Thursday 10 July 2014
Business, Innovation and Skills
National Physical Laboratory
I want to update the House on the progress since my statement of 27 November 2012, Official Report, column 6WS.
Following a formal competitive process, I have selected the universities of Strathclyde and Surrey to work to develop a strategic partnership with Government and NPL. This new partnership will help to provide future leadership of NPL, subject to reaching a formal agreement.
The partners’ proposal provided the best opportunities to meet the objective set out in November 2012 at the beginning of this process to strengthen both fundamental research and engagement with business by applying measurement science to support innovation and growth. My aims continue to be:
Bring greater expertise and intellectual flexibility to strengthen the laboratory’s science;
Make better use of the existing facilities by strengthening the laboratory’s links with its academic partners, through new and existing collaborations with academia and industry;
Encourage greater interaction with business, driven by closer integration of existing innovation infrastructure and commercial activity; and
Make better use of the site at Teddington by granting partners access to our spare capacity.
A partnership with an academic institution would also allow for the formation of a dedicated applied science postgraduate institute.
Scientific research is often limited by what can practically be measured. NPL’s research pushes this boundary and works with industry to apply this knowledge in practice—making a real difference to people’s lives and livelihoods. The universities will work closely with BIS and NPL on the future science strategy, enabling the partnership to boost NPL’s status and international influence as a world-leading National Measurement Institute, as well as strengthening its engagement with business. At the same time the universities will benefit from strengthening their own scientific excellence.
The strategic partnership offers exciting prospects to enhance the reach and impact of NPL’s science and commercial activities. NPL will continue to work with a wide range of academic and industrial partners both across the UK and internationally.
In the new arrangement, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will own the operating company, NPL Management Ltd, in a change to the current arrangement whereby NPL has been operated under a Government-owned contractor-operated arrangement.
Financial Conduct Authority
The annual report and accounts 2013-14 of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today been laid before Parliament.
Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses. The report forms an important part of the accountability mechanisms for the Financial Conduct Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), and assesses the performance of the Financial Conduct Authority over the past 12 months against its statutory objectives.
Fiscal Sustainability Report
Today the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published its fourth fiscal sustainability report (FSR). This document meets their requirement to annually prepare an analysis of the sustainability of the public finances, and provides an important insight into the state of the public finances and the impact that demographic change will have. The report was laid before Parliament earlier today and copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.
According to the OBR’s analysis, policy action taken by the Government over the past year has had a substantial positive impact on long-term fiscal sustainability, reducing the projected level of debt in 2063-64 by 66% of GDP. As a result of demographic change, debt is projected to rise to 84% of GDP by 2063-64, and in the absence of policy change the OBR projects that net debt would have risen to 150% of GDP in 2063-64. This improvement is in the context of updated population projection from the Office for National Statistics which has revised up the projected scale of the demographic challenge.
Nevertheless, the FSR’s key conclusion is that,
“longer-term spending pressures, if unaddressed, would put the public finances on an unsustainable path".
As the OBR notes in its analysis, this is due to the spending pressure generated by an ageing population, which is projected to increase age-related spending by 4.8% of GDP from 2018-19 to 2063-64.
In addition to projecting the impact of demographic change on public spending, the FSR examines the long-term sustainability of tax revenues. It has projected that tax revenues will remain at a relatively constant share of GDP from 2018-19 onwards, but has highlighted the challenges faced by sources of revenue in decline, particularly revenues from North sea oil and gas.
Notably, the FSR’s projections of state pension expenditure incorporate the Government’s announcement at autumn statement 2013 that the regular reviews of the state pension age will be guided by the principle that people should expect to spend, on average, up to a third of adult life receiving the state pension.
Setting the state pension age with regard to life expectancy reduces the risk that future Governments would have to take emergency action to ensure sustainable public finances, as it allows the Government to respond regularly to changes in demographic data. The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have also advocated the introduction of linking pension spending to life expectancy. The OBR projects that this policy change will have a substantial positive impact on long-term fiscal sustainability, with state pension spending projected to be 0.9% of GDP lower and debt 17% of GDP lower by 2063-64 than if the state pension age had risen with currently legislated changes.
