Wednesday 4 December 2013
National Infrastructure Plan 2013
This Government are committed to reversing the effects of historic under-investment and equipping the UK with world-class infrastructure.
The Government are today publishing the “National Infrastructure Plan 2013”, which updates their plan for the next decade and beyond, and announcing a package of measures which will further support their ambition.
Economic regulators’ study
The Government recognise the value of fully independent regulation for economic infrastructure, and remain committed to this system. There is nevertheless scope for broader consideration of the way regulators work together and with the Government on issues related to cross-sectoral infrastructure delivery. They have therefore initiated a joint HMT/BIS study to look particularly at developing better joint working, more clearly explaining the role of economic regulation, and facilitating cross-sector infrastructure investment. Recommendations from the study will be made in spring 2014.
Broadband fund and local procurement
The Government will open a £10 million competitive fund in 2014 to market test innovative solutions, delivering superfast broadband services to the most difficult-to-reach areas of the UK; the Government will continue to support local bodies to develop appropriate strategies to procure additional coverage in areas not covered by current plans, using the £250 million allocated at spending round 2013.
Public Works Loan Board (PWLB)
The Government are allocating the remaining £800 million of borrowing at the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) project rate as part of growth deals. This will be available to LEPs working in partnership with local authorities in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and allocated on a competitive basis alongside the single local growth fund.
The Government are also announcing that local authorities in Scotland and Wales will have access to the Public Works Loan Board project rate to support priority infrastructure projects. A total of £400 million of borrowing will be available from 2014-15 to 2015-16, subject to agreement with the devolved Administrations on the precise mechanics and conditions.
Airport surface access
The Government are today taking forward measures proposed by the Airports Commission by introducing a package of improvements to airport surface access. These measures include making available £50 million for a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick airport (subject to satisfactory commercial negotiations with the airport), setting up a new study into Southern Rail access to Heathrow, and including access to Stansted on a current study of the East Anglian mainline.
Sir Howard Davies’ letter recommending these measures has today been published on the Airports Commission’s website.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Government will support the London Legacy Development Corporation and Mayor of London in developing their plans for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. This includes plans for a new higher education and cultural quarter on the park, in partnership with University College London and the Victoria and Albert museum.
Ultra-low emission vehicles
The Government will invest £5 million during 2014-15 in a large-scale electric vehicle readiness programme for public sector fleets. The programme aims to promote the adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles, demonstrating clear leadership by the public sector to encourage future widespread acceptance.
River Thames Garden Bridge
The Government will provide a £30 million contribution to support the construction of a new Garden Bridge across the River Thames in London. This will supplement funding from Transport for London and private donations.
The Government will provide funding to support improvements to the A50 around Uttoxeter starting no later than 2015-16 (subject to statutory procedures) to support local growth, jobs and housing; this project will be subject to the usual developer contributions.
The Government are confirming that there will be no tolling on the planned A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon (one of its “top 40” priority investments), construction of which is planned to start in 2016; it has listened to concerns from local residents and businesses who rely on this road and, following a consultation, have decided to take forward a scheme which does not include a tolling element
The Government will review the legislative and regulatory framework to ensure there is a clear and appropriate regime for the testing of driverless cars that supports the world’s car companies to come to develop and test them here. The review will report at the end of 2014.
The Government will also provide a prize fund of £10 million for a town or city to develop as a test site for consumer testing of driverless cars.
The Government are today announcing the “strike prices” for key renewable energy generation technologies from 2015-16 to 2018-19. These prices confirm the level of support that private sector developers will be guaranteed to be paid for their electricity through a top-up from the wholesale price, under the new electricity market reform regime.
The Government will announce further details on contract terms by the end of 2013.
Judicial Review Reform
The Government will establish a specialist planning court with set deadlines to accelerate the handling of cases, take forward work to ensure that minor procedural claims are dealt with proportionally and allow appeals to “leapfrog” directly to the Supreme Court in a wider range of circumstances.
The Government want to ensure that households benefit from development in their local area. Building on the measures already in place (including the neighbourhood funding element of the community infrastructure levy and the new homes bonus), the Government will work with industry, local authorities and other interested parties to develop a pilot passing a share of the benefits of development directly to individual households.
The Government are taking further steps to speed up the town and country planning system.
The Government will consult on measures to improve plan making, including a statutory requirement to put a local plan in place.
