Tuesday 1 April 2014
Business, Innovation and Skills
Intellectual Property Office
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Viscount Younger, has today made the following statement:
As an Executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, we set targets which are agreed by Ministers and laid before Parliament. For 2014-15 our targets are:
Deliver the infrastructure and supporting regulations required for the UK’s orphan works and extended collective licensing schemes by the end of the year;
Offer faster handling of patent applications, by providing an examination report with a search report when both are requested at the application date, and meeting at least 90% of requests for an accelerated two-month turnaround for search, publication and examination;
Publish 80% of acceptable applications for national trade marks for opposition within 90 days of filing:
Ensure customer satisfaction is at least 80%;
With our partners, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the European Commission, deliver an international enforcement summit that provides an effective forum for the discussion and debate of intellectual property (IP) enforcement globally, and attracts an international audience, by summer 2014;
Reach an audience of 5 million people with messages to build respect for IP by the end of March 2015;
Reach an audience of 10,000 businesses through our online tool “IP for Business” by the end of March 2015;
Ensure 95% of our managers have completed a management development activity by the end of March 2015;
Achieve a 4% return on capital employed (ROCE);
Deliver an efficiency gain of 3.5%.
These targets reflect the purpose of the Intellectual Property Office, which is to promote innovation by providing a clear, accessible and widely understood IP system.
Improving licensing by delivering the Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing Schemes by the end of the year
Modernising the designs framework
Promoting UK growth through IP policy
Pursuing preparations for ratification and implementation of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court Agreement
Reforming EU Trade Mark law
Influencing continuing EU debate on the future copyright framework for Europe in line with UK interests
Delivering Global Patent Reform
Modernising our patents service
Delivering high-quality rights granting services
Modernising our technological infrastructure
Digital by Default —enhancing our digital service
Helping UK companies which are IP rich trade more internationally
Working with UK and international enforcement agencies to help reduce the flow of counterfeit goods into the UK
Enabling business to understand, use and protect their IP and educating consumers to respect others’IP rights
Supporting operational IP enforcement activities alongside our partners, including the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Trading Standards
Delivering an international enforcement summit
Facilitating the use of IP as a financial asset
Delivering a suite of tools to encourage university lecturers to bring IP into course material and to build students understanding of IP
Developing effective leaders, managers and change managers
Improving the skills and capacity of our people
Implementing a new total reward package
Continuing to embed Lean into our culture
Implementing corporate shared services
Increasing efficiency and delivering value for money
Delivering better buying
Developing simpler ways of working
Communities and Local Government
As part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, the biggest package of business rate support in over 20 years, announced in the autumn statement, goes live today. This package of measures will make a massive difference for small shop owners and help businesses and the high streets across the country build a stronger economy.
The package includes:
a new £1,000 business rates discount for small shops, restaurants and pubs for 2014-15 and 2015-16;
a further extension of small business rate relief;
a new reoccupation relief to help get empty shops back into use;
the opportunity for firms to choose to pay bills over 12 month instalments to help them with their cash flow; and
capping the annual indexation at 2% this year.
I have today placed in the Library of the House estimates that each individual local authority has made of the number of retail premises, pubs and restaurants that will benefit from the new £1,000 business rates discount. Overall, councils estimate that they will provide more than £272 million of retail relief in 2014-15.
The £1,000 discount applies to eligible businesses with a rateable value of £50,000 or less, and is being delivered by local billing authorities using their Localism Act powers to provide new local discounts. In this case, the entire cost will be met by central Government. Local authorities are locally determining eligibility, given the diversity of different types of retail hereditament. My Department published on 29 January guidance to assist local authorities in ensuring that eligible local firms receive the support they deserve. A copy of that guidance is also in the Library of the House.
I have also today published guidance to assist authorities in their administration of the new reoccupation relief. Ratepayers that move into retail premises that have been empty for 12 months or more will be eligible for an 18-month 50% discount off their rates bill. This reoccupation relief is intended to encourage reoccupation of shops that have been empty for a long period of time and to reward businesses that make this happen. Businesses moving into previously empty retail premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016 should be eligible for this relief A copy of the guidance to authorities is also in the Library of the House.
I would encourage hon. Members to draw these measures to the attention of local firms and shops, and ensure that all eligible firms are benefiting from the range of financial assistance open to them.