The new state pension age guiding principle complements reforms which have already been made to state pensions, such as the single tier. The new simple state pension for future pensioners, set at a level above the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit, will not cost any more than the current system overall and enable individuals to plan for retirement with greater certainty. The OBR projects that by 2063-64, the new system will generate savings of around 0.5% of GDP.
Reforms to the state pension come alongside the Government’s reforms to public service pensions, which will rebalance taxpayer and member contributions in the short term while ensuring costs are sustainable and fair in the long term. New scheme designs, the rebalancing of costs between members and taxpayers and switching to uprating by the consumer prices index (CPI) is projected to lead to savings of 0.6% of GDP a year by the 2060s.
The Government are committed to ensuring that our public finances are put on, and remain on, a sustainable path for the long-term. The OBR analysis makes it very clear that the Government’s medium-term fiscal consolidation plan is the most vital step towards achieving long term fiscal sustainability.
As part of this commitment, both parties of the coalition have agreed that once debt as a percentage of GDP begins to fall in 2016-17, it should continue to fall in future years. At autumn statement 2013 the Government announced that over the course of this year they will review the fiscal framework and that the outcome of this review will inform an updated Charter for Budget Responsibility to be presented to Parliament alongside autumn statement 2014.
As part of its public service reform seminar series announced at Budget 2014, the Government will hold a seminar on long-term sustainability with a focus on health care and technology, and how advances in technology can be harnessed to deliver efficient, cost-effective health services in the future.
In March 2014, I published the results of the first evaluation of tax arrangements for off-payroll contracts in the public sector following the introduction of tighter rules in May 2012 when I published “The Review of the tax arrangements of public sector appointees”.
For senior management where the tax arrangements of individuals should not be open to question, the May 2012 review specified that, regardless of their tax arrangements, board-level officials and those with significant financial responsibility should be on the payroll of the Department or other employing body. This is unless there are exceptional circumstances, and such exceptions should not exist for longer than six months.
Two Departments, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport, each received a fine for failing to ensure that senior appointments are on-payroll within six months of appointment.
I am continuing to monitor compliance with these rules and have recently identified a breach at the Land Registry, where a senior Land Registry board member was engaged off-payroll for longer than six months. As a result, a fine of £1,030,176, the largest for an off-payroll breach so far, has been imposed on the Land Registry for breaking these rules.
I have also written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, as the parent Department for the Land Registry, asking him to set out the action he will take to hold the Land Registry to account.
While the vast majority of off-payroll contracts are in place for legitimate reasons, I am committed to ensuring that the public sector demonstrates the highest standards in this area. I will continue to monitor compliance to ensure this is the case.
Customs Infringements and Sanctions (EU Legal Framework)
I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions.
This measure proposes to introduce an EU-wide set of customs infringements and associated sanctions. The objective of this directive is to improve the functioning of the single market by attempting to align better the range of infringements and sanctions imposed by member states. The directive is designed to support the recently updated Union customs code, which is the main body of EU law that sets down the rules on customs procedures and related matters and which will come into effect in 2016.
Financial Ombudsman Service
The annual report and accounts 2013-14 of the Financial Ombudsman Service has today been laid before Parliament.
The report forms an important part of the accountability mechanisms for the Financial Ombudsman Service under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), and assesses the performance of the Financial Ombudsman Service over the past 12 months in discharging its functions.
Communities and Local Government
The coalition Government are committed to devolving down power to local communities—not just to local councils, but down further to local neighbourhoods, parishes and local residents. The Localism Act introduced a series of new community rights, including neighbourhood planning.
Under the last Administration, planning policy had become the preserve of regional quangos, municipal officers and NGOs, rather than local people. Neighbourhood planning has changed this by giving communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and deliver the sustainable development they need. Local communities can, for example, choose to set planning policies through a neighbourhood plan that is then used in determining planning applications. The Government remain strongly committed to encouraging the preparation of neighbourhood plans, allowing local people to get the right type of development for their communities, while still meeting the needs of the wider area.
It is clear that communities have positively embraced these new powers, which go far beyond the traditional approach and also ensure real community involvement at every stage of the process. The number of areas having taken the first step in creating a neighbourhood plan by applying for neighbourhood area designation recently passed 1,000, and the 20 successful referendums so far have shown that local residents are succeeding in using their new power, creating plans that are now being used in determining applications and shaping development. This trend is set to continue.