The Government will legislate to treat planning conditions as approved where an authority has failed to discharge a condition on time, and will consult on legislative measures to strengthen the requirement for planning authorities to justify any conditions that must be discharged before building can start.
The Government will consult to reduce the number of applications where unnecessary statutory consultations occur and pilot a single point of contact for cases where conflicting advice is provided by key statutory consultees.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project Planning Review
The Government are today launching a review of the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime and are publishing a discussion document on making this regime even more effective.
The Government will freeze planning application fees for the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime for at least the remainder of this Parliament.
“Top 40” Planning Applications
To support the delivery of “ the top 40”, the Government will ensure where possible that these projects have the option to use the regime. These projects and programmes have been identified by Government as critical priorities for delivery and, while each application to use the nationally significant infrastructure regime must be considered on its merits, Government will have regard to this “top 40” designation in those considerations.
National Networks National Policy Statement
Alongside the national infrastructure plan the Government have published the National Networks National Policy Statement (NPS) for consultation and parliamentary scrutiny
UK Guarantee Scheme
The Government have agreed the terms of a UK Guarantee facility with the GLA to support up to £1 billion of borrowing for the construction of the Northern line extension to Battersea power station (subject to a satisfactory Transport and Works Act order). This in turn has facilitated a commercial agreement between the GLA, Transport for London and the developers at Battersea power station for the redevelopment of the site.
In addition the Government have approved a guarantee for a £10 million deal under the scheme to help provide finance for the installation of energy-saving lighting equipment across a portfolio of car parks managed and operated by National Car Parks Limited (NCP) resulting in a 60% reduction in energy consumption.
And the Government have confirmed that they have entered into a co-operation agreement with Hitachi and Horizon with the aim of being able to agree an in-principle guarantee by the end of 2016 to support the financing of a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa Newydd, subject to final due diligence and ministerial approval.
UK Insurance Growth Action Plan
As part of the Government’s “UK Insurance Growth Action Plan”, also published today, UK insurers have agreed to work alongside partners with the aim of delivering at least £25 billion of investment in UK infrastructure over the next five years, including, but not restricted to, projects in the published infrastructure pipeline.
The Government have identified further assets with the potential for sale and the target for the sale of corporate and financial assets will be increased from £10 billion to £20 billion between 2014 and 2020.
Copies of the “National Infrastructure Plan 2013” will be available on the gov.uk website and have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Charity Commission's Powers
I am today publishing for public consultation a range of proposals to strengthen the powers of the Charity Commission to tackle serious abuse in charities and to extend the range of criminal offences that would disqualify people from being a charity trustee. The consultation will run until 12 February 2014.
Deliberate abuse of charities remains rare, but where it does take place it is important that the Charity Commission has the tools it needs to act swiftly and decisively to protect public trust and confidence in charities. The National Audit Office has criticised the Charity Commission for failing to effectively regulate charities. The Charity Commission has accepted that it needs to improve its regulatory effectiveness, and there is already evidence of progress under the direction of its new board.
The National Audit Office also recommended that Cabinet Office support a legislative bid for stronger Charity Commission powers. The proposed changes on which we are consulting have been requested by the Charity Commission, which fully supports this consultation.
The changes include:
proposals to extend the criminal offences which automatically bar a person from acting as a charity trustee; a proposal for a new discretionary power for the Charity Commission to disqualify a person who is unfit from acting as a charity trustee; a proposed new power to enable the Charity Commission to effectively close down a charity; a proposed new statutory warning power; extensions of several existing powers and technical changes to close various loopholes.
I am particularly keen for charities and their representative bodies to contribute their views in the consultation and help to shape and prioritise the proposed changes. These changes will benefit charities as they will promote public trust and confidence in the effective regulation of charities.
The consultation is available on http://www.gov.uk and I have arranged for copies to be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Today I am announcing the Government’s intention to propose an amendment to the Children and Families Bill that will make a significant change to the legislation regarding care leavers. This amendment will be tabled for the House of Lords Third Reading of the Children and Families Bill.
The amendment will place a new legal duty on local authorities to support every care leaver who wants to stay with their former foster parents until their 21st birthday (“staying put” arrangements). This duty will come into force from April 2014 and we will be giving local authorities £40 million over the next three years to put the support arrangements in place.
A growing number of local authorities already offer young people the choice to stay but with little financial support it can be challenging for their foster families. Now all councils will have to follow their example.
