Monday 31 March 2014
Business, Innovation and Skills
I have set Companies House the following targets for the year 2014-15.
CH Direct services are available 99.7% of the time.
WebCHeck services are available 99.7% of the time.
WebFiling services are available 99.7% of the time.
Software filing services are available 99.9% of the time.
98% of document images ordered by search customers are available within the CH Direct download area within 35 seconds.
Achieve an overall satisfaction score of more than 88% in the Companies House satisfaction survey conducted by Ipsos Mori by end November 2014.
To achieve a monthly soft compliance rate of 99% for accounts submitted to Companies House.
To achieve a monthly soft compliance rate of 98% for returns submitted to Companies House.
CEO to respond to all letters delegated to him from MPs within 10 working days of receipt.
To achieve an average electronic filing target of 70% for accounts (received and accepted) by the end of the year.
To achieve an average electronic filing target of 87.5% for all transactions (excluding accounts) by the end of the year.
Ensure that the average working days lost per person is no more than 7.5 days.
To reduce carbon created from utilities by 10% per building user, at Crown Way (compared with previous year) by end of March 2015.
99.9% of electronic transactions received are available to view on the public record (image format) within 48 hours.
99.8% of electronic images on CH systems are complete and legible.
99.8% of paper images on CH systems are complete and legible.
95% of all undisputed invoices are paid within five days of receipt.
Taking one year with another, to achieve a 3.5% average rate of return based on the operating surplus expressed as a percentage of average net assets.
Achieve by 2016-17 a reduction, in real terms, of 25% compared to 2013-14 in the operational monetary cost of the operation’s organisational costs (three-year target).
Communities and Local Government
Architects Registration Board
I am today announcing the start of the periodic review of the Architects Registration Board. Periodic reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all arm’s length bodies continue to have regular challenge on their remit and governance arrangements.
The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for the board’s functions architect registration under the Architects Act 1997). Should the review conclude there is a continuing need for the board’s functions it will go on to assess the most effective and value-for-money means of delivery and the appropriate control and governance arrangements needed to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance. I will inform both Houses of the outcome of the review when it is completed.
A copy of the terms of reference for this review has been placed in the Library of the House.
Nuclear Safety Committee/Nuclear Research Advisory Council
I am today announcing the start of the triennial reviews of the Defence Nuclear Safety Committee (DNSC) and the Nuclear Research Advisory Council (NRAC). Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that non-departmental public bodies continue to have regular independent challenge.
The DNSC’s remit includes all safety aspects relating to the naval nuclear propulsion plant and nuclear weapon systems, including related issues of design, development, manufacture, storage, in-service support, handling, transport, operational training, support facilities and capabilities, and the safety of workers and the public.
The NRAC is responsible for reviewing the atomic weapons establishment (AWE) nuclear warhead research and capability maintenance programme, including the requirement for above ground experiments and other facilities and techniques necessary to develop and maintain a UK nuclear weapon capability in the absence of underground testing; NRAC also examines AWE’s programme of international collaboration.
The reviews will examine whether there is a continuing need for DNSC and NRAC’s function, their form and whether they should continue to exist at arm’s length from Government. Should the reviews conclude there is a continuing need for the bodies, they will go on to examine whether the bodies, control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.
I will inform both Houses of the outcome of the reviews when they are completed.
Defence Support Group
The strategic defence and security review 2010 set out this Government’s commitment to selling the Defence Support Group (DSG), currently a trading fund of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). This decision took account of the front line’s enduring requirement for DSG’s services, and concluded that, in principle, it was no longer necessary for Government to own and operate these capabilities. Contractor support to maintain equipment, including major platforms, has been recognised practice in the air and maritime domains for many years, so continued support to the land domain by DSG under new ownership is entirely analogous. There is significant potential for the land-focused elements of DSG in the private sector. We intend to structure the sale in such a way as to preserve continuing assured access to the services provided by DSG through a contract for service provision.
