authority for the United Kingdom for permitting processes for projects of common interest under article 8(1) of regulation (EU) no 347/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure.

“Projects of common interest” (PCIs) in the regulation are projects that member states’ regional groups have determined are cross-border developments which constitute PCIs according to the criteria in the regulation. They will contribute to completion of the European energy network, which may include electricity interconnector cables, “smart grids”, electricity storage, gas transporter pipelines, underground natural gas storage facilities, CO2 pipelines and CO2 storage. The regulation streamlines permitting processes for PCIs that have been agreed by regional groups to ensure that they are not unduly delayed through slow planning consent procedures in member states. It will also give the developers of PCIs access to European funding.

The national competent authority is responsible for co-ordinating the permitting process in its member state and working with other member states to ensure that the pre-application process, including appropriate public consultation on the PCI proposal as set out in article 9(4), is completed within the indicative timetable of two years and that co-ordinated decisions are made within one year and six months of formal application, as set out in article 10(1).

These time scales are broadly in line with the consenting regimes for major infrastructure under the Planning Act 2008. Other consenting regimes in the UK do not have statutory timetables, but determination of consents is normally within these time limits and may be much faster.

In implementing the requirements of the regulation our intention is to be as transparent as possible and, wherever practicable, to maintain the existing permitting processes for major infrastructure.

Under article 8(2) of the regulation, the responsibility of the competent authority and/or the tasks related to it may be delegated to, or carried out by, another authority, either for a category of PCIs or on a case-by-case basis. To respect the devolution settlements for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, I propose the general approach that the responsibilities of the competent authority should be delegated to the relevant devolved Administrations where both that part of a PCI in the UK is wholly within their national territories, an adjacent area of the UK territorial sea or an area of the UK continental shelf and where they exercise all the relevant consenting functions.

For PCIs where more than one UK Administration exercises consenting functions in respect of the project, I propose to consider delegation of the CA responsibilities on a case-by-case basis, after consulting all the relevant consenting authorities.

In proposing to delegate competent authority responsibilities to the devolved Administrations, I intend that they should apply the “collaborative procedure” described in article 8(3)(c), which requires the competent authority to agree with the other authorities concerned, a reasonable time limit within which the individual decisions shall be issued on a case-by-case basis and monitor compliance with the time limits by the authorities concerned. This will provide all of the authorities involved in the permitting process with clarity about the time scales and processes for reaching co-ordinated decisions, as well as clarity on who has responsibility for carrying out the competent authority’s functions in relation to a particular PCI, while reflecting existing arrangements under the devolution settlement.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace and Security)

I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, is today publishing the third and final annual review of the UK Government national action plan (NAP) on UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (“UNSCR 1325”). The national action plan is intended to strengthen our ability to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution. It provides a framework for incorporating the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security into the Government’s work on conflict prevention.

Over the last three years (2010-13), the UK Government have made progress on the commitments in the national action plan across the four pillars of UNSCR 1325: participation; prevention; protection; and relief and recovery. We have worked nationally, bilaterally with other countries, and through multilateral organisations and fora.

Women have a key role to play in decision-making, in the aftermath of violent conflict. It is essential that peace negotiations provide for the active participation, perspectives and needs of both men and women. Promoting and supporting women’s active and meaningful participation in all peace processes, as well as their representation in formal and informal decision-making at all levels, is vital to international peace and security. In this context, we welcome the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2122 on 18 October, which reaffirms the integral role women play in peace processes. Incorporating gender perspectives into our conflict-prevention efforts has been an increasingly important focus of our efforts. The UK recognises that long-term conflict prevention requires investment in all perspectives. Women’s participation can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the causes of and alternative solutions to violent conflict. In Afghanistan, the UK’s support to the Tawanmandi programme, aimed at building the capacity of Afghan civil society, has as a main element support for women’s contribution to communities, including the empowerment of women through local peace councils in 16 projects across the country.

Securing the physical safety, mental and economic well-being of women and girls is essential to the UK’s women, peace and security efforts. Investing in women’s empowerment helps build gender equality, eradicate poverty and promote inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, or as entrepreneurs or employees. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UK is providing £60 million between 2010 and 2014 for the sector and police action programme, which works to build political will and institutional capacity to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in the security and justice sector.

We recognise the necessity of ensuring relief needs specific to women and girls are met, and that special attention is paid to the most vulnerable, including displaced women and girls as well as survivors of gender-based violence. We support women’s activities in relief and recovery efforts, including providing women with equal access to livelihoods activities. For example, in Nepal, the UK has contributed to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programme which has helped build a rehabilitation programme for women and girls linked with awareness building activities on reproductive health, women’s rights and civic responsibility.

Nationally, we have sought to strengthen the Government’s skills and analysis on women, peace and security, for example through courses on this issue for diplomatic, development and defence staff, run by the FCO, DFID and MOD’s stabilisation unit. We also seek to strengthen analysis of gender, when building an evidence base on specific countries and regions through the Government’s joint analysis on conflict and stability (JACS) methodology. Armed with the evidence, we can inform and shape the Government’s response to conflict and fragility overseas.

The Home Office lead the UK Government’s call to end violence against women and girls (VAWG), and the Department for International Development (DFID) continue to increase their work to tackle VAWG through overseas programming. The creation of the role of ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, fulfilled by the Under-Secretary for the Department for International Development, has added further impetus to securing commitment to this agenda. The national action plan review highlights some of this important work, including the new VAWG research and innovation fund with an investment of up to £25 million that DFID announced in November 2012. This will generate high quality and policy relevant data and evidence on what works for the prevention of VAWG and includes a specific component on the prevalence and nature of VAWG in conflict and humanitarian emergencies.