The Secretary of State is keen that all planning appeal decisions should reflect the Government’s clear policy intention when introducing neighbourhood planning, which was to provide a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure they get the right types of development for their community, while also planning positively to support strategic development needs. He is therefore keen to give particular scrutiny to planning appeals in, or close to, neighbourhood plan areas to enable him to consider the extent to which the Government’s intentions are being achieved on the ground.
To this end, he proposes to amend the criteria for consideration of the recovery of planning appeals to include: proposals for residential development of over 10 units in areas where a qualifying body has submitted a neighbourhood plan proposal to the local planning authority: or where a neighbourhood plan has been made.
For the avoidance of doubt, planning “recovery” should not be confused with “call-in”—where the original application decision is taken away from the council and made by Ministers. Recovery involves Ministers making appeal decisions that would otherwise be made by the Planning Inspectorate.
This new criterion is added to the recovery policy of 30 June 2008, Official Report, column 43WS, and will be applied for a period of 12 months from today, after which it will be reviewed. This does not mean that all such appeals will be recovered, but that the Secretary of State is likely to recover a number of appeals.
New Homes (Change of Use)
In May 2013, the coalition Government introduced legislation that allows offices to convert to homes without having to apply for planning permission. This has had a positive effect creating much needed new homes. In January 2014, six months after coming into force, a survey carried out by the Estates Gazette found that more than 2,250 applications for change of use from office to residential had been made. In May, a report by Knight Frank corroborated the extent to which the policy has helped provide new homes, with applications for prior approval for conversions now standing at an estimated 3.2 million square feet.
We recognise that there may be very local reasons that mean such permitted development rights might not always be appropriate. In these circumstances local authorities can issue what is known as an article 4 direction. The national planning policy framework states article 4 directions should only be used in limited situations where it is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area. The Government’s planning guidance specifies that there should be particularly strong justification to withdraw permitted development rights where a direction applies to a wide area or where prior approval powers are available to control development.
In my written ministerial statement of 6 February 2014, Official Report, column 29WS, I reported that the London Borough of Islington had issued a blanket article 4 direction which had been applied to the whole borough, outside of the central activities zone. As at the time of introducing the permitted development right we granted an exemption for the central activities zone, the (non-immediate) article 4 direction had the intended effect of removing office to home conversion permitted development rights from the entire borough area. National planning policy and guidance is clear that such expansive article 4 directions require particularly strong justification, given the clearly stated public policy goal of liberalising the planning rules and helping provide more homes. It was my view that the council had not provided this justification and therefore it was given an opportunity to narrow its direction.
Ministers have considered Islington’s proposal for the article 4 direction to apply to a reduced area but determined, in light of the tests set out in national policy and guidance, that it remains unacceptably expansive and unjustified. Taking into account the background of the significant need for new housing in London particularly, Ministers have taken steps to cancel Islington’s article 4 direction in relation to class J of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.
This coalition Government are committed to providing more homes on brownfield land, and our change of use reforms are helping deliver these without burdening taxpayers. These conversions coming forward will help offer competitively priced properties, accessible to hard-working people. Those who seek to oppose these changes need to spell out exactly where they think new homes should go instead, given the pressing demand for housing and the need to protect England’s beautiful countryside.
This revocation should send a strong message to the housing industry that we will act to provide certainty and confidence in our change of use reforms, supporting new investment in homes and helping bring underused property back into productive use as housing.
Culture, Media and Sport
First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund
I am today publishing the list of successful bidders to the first round of the first world war centenary cathedral repairs fund.
The £20 million fund, which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Budget 2014, will enable cathedrals to undertake urgent repair work. Cathedrals are powerful symbols of Britain’s shared history and will be especially important as the nation comes together to commemorate the centenary of the first world war.
The fund will run for two years and grants to cathedrals will be allocated three times during this period: in July 2014, October 2014 and February 2015. Decisions on funding allocations are taken by an expert panel which considers the grant applications against the published criteria for the scheme and decides which cathedrals should receive funding. The panel is chaired by Sir Paul Ruddock and includes senior figures from English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Church of England and the Catholic Church, as well as church architects, architectural historians and grant-giving experts.