This is a further reform to our much wider package of support for care leavers, including changes to the rules so 16 and 17-year-olds remain in care until they are ready to move out, and much greater financial support for young people leaving care at 18.
Children in care typically have much lower educational outcomes and are more likely to be out of education, work and training. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of reforms the Government have made to improve both the stability and outcomes for young people leaving care.
launched the care leavers’ charter—a contract between local authorities and young people leaving care—which sets out the support they can expect right up to the age of 25, with over 120 local authorities now signed up;
introduced the junior independent savings account for all care leavers, with over 40,000 accounts now open with a £200 contribution from Government;
published the cross-Government care leavers’ strategy, which for the first time sets out in one place the steps the Government are taking—from housing to health services, from the justice system to educational institutions—to support care leavers to live independently once they have left their placement;
written to all local authorities asking them to dramatically improve financial support for care leavers, resulting in tripling in the number of councils now paying £2,000 or more through the setting up home allowance;
improved accountability by publishing an annual data pack, outlining statistics
on care leavers’ education and employment status, and from this autumn Ofsted’s local authority children’s service inspection framework will place extra emphasis on the outcomes of care leavers.
Supporting care leavers to stay with their former foster carers will allow them to leave stable and secure homes when they are ready and able to make the transition to independence. It will also help them enter adult life with the same opportunities and life prospects as their friends. I hope this significant change we are proposing for care leavers will have widespread support.
Energy and Climate Change
Electricity Market Reform (Renewable)
I wish to inform the House that today the Government are publishing the Contract For Difference (CFD) strike prices for renewable technologies, alongside an update to the key CFD contract terms. This information is being published ahead of schedule in order to provide further certainty to industry and investors.
Contracts for Difference are one of the main mechanisms created as part of the electricity market reform (EMR) programme. EMR is the central component of the Energy Bill, currently being considered by Parliament, which will address the need to attract unprecedented levels of investment in the UK electricity sector over the coming decades to replace our ageing energy infrastructure with a diverse, low-carbon energy mix.
CFDs will stimulate investment in all forms of low-carbon electricity generation by providing efficient, long-term support. The CFD reduces the risks faced by low-carbon generators, by paying a variable top-up between the market price and a fixed price level, known as the strike price. As well as reducing the exposure to volatile and rising fossil fuel prices, the CFD protects consumers by ensuring that generators pay back when the price of electricity goes above the strike price.
The strike prices and updated contract terms being published today have been set to meet the Government’s objectives on renewable energy, decarbonisation, security of supply and minimising cost to consumers, and are informed by the feedback and evidence received through the delivery plan consultation, conducted during the summer of 2013. The consultation included draft strike prices for renewable technologies, and was followed in August by the publication of further detail on CFD contract terms.
The strike prices published today provide:
a basis for renewable electricity to achieve at least 30% of generation by 2020, in line with the EU renewable target;
a strong foundation for offshore wind. DECC modelling suggests that 10GW is achievable (in line with the 8-16GW range in the draft delivery plan). This is not a target and actual deployment will depend on technology costs;
good value for money for consumers by ensuring that the overall level of support remains within the LCF and that where cost savings can be made they are reflected in revised strike prices; and
continued ambitions for other technologies that are expected to be in line with the draft delivery plan and the renewable roadmap.
The pipeline of projects under development in the UK in established technologies is strong enough to permit earlier introduction of competition. The European Commission is expected to publish new environmental and energy aid guidelines for consultation soon. Given the approach set out in the recent DG Energy guidance, it is expected that the new state aid guidelines will require the UK to move to competition for more established technologies. The Government will confirm their approach and details of how this will operate through the delivery plan and engagement with stakeholders early in 2014.
The CFD contract terms have also been updated to take into account feedback received from a wide range of stakeholders following publication of detail on the terms, along with a draft CFD contract, in August 2013. The Government have now made a number of changes to further support the ability of developers to bring forward investment at lower cost to consumers. In particular the updated terms provide flexibility to reduce capacity, protection against unexpected events and protection against changing circumstances.
The Government’s full response to the consultation on the draft delivery plan, is intended be published later this month alongside the EMR delivery plan. The delivery plan will include further detail on the strike prices. The documents will also be accompanied by a detailed explanation of the Government’s final policy positions on the CFD contract terms.