Over recent months, the MOD has conducted a pre-qualification process with industry and developed the prospectus on which DSG will be taken to market. As part of these preparations, including market testing and internal assessment, I have decided that the electronics and components business unit (ECBU) of DSG, and its sites at Sealand and Stafford, will be excluded from the sale and retained in the MOD. I have now taken the decision to launch the sale of the land-focused business of DSG.
An invitation to negotiate has now been issued to nine potential single bidders and consortia who passed the pre-qualification stage. The nine parties represent a very strong and credible field of interested parties, demonstrating the high degree of market interest from the private sector and confidence in the DSG sale.
The DSG work force and trade unions are being informed in parallel. The final sale decision will be taken later in the year after final bids have been received and evaluated.
Sustaining the capabilities provided by DSG remains of critical importance to the Ministry of Defence and the British Army. Selling the land business of DSG will be the best way to enable transformation into the long-term partner for the delivery of heavy vehicle repair services to the Army that we now require.
Energy and Climate Change
Radioactive Waste (Thermal Analysis Review)
In November 2013, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s radioactive waste management directorate (RWMD) informed my Department of a modelling error in their assessments of the on-site cooling time required for spent fuel from new nuclear reactors before it could be placed in an off-site geological disposal facility (GDF).
RWMD subsequently corrected the error and published revisions of two disposability assessments and a feasibility study that included data from the model. These can be found at: http://www.nda.gov.uk/rwmd/producers/latest.cfm and I have placed copies of these reports in the Libraries.
There is no impact on safety at any existing site, as the corrections only increase the estimated length of time for which spent fuel from any new reactors would need to be kept in interim storage.
All other aspects of the corrected reports remain unchanged and RWMD has confirmed that the error does not affect future planning for a GDF.
My Department has thoroughly assessed RWMD’s corrected figures in relation to a number of previous decisions and policy areas, some of which were debated by Parliament. We have concluded that the corrected figures have no substantive impact on policy or previous decisions, including the Hinkley Point C deal.
I set out below our consideration and findings.
Regulatory Justification of the EPR and AP1000 reactor designs.
My predecessor published decisions in October 2010 that the EPR and AP 1000 nuclear reactor designs were justified in accordance with the justification of practices involving ionising radiation regulations 2004 (“the justification regulations”). These decisions took the form of Statutory Instruments which were approved by both Houses of Parliament in November 2010.
Justification decisions involve assessing the benefits of proposed new radioactive practices against their potential detriment to health. The published decisions took account of RWMD’s modelling of interim storage times.
The justification regulations make provision for the circumstances in which a review may be undertaken. My assessment is that the revised modelling does not create any new health detriments that were not considered during the justification process and does not raise any new issues about the ability to manage interim storage that may impact on the benefits of the EPR or AP 1000 reactors.
I have therefore concluded that the revised modelling does not meet the “new and important” criteria needed to consider reviewing the justification decisions and that I do not need to review my predecessor’s decisions.
Nuclear National Policy Statement and Hinkley Point Development Consent
The nuclear national policy statement sets the framework for development consent decisions under the Planning Act 2008. It was approved by Parliament and designated in July 2011. It included a statement on waste disposal, based on RWMD’s assessments, which made clear that interim storage would be needed on a range of time scales, during which facilities would continue to be effectively regulated.
The material in the NPS was referred to by the planning inspectorate in its advice to me on the application for development consent for the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point and referred to by me in my decision.
There are no reasons to believe that the regulatory regime could not effectively regulate the increase in interim storage times under RWMD’s revised assessments and I have therefore concluded that there are no grounds for a review of the nuclear NPS or any of the decisions taken with reference to it.
Funded Decommissioning Programmes (FDP) and Waste Transfer Contracts
No decisions have yet been taken on whether or not to approve the funded decommissioning programme for Hinkley Point C. Further to the publication of the corrected reports, the developer has been asked to update their respective FDP submission for the site and this information will be taken into account in any decision.
Euratom Article 37
General data were provided to the Commission in relation to the planned spent fuel storage facilities at Hinkley Point C. This data focused on the overall plans for storage, rather than the storage period, and already takes into account a margin of error that includes the corrected figures.