I am pleased to confirm that the panel has decided to allocate funding of almost £5 million to 22 cathedrals in the first round. These are as follows:
High level repairs to the roofs and timberwork
Conservation and repair of masonry to the South Porch
Replace the North West Tower lead roof, which is home to the Sailor’s Chapel that remembers those lost at sea and have no known grave. It contains artefacts from both World Wars.
To complete urgent stabilisation and repair work.
Essential works to provide emergency and adequate lighting.
Essential remedial work on the Medieval origin steeply pitched high roofs as sections have collapsed and broken away.
Conservation work on masonry and glass in the 15th century Lady Chapel.
Replace the sound system.
Remediation work on stone, windows and glass.
Conservation and restoration work of masonry on the West Front NW Turret.
Repairs to the first bays of the nave aisles and the Welsford and Rankin Porches.
Newcastle St. Mary's
Replacing defective external stonework.
Removal and repair stained glass windows.
Three windows to be re-leaded to ensure they are weather-proof.
Repair pre-Reformation Library, the vestry roof and related external works.
External repair and conservation.
Replace asphalt gutters with lead linings to ensure it is water-tight and replace the lead covering to the south facing slope of the nave.
Southwark St. George's
Renewal of 1980s gas boilers and electrical intake to end frequent power and energy failures.
Repairs to the west front and its main entrance as well as to medieval stonework on the west porches.
Repair storm damage from February this year.
Re-cover the asphalt roof of the nave.
Repairs and weatherproofing to the ceiling of the Cathedral Library
Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre
In October 2011, my predecessor updated the House on progress towards the creation of a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC). I am today announcing that the Ministry of Defence intends to transfer its rehabilitation centre at Headley Court to the Stanford Hall estate facility when it opens in 2017.
Rehabilitation medicine is advancing rapidly. For this reason, the feasibility of establishing a DNRC to put the UK at the forefront of this field, benefiting the armed forces and wider society, has been under consideration for a number of years.
The Duke of Westminster funded a feasibility study in 2010 and 2011, which concluded that there was convincing evidence that a DNRC would be able to build on the remarkable achievements of Headley Court by offering substantial “betterment” in virtually all areas, providing an assured level of future care that will surpass that which is offered by Headley Court’s current capabilities. Subsequently, the duke acquired a site in the east midlands and has gained detailed planning permission for the development of the new defence facility and outline permission for a civilian national rehabilitation centre on the same site. The designs for the defence establishment are very well advanced and have been drawn up with the significant engagement of the practitioners at Headley Court and the direct involvement of the MOD’s surgeon general.
The duke has led a major donor fundraising campaign to build the defence facility. Very significant progress has been made and he is confident that the overall sum required will be achieved in time for the establishment to open at the end of 2017, as originally forecast. The DNRC programme will now move to the tendering stage with a view to construction work starting in 2015.
Design of the civilian national facility to support NHS rehabilitative work has involved the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as health authorities in the east and west midlands and academic institutions. The outline permission for that facility at Stanford Hall envisages provision of a rehabilitation complex with the flexibility to encompass vocational rehabilitation, rehabilitation research and education, and to accommodate and support sports athletes with disabilities. The application was entered into on the basis that a full business case for the civilian national facility, which will determine the best mix of facilities, will be considered in 2016.
The Headley Court estate and premises is owned in its entirety by the trustees of the Headley Court Charity who have been involved in the DNRC project from the outset as a means of ensuring that the spirit and achievements of Headley Court are carried forward into the 21st century on a new, larger site, purpose-built to continue to do what Headley Court has always done so well. A dialogue with the charity’s trustees as to their intentions with regard to the future of the site is under way with the MOD.
Building on the success of Headley Court and the tremendous support it has received from Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and the many other service charities, the DNRC will ensure the continued provision of world-leading clinical rehabilitation to enable defence to care for the injured and the sick in the best possible way. The Help for Heroes facilities at Headley Court, an £8.5 million investment, will be replicated and upgraded at the Stanford Hall estate to achieve optimal clinical outcomes and the name “Help for Heroes Rehabilitation Complex” will be prominent in the new facilities. Key symbols of Help for Heroes at Headley Court, such as the Stretcher Bearer statue and the Pathway of Support, will also transfer to Stanford Hall.