Government also announced today that 16 projects have reached the next stage of final investment decision enabling for renewable process to secure an early form of contracts for difference. The final selection of projects will take place in spring 2014.
The documents, “Investing in renewable technologies—CFD contract terms and strike prices” and “Final Investment Decision for Renewable: Update 3: Contract Award Process”, are available on the Government website.
Renewable Heat Incentive
I am pleased to announce today the publication of DECC’s Government response document “Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive: Improving Support, Increasing Uptake”, which sets out a range of improvements and increased support under the non-domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI).
This responds to the consultations “Expanding the non-domestic scheme”, “Air to Water Heat Pumps and Energy from Waste” and “Non-Domestic Scheme Early Tariff Review” as well as addressing the outcome of four calls for evidence related to bio-propane; large biomass, ground-source heat pumps and landfill gas.
The non-domestic RHI scheme has been open to commercial, industrial, public sector, not-for-profit and community generators of renewable heat since November 2011. The scheme is designed to bridge the gap between the cost of fossil fuel heat sources and renewable heat alternatives through financial support for owners of participating installations.
Given low levels of uptake for some technologies in the scheme and additional evidence from stakeholders, we decided to re-examine the evidence on the assumptions and cost data used to set the level of tariffs when this world-first scheme for renewable heat was launched. It is vital that we get the level of support right so that the market can invest with confidence, cost reductions can be achieved and the market can grow sustainably.
We gathered new data on the assumptions used to set tariffs and used this in conjunction with evidence from the industry to calibrate new tariff levels. Subject to state aid approval, we intend to increase the support available for renewable combined heat and power (CHP) plants, large biomass boilers (over 1MW), deep geothermal, ground-source heat pumps, solar thermal and biogas combustion up to 200kWth. We are also introducing new support for air-water heat pumps and commercial and industrial energy from waste, along with improvements to our budget management policy and further policy development on providing increased tariff certainty for large-scale schemes.
Also published today are further details of the domestic RHI, related to budget management policy, phasing of legacy applications and treatment of some types of subsidy, as well as confirming the tariff for solar thermal at 19.2p/kWh, as per our commitment when publishing the domestic RHI policy in July 2013.
The changes set out in the publications I am announcing today are summarised on gov.uk and are subject to parliamentary and state aid approvals. They are designed to stimulate considerable growth in the deployment of renewable heating technologies in the coming years and we expect that these tariffs will drive significant deployment so that the industry can grow and invest with confidence.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Single Payment Scheme
The window for payments to farmers in England under the EU CAP single payment scheme (SPS) for 2013 opened on 1 December 2013.
On 2 December 2013, the first banking day of the payment window, the Rural Payments Agency paid over £1.48 billion to 95,600 farmers, more than ever before on the first banking day of the payment window. This equates to 89.3% of the estimated fund value and 92.3% of customers. This represents the highest number of customers receiving their payments from the Rural Payments Agency on this day, which continues to build on the agency’s best ever performance last year. This is excellent news for English farmers and for the wider rural economy.
The agency will shortly contact all of those farmers who are unlikely to receive their payments in December to explain what further work is necessary to validate their claims and to set out an estimated timetable for payment.
The agency is working to a commitment, set out in its business plan for 2013-14, to pay 86% of payments by value and 93% of customers by number by 31 December 2013 and 97% of payments by value and 97% of customers by the 31st March 2014.
The payments made on the first banking day equate to 89.3% of the estimated fund value, meaning the agency has already exceeded its end of December target of 86%, paying £100 million more on the first day this year than it did last year. I will keep the House updated on its progress against delivery to customers.
Justice and Home Affairs Council
The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is due to be held on 5 and 6 December in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following items will be discussed.
The Council will begin in mixed committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland—non-EU Schengen states—where Ministers will consider the latest situation in relation to Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen acquis.
That will be followed by a debate on the latest Commission report on the functioning of the Schengen area. This item is considered by the Council every six months following a debate on Schengen governance at the 2011 June European Council. While we only participate in the police and criminal justice elements of Schengen, having chosen to retain our own border controls, the UK has an interest in its wider functioning due to the impact on the UK of illegal immigration transiting Schengen states.