We have drawn the attention of the European Commission to the re-published reports, as they provide an opinion on article 37 applications, but do not believe that any further action is necessary.
Generic Design Assessment (GDA) and Site licensing and permitting
The original disposability reports written by RWMD were used as evidence in the GDA process and cited in the regulators’ technical findings.
Further to the corrected disposability reports being published, the regulators are working with EDF (the recipient of the GDA design acceptances for the EPR design) to assess if there are any impacts to their GDA decision and findings.
Should any changes be required these will be addressed as part of the wider, ongoing site licensing and permitting process. Similarly any impact to the findings for the AP1000 design would be addressed in any subsequent assessment or site licensing and permitting process.
Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board
On 10 October 2013, I announced through a written ministerial statement—Official Report, column 31WS—the commencement of the triennial review of the Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board (NLFAB). I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.
NLFAB plays an important role providing independent and expert advice to Ministers on the financing arrangements in the funded decommissioning programme (FDP). Under the Energy Act 2008 the operator must submit the FDP to the Secretary of State. Nuclear related construction can only take place once the FDP has been approved by the Secretary of State.
The review concludes that the functions performed by NLFAB are still required and that it should be retained as an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB). The review also looked at the governance arrangements for the body in line with guidance on good corporate governance set out by the Cabinet Office. The report makes some recommendations in this respect; these will start to be implemented shortly.
The full report of the NLFAB review of can be found on the gov.uk website: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/triennial-review-report-nuclear-liabilities-financing-assurance-board-nlfab and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Common Fisheries Policy
The UK Government are today launching a package of public consultations concerning the implementation of reforms to the common fisheries policy (CFP).
As part of the reform of the CFP, a new basic regulation and common market organisation of fishery and aquaculture products (CMO) entered into force on 1 January 2014. The new European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF), which will support our fishing industry under these reforms, is due to be adopted shortly. The package of consultations being launched today covers aspects from all three of these areas.
Securing fundamental reform of the CFP was crucial, but successfully implementing these reforms is of equal importance to ensure that we can safeguard our marine environment and all those who rely on it.
One the most important achievements of the CFP reform negotiations is the phased introduction of a landing obligation, also known as a discard ban. The landing obligation will put an end to the wasteful practice of discarding, preventing fish being thrown back into the sea after being caught unless under very specific exemptions. This will start in 2015 for pelagic fisheries, and be rolled out to other fisheries from 2016.
The consultations launched today set out the Government’s proposed approach to implementing the pelagic landing obligation in England. Some of the main issues that we are gathering views on include how we will ensure our stocks are managed sustainably, how we monitor compliance and how we manage available quota to match it to the catch that would previously have been discarded.
At the same time we are seeking views on how we can best use the EMFF to support implementation of the reformed common fisheries policy. We are also consulting on a new national aquaculture strategy and how we implement changes to the fish labelling legislation in England and introduce new legislation on marketing standards in England and Wales for fishery and aquaculture products.
The CFP reform has attracted interest and passion from many different groups. A key element to making these reforms work in practice will be continuing to work closely with all those affected. This is why my Department will continue to work closely with the fishing industry and other interested groups as we develop our policy to implement these reforms.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
UN Commission of Inquiry (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
On 28 March the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I would like to update the House on this resolution and the role the UK has played in its passing.
Unlike in recent years, the resolution was not adopted by consensus. In part this reflects the current composition of the Human Rights Council, which is less supportive of country specific resolutions. But it also reflects the fact that this year’s resolution was much stronger, following the horrific findings of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into human rights violations in the DPRK and the comprehensive recommendations set out in the inquiry’s report. I am pleased to report that the final text of the resolution supports the report and makes clear the need for violators of human rights and perpetrators of crimes against humanity to be held to account. This includes a specific request that the UN Security Council consider referral of the situation in the DPRK to the appropriate international criminal justice mechanism.
The resolution also proposes concrete measures to ensure the work of the COI is continued. The mandate of the special rapporteur is extended and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is requested to provide the rapporteur with increased support, including through a new structure to strengthen monitoring and documentation of the situation of human rights in the DPRK, as well as through engagement and capacity building of others working to address this issue. These measures will ensure that whenever and however the DPRK regime is brought to account, the material will be there to build a strong case against those responsible for violations.