I will update the House on plans for the future of Headley Court when they have been determined. I am grateful to the Duke of Westminster for his generosity and determination. I am confident that the new DNRC has the potential to drive significant further advances in rehabilitative medicine, building on the world-class experience of Headley Court.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
I would like to inform the House of progress in establishing and opening the new Diplomatic Academy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
When I opened the new Foreign Office Language Centre in September last year, I announced that we would also establish the first diplomatic academy in the Department’s history. Intensive preparations have been in hand since then.
The academy, which will be a central part of the Foreign Office with dedicated rooms including a library area within the King Charles street headquarters, is vital to building up the long-term strength and effectiveness of the Foreign Office as an institution. It is at the heart of my vision of a Foreign Office that is an international centre of ideas and expertise; that leads foreign policy thinking across Government; that is recognised as the best diplomatic service in the world; and that is able to defend our country’s interests in an unpredictable and competitive international landscape for the long term.
The academy will open in early 2015. It will enable continuous investment in the skills and expertise of our UK-based and locally-engaged staff. It will foster a culture where learning, expertise and collective memory are shared across the Foreign Office and retained for the future.
It will have 11 faculties covering key areas of diplomacy. These include law, languages, economic diplomacy, consular work, multilateral policy, and in-depth historical and geographic knowledge of nations and region. It will have curricula for staff at various levels, provided through self-study, tuition, seminars, master-classes and group activities. Most materials will be available digitally and therefore remotely, enabling Foreign Office staff overseas to draw fully on the academy. Staff in other Government Departments who work on international issues will also be able to participate, improving capability across Whitehall.
The work of the academy has already begun, with the dissemination of learning material around the overseas network and the start of master-classes in London. Curricula across the 11 faculties are being designed with corresponding course materials. There has been huge interest in the academy across Government, business groups and other Governments, and the academy is already demonstrating its value as a means of extending the UK’s soft power and diplomatic partnerships overseas.
Over the last four years we have been engaged in the biggest drive to build up the skills, capability and long-term institutional strength of the Foreign Office that the Department has ever seen. Diplomacy requires a unique and complex set of skills, expertise and experience, and I am determined the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should excel in those skills for decades to come.
The Diplomatic Academy, in tandem with the new Language Centre, the diplomatic excellence programme and the opening or upgrading of 18 new embassies and diplomatic posts around the world by 2015, will be a significant contribution to the long-term capability of the Foreign Office and the diplomatic weight and influence of our country overseas.
FCO Programme Spending 2014-15
In my statement to the House of 11 June 2013, Official Report, column 4WS, I set out the funding allocations for the FCO’s strategic programmes for the financial year 2013-14. I now wish to inform the House of our spending plans for financial year 2014-15, together with information on how we will deploy the funds effectively.
The FCO’s strategic programmes directly support the delivery of two of our foreign policy priorities: safeguarding the UK’s national security; and building the UK’s prosperity; plus our important work to promote the UK’s values. Our programmes allow us to work alongside Governments and civil society around the world to deliver projects which enhance our bilateral relationships, achieve our international objectives, and strengthen the UK’s position internationally.
The total allocation for financial year 2014-15 is £104.05 million, of which £76.5 million will count as official development assistance. This is a reduction of £29.5 million compared to last financial year, and is in line with a planned reduction in FCO programme spend during this Parliament. In order to live within our settlement, most programmes have been subject to some reduction this year. Some, however, have remained unchanged, some have seen a small increase and some new areas of expenditure were added. The allocations were made in accordance with our priorities, taking account of wider Government spending. We have ensured that the total FCO strategic programme fund remains above £100 million. As set out in the autumn statement, the FCO will receive additional ODA funding in 2015-16 and we therefore expect programme allocations to rise again in financial year 2015-16.
For financial year 2014-15,1 have allocated £21.75 million in the area of security; £22.52 million for prosperity work that includes £3 million funds for the GREAT campaign; and £59.78 million for bilateral, regional and human rights-related programmes.