During the main Council there will be a discussion on the EU’s response to the Lampedusa tragedy, with a report from the new Commission-led “Task Force Mediterranean”, which is developing a coherent set of measures to tackle dangerous sea crossings by migrants attempting to reach the EU. The Government are pleased with the work of the taskforce to date and want to ensure that it remains focused on preventative action in third countries, including by combating people smugglers.
The Commission will present its final report on free movement abuse, requested by the Council in June. The Commission’s communication, published on 25 November, outlines the current legal framework and sets out five existing actions previously announced by Commissioner Reding in October, including work on a handbook to tackle sham marriage, clarifying the habitual residence test and increasing European social funds available for integration. The Government plan to express their disappointment that the Commission continues to fail to take seriously the concerns raised by member states about fraud and abuse, and press for further action.
The Council will return to the issue of the potential threat posed by foreign fighters, with a discussion around ideas to be presented by the EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove. We expect these to focus on four key areas: information exchange, preventative action, criminal justice response and co-operation with third countries. The UK has sought to inform this work drawing on our experience in taking forward our domestic counter-terrorism strategy, Contest.
We understand that there will be a discussion on both days on strategic guidelines on future work in the area of justice and home affairs. The Government welcome substantive debate on this issue since they take the view that member states must use this opportunity to set the direction for future work in this area, with the JHA Council closely involved in preparing, and subsequently overseeing implementation of, the new guidelines. The Government support a shorter, more strategic set of guidelines than in previous work programmes, focusing on the full and effective implementation of the legislation that has already been adopted, and practical co-operation in priority areas, as opposed to new legislation or a detailed list of measures to be adopted. The Government’s priority areas for EU action are: preventing the abuse of free movement rights; strengthening the EU’s external borders; action against modern slavery; more effective return of foreign prisoners to their country of origin; and improved exchange of criminal records.
Under AOB there will be presentations from the incoming Greek presidency on its work programme and from the presidency on current legislative proposals and the outcome of the EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial meeting. In the margins of the Council a—non-binding—political declaration for the new mobility partnership with Tunisia has been scheduled for signature by participating member states. The UK will participate.
The justice day will begin with a discussion on the concept of the one-stop shop mechanism contemplated in the draft data protection regulation. The presidency has indicated its wish to reach a partial general approach on those aspects, though it is possible the Council will conclude that this would be premature.
The Council will be aiming for general approach on the European account preservation order to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters. The UK has not opted in to this proposal because of concerns about whether defendants’ interests were sufficiently safeguarded.
The presidency will facilitate an orientation debate on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council regulation on insolvency proceedings.
This will be followed by a discussion aimed at achieving a general approach on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending regulation 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I) to allow the new unified patent court to be recognised as a court for the purposes of the regulation.
There will be information by the presidency on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a common European sales law.
On non-legislative activities, there will be a presentation by the Commission and exchange of views on the justice related aspect of 2014 European semester, including the “Justice Scoreboard”.
The Council will seek to adopt three sets of Council conclusions: on the evaluation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the EU Citizenship Report 2013 and on combating hate crime.
The presidency will provide a state of play report on the accession of the European Union to the European convention on human rights.
The presidency will also provide an update on work achieved on e-justice during its term and will be seeking agreement on a strategy for this work as it goes forward.
Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism
The extremism taskforce was set up in the wake of the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich to look closely at whether the Government were doing all they could to confront extremism and radicalisation. It met for the first time on 3 June, following which the Prime Minister gave a statement to the House, Official Report, column 1233. On 26 November, the taskforce convened for the final time.
During the last five months, the taskforce has considered a range of measures to confront extremism in all its forms, including in communities, schools, prisons, faith institutions or universities.
We have today published a document that sets out the conclusions of our discussions and the practical steps that we have agreed to address the gaps in our response to extremism. This includes:
placing Prevent and the Channel programme, which supports individuals at risk of being radicalised, on a statutory footing;
consulting on new legislation to strengthen the powers of the Charity Commission;
considering the case for new types of order to ban groups which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech, and new civil powers to target individual extremists;
working with the internet industry to restrict access to terrorist material online, improving the process for public reporting of extremist content online and identifying extremist content to include in family-friendly filters;
taking steps to ensure local authorities are supporting people on the front line of tackling extremism, and intervening where they are not taking the problem seriously;
giving additional support to local communities which are on the front line of tackling extremism by supporting integration projects and setting up a dedicated public communications platform; and
addressing extremism in institutions by improving oversight of religious supplementary schools, finding trained Muslim chaplains to challenge extremist views on campuses and restricting the ability of extremist and terrorist prisoners to radicalise others.