The UK played an active role in negotiations on the resolution, working with EU partners and Japan to ensure a strong first draft, with clear language on accountability. Officials lobbied hard to ensure the resolution would pass, as did I both during my own visit to Geneva at the beginning of the Council and subsequently.
The reports of human rights violations in the DPRK that are documented by the COI are systematic and deeply disturbing. It is incumbent on the international community to respond. This resolution is a good start.
On 31 March 2014, during a pre-planned and pre-advised live-fire exercise, a small number of DPRK artillery shells landed in waters south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow sea. The South Korean military responded with its own artillery fire into waters on the northern side of the NLL. There were no reported casualties. We would urge both sides to exercise restraint and not to retaliate further. We do not believe this incident is connected to the COI.
UN Human Rights Council (Sri Lanka)
Further to my written ministerial statement of 18 March 2014, Official Report, column 40WS, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution on Sri Lanka on 27 March. This resolution calls for an international investigation into allegations of violations and abuses of international law on both sides during the civil war, and for progress on reconciliation, human rights and a political settlement. The British Government are pleased with this outcome and strongly believe that it was the right decision.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister committed the UK to calling for an international investigation following his visit to Sri Lanka last year where he witnessed the situation on the ground first hand. The UK was an important co-sponsor of the resolution, alongside the US, Montenegro, Macedonia and Mauritius.
The passing of this resolution sends an important and strong message to the Sri Lankan Government—that they must address the grievances of the recent past in order to help secure lasting peace and reconciliation, and a prosperous future for all the people of Sri Lanka. The resolution represents a significant step forward in ensuring the truth is established for the Sri Lankan people.
By voting in favour of this resolution, the international community has shown that it has listened to the many independent voices, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights herself and domestic support in Sri Lanka, calling for an international investigation and helped the UNHRC to establish a strong and unambiguous resolution. The United Kingdom will continue to work with the UNHRC and our international partners to ensure proper implementation of this resolution. We encourage the Sri Lankan Government fully to co-operate with the resolution, and to work alongside the international community for the benefit of its people.
It is important also to recognise that Sri Lanka is an extraordinary country with enormous potential and the end of the conflict presents an opportunity for it to become a strong and prosperous nation. This resolution will help to address the legitimate concerns of all communities. It presents an opportunity to tackle the root causes of conflict, continued human rights concerns and set Sri Lanka on the right path for reconciliation. We hope that the Sri Lankan Government will embrace that opportunity.
The Government have consulted on whether to relax licensing hours nationally for England matches with late kick-off times during the FIFA World cup in June and July 2014. Following this, the Government have decided to relax licensing hours nationally to mark England’s participation in the tournament.
The relaxation of licensing hours will relate to the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and the provision of late night refreshment in licensed premises in England, at specified dates and times only.
Today I am publishing the Government response to the consultation.
A copy of the Government response to the consultation will be placed in the House Library. It is also available at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/world-cup-licensing-hours.
European Police College (Relocation)
The Government have decided to opt in to the member state initiative for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council to relocate the European Police College (CEPOL) from Bramshill (UK) to Budapest (Hungary) (European Union Document Nos. 2013/0812 (COD), ENFOPOL 395 CODEC 2773 PARLNAT 307).
The current CEPOL Council decision states that the headquarters of CEPOL shall be in Bramshill. The draft regulation replaces the part of the CEPOL Council decision that specifies Bramshill, with a statement that the seat shall be in Budapest. The Bramshill site is owned by the Home Office, and is also currently used by the College of Policing. The site costs the Home Office £5 million per annum to run, and is not economically viable. The Home Secretary therefore decided in December 2012 that Bramshill should be sold. It was placed on the market in the summer with a listing price of £20 million to £25 million, and we are on schedule to complete the sale by March 2015. The sale of Bramshill means that we will be unable to continue housing CEPOL there.
