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Impose, subject to the procedural safeguards laid out in the Act, its own non-parliamentary sanctions for breaches of the expenses regime (including where necessary of a financial nature) analogous to those available to HMRC and DWP, without the need to report to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards"
As it now appears that allowing sanctions to be imposed directly by the regulator is acceptable, the Government will introduce amendments to the 2009 Act to give the compliance officer the power to impose sanctions, namely a civil penalty, as well as requiring restitution of wrongly paid allowances. Repayments, monetary penalties and costs will also be made recoverable as a civil debt. In addition, the Government will provide a route of appeal from the decisions of the compliance officer to the first-tier tribunal. Since allowances claims are not covered by privilege, there should not be any difficulty in this regard.
Cases could still be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges if it is felt that parliamentary sanctions are also needed or to the prosecuting authorities if the offence of making false declarations may have been committed.
"the Speaker's Committee on the independent regulator should include three lay members drawn from outside Parliament who have not previously been MPs or peers. They should be chosen through the official public appointments process and formally approved by the House"
The Committee recommends that the independent regulator should be placed under a general duty to act openly and transparently, to give reasons for any revisions to the expenses scheme, and to report, and take account of, the views of the general public as well as the House of Commons (Recommendation 49).
The Government are however content to bring forward amendments to the 2009 Act to add an additional requirement that the IPSA must give reasons for its revisions to the allowances scheme, to give reasons for adopting a determination in respect of MPs' pay, and to consult the general public. (See also response to recommendations 41 and 60.)
"the sunset provisions in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 should be repealed"
The sunset provisions, set out in section 15 of the Act, were inserted in the House of Lords. They deal with the code of conduct on financial interests and the position of the independent commissioner for investigations. As both the role of the IPSA in relation to the code and the commissioner are to be repealed, the sunset clause has no further purpose and therefore can be similarly repealed.
"the independent regulator should continue to publish, at least quarterly, each individual claim for reimbursement made by MPs with accompanying receipts or documentary evidence. The information published should not be confined to claims actually reimbursed"
As part of the proposed amendments to the 2009 Act to give effect to recommendations 41 and 49, which require the IPSA to act transparently, the Government will bring forward legislation to place on the IPSA the duty to publish claims made and allowances paid, with such details as it considers appropriate. The 2009 Act already requires IPSA to determine procedures for the circumstances in which findings of investigations should be published. (See also response to recommendations 41 and 49.)
"all candidates at parliamentary elections should publish, at nomination, a register of interests including the existence of other paid jobs and whether they intend to continue to hold them if elected. The Ministry of Justice should issue guidance on this in time for the next general election. Following the election, consideration should be given as to whether the process should become a statutory part of the nomination process"
The Ministry of Justice is working on the guidance. The Ministry of Justice will discuss the approach with the Electoral Commission and others as appropriate before guidance is issued, in time for the next general election. A decision about whether to implement this on a statutory basis will, as the Committee suggests, be taken in the next Parliament.
The Committee recommends that the practice of permitting a Westminster MP simultaneously to sit in a devolved legislature should be brought to an end, ideally by the time of the elections to the three devolved legislatures for May 2011 (Recommendation 40)
This is not strictly an issue about MPs' allowances. The Committee recommends that this provision should be in place by May 2011 and the Government will consult interested parties before implementing it in the next Parliament.
"the chair of the new regulatory body should be appointed for a single, non-renewable five year term. The other members of the new body should in principle be appointed on the same basis, but some flexibility may need to be shown in relation to those appointed in the first round"
Paragraph 4(1) of schedule 1 to the 2009 Act provides for the chair of the IPSA to be appointed "for a fixed term not exceeding five years". Paragraph 4(3) provides that "a person who has held office as a member of the IPSA (whether as the chair or an ordinary member) may be re-appointed as a member once only, for a further period (whether consecutive or not) not exceeding three years".
The CSPL acknowledges the need for flexibility in relation to the first round of appointments. The Government accept the principle of the recommendation, but believes that amendments to the legislation are not required now. They could be made at a later date if still required.
I have today published my Department's Autumn Performance Report for 2009 (CM7737). Copies have been laid before Parliament and placed in the House Libraries.
The report provides Parliament with details of progress on performance against the departmental strategic objectives, value for money and public service agreements, using data available up to November 2009.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): The Department for Transport has today issued a consultation document on our proposals to remove or modify some of the exemptions from the statutory annual roadworthiness testing scheme which currently apply to certain categories of heavy goods vehicles.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): The Local Transport Act 2008 includes provisions designed to make bus quality contracts schemes-the London-style model of bus contracts-a more realistic option for local transport authorities throughout England and Wales. The Government are today announcing that these provisions will come into force, in England, on 11 January 2010.
Supporting regulations will be laid before Parliament within the next few days and statutory guidance, applying in England from 11 January 2010, is being issued today. The Government are also today beginning the process of recruiting members of a panel of persons from
which members of QCS boards will be appointed. QCS boards are independent boards with a remit to provide an opinion on whether proposed quality contracts schemes in England meet the statutory public interest criteria, and on whether due process has been followed.