Copies of the document are available in Library of the House and on the www.gov.uk website.
Mesothelioma is a tragically aggressive and terminal occupational disease. It kills approximately 2,200 people in England and Wales each year, with sufferers having a median life expectancy of only seven to nine months from diagnosis. Yet claims for compensation for mesothelioma are often subject to delays and fraught with procedural and evidential difficulties, made all the more acute by the imminence of the claimant’s death.
The Government have conducted a consultation on proposals intended to improve the speed and efficacy of the process for claimants to recover compensation in cases where a liable employer or insurer is traced. That consultation, which closed on 2 October 2013 and elicited over 100 responses, also incorporated the review required by section 48 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 regarding the application to mesothelioma claims of conditional fee agreement reforms contained in part 2 of that Act.
The Government have reformed the way in which no-win-no-fee conditional fee agreements operate. It has always been the Government’s intention that those reforms should apply to all areas of civil litigation, including personal injury compensation. Those reforms came into force generally in April 2013, although not in respect of proceedings for mesothelioma claims. Extending the reforms to those proceedings was delayed until a review had been undertaken and published in accordance with section 48 of the LASPO Act.
The Government have carefully considered the responses and have concluded that they intend to apply sections 44 and 46 of the LASPO Act to mesothelioma cases, as for all other personal injury cases. The Government do not believe that the case has been made for mesothelioma cases to continue to be treated differently, in particular by comparison to other personal injuries, which can also have profound consequences for the sufferer.
To ensure that key changes to the mesothelioma claims process are addressed in a synchronised manner, we propose to apply the LASPO provisions from July 2014, at the same time as the compulsory payment scheme for victims of mesothelioma is planned to come into force under the Mesothelioma Bill, subject to Royal Assent. Under the Bill, introduced into Parliament in May 2013 by the Department for Work and Pensions, victims of mesothelioma who are unable to trace their liable employer or their employer’s insurer would be eligible to claim compensation from a dedicated fund even though it is not possible to trace the persons actually liable to compensate them.
The Ministry of Justice has also carefully considered responses to its other consultation proposals. We have declined to take forward a dedicated Mesothelioma pre-action protocol supported by a fixed recoverable costs regime as they currently stand on the grounds that there is not a strong enough case that they will meet the Government’s declared aim of ensuring that mesothelioma compensation claims are settled quickly—where necessary —and fairly. In light of our consultation response the ABI will wish to reconsider the final consultation proposal, an electronic Secure Mesothelioma Claims Gateway, which they had proposed to host and fund.
At this stage we still hope to identify potentially valuable reforms to mesothelioma claims process from the responses to the consultation and the Government will work closely with interested parties to discuss how these can be taken forward.
The Government will publish their response to the consultation, and the report under section 48 of the LASPO Act, shortly.
Consultation on National Networks
The Department for Transport is launching today a public consultation on the Government’s draft National Policy Statement for National Networks (NN NPS) in England. I am laying the draft before the House and placing copies of the consultation in the Library of the House. The Department is also publishing, in parallel, its appraisal of sustainability of the draft National Policy Statement, incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment as well as an assessment of the NPS under the Habitats and Wild Birds Directive. Consultees will be able to comment on these if they wish.
The Planning Act 2008 introduced a new planning regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). These are infrastructure projects that support the country through the generation and distribution of energy, the disposal of waste and the transportation of goods and people. Such projects have the potential to affect a wide range of people and businesses, from those who will use them, to those who live or work close to proposed sites.
This NN NPS addresses a key concern of scheme developers and promoters by providing a clear articulation of the overall policy against which the Secretary of State for Transport will make decisions on applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects on the national road and rail networks. It describes the need for development of these networks and Government policy for addressing it, within the context of the Government’s long term goals for sustainable transport.
It means that Government policy on national network development is easily accessible in a single document. This will make it easier for decision makers, applicants and the wider public to understand Government policy on the need for NSIPs and the way in which developments will be assessed. It provides the right balance between a well connected and high performing road and rail network with sufficient capacity to meet the country’s long term needs, while protecting the environment and minimising social impacts. It demonstrates this Government’s commitment to deliver the infrastructure and investment the economy needs for continued growth, making the planning system easier to navigate.
