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To accompany the command paper the Ministry of Justice has today published a consultation paper Civil Law Reform-a draft Bill containing the draft Bill, the accompanying explanatory notes and the impact assessments relating to the reform. The consultation period will close on 9 February 2010.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): Today I have deposited copies of "The Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Statistics on implementation in Central Government: Q3 - July - September 2009" in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
During the debate on 10 December in the House of Lords-on the Commonwealth's shared goals in democracy and development-Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked about eligibility of Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens for membership of the House of Lords. The Government undertook to set out the background to the issue in more detail and to legislate before the end of the current session of Parliament to remove any uncertainty. The Government's firm view is that nothing in the current circumstances prevents any Member of the House of Lords from membership or from taking a full part in the proceedings of the House.
It was suggested to the Government in April 2009 by the House authorities that the drafting of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 ("the 2006 Act"), and modifications made by that Act to section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1701, could be interpreted to have inadvertently cast doubt on whether Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens are eligible for membership of the House of Lords and to hold certain offices under the Crown.
The Government have been examining possible interpretations of the changes made by the 2006 Act carefully. Although one possible interpretation would have the effect which has caused concern, this was clearly not the intention of Parliament when passing the 2006 Act, and the Government would disagree with any suggestion that changes should be made in the way that eligibility is regarded.
The relevant provisions are complex. Section 18 of the 2006 Act included provisions about eligibility for membership of the House of Commons, which were intended to ensure that only persons with indefinite leave to remain in the UK are eligible to be Members of the House of Commons. The Act also extended this provision to elections to the European Parliament, the Greater London Authority, local authorities, and the devolved legislatures. The provision was enacted in response to concerns that elected representatives should be able to serve their term of office in full in the UK. The provision was commenced on 1 January 2007.
Section 18(7) of the 2006 Act repealed the first entry in Schedule 7 to the British Nationality Act 1981. That entry had modified the application of section 3 of the Act of Settlement which concerns eligibility for membership of both Houses of Parliament, the Privy Council and certain offices under the
Crown by disapplying part of it in relation to Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens, allowing such citizens to be Members of either House and to hold offices under the Crown.
This change was made in consequence of the provision at section 18(1) of the Electoral Administration Act 2006, which substituted a new modification of section 3 of the Act of Settlement that applies only for the purposes of membership of the House of Commons: under its terms, Commonwealth citizens who do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK are prevented from being Members of the House of Commons. However, since the drafting of the legislation did not contain provisions expressly saving the first entry in Schedule 7 to the British Nationality Act 1981 in relation to membership of the House of Lords and other offices under the Crown, a question has been raised about whether the eligibility of Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland citizens for membership of the House of Lords and other positions is affected.
Though it clearly was not the intention of Parliament in passing the 2006 Act to change the entitlement of Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens to sit in the House of Lords, Ministers have concluded that it is best to put the issue beyond any doubt. Accordingly, we will introduce appropriate legislation before the end of the current Session of Parliament to remove any uncertainty on this issue. An amendment will be tabled to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, currently before the House of Commons, to achieve this.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): On 7 July the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution published its report on "Fast-track Legislation: Constitutional Implications and Safeguards" (HL 116, 2008-09). The Government response was published on 7 December (HL 11, 2009-10).
The report recommended that, where the Government was proposing expedited legislation it should provide an explanation of why the legislation should be fast-tracked. The Government accept in principle the Committee's recommendation that, for all Bills which are to be passed with unusual expedition, an explanation of the reasons for using a fast-track procedure should be provided.
I am therefore informing the House that any future legislation which will be subject to expedited procedures will contain a full explanation in the accompanying explanatory notes to the legislation. The explanation will address the questions set out in paragraph 186 of the Committee's report:
(a) Why is fast-tracking necessary?
(b) What is the justification for fast-tracking each element of the Bill?
(c) What efforts have been made to ensure the amount of time made available for parliamentary scrutiny has been maximised?
(d) To what extent have interested parties and outside groups been given an opportunity to influence the policy proposal?
(e) Does the Bill include a sunset clause (as well as any appropriate renewal procedure)? If not, why do the Government judge that their inclusion is not appropriate?
(f) Are mechanisms for effective post-legislative scrutiny and review in place? If not, why do the Government judge that their inclusion is not appropriate?
(g) Has an assessment been made as to whether existing legislation is sufficient to deal with any or all of the issues in question?
(h) Have relevant parliamentary committees been given the opportunity to scrutinise the legislation?
The Video Recordings Bill which has been introduced in this House today is the first Bill to be fast-tracked since the Committee published its report. The explanatory notes of this Bill reflect the new approach.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The Government are committed to providing public service pension schemes that are affordable and sustainable in the long term, consistent with the principle of fairness for all taxpayers and between generations.
On 3 December I laid before Parliament amendments to the Parliamentary Pensions (Consolidation and Amendment) Regulations 1993. These amendments will bring in the cost-saving changes to the Parliamentary Pension Scheme which I announced in my statement of 31 March 2009 in accordance with the January 2008 recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body endorsed by the House on 24 January 2008. The package is judged by the Government Actuary to produce savings of 2.9 per cent. of payroll, which will reduce the Exchequer contribution to the scheme by approximately £1.4 million a year.
The House endorsed the cost-saving package on 25 June 2009 and also agreed that further changes should be brought forward to cap the Exchequer contribution for 2009-10 not at the 28.7 per cent. of payroll level recommended by the Senior Salaries Review Body, but at the lower 2008-9 level of 26.8 per cent.
At request of the Prime Minister, the Senior Salaries Review Body is currently undertaking a fundamental independent review of the Parliamentary pension arrangements. The Prime Minister has asked the Senior Salaries Review Body to consider the full range of options for reducing the Exchequer contribution and to consider, among other things, the merits of defined contribution or money purchase arrangements. The Senior Salaries Review Body aims to conclude its report by the end of the year. The Senior Salaries Review Body will take into account the cost-saving changes we have made, but its chairman has expressed concern that any proposals by the Government to make further such changes at this time could conflict with the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations and might appear to compromise its review. The Government's decision on any further proposals will be taken after the publication of the review. Where applicable, those proposals will be informed by the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations and will, in compliance with the House of Commons' resolution of 25 June, have the effect of freezing the Exchequer contribution for 2009-10 at the 2008-09 level as a percentage of payroll.
In December 2008 the then Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Geoff Hoon), announced a range of reforms to bus service operators grant (BSOG) to bring this subsidy better into line with Government objectives. As promised in that announcement, we have since been developing the detailed arrangements with stakeholders, and continuing to discuss possible longer-term reforms.
In April this year the Government introduced two changes to the current BSOG scheme. First, bus operators who have achieved a 6 per cent. improvement in fuel efficiency will receive a 3 per cent. uplift in their BSOG rate from April 2010. Secondly, with effect from April 2009 operators have been able to claim an additional payment of 6 pence for each kilometre operated by a low-carbon bus, per example one that is capable of achieving at least a 30 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to a similar size conventional diesel bus.
I can now confirm the details of two further changes that were first announced in last December's statement and will come into effect in April 2010. From that date operators will receive an 8 per cent. increase in their BSOG rate if they have operational ITSO smartcard systems and, separately, a 2 per cent. increase if they have fitted their buses with GPS equipment. To qualify for the higher rate smartcard equipment will need to accept all English concessionary passes and the incentive will also be linked to accepting integrated ticketing products. To receive either the smartcard or GPS incentive, operators will also have to commit to share specific data with local authorities, central government and other relevant bodies. Together these incentives could be worth around £1,000 in additional grant per bus each year.
The smartcard and GPS incentives will not apply to London operators. The contractual arrangements for bus services in London already provide the mechanism for securing the outputs that the Government are seeking, such as installation of GPS equipment and availability of GPS data. There is a separate project to enable the Transport for London Oyster network to read ITSO smart cards, to which the Department for Transport has committed £60 million.
The smartcard incentive is part of a package of measures designed to encourage the introduction of smart and integrated ticketing across the country. These are the subject of a separate announcement today. Encouraging the take up and use of GPS systems will help realise the potential for passengers to receive real-time information about bus services and bus performance.
I can also announce today our intentions for a more fundamental reform of BSOG which we aim to introduce in the next two to three years.
As last December's statement made clear, we want our buses to be as green and clean as possible. That is why we are reforming BSOG to ensure it contributes to the Government's strategic objectives, particularly in relation to tackling climate change. Drawing on the results of our consultation in 2008 on options for longer term reform, and from discussions with stakeholders, the Government wish to move away from paying support on the basis of how much fuel is consumed. We will therefore bring forward new arrangements for support on the basis of passenger numbers. This will act to make public transport more attractive thereby delivering environmental benefits through reduced congestion and improved air quality.
These new arrangements will mean that operators will face the full cost of the fuel they use. This will strengthen the commercial incentives for operators to find ways to reduce their fuel consumption and improve the business case for investment in driver training and low-carbon buses. It also builds on the fuel efficiency target
and the distance-based payment for use of low-carbon buses that are now part of the current BSOG system.
