Wednesday 23 March 2016
Business, Innovation and Skills
Performance Targets (Intellectual Property Office)
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) 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 2016-17 our targets are:
We will complete all remaining UK steps necessary for the UPC to come into being.
We will ensure that overall customer satisfaction is at least 80%.
We will 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.
We will publish 90% of acceptable applications for national trade marks for opposition within 90 days of filing.
We will develop a robust methodology to measure and report on harm caused by IP infringement and counterfeiting to individuals, communities and the economy.
We will increase the number of businesses that better understand how to manage IP, reaching 100,000 businesses. Eighty five per cent of the businesses we talk to will be better able to understand IP and its use within their business.
We will support the export activity of UK companies by providing education, advice and specific case support to 5000 businesses by March 2017.
We will enhance the capability of our people in leadership and change by designing and running a programme which will move at least 85% of participants up one level on our leadership measure.
We will implement a new HR and payroll system
We will achieve return of capital employed of at least 4%
We will deliver an efficiency gain of 3.5%.
EU Referendum (Counting Officers’ Regulations)
The Cabinet Office wishes to report the entry into force today of the European Union Referendum (Counting Officers’ and Regional Counting Officers’ Charges) Regulations 2016. The regulations are the final piece of legislation which, taken together, confirm the arrangements for the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union.
The EU Referendum Act 2015 provides for a referendum to take place on the UK’s membership of the EU. The British people will be asked on 23 June, for the first time in 40 years, whether or not they want to stay in the EU. This is a concrete step towards settling the debate about the UK’s membership of the EU.
The estimated cost of conducting the referendum is £142.4 million. This includes the expenses incurred by counting officers in running the poll, grants to the designated lead campaign organisations, the delivery by Royal Mail of campaign mailings from those organisations, and the cost of the central count. These costs have been discussed and agreed with the Electoral Commission. It is important that counting officers and the Electoral Commission have the resources necessary to conduct the referendum effectively and efficiently.
The European Union Referendum (Counting Officers’ and Regional Counting Officers’ Charges) Regulations 2016 set the maximum recoverable amounts for the services and expenses of counting officers and regional counting officers. The regulations therefore provide counting officers with certainty regarding their allocations, enabling them to plan with confidence for delivery of the poll.
Culture, Media and Sport
Broadband Universal Service Obligation
In November, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to implement a new broadband universal service obligation (USO)—heralding a step change in our ambition for broadband services and reflecting that many now see broadband as an essential service much like electricity and water.
Maintaining momentum on our commitment to implement the USO in this Parliament, I am pleased to announce today’s launch of our consultation on the first step, which is to clarify our powers in primary legislation. The consultation document explains the Government’s rationale for the USO, the proposed measures that we intend to put in legislation, and the road map that we will follow to take this work forwards.
The consultation, which runs until 18 April, is available at:
I would encourage you to respond and look forward to hearing your views.
Culture White Paper
I am today laying and publishing a Government White Paper on culture.
It is the first ever Government White Paper for all the cultural sectors together, and the first covering the arts for over 50 years.
This White Paper sets out our ambition and strategy for the cultural sectors in the coming years. It outlines the key issues facing the cultural sectors today and the role we want culture to play in our society; what the Government and our public bodies will do to address those issues; and how we will ensure that everyone can enjoy and benefit from culture.
The White Paper sets out how the Government will encourage access and opportunity across the cultural sectors, with a particular focus on children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups which are under-represented in cultural organisations and audiences. The new Cultural Citizens programme, which was first announced by the Prime Minister in January 2016, will provide new opportunities for young people to experience and take part in cultural activities.
Through the plans set out in the White Paper, the Government and their funded bodies will provide support to local areas to help them develop their cultural ambitions and embed culture in their plans and policies for local social and economic development.
The White Paper also sets out how the Government will use culture to build the UK’s image, soft power and influence in the world and help the cultural sectors to make the most of opportunities to promote the UK’s culture and heritage around the world.
Cultural organisations need to develop new funding models in order to grow and build resilience. The White Paper sets out how the Government will help the cultural sectors to tap into new and innovative sources of funding, and how we will ensure that our publicly-funded organisations have the right structures and relationships to enable them to support the cultural sectors across the country in order to achieve our ambition.
It is the Government’s ambition that all Government Departments should work closely together and with public bodies and other partners to ensure that our children and young people have access to the best cultural opportunities available and people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy the many benefits that culture brings, at every stage in their lives.
I am grateful to all those who took part in the consultations during 2015, in round tables, written submissions and online contributions. Over 230 organisations from the cultural sectors across the country shared their views and ideas with us. The response from the cultural sectors shows they are united in our ambition to ensure that everyone in every community can enjoy and benefit from our rich and diverse culture. This White Paper sets out how we will achieve that.
The White Paper and attachments are also available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/culture-white-paper.
I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14 March in Brussels. Commissioner Hogan introduced the first agenda item on financial instruments and invited the European Investment bank (EIB) to make a presentation. Many member states highlighted the importance of improving farmer access to money, which would support modernisation, innovation, research and productivity. The UK and Ireland called on the EIB to be more proactive with member states and for the Commission to facilitate meetings. The UK also advocated that the EIB should be able to help farmers diversify their product base to higher value products with better market prices.
The second agenda item was on the market situation and support measures. The UK broadly welcomed the package, and gained support for measures that would help farmers boost productivity. These included:
Improving the transparency of supply chains, allowing farmers to gain earlier signals on price and demand. The Commission agreed to extend the successful EU milk market observatory to beef and pigmeat, allowing the industry access to the latest market data.
Assisting farmers by reducing the cost of fertilisers. Commissioner Hogan agreed to look at a temporary suspension of import tariffs for fertiliser.
