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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Culture, Media and Sport

Free-to-Air Listed Events

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): A free-to-air listed events regime has operated in the UK for many years and has been reviewed periodically. A review of the current list was commissioned in late 2008 and undertaken by an independent advisory panel chaired by ex-FA executive director, David Davies. The review looked at the principle of having a list, the criteria for listing events and the specific events which should be listed. Full details of the current list and the Davies panel's recommendations are listed below.

In response to the Davies' proposals, the previous Government launched their own consultation at the end of 2009. This consultation closed on 19 March 2010.

This Government begin their consideration of this subject from the perspective of not wishing to increase-and ideally seeking to reduce-the degree of regulation faced by sports bodies and broadcasters while ensuring that viewers continue to have access to the biggest sporting events on free-to-air television, through live coverage or highlights.

Furthermore, the current economic climate also points to us not taking action which could adversely impact on sport, particularly at grassroots level.

In making a decision on the best way forward we have taken account of a range of major developments that are likely to have a significant effect on sports rights markets and the broadcasting landscape in the near future. Digital switchover will conclude in 2012 and will result in the widespread availability of a significantly increased number of television channels. It will also release spectrum which could be used for, among other things, yet more digital channels. Other technological advances could significantly alter the way the sports broadcasting environment operates in the UK. Furthermore, there are issues such as the BBC's strategy review, which will cover sports rights, and the Ofcom pay TV review, the consequences of which still have to work themselves through.

These issues all point to a full review of the current list being deferred until after digital switchover has concluded and its consequences are known. In reaching that view I have looked at the material put forward by respondents to the previous Government's consultation document to see if it contained any evidence to suggest that I should not defer a decision. I did not consider that there was any such evidence: accordingly, I propose to defer a decision on the listed events regime but with a commitment to review the position more fully in 2013-following the completion of digital switchover. The current list therefore remains in force.


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Annex A

Current List of Events

Group A (Full Live Coverage Protected)

Group B (Secondary Coverage Protected)

Davies Review

A review of the current list was commissioned in late 2008 and undertaken by an independent advisory panel chaired by ex-FA executive director, David Davies. The review looked at the principle of having a list, the criteria for listing events and the specific events which should be listed. It concluded the following events should be listed:

Group A (Full Live Coverage Protected)

Events Davies proposed be added to Group A List

The Davies Panel proposed abolishing the Group B List

Defence

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): The outcome of Admiral Lord Boyce's review of the armed forces compensation scheme (AFCS) was announced in February. While the review found that the AFCS was fundamentally sound it made a number of recommendations for improvement. The majority of these improvements require legislative
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amendment to the scheme. While all the changes recommended by Lord Boyce will be implemented in new legislation by February 2011, I have taken the opportunity to make some changes more quickly, and these will take effect in early August.

Most importantly, the time limit to make a claim for injury or illness is to be increased from five to seven years. This ensures anyone who wishes to make a claim for compensation for an injury or illness that has arisen since the scheme was introduced in 2005 can still make a claim.

As well as the increase to time-limits, I have also made the following changes:

No one will lose out as a result of these changes, or those that are to be implemented next year. All those who have already made a claim under the scheme since 6 April 2005 will have their award automatically revisited and will receive an uplift. Due to the complexity involved in revisiting such a large number of previous awards, this process will take time. We aim to have all additional payments made by June 2012.

Making these changes demonstrates the Government's commitment to injured service personnel, and to implementing the recommendations of the Boyce review as soon as is practicable. I will provide a further update when the remainder of the recommendations are put in legislation early next year, after which time the review of awards already made can commence.

Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): I am pleased to announce an early contribution to this Government's commitment to reduce the costs of bureaucracy following a review of public bodies sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

All of the bodies have been reviewed against the technical, impartiality and transparency tests. We have concluded that they are all still needed, except for the Animal Welfare Advisory Council (AWAC). The AWAC was formed in 1996 to provide independent scientific advice to the Secretary of State for Defence on the care and welfare of animals used in procedures for defence research purposes in the United Kingdom. The AWAC is not responsible for monitoring compliance with animal welfare regulations since this is done by the Home Office and their independent Animal Procedures Committee (APC). Consequently the AWAC has not met since 2007. We have consulted with all interested parties and it has been agreed that the AWAC will be dissolved immediately. We are confident that the Home Office and their independent APC will ensure that the MOD continues to take the issue of animal health and welfare seriously and complies fully with all animal welfare regulations.