Keeping British people safe from terrorism remains a top priority for the Foreign Office and the whole of Government. The FCO counter-terrorism programme fund (CTPF) is the main fund for terrorism-related assistance to foreign countries used by the FCO’s counter-terrorism department. This is complemented by other budgets used for counter-terrorism related activities and the tri-departmental (FCO, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence) conflict pool, as I set out in my statement to the House on 24 June 2014. The CTPF has been reduced this year as we redirect FCO resources to where they can have the most impact, and move some programmes to other Government Departments who are better placed to carry out that work. However, it remains one of the largest FCO programme funds. Our priority CT work this year includes aviation security and building counter-terrorism capacity in key regions such as Asia, the middle east and Africa.
We will also continue to support counter-proliferation work, including through strengthening the international rules-based system that underpins our efforts. We will remain engaged in Afghanistan during transition, working on law enforcement, security, governance, rule of law and democracy. We will work closely with Afghan partners to ensure UK-funded projects are sustained in the long term.
A new £1 billion conflict, stability and security fund will build on the success of the existing conflict pool by bringing together more resources for defence, diplomacy, development and security assistance to tackle the causes and manifestations of conflict and instability abroad. This work will be guided by the National Security Council.
In November 2011 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set a target of 100,000 more companies exporting by 2020 and, in the 2012 Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set a goal of doubling UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020. FCO, UKTI and BIS are working together to reach the £1 trillion target.
The FCO continues to support work to increase economic growth and meet this target by building the four conditions for global and UK growth, specifically working towards: openness—working for transparency and a strong, rules-based international economic system; sustainability—avoiding the dangers of climate change, seeking more affordable and secure energy supplies, working for a low-carbon economy, and promoting science and innovation; reputation—promoting Britain as an international partner of choice and an important destination for business, tourism and study; and opportunity—helping British companies win new business and promoting education and research partnerships and innovation as drivers of growth. The FCO’s work overseas complements the work undertaken in other Government Departments towards generating economic growth at home. The FCO’s prosperity fund projects relating to climate change are aimed to complement HMG funding on climate change, for example, through assisting with the development of low-carbon economic strategies in emerging countries.
The GREAT campaign is used by the FCO and other Government partners in over 140 countries to promote the UK as a world-class destination for business, investment, education and tourism. GREAT activity at home and abroad in 2013-14 is projected to generate economic benefits worth £600 million-£800 million to the British economy over the next five years.
The work to build our international influence will focus on promoting human rights, democracy and good governance. I allocated specific funds for the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict which took place in June. We will maintain our support for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; maintain the current number of scholarships, which are an important element in Britain’s public diplomacy effort and bring young professionals, with strong leadership potential, to study a wide range of academic disciplines including the humanities, science, the law and international relations in the UK. The programme offers scholars the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the UK and to build strong links with the UK. Over its 30 years Chevening has built up a large and influential alumni network of 43,000 scholars in more than 150 countries favourably disposed to the UK and ready to support our interests, with whom we maintain contact and many of whom have played a key role in helping us achieve our international objectives. We will maintain our commitment to the overseas territories; and we will continue to work with DFID on the Arab Partnership Participation Fund, delivering a UK strategic priority through long-term reform programmes which support the transition of countries such as Tunisia to more open and inclusive societies.
Hong Kong (Sino/British Joint Declaration)
The latest report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was published today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office). The report covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2104. I commend the report to the House.
Gosport War Memorial Hospital (Deaths)
Following the publication of the Baker report in August 2013 into higher than expected death rates of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial hospital between 1988 and 2000, families have continued to raise concerns about the initial care of their relatives and the subsequent investigations into their deaths. In order to try and address their concerns, and having given consideration to a number of alternative options, I am setting up an independent panel to review the documentary evidence held across a range of organisations.
I have asked Bishop James Jones to chair the panel. Having successfully steered the Hillsborough panel, he brings a wealth of expertise and experience to this work. He has begun to work with affected families, and will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months to ensure that the views of those most affected by these deaths are taken into account. I have also asked Christine Gifford, a recognised expert in the field of access to information, to work alongside him and the various organisations to ensure maximum possible disclosure of the documentary evidence to the panel.
I will further announce the details of the other panel members and agreed terms of reference in the autumn.
National Crime Agency Remuneration Review Body
The first report of the National Crime Agency (NCA) remuneration review body was published today. In line with my letter setting the body’s remit, it has made recommendations on pay and allowances for NCA officers designated with operational powers. I wish to express my thanks to the chairman and members of the review body for their careful consideration of the evidence.