Copies of the statutory guidance, the Government's response to the consultation and the recruitment pack for QCS board panel members are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will also be available on the Department for Transport's website.
In March, the Government consulted on a number of proposals designed to modernise the framework for the airport economic regulatory regime and put passengers at its heart. The review primarily seeks to ensure that economic regulation improves the passenger experience and encourages timely and appropriate investment.
Having considered responses to the consultation, I intend to introduce as soon as parliamentary time will allow a package of reforms that:
Modernise the statutory duties of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in this area. The Government will replace the CAA's existing duties with a single primary duty to promote the interests of end consumers of passenger and freight services at airports. In order to provide clarity about the additional factors the CAA need to take into account when making decision, the Government will also be introducing new subordinate duties.
Introduce a new licensing regime that is flexible and targeted. The new regime gives the regulator sanctions and enforcement powers to incentivise licensee compliance.
Introduce a new framework of merit based appeals to ensure the regulator is accountable for the decisions it makes.
Enhance passenger representation within the aviation sector. To ensure that passengers have an independent and influential advocate with an end-to-end journey perspective, the Government will introduce legislation to make Passenger Focus the passenger representative body for aviation. Passenger Focus will build on the firm foundations established by the Air Transport Users Council.
Promote the financial resilience of major airports. In October, this year I brought forward the announcement on financial resilience in order to provide as much certainty as possible for the industry and its investors, and support sustained investment. In this announcement I said that the Government intended to consult on two further financial aspects and this consultation is published today.
A few responses to the consultation raised the importance of connecting regional economies to London airports and international destinations. The Government recognise this issue and will commission research to gather further evidence.
This package of reforms is intended to provide a modern and flexible economic regulatory framework for airports which I believe reflects best practice in other regulated regimes and promotes the interests of passengers, investment, as well as the principles of Better Regulation.
I also intend to consult on further proposals to update the regulatory framework for aviation.
The Government commissioned Sir Joseph Pilling to carry out a strategic review of the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that it remained able to meet current and future challenges. He described the CAA as a "highly successful organisation" and concluded that it remained appropriate to have a specialist aviation regulator, with a broad range of functions from safety to economic regulation. But he also identified that changes were needed to modernise the CAA's legislative and governance framework. In particular, he
considered it important that the CAA's role should be to safeguard the public interest, and he recommended that we make it absolutely clear in the legislation that the CAA's primary responsibility is to the public rather than the aviation industry.
I am consulting on proposals giving the CAA a clear statutory focus, consistent with our international obligations and aligned with Better Regulation principles, by assigning new objectives to the organisation. These will apply to most of the CAA's functions and will ensure that the CAA focuses its attention on pursuing the interests of consumers and seeking environmental improvements while maintaining a high standard of safety.
To support the CAA in delivering its objectives, I am also proposing to give powers to enable it to obtain relevant information and make arrangements for that information to be made publically available where this is in the interests of consumers or those affected by aviation. The CAA would only be able to use this power where it could demonstrate that the benefits of publishing information outweighed the costs.
I also want to see the CAA's governance and enforcement arrangements aligned with modern regulatory practice. I am proposing to give the CAA access to a range of civil sanctions, which will address concerns previously expressed about the disproportionate and inappropriate nature of criminal sanctions for certain offences.
We have looked at financial protection for air passengers following the failure of the XL Leisure Group in 2008. This highlighted the need to reform the ATOL scheme which provides reimbursement and repatriation in the event of insolvency.
We are committed by European legislation to provide financial protection for passengers on package holidays. We decided in 2005 not to extend this to all flights. Although that remains the right decision, the concept of a package holiday has become blurred by the way many holidays are sold through mix-and-match components. Consumers must be able to make informed choices. My objective now is to create a clear boundary of protection, and this objective is shared by the travel trade. The consultation puts forward several options for this.
I am also consulting on a number of measures to rationalise the process for making airport byelaws. The main aims are to modernise and streamline the existing airport byelaw-making process and increase the level of consultation with interested parties during the preparation of airport byelaws.
The proposals in this consultation will provide strategic direction for the CAA and help it regulate the aviation industry in tune with modern needs.
Copies of the decision document, both consultation documents and associated publications have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): In line with good practice on non-departmental public bodies, the Office for Disability Issues commissioned an internal review of 'Equality 2025: the UK Advisory Network on Disability Equality' in June 2009. The review recognised that Equality 2025's remit of offering Government advice and expertise on disability equality issues remains valid and recommended it should continue unchanged. The review also recommended developing Equality 2025's strategic role as an 'expert group' and streamlining its size. I have broadly accepted these recommendations and officials are now working towards their implementation. The full list of review recommendations is available on the Office for Disability Issues' website at: www. officefordisability.gov.uk.
I am pleased to announce that the Office for Disability Issues intends to publish the report of the review of Equality 2025 in the first half of 2010. The document
will be available on the Office for Disability Issues' website and will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.