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Written Statements

Volume 621: debated on Friday 24 February 2017

Written Statements

Friday 24 February 2017

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

EU Energy Council

There will be a meeting of the Energy Council in Brussels on 27 February.

The Council will begin with an initial exchange of views on the Commission’s “clean energy for all Europeans” package published on 30 November 2016. This will include discussion of the electricity market design proposals consisting of the recast of the regulation on the internal electricity market, the recast of the directive on common rules for the internal electricity market, a regulation on risk preparedness in the electricity sector and the recast of the regulation establishing a European Union Agency for the Co-operation of Energy Regulators (ACER). The discussion will also cover the proposals for the recasts of the directives on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings, and the new proposal for a regulation on governance of the Energy Union.

The Commission will then present the second state of the energy union report which was published on 1 February. The report highlights progress in 2016 taking forward the aims and objectives of the energy union and considers trends since the first state of the energy union report was published in 2015.

The presidency will provide an update on the “state of play” on a number of legislative dossiers currently under negotiation. Both the regulation concerning measures to safeguard the security of gas supply and the regulation setting a framework for energy efficiency labelling are currently the subject of trilogues with the Commission and European Parliament. Negotiation has recently commenced on the proposed legislation to amend the energy efficiency directive and that to amend the energy performance of buildings directive.

The Commission will also make a presentation on the ocean energy forum, which in November 2016 published a strategic roadmap building on European leadership in ocean energy, and the development of technologies that could meet a significant amount of Europe’s future power demand.

Finally, the Czech delegation will look ahead to the European nuclear energy forum in May 2017, an annual event hosted alternately by the Czech Republic and Slovakia bringing together all relevant stakeholders in the nuclear field, to discuss issues of mutual interest.

[HCWS498]

Avian Influenza

High pathogenicity H5N8 avian influenza has been circulating in Europe since the autumn. There have been nine confirmed cases in poultry in the UK and several findings in wild birds across England. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from H5N8 is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers.

In response to the threat from H5N8 to poultry, my Department has taken robust precautionary action. This has included an indefinite ban on poultry gatherings, enhanced wild birds surveillance and an avian influenza prevention zone across England. The zone was put in place on 6 December and amongst other things requires the compulsory housing of poultry and captive birds or where this is not possible, their separation from wild birds.

Where H5N8 has been detected in poultry or captive birds, this has been dealt with effectively by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and I am grateful for all involved in this considerable effort to control and stamp out this disease.

On 28 February, the avian influenza prevention zone will have been in place for 12 weeks. This is the maximum allowable period that poultry can be housed for disease control purposes and retain free range marketing status.

The risk of H5N8 in wild birds across the UK remains high. As a result, from 28 February, my Department will put in place a new avian influenza prevention zone. This will continue to require that all keepers of poultry and captive birds observe heightened biosecurity requirements regardless of their location. Subject to these measures being put in place, housing will no longer be required for the vast majority of keepers.

Within England, there are some areas that are at higher risk of H5N8 due to their proximity to substantial inland or coastal bodies of water where wild waterfowl collect. In these higher risk areas, which will cover around 25% of poultry premises, mandatory housing or fully netting outside areas will be required. This may temporarily result in the loss of free range status for keepers in these areas unless they apply netting of range, rather than housing.

The higher risk areas are based on expert advice on the latest veterinary and ornithological data and have been reviewed by leading experts.

I am very mindful of the impact that temporary loss of free range status will have on affected businesses. During this unprecedented period of high risk, I have taken this decision based on the best scientific and veterinary advice in order to control disease and protect our poultry industry. Effective disease control will always be our priority: disease outbreaks cause birds to suffer, damage businesses and cost the UK taxpayer millions. We do not anticipate any significant disruption to the supply of free range eggs after 28 February.

These measures will be put in place in the first instance until the end of April, but will be kept under constant review with the aim of lifting the targeted measures within higher risk areas as soon as risk levels allow it.

[HCWS496]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

EU Environment Council

I will attend the Environment Council that takes place on 28 February in Brussels alongside the Minister for Climate Change and Industry, my hon. Friend Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd).