The Government have sought to increase the profile of the women, peace and security agenda, through targeted, high-level campaigning in the international arena, underpinned by action on the ground. Since the launch of the preventing sexual violence initiative by the Foreign Secretary in May 2012, the campaign has sought to challenge the culture of impunity that exists for sexual violence in conflict. In April this year, G8 Foreign Ministers agreed a historic declaration on sexual violence in conflict which contained a number of key political, practical and legal commitments. In June, under the UK’s presidency of the UN Security Council, the Foreign Secretary hosted an open debate on tackling sexual violence in conflict, which focused on the need to challenge the culture of impunity that exists and to hold perpetrators to account. A new UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2106) was adopted during the debate.

A new national action plan will be published in 2014, covering the period from 2014 until 2017. In line with recommendations from an assessment of the NAP, the new plan will set out an overarching strategy that aligns the Government’s work on women, peace and security and brings together various activities (including the PSVI and the broader DFID work to tackle VAWG) in a more coherent and co-ordinated manner. The new NAP will also focus more on monitoring and evaluation; this will ensure better evaluation of impact on the ground and progress against stated objectives. This will build on lessons to date, and address some of the challenges in the current NAP. In drafting the new NAP, we will continue consultations and close collaboration with civil society groups.

The Government are determined that our work in this field should be as effective as possible, with the widest possible level of international support, to strengthen our ability to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution. We will continue to work with Parliament, civil society and our international partners on this.

I have deposited a copy of the third and final annual review of the NAP 2010-13 in the Libraries of both Houses.

International Development

Protecting Girls and Women in Emergencies

I would like to inform the House of the outcomes from the high level event on protecting girls and women in emergencies, which I co-chaired with the Swedish Minister for International Development Ms Hillevi Engström in London on 13 November 2013.

The high level event was attended by senior Government, UN, NGO and civil society representatives and its purpose was to agree a fundamental new approach to protecting girls and women in emergency situations, both man-made and natural disasters. It is part of my call to action to protect girls and women in emergencies which I launched in March this year, working closely with the Foreign Secretary’s preventing sexual violence initiative.

Crises leave girls and women more vulnerable to violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual assault, early and forced marriage, and trafficking. Targeted interventions are often not prioritised in the first stage of an emergency because the violence is not considered life-threatening. The UK is leading efforts to make sure such support is prioritised right from the start in crises such as the response to typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, as well as in Syria.

The high level event endorsed a communiqué underlining the importance of such early action to protect girls and women in emergencies. Participants agreed to act, or fund action, to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls from the first phase of an emergency, without waiting for evidence of specific instances of violence to emerge. They further recognised the need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial and mental health services for women and girls affected by crises. Participants also made commitments specific to their own agencies.

These included pledges to increase levels of expertise, and to share best practice and conduct gender disaggregated reporting in humanitarian situations.

In response to typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the UK is ensuring that its partners have included protection of girls and women as part of its overall response. We have deployed violence against girls and women technical specialists to support the UN effort. We are also supporting specialised programming. Key UK support has included both anti-trafficking programming, and the distribution of equipment to ensure girls and women are better protected. For example, we have supplied solar lamps to ensure they are safer when moving around at night and, because the lamps contain a mobile phone charger, are able to maintain communication with family members.

At the high level event I announced £21.6 million in new funding to help protect girls and women in emergencies, including support for the United Nation’s Population Fund work to protect girls and women in Syria; assistance to help vulnerable girls and women in Lebanon and Jordan; funding for the International Committee of the Red Cross to help survivors of sexual violence; and support to the International Rescue Committee for its work with adolescent girls in Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

Other funding commitments totalling £20 million were also made by the United States, Switzerland, Japan and Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

I am determined to ensure that the commitments from all participants, including the UK, are monitored and reported upon over the coming year. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has agreed that the US will take on the leadership of the call to action in 2014 and will promote accountability amongst the humanitarian community for the agreements reached on 13 November. The US will host a follow-up event next year.

Justice

Parole Board for England and Wales (Triennial Review)

My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State for Justice, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:

In March 2011 the Government responded to the Public Accounts Select Committee report “Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango state” setting out the coalition’s plans for reforming the public bodies sector. It includes the requirement to undertake triennial reviews of Executive and advisory non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

The Parole Board for England and Wales is an independent body that works with its criminal justice partners to protect the public by risk-assessing prisoners to decide whether they can safely be released into the community. It was established in 1968 under the Criminal Justice Act 1967 and became an independent Executive non-departmental public body (NDPB) on 1 July 1996 under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

To deliver the coalition Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability across our public bodies, the Parole Board for England and Wales will be subject to a triennial review. The Ministry of Justice, as the sponsoring Department, has today launched a consultation which will last until 3 January 2014 inviting views. In line with Cabinet Office guidance, the review will consider the following:

the continuing need for the Parole Board for England and Wales—both its functions and its form; and

where it is agreed that it should remain, to review the control and governance arrangements in place to ensure that the public body is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.

In conducting the triennial review, officials will be engaging with a broad range of stakeholders and users of the Parole Board for England and Wales. The review will be aligned with guidance published by the Cabinet Office: “Guidance on Reviews of Non- Departmental Public Bodies”. The final report and findings will be laid in this House.

Prime Minister

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

I will be making an oral statement to the House later today on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka and the current situation in the Philippines following typhoon Haiyan.