The public consultation being launched today, invites views on the extent to which this national policy statement meets its aim of providing planning policy for decisions on the development of national networks. The consultation closes on 26 February 2014 but I encourage people to respond earlier where possible.
Under Section 9(7) of the Planning Act 2008 the Department is required to stipulate the relevant period in which, if either House makes a resolution, or a Committee of either House makes recommendations with regard to the proposal to designate an NPS, a statement will be laid in response. I hereby stipulate the relevant period as that beginning today and ending on 21 May 2014.
The documents and consultation are available at:
Work and Pensions
EPSCO Council—Brussels, December 2013
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 9 December 2013 in Brussels.
The council will seek general approach on the posting of workers and on the enhanced co-operation between public employment services (PES).
There will be exchange of views on the annual growth survey 2014 (AGS), draft joint employment report (JER) and alert mechanism report (AMR). Ministers will be asked to approve the scoreboard of employment and social indicators under the JER and endorse the updated Employment Committee (EMCO) report on employment performance monitor and benchmarking. The chair of the Social Protection Committee (SPC) will report on ex-ante co-ordination of major reforms.
The Commission will present its communication on the “quality framework for traineeships” and report on the state of play with the implementation of the Youth Guarantee/Youth Employment Initiative.
The council will adopt a recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the member states and council conclusions on the “effectiveness of institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women and gender equality”.
The council will note progress reports on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Under any other business the Commission will present its communication on free movement and a proposal for a directive on seafaring workers. The presidency will report on ongoing issues and there will be a presentation from the incoming Greek presidency on its work programme.
DFID Programme Management
TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA) is a DFID project that aims to promote regional integration and trade in southern Africa, working with African regional economic communities. This is an agenda to which the UK Government are fully committed and which deserves effective support.
Investigations carried out by DFID’s internal audit department and by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) ahead of its forthcoming report have revealed serious flaws in the governance and programme management of the TMSA programme. While we have found no evidence of fraud, these investigations have revealed a number of serious concerns including weakness in delivery, management, oversight and financial monitoring. According to our investigations, they in part stem from serious errors in the design and implementation phase in 2007-10. TMSA guidelines were not updated to reflect ministerial priorities of value for money and good procurement practice.
TMSA has played a positive role in establishing frameworks for collaboration by three regional economic communities. However, while achieving some results, it has not achieved a significant number of the key objectives expected.
Our investigations also confirmed that following DFID’s commitment in July 2009, £67 million of funds deposited in 2010 have been only partly committed. The remaining uncommitted funds, approximately £42 million, will now be reclaimed by Her Majesty’s Government.
Weak governance also resulted in payments amounting to £80,000 via ring-fenced accounts held by the Ministry of Agriculture in Zimbabwe from 2011. Although our investigations show that this money was used appropriately and as intended for a fruit fly eradication project to promote trade and reduce poverty, this payment was in contravention of UK Government policy.
One of the objectives of setting up ICAI as an independent watchdog to scrutinise UK aid was to ensure that problems like this are uncovered and dealt with. I am fully prepared to stop funding to programmes that do not offer value for money or that fail to achieve their objectives and I have given notice to commence shutting down TMSA with immediate effect. In parallel DFID is exploring alternative, more effective mechanisms to support the important steps being taken in the region to drive trade and regional integration.
The oversight of TMSA has clearly fallen below expected standards. As a result DFID is making changes to its capability and expertise in DFID southern Africa to strengthen oversight and financial control.
This Government have significantly strengthened DFID’s programme and financial management procedures, and placed a strong emphasis on value for money. I have taken significant further steps to strengthen DFID’s approach on value for money, including on procurement and ministerial oversight of new business cases and contracts. However I have also determined that programme management controls will be further strengthened including in relation to mandatory annual reviews and programme improvement plans so that under-performing programmes are properly reported and that remedial steps can be taken when programmes are failing to deliver. Programmes with significant weakness that fail to improve significantly will be considered for closure.
In addition, I am expanding DFID’s internal audit capability to enable an enhancement of its risk-based approach targeting internal audit effort more effectively and increasing its frequency of review of key areas. This will also ensure that country offices can be subject to review every two years rather than the current average of four.
I will continue to take robust action on value for money throughout the Department, and I will continue to take decisions to exit under-performing programmes and redirect resources into those that deliver poverty reduction and value for money for taxpayers.