Following an independent review of the evidence supplied by the NCA, the Home Office, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the relevant trade unions, the NCA remuneration review body has recommended various pay increases with an average annual award increase of approximately 1%. This is in line with the Government’s policy that public sector annual awards should average 1% for each of the two years following the public sector pay freeze. Additionally, in response to the NCA’s proposed amendments to its London weighting allowance, the review body has recommended that the NCA should conduct a full review of the allowance’s design, purpose and value. I accept these recommendations in full.
Copies of the NCA remuneration review body’s first report are available in the Vote Office and on www.gov.uk
Scientific Procedures on Living Animals
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House “Statistics of Scientific Procedures on living Animals, Great Britain 2013” (HC 372).
Overall, the annual statistical report shows a very small (0.3%) increase in the total number of procedures (4.12 million) performed during 2013 compared with 2012. Of the overall total, fewer than half (2.02 million) of the procedures were performed for purposes other than for breeding. This represents a 5% decrease in the number of such procedures compared with 2012. The majority were undertaken to breed genetically modified (GM) and harmful mutant (HM) animals. This represents an increase in such procedures of 6% compared with 2012.
Since 1995, the number of procedures undertaken for purposes other than to breed GM and HM animals has decreased by 16% whereas breeding to produce GM and HM animals has risen by 573%.
Procedures involving dogs, non-human primates, cats and horses (that is, specially protected species) have decreased by 23% since 1995 and, in 2013, accounted for only 0.4% of all procedures.
Mice, fish and rats were the most commonly used species in 2013, accounting for 93% of all the procedures carried out.
In 2013, the numbers of procedures for safety testing (toxicology) decreased by 0.5%. Since 1995, this use of animals has decreased by 45%.
The latest statistical report and supplementary information, including those for previous years, can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-of-scientific-procedures-on-living-animals
I am pleased to inform the House that I have also today placed in the Library the annual report of the Home Office “Animals in Science Regulation Unit” (ASRU) for the year 2013. The annual report can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/research-and-testing- using-animals
The report describes how the Home Office has delivered its responsibilities under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act to regulate the use of animals, implement the new regulations as part of the delivery of the transposed directive, and engage with stakeholders. The report also provides details of inspection and cases of non-compliance with the Act and the outcomes of those cases completed in 2013.
The actual severity experienced by each animal used will be reported in the statistics from 2014 onwards and I welcome this change. The annual report describes a pilot study carried out to test the process of collecting and reporting such data. The results of this small sample showed over 80% of procedures to be mild, with 11% moderate and 2% reported as severe. The remaining 5% were considered to fall below the threshold for reporting.
A key area of ASRU’s work is promoting the 3Rs (replacement, refinement and reduction) which is at the heart of a coalition commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. In February of this year, together with the Minister for Universities and Science in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Earl Howe, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for quality, Department of Health, I published a delivery plan with a framework of measurable actions for delivering the commitment through a science-led programme across Government, its agencies, the research community in both academia and industry, and animal welfare organisations. The scientific and economic arguments to use alternatives to animals in research are now as strong as the moral one. I fully support the drive to develop methods to reduce the use of animals and which will also deliver fast, high quality research and boost the UK’s economic growth through cutting-edge competitiveness. My ministerial colleagues and I will report on progress in early 2015.
Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act provides for the protection of information, given in confidence, in connection with regulatory activities under the Act. I am committed to enhancing openness and transparency about the use of animals in scientific research, and I launched earlier this year a public consultation to review section 24 to which there has been a substantial response. Once I have given proper consideration to the views expressed I will publish the Government’s response. I intend to make changes to the legislation during this Parliament.
The coalition Government expects all licensed establishments to foster a strong culture of commitment to their compliance with all aspects of the regulations and their implementation. As the regulatory authority, the Home Office ensures that the provisions of the Act are rigorously applied and only authorises work that is justified and that minimises both the numbers of animals used and the animal suffering that may be caused. Earlier this year, to assist establishments to ensure their compliance, we published the guidance on the operation of the Act. In this, we explain in detail how we administer and enforce the Act, and also how we expect duty holders to deliver on their responsibilities.