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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Food and Environment Research Agency and Animal Health

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): The 2009-10 annual report and accounts for the Food and Environment Research Agency and Animal Health will be laid before Parliament today.

UK Seas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I am today placing in the Library of the House a copy of the report prepared by the UK marine monitoring and assessment strategy (UKMMAS) community entitled "Charting Progress 2: the state of UK seas". A copy will also be available on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' website (http://chartingprogress. defra.gov.uk).

Charting Progress 2 is the most comprehensive report on the state of the UK marine environment ever undertaken and is the result of a five-year study into how human use and other pressures, such as climate change, are affecting our seas. It draws on evidence gathered by scientists from marine agencies, research institutes, universities, environmental organisations and industries around the UK. All the evidence has been peer reviewed by national and international scientists.

The top findings of the report are:

Our seas are three times the size of our land and yet while we have many reports that tell us what is happening to our land, we have little to inform us about the state of our seas. Charting Progress 2 allows us to monitor our progress and prioritise what action Government and business need to take to achieve clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. As a first step, we have published a Government commentary on Charting Progress 2 (http://chartingprogress.defra. gov.uk) which highlights the important messages coming from UKMMAS's work and our approach to them and also identifies where we need to improve knowledge or reduce uncertainty before we can make policy and management decisions.


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Marine Policy Statement

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved Administrations are launching today a public consultation on the draft UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS). As required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, I am laying the consultation draft before both Houses of Parliament, and placing copies in the House Libraries.

The MPS forms a key element of the coalition Government's programme for implementing the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The draft MPS is UK-wide and has been developed jointly with officials in the devolved Administrations. The Marine Act provides for the introduction of marine planning in UK waters for the first time and the MPS is the first step in this new marine planning system.

The MPS is defined by the requirements placed on it by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, with the overall aim of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. The MPS will be the decision-making framework for the UK marine area and will guide the development of marine plans and licensing regimes across the UK. It will ensure that, going forward, decisions about the marine area are made strategically, according to a clearly set out vision, policies and objectives. The MPS therefore covers all major activities and sectors from renewable energy to nature conservation and from fishing to tourism. The MPS sets the policy context and direction in each of these areas and the considerations that must be given to each activity in the development of marine plans or when licensing decisions are taken. By bringing together the wealth of policy objectives for the marine area, and by setting out in one place the breadth of the legislation that exists for the marine environment, the MPS will provide clarity for regulators and developers. The aim of the MPS is to ensure the necessary consistency and coherence across the UK in the way we manage our seas, while providing the flexibility for marine plans to reflect the characteristics and needs of different marine areas.

The draft MPS is supported by an appraisal of sustainability (incorporating a strategic environmental assessment), a habitats regulations assessment, an equality impact assessment screening report and an impact assessment. These documents have also been published today as part of the consultation package, and copies will be placed in the House Libraries.

The public consultation being launched today invites comments on all the documents listed above. The consultation can be found online at: www.defra. gov.uk/corporate/consult/marine-policy/index.htm. The consultation closes on 13 October 2010. All interested parties are invited to participate in consultation events being organised by my Department and in the wider engagement programme set out in our revised Statement of Public Participation, which can be found at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/documents/legislation/ukpolicy-publicpart.pdf. My officials will make a summary of the consultation responses available to Parliament at the end of the consultation period.

Paragraph 10(7) of schedule 5 to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires the Secretary of State to specify the period allocated for legislative scrutiny of
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the consultation draft of the MPS. The relevant period for this purpose begins on 21 July 2010 and ends on 28 January 2011.

My Department is also launching today consultations on the marine planning system and the marine licensing systems in England. Together, these three consultations represent a coherent package of action that the Government are taking to improve the management of our seas.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): On 16 to 17 July 2010 I attended an informal meeting of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The overriding aim of the Kazakh OSCE chairmanship-in-office was to secure political endorsement of their proposal for an OSCE summit. During my interventions at both the dinner on 16 July and the two plenary sessions on 17 July I stressed the need for a substantive agenda, if there was to be a summit, and for the OSCE to demonstrate the capacity to act across four specific areas of OSCE activity: conflict prevention and resolution; arms control; human rights and democracy; and transnational threats, including those linked to Afghanistan. On the afternoon of 17 July Ministers reached consensus on a summit taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan by the end of 2010.