The publication of the draft regulation is an important step towards ensuring that CEPOL vacates the Bramshill site in good time for any sale. Buyers would expect vacant possession, so in the context of securing the sale it is very much in UK interests to support the proposal. CEPOL have been guaranteed occupation of the site until September 2014, as the new site in Budapest will not be ready to house CEPOL until the end of August 2014.
We are keen to co-operate fully in the process of moving CEPOL from Bramshill to its new location. To give CEPOL staff some much needed assurance this process needs to be completed quickly. The regulation has been helpfully progressed in the EU to accommodate our objectives in moving CEPOL from Bramshill.
Annual Assessment of Policing (England and Wales)
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has today laid before Parliament his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales in accordance with section 54 of the Police Act 1996. Copies are available at: www.hmic.gov.uk and in the Vote Office.
Court and Tribunal Reform
My noble Friend the Ministry of Justice, Lord Faulks QC, has made the following written ministerial statement:
In a written ministerial statement made by my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on 26 March 2013, Official Report, column 94WS, he set out his intentions for officials to begin exploring proposals for the reform of the resourcing and administration of the courts and tribunals service.
This work has now concluded and today the Lord Chief Justice, the Senior President of Tribunals and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice will announce a programme of reform to deliver—through the use of modem technology, an improved estate and modernisation of current working practices—a more effective, efficient and high performing courts and tribunals administration that will improve the services provided to the public at a significantly lower cost.
This reform will be led and implemented by the board of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, an agency accountable to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals.
A copy of the announcement the Lord Chief Justice, the Senior President of Tribunals and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice will make will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Electoral Commission Committee
Individual Electoral Registration
The Electoral Commission has today published an update on its assessment of overall progress in preparing for the transition to individual electoral registration (IER), which is due to commence in June 2014. This follows on from its assessment published in October 2013. The report also includes its assessment of electoral registration officers’ (EROs) performance in 2013, including its assessment of how well EROs are performing against the first of two new standards that have been specifically designed to support them in preparing for and delivering the transition to IER from June 2014.
The Commission’s report makes it clear that since its last assessment of IER readiness, significant progress has been made. While more work remains to be done to ensure the required IT system and contingency arrangements are in place ahead of the start of the transition in June 2014, other areas of concern—such as the allocation of funding to EROs—have now been resolved. In addition, the Cabinet Office has detailed delivery plans in place for the final testing of the IT systems and has good relationships and agreements in place with their key delivery partners. It will be important for all those involved in preparing the IT systems for use to support the Cabinet Office fully in this final phase.
Progress has also been made in developing contingency arrangements but full information on contingency planning and the technical support available to EROs during the transition has not yet been shared with EROs. The Cabinet Office should finalise the detail of this work and communicate it to EROs and their staff as soon as possible. In the case of both the IT system and contingency arrangements, the Commission will continue to monitor progress closely.
The Commission’s report also sets out the conclusions of its assessment of all EROs’ public engagement strategies and found that they all have the right plans in place to identify the challenges for their particular local area and what mechanisms they will use to engage with residents to maximise registration.
Assessing ERO’s 2013 performance at the 2013 canvass against the existing household registration standards, the Electoral Commission found the vast majority met all their standards. However, five in England did not meet the house-to-house enquiry standard in 2013, down from 30 that did not meet the same standard in 2012. House-to house canvassing is a crucial element in ensuring the registers are as complete and accurate as possible during the transition to IER and the Commission is therefore working with those EROs to ensure they have plans in place for household canvassing as part of the move to IER.
The Commission will continue to monitor and support EROs during the transition to IER, ensuring that they deliver the activities set out in their plans and engagement strategies, to ensure that the potential of IER to deliver more accessible, more trusted and more secure voting registers is realised.
These activities have been designed to ensure that the Commission is able to answer important questions at crucial points during the transition process, including informing the ministerial decision, which will need to be taken very soon after the UK general election in May 2015, on whether to bring the end point for IER transition forward from the current date in December 2016 to December 2015.
The Commission’s report has been placed in the Library and is available on its website here: http://www. electoralcommission.org.uk/.