Helping farmers access finance to invest in their businesses and boost their productivity and growth.
An increased drive to open up new foreign and third country export markets.
Any other business items
The UK presented an AOB item calling for simplification on the CAP audit process. It highlighted that it should be possible to lighten the burden on administrations and farmers while maintaining prudent financial management of CAP funds. A total of 16 other member states supported the UK. The Commissioner agreed the non-paper would be analysed and discussions would continue on how to further improve the audit and control process.
Italy set out their concerns with front-of-pack food nutrition labelling scheme. The Commission noted that front-of-pack schemes could be an efficient tool to empower consumers. They highlighted the legal requirement for the Commission to review member state schemes and report back to the Council and the Parliament in December 2017.
Estonia presented the outcome of the high-level meeting on African swine fever held in February 2016. The meeting, attended by affected and bordering member states, will be held on a six monthly basis to exchange best practice on eradication of the disease.
Draft conclusions were adopted without discussion on reports by the European Court of Auditors on “EU support to timber producing countries under the FLEGT plan” and “Are the fisheries partnership agreements well managed by the Commission”.
Meningitis C Vaccine (Emergency Donation)
It is the normal practice when a Government Department proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding £300,000, for the Department concerned to present to the House of Commons a minute giving particulars of the gift and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the gift until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.
A minute has today been laid before Parliament setting out details of the Department of Health’s gift of approximately 157,000 doses of the Meningitis C (MenC) vaccine to the World Health Organisation to meet a request for urgent assistance to manage MenC outbreaks in the Niger and Mali. This gift has a market value of around £3.5 million pounds including VAT. Due to commercial sensitivities it is not possible to confirm the contract price.
MenC is a very serious illness which can result in death or severe consequences including brain damage, hearing and sight loss and there is a global shortage of affordable MenC vaccine. This gift will provide a valuable contribution to saving lives and reducing morbidity in infants and children in the Niger and Mali.
The risk of MenC in children in the UK is very low because of the success of the vaccination programme so far. When MenC was first introduced in 1999, around 12 million children and young adults were vaccinated as part of a catch-up programme. Because of this catch-up programme, circulation of MenC in the population declined rapidly and this low circulation will be maintained by vaccinating teenagers—the age group most likely to carry meningococcal bacteria in their noses or their throats.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that children no longer need the infant dose of MenC currently given at three months of age. This is because there is very good herd protection for MenC, resulting from low rates of MenC carriage amongst teenagers and young adults. This means the risk of cases of invasive MenC disease in infants in the UK is extremely low. Also, the new MenB vaccination programme using the vaccine Bexsero® is expected to provide some degree of protection against invasive MenC disease. This change in our vaccination schedule will take effect from 1 July 2016. Children will still be offered two doses of a MenC vaccine. They will be offered a dose at 12 months of age (combined with Hib) and a dose at 14 years of age (currently combined with MenA, W, and Y). The latter dose will help to sustain the current low levels of carriage among young adults in the UK.
Due to the urgent nature of this request it has not been possible to provide Parliament with 14 sitting days’ notice of this gift. The Treasury has approved the proposal and a copy of the minute is attached.
Attachments can be viewed online at : http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-03-23/HCWS647/.
The Modern Crime Prevention Strategy
I am pleased to announce that I am today publishing the Government’s modern crime prevention strategy (“the strategy”).
Crime has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years, with previously high-volume crimes like burglary, vehicle-related theft and street violence having more than halved. Crime is also changing: previously “hidden” crimes like child sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence have all become more visible, if not more frequent, and we are developing better measures of the scale of online fraud and cybercrime.
Targeted crime prevention initiatives have made a significant contribution to cutting crime over the last 20 years. However, the changes we are now seeing mean we need to update our approach, building on the successes of the past while making full use of new tools and techniques to protect the public.
The strategy addresses what the evidence suggests are the key drivers of crime: opportunity; character; the effectiveness of the criminal justice system; profit; drugs; and alcohol. It also focuses on how we can use data and technology as powerful tools to prevent crime.
The strategy sets out a range of measures under each driver that will make crime harder to commit and less attractive to criminals. These include, for example:
Introducing legislation to ban the sale of so-called “zombie-killer” knives;
Making more information available to consumers on how secure their smartphone is; and
Keeping people safe from high harm crimes of abuse through implementing the actions in the 2016 violence against women and girls strategy
The strategy also emphasises that one of the most important lessons of the last 20 years is that neither the Government nor the police can prevent crime on their own. Crime prevention is most effective when Government, law enforcement agencies, businesses, academia, local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and the public themselves all play their part. Working together, we can continue to prevent crime even as it changes.
The strategy is available to download from the gov.uk website.
Copies of the strategy will be made available in the Library of the House.
Motoring Agencies (Business Plans)
My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) has made the following written statement:
I am pleased to announce the publication of the 2016-17 business plans for the Department for Transport’s motoring Executive agencies—the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).
The business plans set out:
the services each agency will deliver and any significant changes they plan to make;
the resources they require; and,
the key performance measures, by which their performance will be assessed.
These plans allow service users and members of the public to assess how the agencies are performing in operating their key services, managing reforms and the agency finances.
The business plans will be available electronically on gov.uk and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at:
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (Business Plan)
I am pleased to announce the publication of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) business plan for 2016-17.
The business plan sets out:
the services that the agency will deliver and any significant changes it plans to make;
the resources the agency requires;
the key performance measures, by which its performance will be assessed.
This plan allows service users and members of the public to assess how the agency is performing in operating its key services, managing reforms and the agency finances.
The business plan will be available electronically on gov.uk and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-03-23/HCWS644