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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 16 October 2008

Energy and Climate Change

British Energy and New Nuclear Power

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform wrote to the Business and Enterprise Select Committee in September to inform members of EDF’s takeover offer for British Energy. I am placing copies of his letter in the Libraries of the House.

EU Energy Council

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): I represented the UK at the Energy Council in Luxembourg on 10 October.

The Council reached political agreement on the Commission’s third energy package on the functioning of the internal energy market. There were discussions of the climate and energy legislative package and energy security. The Council agreed conclusions on energy efficiency.

Discussions on the internal energy market were based on compromise presidency texts and focused on a “level playing field” clause, put forward by a number of member states as a way of allowing Governments, which have secured ownership unbundling in their domestic markets, to control takeovers by vertically integrated companies. The final presidency compromise text met their concerns and political agreement was reached on this basis. This will allow the Council to prepare a common position, which will form the basis of negotiation with the European Parliament.

There was a wide-ranging debate on the 2020 climate and energy package. The presidency argued that in the current financial crisis it was even more important for the EU to maintain political leadership on climate issues and urged member states not to lose momentum on progress. The Commission and presidency both considered that it was possible to reach agreement on the package by the end of the year.

In the debate, member states addressed a number of issues (interim targets, the inclusion of aviation, the transport target and sustainability, a review clause and renewable projects of European interest) set out in questions issued by the presidency to steer the debate. The presidency concluded that, despite concerns about the financial crisis, there was a common desire to move forward and discussion with the European Parliament should continue.

The Council agreed conclusions on energy efficiency, relating to the implementation the energy labelling and eco-design for energy-using products directive.

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There were a number of information items, including a presidency report on the solar plan for the Mediterranean.

Discussion of energy security was taken over lunch in closed session.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jane Kennedy): I am today depositing copies of the annual report on the number of incidents of fly-tipping recorded by local authorities on the Government’s Fly-capture database in 2007-08. This report gives detailed information on the number and type of incidents, the type of land where the incident occurred and the estimated cost to authorities of dealing with it.

I am pleased to announce that there was a reduction of 7.5 per cent. in the number of recorded fly-tipping incidents from 2006-07. I am also pleased to highlight the good work carried out by local authorities in increasing the number of enforcement actions against fly-tipping by 26 per cent. from the previous year.

DEFRA will continue to work with the Environment Agency and local authorities to prevent illegal waste activity through a combination of prevention, education and enforcement.

This report is also available from the DEFRA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/localenv/ flytipping/flycapture.htm

Home Department

Police Pay

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): On 8 January 2008 I wrote to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) asking them to consider a multi-year deal for police officers starting in September 2008. In my letter I made clear that, if the PNB agreed to this proposal, then the settlements that form part of such a deal could be implemented in full.

On 15 October 2008 the PNB recommended to me a multi-year pay deal for police officers starting in 2008. This deal is for an award of 2.65 per cent. from 1 September 2008, 2.6 per cent. from 1 September 2009, and 2.55 per cent. from 1 September 2010. This means by 2010 a police constable will be able to earn up to £36,500, 50 per cent. more than in 1997. It includes a reopener clause that would be triggered by changes in the two criteria of economic and labour market conditions and recruitment and retention.

I am pleased that we have agreed a multi-year pay deal for the police that is one of the fairest pay deals in the public sector. All involved in the negotiations have worked hard, and in a spirit of co-operation. I have the highest regard for the police and the tireless work they do to protect and serve the public. This deal gives police officers and their families valuable financial certainty for the future and I hope that it will reach their pay packets in full in time for Christmas. This deal will also
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provide the benefits of stability to the police service, and demonstrates discipline in the face of temporarily high inflation and current economic conditions.

I have also agreed, for the period of this settlement, that the Home Secretary will be bound by a decision of the Police Arbitration Tribunal (PAT) as to whether the re- opening criteria have been met. I would of course carefully consider any recommendation made to me by the PNB or PAT about a subsequent substantive adjustment to the settlement arising from this process.

I confirm that as a result of this agreement I will end the current consultation process for a police pay review body and that the Government will not take any legislative steps to introduce a police pay review body during the lifetime of this Parliament.