During my time in Kazakhstan I was able to have bilateral meetings with 14 Foreign Ministers and other Heads of Delegation(1), the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. In my meeting with the Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan I underlined the need for the Kyrgyz authorities to take forward the difficult process of reconciliation and reconstruction, particularly in terms of organising a credible investigation into the tragic events in April and June. I also noted that DFID would represent the British Government at the 27 July donor conference in Bishkek.

The ongoing crisis in Kyrgyzstan was taken up by a number of delegations during the plenary session, including the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany, who arrived in Kazakhstan direct from a joint visit to Kyrgyzstan. They tabled a paper on the role the OSCE could play across the board in Kyrgyzstan and the need to despatch a Police Advisory Group (PAG). I am placing a copy of this paper in the Library of the House. I and many other delegations welcomed the proposals. The Kyrgyz Government and the OSCE reached agreement on the arrangements for the PAG subject to agreement by the OSCE Permanent Council on 22 July.

International Development

Kabul Conference Commitments

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): On 10 June the Prime Minister announced an additional 40% of aid funding over four years, to support measurable outcomes to promote stability in Afghanistan. Following consultations with
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other Government Departments, my recent visit to Afghanistan alongside the Foreign Secretary for the Kabul conference, and discussions with the Afghan Government, I am pleased to confirm that the increase will focus on three key areas, which I see as critical to a better future for the Afghan people and a secure future for the UK:

First, improving security and political stability:

Second, stimulating the economy:

Third, helping the Afghan Government deliver vital basic services:

At the Kabul conference, the Afghan Government reiterated their aspiration that at least 50% of aid should flow through Government systems. The UK remains committed to that target. Following intensive work with senior Afghan Ministers, a set of benchmarks have been agreed to measure progress on a six-monthly basis. The UK and other donors will need to see progress against those benchmarks to remain confident that funds are well spent and results and outcomes achieved.

I am committed to ensuring close monitoring and evaluation of all DFID support in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and will be ready to reallocate resources if programmes fail to deliver, or our partners underperform.

Northern Ireland

Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): I have today placed a copy of the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland's annual report for the period 2009-10 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available on the Boundary Commission website at: www.boundarycommission.org.uk.

Transport

Airports (Economic Regulation)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): In the Queen's Speech the Government announced their intention to reform the framework for the economic regulation of airports. Today I am announcing the direction of our proposals.

The Government have previously announced that they do not support the construction of a third runway at Heathrow airport nor additional runways at either Stansted or Gatwick airports. Instead, it is the Government's intention to make these airports better and not bigger, delivering better outcomes for passengers without additional runways.

To deliver operational improvements at these airports, I have recently announced the creation of the South East Airports Taskforce and that group has already begun its work.

I plan to introduce a new set of duties for the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) economic regulation of airports which will put the interests of passengers unambiguously at the heart of the regime. Under these proposals the CAA's primary duty will be to promote the interests of existing and future passengers.

Where regulation is necessary it must be proportionate. Airports vary in size and market power and therefore should not be subject to identical regulation. To allow economic regulation to be used in a targeted way, I plan to introduce a new licensing regime to be applied only to airports with substantial market power and where
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such regulation adds real value. We presently expect this regime will apply initially to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

Airports subject to economic regulation by the CAA need to operate efficiently and effectively and I am clear that significant investment will be required if passengers' expectations are to be met. The proposals I am outlining today are to reform the framework for airport economic regulation to drive passenger-focused investment in better facilities such as baggage handling equipment or terminal improvements. These proposals will allow economic regulation to be used in a more targeted way to deliver passengers' priorities and will remove unnecessary bureaucracy and political involvement from the regulatory process.

In order to ensure the financial resilience of UK airports, I will also introduce a supplementary financing duty and minimum credit worthiness requirements as well as ring-fencing conditions where there is a net benefit in introducing such measures, and require the preparation of plans for continuity of service should an airport operator get into financial difficulties.