Following the adoption of the agenda, the list of “A” items will be approved.

Under legislative deliberations, Council will debate a proposal to amend the directive on cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments (that is, the EU emissions trading system) with a view to reaching an agreed Council position or “general approach”.

Under non-legislative activities, Council will exchange views on implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development; and the links between greening the European semester and the recently published EU environment implementation review.

The following items will be discussed under ‘any other business’:

a) Emissions Trading System (ETS)—aviation.

b) EU action plan for the circular economy.

c) Natura 2000 in the European solidarity corps.

d) Scientific conference on “Sustainable development and climate changes in the light of the encyclical letter of Holy Father Francis, entitled Laudato Si” (Warsaw, 15 October 2016).

e) Luxembourg circular economy hotspot (Luxembourg, 20-22 June 2017).

f) Paris agreement: international developments.

g) Environmental concerns regarding a Belarus nuclear power plant.

On 23 June, the EU referendum took place and the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. During this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.

[HCWS497]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Hong Kong (Sino/British Joint Declaration)

The latest six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today, and is attached. It covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2016. The report has been placed in the Library of the House. A copy is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office). I commend the report to the House.

It can also be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-02-24/HCWS499/.

[HCWS499]

Home Department

Use and Retention of Custody Images

I am pleased to announce that today I am publishing the “Report on the Review of the Use and Retention of Custody Images”, copies of which are available in the House Library and online at www.gov.uk . These are the images taken when people are arrested.

This review has found that the police make extensive use of custody images and that they are a standard feature of everyday policing. It sets out the Government’s view of the framework for the use and retention of custody images by the police.

The review acknowledges the important role that custody images and facial searching plays in the detection and prevention of crime. However, it recognises the need to strike a careful balance between protecting individual privacy and giving the police the tools they need to keep us safe.

Accordingly, following consultation with key partners, the principal recommendation is to allow “unconvicted persons” to apply for deletion of their custody image, with a presumption that this will be deleted unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose, and there is an exceptional reason to retain it. In practice, this will mean that people could apply to chief officers for their image to be deleted where they have not been convicted of the offence in relation to which their image was taken.

Further, the review recommends that there should be an even stronger presumption of deletion upon application for unconvicted persons whose image was taken when they were under 18 years old and that such images should be retained only where there are exceptional reasons to do so.

Where the image of an unconvicted person is not deleted, or where no application is received, the review recommends that it should be reviewed in accordance with the periods set out in the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice guidance (the APP), with a presumption of deletion at the next review unless there is an exceptional reason to retain the image (a strong presumption of deletion and highly exceptional reasons in the case of a person whose image was taken when they were under 18).

The review also recommends that persons who are convicted of the offence in relation to which their image was taken should have a limited right to apply for deletion of their image. Forces would only be required to consider such applications for deletion six or 10 years after conviction or release from custody where the person was sentenced to a term of imprisonment or detention for the offence in question or another offence, depending on the APP group that the offence falls into. There would be no presumption of deletion at the point of review, other than where the image was taken when the individual was under 18. In all cases the police will be able to retain the image if this is necessary for a policing purpose and proportionate to the level and type of risk the individual poses.

Where the image of a person convicted of a recordable offence is not deleted, or where no application is received, the review recommends that its retention should be reviewed in accordance with the periods set out in the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice guidance (the APP), with no presumption in favour unless it relates to an image taken when they were under 18.

A person convicted for a “non-recordable” offence (which are broadly less serious than recordable offences), would be able to apply for deletion of their image six years after conviction. If the image was taken when the person was an adult, there would be a presumption in favour of deletion; if the image was taken when the person was under 18, there would be a strong presumption in favour of deletion.

Where the image of a person convicted of a non-recordable offence is not deleted, or where no application is received, the review recommends that its retention should be reviewed six years from conviction (or release from custody) and every five years thereafter, with a presumption in favour of deletion and a strong presumption if it relates to an image taken when they were under 18.

The core recommendations will be implemented through changes to the APP.

[HCWS500]

Justice

Justice Update

Today the Government have published their response to the consultation on proposals to reform fees for grants of probate. The consultation opened on 18 February and closed on 1 April 2016.

