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Written Statements

Volume 571: debated on Friday 29 November 2013

Written Statements

Friday 29 November 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

We are introducing a new system of shared parental leave through the Children and Families Bill, which is currently before Parliament, and secondary legislation. It is our intention that the new system be workable and easy to manage for both employers and employees.

Today, I am publishing the Government’s response to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay which sets out the final detail on how the system will work in practice and the processes that will need to be followed.

We intend to:

require employees to provide employers with a non-binding indication at the outset of when they expect to take shared parental leave and at least eight weeks’ notice of any leave they will actually be taking;

introduce a fixed limit on the number of notifications an employee can give to take shared parental leave. The number of notifications will be capped at three (the first notification and two further notifications or changes). This will be in addition to the notification of entitlement and the non-binding indication of when they expect to take the leave when parents opt into shared parental leave. We will make provisions for changes that are mutually agreed between the employer and employee to not count towards the cap;

set the cut-off point for taking shared parental leave at 52 weeks following birth (or adoption);

create a new provision for each parent to have up to 20 days to support them in returning to work—parents will be able to use these days to return to work on a part-time basis and will be in addition to the 10 “keeping in touch” (KIT) days available during maternity leave;

maintain the right to return to the same job for employees returning from any period of leave that includes maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate; even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. Any subsequent leave will attract the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job.

We also intend to:

align the notification periods for paternity leave and pay;

protect mothers who give binding notice to opt into shared parental leave prior to giving birth, by introducing a right to revoke the notice up to six weeks following birth;

produce guidance to encourage employees who qualify under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process to give employers as much warning as possible.

I have arranged for copies to be put in the House Libraries.

Cabinet Office

Cabinet Committees List

Treasury

Tax Information Exchange Agreement (UK/Virgin Islands)

An arrangement comprising of an exchange of letters amending the 2008 Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the British Virgin Islands was signed on 28 November 2013 to permit automatic and spontaneous exchange of information. At the same time an agreement was also signed to improve international tax compliance which sets out the precise details of the information which will be automatically exchanged. The text of the agreement to improve international tax compliance has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text amending the Tax Information Exchange Agreement will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Communities and Local Government

Local Government Ombudsman Service

Earlier this year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State commissioned an independent governance review of the Local Government Ombudsman Service.

I am today publishing a report of that review with its conclusions and recommendations, and announcing the Government’s response.

The review, undertaken by Robert Gordon CB, a former Director-General in the Scottish Government, has examined the institutional structures and accountability of the Local Government Ombudsman Service. These structures consist of two or more local ombudsmen, who are office holders appointed by Her Majesty, and who are responsible for determining cases, and a commission comprising of the local ombudsmen and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; one of the local ombudsman is chairman of the commission and another is vice-chairman. Currently there are two local ombudsmen.

The review concludes that these current structures and governance arrangements are outdated and insufficient. The review recommends that as soon as practicable these arrangements should be reformed so that there is only one local ombudsman, supported by a board including the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, and strengthened by the addition of one or two non-Executive members.

The Government share these conclusions, and intend, as parliamentary time allows, to seek the necessary legislation to enable there to be a single local ombudsman with a strengthened board, including the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, and with two non-Executive members. We believe such governance arrangements will provide more robust and consistent leadership and help drive performance, delivery and further reform of the service.

The review also highlighted a number of questions about the wider ombudsmen landscape with the reviewer concluding that in the medium-term consideration should be given to the creation of a unified public services ombudsman for England.

On 16 October, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy announced to the Public Administration Select Committee that he was launching two separate reviews—one to look into the question of how better use can be made of complaints to achieve both redress for the citizen and improvement in service delivery and the other to look at the question of the ombudsmen landscape.

In the context of these reviews and having regard to any conclusions of the relevant Select Committees, we intend to develop and test ideas for a model for creating a single public services ombudsman for England. In exploring the scope for a single ombudsman we must establish if it will deliver a better service for all, and ensure it does not in any way weaken or slow processes by which people, including patients with complaints about health services, can escalate those complaints. The aim must always be to ensure that redress for people who complain about public services, including health, is as straightforward, speedy, and satisfactory as possible.

I have placed a copy of the review in the Library of the House.

Energy and Climate Change

Offshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round

After thorough consideration of the final applications made in the 27th offshore oil and gas licensing round, I am pleased to be able to announce a second tranche of offers of 52 production licences.

This follows a screening assessment of the blocks applied for in the round which concluded that 61 blocks which were close to, or in, certain special areas of conservation (SACs) and special protection areas (SPAs), should be subject to full appropriate assessments as required by the EU habitats and birds directives and the UK implementing regulations. Appropriate assessments are conducted where the screening assessment shows that oil and gas activities could have significant effects on those SACs and SPAs and include a public consultation. These assessments have now been completed and conclude that the proposed oil and gas activities will not cause an adverse effect on the integrity of relevant European sites as defined in the habitats and birds directives.

These series of offers further demonstrate the continuing attractiveness both of the UK continental shelf as an oil and gas producing province and of our approach to offering a range of licences meeting a diverse range of needs.

Details of the offers that have been made can be viewed on the gov.uk website at: http://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Water Bill

Government amendments to the Water Bill on flood insurance have been published today.

An updated impact assessment has also been published and a commentary document which provides further details of the intended effect of the amendments. Copies of these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government response to the public consultation on flood insurance undertaken during the summer was published on 18 November.

Health

Savile Investigations

I promised to update the House about the investigations into Jimmy Savile and the NHS in my written statement on 14 October 2013, Official Report, column 39WS.

The Metropolitan Police Service has completed its document review and transferred various material concerning Jimmy Savile and the NHS to the Department of Health. The information has been passed on to the relevant hospital trust for further investigation as appropriate. Names of the hospitals are taken from the information received. These include hospitals that may have closed in which case the information has been passed on to the legacy organisation.

Kate Lampard, who was asked to provide independent assurance of the NHS investigations on behalf of the Department of Health, will provide general assurance of the quality of all reports in her final assurance report. We expect the final reports of all the investigations to be completed by June 2014, with publication sooner if that is possible.

Information has been passed on by the Department to the 19 trusts who have responsibility for the relevant hospitals as set out in the table below:

Hospital

Relevant Trust

1.

Barnet General Hospital

Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Hospitals NHS Trust

2.

Booth Hall Children’s Hospital

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

3.

De La Pole Hospital

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust

4.

Dryburn Hospital

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

5.

Hammersmith Hospital

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

6.

Leavesden Secure Mental Hospital

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

7.

Marsden Hospital

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

8.

Maudsley Hospital

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

9.

North Manchester General Hospital

The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

10.

Odstock Hospital

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

11.

Pinderfields Hospital

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

12.

Prestwich Psychiatric Hospital

Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

13.

Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

14.

Royal Free Hospital, London

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

15.

Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

16.

Seacroft Hospital, Leeds

The Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust

17.

St Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

18.

Whitby Memorial Hospital

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

19.

Wythenshawe Hospital

University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust