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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 3 February 2010


Terrorist Asset Freezing

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): Following the Supreme Court's decision in relation to the Government's asset-freezing powers, I announced the Treasury's intention to consider fast-track legislation to reinstate the asset-freezing regime.

It is our intention to introduce legislation that effectively reinstates the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009, which the Government have in the past used in good faith. It is our belief that the fast-track legislation would be a proper response to the ongoing significant threat from international terrorism.

In order for the House to give adequate scrutiny to the proposed legislation, copies of the 2009 Order are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Library. Copies of the legislation itself will be available immediately on the introduction of the Bill. Our ambition is to mirror the 2009 Order in the legislation we present to the House.

The Government also intend to bring forward affirmative procedure regulations under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 to ensure that enforcement provisions are in place to implement fully EC Regulation 881/2002 in respect of measures against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Taken together, the Government believe that these measures will help maintain an effective, proportionate and fair terrorist asset-freezing regime that meets our United Nations obligations, protects national security by disrupting flows of terrorist finance, and safeguards human rights.

Cabinet Office

Civil Service Compensation Scheme

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and for the Olympics, and Paymaster General (Tessa Jowell): I am pleased to inform the House that the Government have now finalised terms for reform of the civil service compensation scheme and that we have agreed these terms with the FDA, Prospect, the GMB, Unite and the Prison Officers' Association.

The CSCS sets out the terms which departments may use on redundancy or voluntary exits. In reforming the scheme we have a number of objectives:

First, we wish to be certain that the scheme represents value for money for the taxpayer and delivers the £500 million saving set out by the Prime Minister in his written ministerial statement of 31 March 2009.

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Secondly, we need to ensure that the scheme both does not create perverse incentives through awarding excessively generous payments to some individuals on redundancy, and complies with age discrimination legislation by ensuring that the level of severance payments awarded is primarily linked to length of service, not to age.

Thirdly, we need to ensure the reforms provide additional protection to the lowest paid staff.

Cabinet Office officials have held numerous meetings with the civil service unions since July 2008. We consulted fully on the provisional proposals that the Cabinet Office published in "Fairness For All" on 31 July 2009, receiving over 18,000 comments in response. I met with the civil service unions on 22 September as part of that process.

In our response to the consultation, on 4 December 2009 we modified our original proposals to reflect the comments we had received. There were two issues that came through particularly strongly in the responses to the consultation and in my meeting with the unions. These were, the need to ensure that the lowest paid workers with long service could still access up to three years' pay in compensation on redundancy, and the need to preserve the option of access to an unreduced pension on redundancy for those close to pension age.

I met with the unions again on 17 December to discuss our revised proposals. I asked Cabinet Office officials to have further meetings with the unions in order to see if it were possible to reach agreement within the parameters of the principles that have been established.

Following these discussions, I am pleased that we have reached agreement with five of the six main civil service unions on a modified set of proposals. Unite, the GMB, Prospect, the Prison Officers' Association, and the FDA have agreed that these terms represent a fair deal for their members. Together, these five unions represent a cross section of civil service staff across all grades, ages and professions. The sixth and largest union PCS has not agreed the terms, but its members, along with all other civil servants, will be subject to the settlement with the implementation of the amending order.

The new terms provide added protection, enabling the lowest paid to continue to receive a service-related redundancy payment of up to three years' pay, up to a maximum of £60,000. As in our earlier proposals, payments will be capped at a maximum of two years' pay for higher earners. The added protection for the lowest paid means that those earning under £20,000 will not be affected by the new cap limiting severance payments to two years' pay, while those earning between £20,000 and £30,000 will be eligible for severance payments of up to between two and three years' pay.

We have also agreed some further transitional protection for existing staff. If made compulsorily redundant, staff aged at least 50 as of 31 March 2010-and with a minimum of five years' service-will continue to receive existing compulsory retirement terms. This means they will continue to receive an early, enhanced pension based on their years of service as at 31 March 2010, thus providing a significant level of further protection, for those closest to retirement, from the position reached in December.

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A relatively small number of civil servants, who joined the civil service before 1987, are currently eligible for a reserved right severance payment. Here, we have modified our earlier proposals so that if made compulsorily redundant, these staff would receive a severance payment based on their years of service as at 31 March 2010, with the cash value tapered to become equivalent in value to the new terms within 3 to 4 years.

We consider that the package of changes addresses concerns raised in the consultation and provides a fair deal both for civil servants and the taxpayer.

I will lay the scheme amendments before Parliament by the end of this week so as to implement the changes to the CSCS from 1 April 2010.

Communities and Local Government

Private Rented Sector

The Minister for Housing (John Healey): I am today publishing a policy statement, "The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps". This sets out a summary of responses to our consultation document, "The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality-the Government response to the Rugg Review", published on 13 May 2009, Official Report, column 50WS and reported to the House by the then Minister for Housing, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett). The document that I am publishing today sets out Government's plans following the responses to that consultation. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Government want to see a private rented sector which offers high-quality accommodation, and in which tenants can make choices based on clear information about their options, their rights, and their responsibilities. We also want to ensure tenants know where to turn if things go wrong. At the same time, Government want to increase professionalism in the private rented sector-supporting good landlords and agents, while driving out the worst practices of the sector that fail tenants and damage its reputation.

Alongside our longer-term plans for legislation to improve standards, today's document sets out our proposals to provide better help and support to tenants now. This includes a commitment to set up, by the summer of this year, a dedicated helpline for private sector tenants working with voluntary sector agencies, and an online consumer feedback website working with consumer focus.

Our consultation document, published in May 2008, set out a range of proposals to support a higher-quality, more professional sector, while minimising the regulatory burden on good landlords and agents. The proposals included a national register of landlords for England; full regulation for private sector letting and managing agents; and encouragement to local authorities to create "local lettings agencies".

Consultation responses were strongly supportive of the proposals, although there were some concerns about specific details, and about implementation. Alongside the formal consultation, Government worked with a wide range of organisations on the development of detailed policy to underpin the proposals.

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Our statement today reflects those consultation responses and the contribution of these work groups. It confirms the issues on which our intentions are now firm, as well as the detailed issues on which there is further work to do with interested stakeholders. In particular the statement includes commitments to:

We remain committed to legislating at the earliest opportunity on these commitments to increase the protection and practical help available to tenants in the private rented sector.

These measures are complemented by the Government consultation, published by the Treasury-"Investing in the UK Private Rented Sector"-also published today, which considers whether there are any substantive barriers to investment in the sector by individuals and institutions. Taken together, steps to raise quality and identify any barriers to investment should reinforce each other and create a better private rented sector that can become the tenure of choice for a wider range of people.

Energy and Climate Change

Biomass and Grandfathering

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): My noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Hunt, today made the following statement:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UK Marine Science Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): The "UK Marine Science Strategy" has been published today by the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee. The strategy is the first of its kind for the UK and will help shape, support, co-ordinate and enable the delivery of world class marine science for the UK. Copies of the strategy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Legal Aid Reform

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement:

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