The Government are committed to providing a modern, world-leading justice system which is proportionate and accessible. In 2015-16, the courts and tribunals system cost £1.9 billion to run and we recovered only £700 million of that through fees and other income.

The best way to protect access to justice in the long term is with a properly funded justice system. The income fees generate is necessary for an effective courts and tribunals system that supports victims and vulnerable people, and is easy for people to use.

The Government will therefore, subject to approval from Parliament:

implement the fee structure as consulted on;

raise the threshold under which no probate fee is payable from £5,000 to £50,000; and

remove the grant of probate fee from the fee remissions scheme. We will retain the Lord Chancellor’s power to remit fees in exceptional circumstances.

This means we are abolishing flat fees and replacing them with a banded structure, related to the value of the estate. This includes raising the fee threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 and lifting 25,000 estates out of fees altogether. Overall, 58% of estates will pay no fee at all and 92% will pay £1,000 or less for this service.

We are confident through our engagement with organisations like the British Banking Association and Building Societies’ Association that executors will have a range of options to finance the payment.

The new fee structure will generate around £300 million per year in additional fee income, which will all be reinvested back into Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

Full details of how the Government intend to take forward these proposals is set out in the consultation response document which has been published on the gov.uk website.

[HCWS501]

Youth Justice

In December 2016, we set out our plans to reform our approach to youth justice, which will help drive forward improved outcomes for young offenders both in custody and in the community.

We are today announcing the next steps of our reforms with a package of measures which will create stronger, clearer governance for the youth justice system.

I have appointed Charlie Taylor as the new chair of the youth justice board. He is uniquely well placed to take on this role: he has led changes in Government policy on the education of children who have been excluded from school, is a former head teacher of an outstanding school for children with complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and his youth justice review set out a compelling vision for reform. As the chair of the board, it is this vision that he will work with my Department to drive forward.

We will create a new Youth Custody Service as a distinct arm of HM Prison and Probation Service, with a dedicated director accountable directly to the chief executive and working closely with the chair of the youth justice board. The director will have operational responsibility for the day-to-day running of the youth estate, will keep a firm grip on performance, and will be a board-level member of HM Prison and Probation Service. The Youth Custody Service will have its own workforce separately recruited and trained to work in the youth estate, and we will create distinct career pathways for those wanting to work with children and young people in the secure estate, including a new youth justice specialist worker role.

We will bring responsibility and accountability for commissioning youth custody services into the Ministry of Justice. Working closely with the chair of the youth justice board, the Department will be responsible for setting clear standards for the provision of youth justice and will be responsible for intervening decisively to address poor performance.

These changes will enable the youth justice board to build on its strong track-record and focus on its statutory function of providing vital independent advice on, and scrutiny of, the whole system, advising the Government on what standards to set for the youth justice system and monitoring delivery of those standards. It will continue to work closely with youth offending teams to promote early intervention in the community and share best practice across the system.

The youth justice system covers England and Wales and the majority of services for children and young people in Wales are devolved. We will continue our collaborative approach with the youth justice board Cymru and the Welsh Government under these new arrangements.

We are very grateful to Lord McNally, whose term as chair ends shortly, for his dedicated leadership of the youth justice board over the past three years, and thank him for the drive and passion he has shown.

Charlie Taylor will become the new chair of the youth justice board when Lord McNally’s term ends. Under the Governance Code on Public Appointments, which came into effect on 1 January this year, Ministers can, in exceptional circumstances, make an appointment without a competition. I have decided to appoint Charlie Taylor as the new chair of the youth justice board on these terms and, in accordance with the Code, have consulted the Commissioner for Public Appointments who has accepted the decision.

We are also publishing today the findings and recommendations of the youth custody improvement board. The board was set up to explore and report on the current state of the youth custodial estate and recommend how the system could be improved, particularly focusing on any current risks to safety and well-being. We are very grateful to its members for their work. The board’s report underlines the importance of reforming the youth custody system. Many of their recommendations are reflected in our plans, and we will consider all their recommendations as we implement our reforms.

[HCWS502]