Civil Court System (Fees)
I have today laid and published the Government’s response to part one of the consultation “Court Fees, Proposals for Reform” which ran from 3 December 2013 to 21 January 2014.
For many years, the civil court system has operated under the principle that those who use the courts should pay the full cost of the service they receive. However, this has not yet been achieved in practice and, last year, the deficit was more than £100 million. At a time when we have made deficit reduction our top priority, the Government do not believe that the courts can be immune from the tough decisions we have had to take in order to bring public spending in line with what we can afford.
It was within this context that the consultation outlined the Government’s approach to reducing the cost of the court system to the taxpayer in two parts. The first part “Cost recovery” set out proposals to align court fees with the cost of the service provided, to move closer to our long-term goal of cost recovery through fees. The second part “Enhanced charging” set out proposals to charge users of some court services more than their cost, where they can afford to do so.
We received 162 responses to the consultation from a range of stakeholders including the judiciary, legal representative bodies, voluntary organisations, business representatives, and members of the public.
Having carefully considered the views of stakeholders, the paper published today sets out the proposals we intend to take forward in response to the cost recovery proposals in part one of the consultation. The Government will announce their response to enhanced charging proposals in part two of the consultation to this House in due course.
The changes set out in the consultation response will see fees rise for some court users so that they will pay the full cost of the service they receive, reducing the taxpayer subsidy for those able to afford higher fees and ensuring that in cases such as judicial review, those bringing claims have a more proportionate share in the financial risks of the proceedings.
In building the package of changes, the Government have sought to continue to protect the most vulnerable court users. Those with limited financial means will be able to access a system of fee remissions to ensure that they are not denied access to the courts. In addition, the scrapping of the £75 application fee for domestic violence injunctions will help thousands of women seeking non-molestation and occupation orders, while the decision to freeze many fees in family applications at current levels will assist those who need to access the courts to resolve difficult family issues.
The Government will be laying the relevant statutory instruments to implement most of the changes announced in the consultation response today and the changes will take effect on 22 April 2014.
Copies of the consultation response will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
An online version of this consultation paper will be available at:
Parole Board Rules
My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks, has made the following written ministerial statement:
I have signed the Parole Board (Amendment) Rules 2014 Order which amends the Parole Board Rules 2011 to remove the requirement that a judge should sit on and chair Parole Board oral panels hearing the cases of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or a sentence during Her Majesty’s pleasure. As a consequence, the chairman of the Parole Board will be able to appoint any member, including sitting or retired judges, to sit on or chair such panels.
This approach will enable the Parole Board to adopt a flexible approach in assessing which of its members are best able to sit on and chair oral panels involving life sentence prisoners. Oral hearing panels, which do not include sitting or retired judges, already consider determinate cases and cases involving sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). These cases can be just as difficult and complex as the cases of life sentenced prisoners.
The Parole Board already assesses non-judicial members as to whether they possess sufficient skills and experience to be effective in chairing IPP cases. Following the amendment of the 2011 rules, the process of assessment and additional training will be extended to all members in respect of serving on and chairing life sentence panels.
This Government regard the protection of the public as a priority and this change will help us create a more effective and efficient criminal justice system and will allow greater flexibility, given the demands on a sitting judge’s time.
Airspace Restrictions (Glasgow Commonwealth Games)
The 20th Commonwealth games are due to take place in Glasgow this summer. While overall responsibility for the security of the games rests with Police Scotland, aviation is a matter reserved to the UK Parliament under devolution legislation. Police Scotland has, therefore, requested that the Government develop a set of temporary airspace restrictions from 13 July to 6 August to help protect the games venues from potential airborne risks.
Initial proposals were developed during the autumn of last year, based on a scaled-down version of the model used successfully during the London 2012 Olympic games. Police Scotland, working with colleagues from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has subsequently engaged extensively with aviation representatives from the airports located within the proposed airspace restrictions to test the proposals and to develop mitigations to minimise the impact on business as usual.