The new incentive per passenger arrangements, which build on the work done by the Commission for Integrated Transport, will rely on accurate recording of passenger numbers. This will require audited data of the sort that can be provided through the use of smart ticketing equipment. The move to per passenger payments will therefore be underpinned by the delivery of the Government's smart and integrated ticketing strategy, which has been announced today, and which is itself supported by the new smart ticketing incentive described above. We recognise that it could take up to 10 years for the national bus fleet to be equipped, and we therefore propose a managed transition from BSOG to the new system.
Introduction of this new form of bus subsidy will also require the approval of the European Commission for reasons of state aid. Given the fundamental nature of the changes that we are proposing, approval is likely to take two to three years. Until the new system has been approved the existing BSOG scheme will continue. Once approval has been given, the per passenger system will be rolled out as quickly as operators can install ITSO smart ticketing systems. The existing fuel-based system will continue in parallel for those operators without smartcard equipment, although the rate of payment may decline over time. Eventually, by around 2020, the BSOG system will end and be replaced entirely by an incentive per passenger.
We will discuss the detailed implementation of these proposals with members of the Bus Subsidy Advisory Group and with other Government Departments. In particular, we recognise that an incentive per passenger will have different impacts in areas of high and low demand. While the bulk of resources available for bus support will therefore move to an incentive per passenger basis, we will wish to discuss with stakeholders how best to make appropriate arrangements for supporting socially necessary services that become less commercially viable as a result of introducing a per passenger system. This might mean, for example, some of the current BSOG budget being transferred to local authorities.
It remains our intention as part of these reforms to stop providing BSOG direct to London operators, as announced last December. We will seek to agree detailed arrangements with TfL at the appropriate time.
The changes I have announced today set the long term direction of changes to bus subsidy and introduce important new incentives to the current system. In summary they will:
Provide strong incentives for bus operators further to improve their fuel efficiency, building on the changes introduced in April 2009 which have sent decisive signals to the industry about the need to improve their environmental performance;
Give operators real incentives to attract more passengers to their services and out of their cars;
Underpin the ticketing strategy also announced today and pave the way for widespread smart ticketing;
Support the take up and use of GPS systems that will increase availability to passengers of real-time information about services and bus performance.
The Council will be asked to reach a political agreement on a regulation on the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport, which also amends Regulation 2006/2004 on co-operation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. While the scope of the regulation remains unresolved prior to the Transport Council, other key UK concerns with the
original proposal have been addressed and the Government hope that a satisfactory political agreement can be reached.
The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on an amending regulation on structures for the management of the European satellite radio-navigation programmes. The Commission will also give a progress report on the Galileo programme. Regulation 683/2008 significantly changed the role of the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA). The amending regulation amends earlier legislation on the GSA to bring it all in line with the 2008 regulation. It changes the name of the body concerned to the European GNSS Agency and gives the European Commission more power in the administrative board. The UK is content that this is a sensible compromise. The UK has been a strong supporter of the need for a security accreditation body which can operate independently. We were also keen that, should the Accreditors take a decision which would significantly increase cost or introduce delay, the Commission cannot overrule them without going to the Council and the Parliament. It would be for Council to decide whether the risk of not doing what the Accreditors wanted was manageable. The Commission and member states have agreed with us that this is a sensible way forward.
There will be a progress report on a directive on the deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS). My officials have been negotiating to secure amendments to the draft directive which better align it with UK interests. Good progress has been made on those areas of concern to the UK.
There will also be a progress report on a proposed directive on aviation security charges. The UK will work towards achieving a fair and proportionate outcome that balances the interests of passengers and airports.
The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a directive on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from EU ports. The UK supports this measure in principle as it should lead to a streamlining of administrative procedures to be followed by ships. It will be important to ensure that the implementation timetable allows member states sufficient time to adapt existing national systems to the new requirements.
The Council will be asked to adopt conclusions following on from the Commission's Communication "A sustainable future for transport: Towards an integrated, technology-led and user friendly system", which was debated by the Council in October. The UK believes the Council conclusions to be a good outcome. They provide the Commission with a clear and useful steer and I expect to be able to sign up to the conclusions at the Council.
The Council will be asked to adopt a decision, authorising the Commission to negotiate an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), providing a general framework for enhanced co-operation. The UK supports this proposal. There are significant gains to be had from closer co-operation between the Community and ICAO, notably in the field of aviation safety. The presidency has made clear that the draft mandate does not affect relations between individual member states and ICAO, nor does it affect the arrangements for preparing Community positions for meetings of the ICAO Council.
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