In December I commissioned the Animals in Science Committee (ASC) to provide me with an independent report to consider lessons to be learnt from reviews and investigations into non-compliance stemming from allegations of non-compliance at Imperial College London (ICL). The ASC report was published on 2 July 2014 and I have today published my consideration of their advice.
The ASC found no evidence of omission on the part of ASRU and its inspectors in their oversight of ICL. I welcome and endorse their confidence in the work of inspectors. Nevertheless, the ASC report makes several sensible recommendations to support inspectors in achieving improvement in establishments where a pattern of low-level concerns is apparent. The outcome of all the ASC’s recommendations should be to drive better practice across all licensed establishments and I intend to ensure these improvements are made. I therefore propose to fully accept all the recommendations.
It is not acceptable for individuals to fall short of the obligations placed upon them as duty holders under the Act. The provision of a licence entrusts duty holders to uphold their legal obligations and to ensure the highest standards of animal care and welfare at all times. In this respect, I need to have total confidence in all those responsible for compliance under the Act.
I have discussed the ASC report with ICL and have now been informed by them that the current establishment licence holder has agreed to step down from holding that responsibility with immediate effect. I believe this will enable them to make a fresh start and move forward. I am pleased to note that that significant progress has already been made by ICL in addressing the matters identified.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.
These changes will implement restrictions on the ability of those already present in the UK as a tier 4 (student) or tier 1 (post study work) migrant to make an in-country application for an extension of stay as a tier 1 (entrepreneur).
The tier 1 (entrepreneur) category is for those who wish to establish a genuine business which will generate jobs in the UK. It has, however, become clear that the majority of those applying in-country for leave in the category are those who have come here for the purpose of study and are making speculative or fraudulent applications simply to extend their stay in the UK.
Checks against the tax records of those who have been granted leave as entrepreneurs suggest that few have gone on to engage in genuine entrepreneurial activity, and that a significant proportion have taken employment in breach of their conditions, typically at low skill levels.
This shows that a robust response is required to protect the integrity of the immigration system and to make clear that systematic abuse will not be tolerated. The new restrictions on switching into the tier 1 (entrepreneur) category will apply while we carry out further investigations into these abuses and review the route to ensure that it delivers its proper purpose, which is to help foster growth and innovation. The changes will come into force tomorrow, to guard against the possibility of any further intake of speculative or fraudulent applications.
The tier 1 (entrepreneur) remains open. Those who already have leave in the category will continue to be able to extend their stay. The new restrictions will not apply to those qualifying on the basis of seed funding or funding provided by another government department, nor, in the case of those switching from the tier 1 (post study work) route, will they apply to those who have already established a genuine business. Those who graduate here will continue to be able to apply to extend their stay under the tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) category, which is significantly undersubscribed. Those who have a genuine intention of establishing a business here will also continue to be able to apply from overseas.
In addition, this statement of changes to the immigration rules will remove all tests provided by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), and specific tests provided by Cambridge English and Trinity College London from the list of approved English tests. These changes are being made at the providers’ requests.
The changes also add a new 12 month “mathematics teacher exchange” scheme to the tier 5 (Government authorised exchange) route. This scheme is aimed at sharing best practice in the teaching of mathematics in schools across England and China, and supports the objectives of the Department for Education who will administer and fund the scheme.
This statement of changes also contains amendments to align the immigration rules on family and private life in Appendix FM and paragraphs 276ADE-276DH with the public interest considerations in section 117B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which apply to decisions engaging the qualified right to respect for private and family life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights. The changes also align the immigration rules on family and private life in part 13, which relate to foreign criminals, with the public interest considerations in sections 117B and 117C of the 2002 Act. These considerations are inserted by section 19 of the Immigration Act 2014.
Section 19 gives the weight of primary legislation to Parliament’s view of what the public interest under article 8 requires, in particular in respect of controlling immigration to safeguard the UK’s economic well-being and in respect of preventing disorder or crime.
The statement of changes also contains amendments facilitating the use of the non-suspensive appeals provision, inserted by section 17(3) of the Immigration Act 2014. This provision allows the Secretary of State to certify an appeal where an individual is liable to deportation when, despite the appeals process not having been begun or not having been exhausted, removal of a person to the country or territory to which they are proposed to be removed, pending the outcome of an appeal in relation to their claim, would not be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, for example the individual would not face a real risk of serious irreversible harm if removed.