I believe that this agreement signals a new stage in the relationship between the two sides of the Police Negotiating Board. I hope that we can now work together to improve policing for both the police service and the public.

Immigration Rules (Visitors)

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. Phil Woolas): This year sees the biggest changes to Britain’s immigration and border security system for 45 years. Our policy will deliver strong borders, a selective migration system and an expectation that newcomers earn the right to stay. Our ambition is that migration policy maximises benefits for Britain and manages local impacts.

This strategy underpins our Australian style points system, reforms to spouse visas and requires us to modernise visit visas. Earlier this year, my predecessor published our strategy for comprehensively overhauling our visit visa system. Today we are publishing a further statement on the first of these changes with the creation of a separate category for business, sport, entertainer and special visitors. Copies are being placed in the Library of the House.

In modernising this system, our ambition is twofold: to let legitimate visitors connect with the UK quickly, and to strengthen still further our border security.

The statement sets out the key features of the arrangements for business, sport, entertainer and special visitors respectively.

In respect of business visitors we are bringing currently separate immigration rules and concessions together in one coherent visa; and making clear what business visitors can do here and what they cannot. We believe, after consulting stakeholders, that having a list of permissible activities is a good way of defining them.

We are introducing a new visa to provide for visiting sports-people based on the current concessionary arrangement. Our purpose here is to ensure that the contribution of overseas visiting sports people to the UK’s sporting tradition continues as now, while making clear the circumstances in which sports people can come to the UK outside of the points-based system for participation in sport.

Similarly, we are introducing a new visa to provide for visiting entertainers and the circumstances in which they may come to the UK in that capacity, outside of the points-based system. In effect, we are retaining the
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current concessionary arrangement while removing two criteria relating to festivals that add little value to the current arrangements.

Lastly, there are a number of groups of visitors for whom specific immigration rules have been introduced as a need was identified or for which concessions existed outside the rules. The new special visitor visa brings these together although the specific criteria that currently apply to each of these categories would be retained.

Leader of the House

Commons Calendar

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I am today announcing details of the House of Commons calendar until October 2009, details of which can be found on the Leader’s Office website at www.CommonsLeader.gov.uk.

The House will rise for the Christmas recess at the end of business on Thursday 18 December 2008, returning on Monday 12 January 2009. The constituency recess week will begin at the end of business on Thursday 12 February, the House will return on Monday 23 February. The House will rise on Thursday 2 April for the Easter recess, returning on Monday 20 April. The Whitsun recess will begin at the end of the sitting on Thursday 21 May and the House will return on Monday 1 June.

The House will rise for the summer on Tuesday 21 July, returning on Monday 12 October. The Friday dates for consideration of Private Members’ Bills will be 27 February, 6 March, 13 March, 20 March, 27 March, 24 April, 8 May, 15 May, 12 June, 19 June, 26 June, 3 July and 16 October.

All dates given are provisional and subject to the progress of business. Copies of the printed calendar can be obtained from the Vote Office.


Pensions Appeal Tribunal

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The senior president of tribunals and I are today issuing the following joint statement:

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The aim of making this statement is to set out how the valued features of the PAT are preserved and protected in the new system in recognition of the unique role of the armed forces community, and in acknowledgement of the concerns that were raised in response to the consultation on implementation of Part 1 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act.


EU Transport Council

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I attended the first Transport Council of the French presidency in Luxembourg on 9 October.

Following a debate on the draft conclusions presented by the presidency on the greening of transport, the Council failed to achieve unanimity. It is likely that the Council will return to this issue in December.

There was a policy debate on the proposal for a directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. A key issue in the debate was whether the proposal could be adopted under the first pillar, as currently intended by the presidency and supported by some member states, or whether it should be a third pillar (Justice and Home Affairs) issue. The UK expressed its view that the third pillar would be the correct legal base. Pointing out the UK’s strong record in this area, we recognised the concerns and underlying objectives of the proposal, but stressed that it was necessary to go forward with practical measures. The majority of member states supported a third pillar approach. Following this debate, work will continue in the working group and Coreper, and it is expected that the issue will return to the Council in December.

The Council agreed conclusions on third countries’ participation in the inclusion of aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme, following agreement on the EC directive earlier in the year. The conclusions were acceptable to the UK.

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