All too often, regulation can crowd out commercial incentives to make improvements, so I intend to provide the CAA with the option, where appropriate, to respond to anti-competitive behaviour using competition law powers rather than by applying its regulatory tools. I propose to bring airport economic regulation into line with other regulated sectors of the economy by granting the CAA concurrent powers with the Office of Fair Trading. This will enable the CAA to investigate and remedy anti-competitive behaviour in the provision of airport services at airports, and where appropriate to make referrals to the Competition Commission for investigation. Supporting competition in this way may, in time, allow the regulator to gradually loosen its regulatory grip.

Effective enforcement is critical to the efficiency of any regulatory system. To bring airport economic regulation into line with other regulated sectors of the economy I plan to introduce civil sanctions, including financial penalties, for the CAA to enforce licence conditions, creating a more efficient and responsive enforcement regime.

An efficient and credible appeals mechanism is necessary to ensure a regulator is accountable. Under the current regime, persons with sufficient interest may apply for judicial review of the CAA's decisions. The industry is unanimous in its view that judicial review alone is an unsuitable process for providing accountability. The option to apply for judicial review must remain, but I propose to introduce a system for merit-based appeals, to a body with relevant expertise, against certain decisions taken by the regulator. This new system will apply to appeals against decisions on which airports should be regulated and to appeals arising out of contested licence modifications, including new price controls.

After careful consideration, I have decided not to give a new remit to Passenger Focus to represent air passengers as had previously been proposed. While it is important to have strong passenger representation, this is not the time to be make additional structural changes which would add to the regulatory burden on industry. I will therefore be exploring options for strengthening existing passenger representation arrangements.


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I am also publishing today analysis of responses to further consultations on certain detailed provisions relating to financial resilience of operators and to concurrency powers. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Port of Dover

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): In January 2010 Dover Harbour Board published its proposals for a transfer scheme to enable it to privatise the port of Dover so that, among other things, it could access private investment to build capacity at the port. There was a statutory period of eight weeks for those with an interest to make representations about the transfer scheme, which ended on 25 March.

Since publishing its proposals in January, Dover Harbour Board has continued to discuss the proposed transfer scheme and the associated proposals for a port of Dover Community Trust and Employee Share Ownership Trust with local organisations, including the local councils, as well as port users. In recognition of this and the importance of the issue to the people of Dover, I have therefore decided to ask Dover Harbour Board to publish more information about the nature and likely impact of the scheme than was available at the time of the statutory consultation, including details of the port of Dover Community Trust and Employee Share Ownership Trust. This will give those organisations and individuals with an interest in the port of Dover a further and better-informed opportunity to comment on Dover Harbour Board's proposals.

Notices inviting written representations will be published in local newspapers, and those who have already written to the Department, including the local councils, local organisations and port users, are welcome to write again and provide any further comments they may have.

The period for further comments will run until Friday 27 August 2010.

Vehicle Registration Certificate

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): I am today announcing the immediate introduction of a redesigned and more secure Registration Certificate (V5C) for vehicles in the United Kingdom. The new documents will be issued from 15 August 2010 for all newly registered vehicles and when there are changes to an existing registration, such as a change of keeper or address.

I am introducing the new certificate as a matter of urgency to help protect motorists from vehicle crime following the theft of a number of blank certificates in 2006. Vehicles have been stolen, cloned and sold to consumers using some of the stolen V5Cs. Buyers often mistakenly believe the V5C to be proof of ownership of a vehicle. This is not the case. The new V5C, which is a different colour, will make it clear the document is not proof of ownership and will help draw to an end the threat posed by the stolen documents. This will help buyers to protect themselves.

From July 2011, the new-style V5C will be issued to all remaining vehicles when they are next re-licensed or declared to be off the road. Their existing blue V5C will remain valid until it is replaced and at that time we will not be asking for the old V5C to be returned.


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DVLA and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland are also promoting a "Buyer Beware" message aimed at helping motorists understand the risks around stolen or cloned vehicles. In particular, buyers need to ask for proof of ownership, for example a bill of sale. The DirectGov website now has a list of checks that should be carried out by prospective buyers when looking to buy a second-hand vehicle. The list is printable, to make it easy to use when going to inspect a vehicle.


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DVLA and DVA are working in partnership with industry leaders and consumer champions to make the DirectGov and NI Direct websites a central point for expert knowledge on how to avoid being sold a stolen vehicle. While no one can guarantee that motorists will not ever become the victims of vehicle crime, DVLA and DVA believe they can help individuals to make the right decisions by helping them understand the risks involved.


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