As a result of that engagement work the Government, with the assistance of the CAA, refined their proposals and have now prepared the necessary statutory instruments to give effect to the temporary airspace restrictions that will be put in place for the Commonwealth games. NATS, the UK’s en route air traffic service provider and publisher of the UK’s aeronautical information, will be publishing the details of these regulations on 17 April 2014 in a number of aeronautical information circulars. In addition, full details of the planned airspace restrictions, including maps, will be published on the airspace safety initiative website at www.airspacesafety.com
In total there are six sets of regulations, two covering the Glasgow area (a core prohibited zone over the city’s Commonwealth games venues and athletes’ village, surrounded by a larger restricted zone), and four smaller restrictions of shorter duration, protecting specific events—the cycling time trials at Muirhead, the triathlon events at Strathdyde country park, the diving competition at the Royal Commonwealth pool in Edinburgh and the shooting competition at the Barry Buddon range near Dundee.
All the regulations have been designed to allow aviation business to continue as usual so far as possible, while ensuring the safety and security of the Commonwealth games. They also provide specific exemptions for aircraft such as those operated by the police or emergency medical services to enter the protected airspace. We do not expect that any airports within the restricted airspace will need to close as a result of the planned measures, and there should be no impact on scheduled air services that will be vital to competitors, officials and spectators.
The Government’s paramount objective is the delivery of a safe and secure 2014 Commonwealth games for all, and the airspace restrictions will help to provide this while minimising the impact on the aviation community, so far as possible. However, the Government reserve the right to implement additional airspace security measures should the need arise.
HGV Road User Levy
For the benefit of Members of the House, I am pleased to announce that from 00:00 this morning, all HGVs at or above 12 tonnes using UK roads have been required to pay a new time-based road user charge, the HGV road user levy. The introduction of the levy is a coalition Government commitment, and following the introduction of the HGV Road User Levy Bill in October 2012, has been delivered nearly a year ahead of schedule.
The introduction of such a measure in the UK has been called for over many years by our domestic haulage industry. The levy must be paid by foreign-registered and UK-registered HGVs alike, and creates a fairer system by removing some of the inequality UK hauliers feel when paying to use many roads abroad. The introduction of the levy ensures all HGVs make a contribution to the costs of UK road maintenance, irrespective of their country of origin.
The levy is structured in a series of bands to reflect vehicle type, maximum weight and axle configuration, with heavier, more road wearing HGVs paying the most. For a given vehicle type, the annual rates of levy and six-month rate of levy are the same for foreign and UK-registered HGVs.
The vast majority of UK hauliers will notice no difference. For over nine out of 10 UK-registered HGVs, the cost of the levy will be fully offset by reductions in vehicle excise duty (VED). The levy will be paid alongside VED in a single transaction so that unnecessary administration costs are not incurred.
Foreign HGVs must pay the levy before they use UK roads and can purchase for between a day and a year, with discounts available for longer periods. The introduction of the levy is one of a number of initiatives designed to help the haulage industry. We have introduced a trial of longer semi-trailers. We are spending £6 billion on maintaining motorway and trunk roads between 2015-16 and 2020-21 and providing over 500 miles of additional lane capacity to the strategic road network.
Duty on standard diesel is now lower than it was in October 2010. VED on HGVs has remained frozen during this Parliament and we have announced a decade’s worth of lower levels of duty for methane gas fuelled HGVs. The introduction of the levy is expected to bring in circa £20 million in taxation revenue and could lead to economic benefits through international haulage market share increases.
For ease of use, foreign operators making regular visits to the UK have been encouraged to pay online using registered accounts on gov.uk. Infrequent visitors to the UK can chose to “pay and go” and can make purchases online, at some point of sale facilities or by phone.
Non-payment of the levy is a criminal offence. The offence will generally be dealt with at the roadside via a fixed penalty notice of £300. On summary conviction a fine of up to level 5 on the standard scale—currently £5,000—will be payable for non-compliance. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are leading on levy enforcement in Great Britain, and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland. Both agencies intend to enforce the levy through a combination of additional targeted stops and as part of existing road safety related stops. The police also have enforcement powers.
Work and Pensions
Office for Nuclear Regulation
Today, I am announcing that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has been created as the new independent statutory regulator of the nuclear sector. This follows my signing of an Order under part 3 of the Energy Act 2013 for this purpose. The ONR will operate as a public corporation.
The new ONR is responsible for the regulation of nuclear safety, nuclear site health and safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards and the transport of radioactive material.
As a public corporation outside of Government, the new regulator has increased agility to address the regulatory demands of an expanding nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public.
The Government announced plans in February 2011 for primary legislation to create this new regulatory body. The Energy Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in December last year, and its associated secondary legislation, provides the statutory basis for the new body’s operations.