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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 18 October 2010

Business, Innovation and Skills

Intellectual Property Office

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox) has today made the following statement:

Cabinet Office

"Common Sense, Common Safety"

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr Oliver Letwin): In June this year the Prime Minister appointed Lord Young of Graffham to undertake a review into the rise of the compensation culture over the last decade coupled with the current low standing that health and safety legislation now suffers and to suggest solutions.

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His intention in doing this was to bring about a return to proportionality and common sense in the application of both health and safety rules and to the payment of compensation for those victims of genuine accidents.

With the publication of Lord Young's report "Common Sense, Common Safety" on Friday 15 October 2010 we are a step closer to achieving this. His proposals include measures to curtail the promotional activities of claims management companies and the compensation culture they perpetuate; clearer guidance for small businesses, schools and the police and fire services-freeing them from unnecessary bureaucracy and the fear of litigation; greater professionalism and transparency for those working in and with the health and safety industry; and a system where those wanting to hold events in their local communities are not hamstrung by red tape and over-prescriptive application of regulations.

The Government fully support this report and Lord Young will remain as the Prime Minister's adviser. He will work with Departments, the devolved Administrations, and all those with an interest in seeing his recommendations put into effect.

Lord Young's review "Common Sense, Common Safety" can be downloaded from the No.10 website, www.number10.gov.uk. Copies of the document have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Energy and Climate Change

Energy Policy

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne):

National Policy Statements

On 15 July, Official Report, col. 40WS my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) told the House that the Government would hold a further consultation in the autumn on the draft energy national policy statements (NPSs).

I am today announcing this further consultation. It follows a consultation undertaken by the previous Administration which closed earlier this year. We have decided on this further consultation in particular because of changes which have been made to the appraisals of sustainability for the non-nuclear energy national policy statements following the previous consultation.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for decentralisation told the House on 29 June, Official Report, col. 34-35WS, in announcing changes to the planning system, national policy statements are critically important documents and should have the strongest possible democratic legitimacy. They should be subject to public consultation and both scrutinised and ratified by Parliament before designation. I am today laying the revised draft NPSs before Parliament for any further scrutiny that Parliament may decide to undertake, and I am taking this opportunity to specify that the relevant period for that scrutiny under section 9(6) of the Planning Act 2008 will end on 31 January 2011. The public consultation will run until 24 January 2011, and we intend to present the finalised statements to Parliament for ratification next spring.

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Energy national policy statements will be critical to delivering secure low-carbon energy supplies through the role they will play in the planning system. Decisions on new nationally significant infrastructure projects, whether by the Infrastructure Planning Commission or, in due course, by Ministers (subject to the passage of the Decentralisation and Localism Bill), will be taken in accordance with the framework of policies set out in the NPS.

At least one quarter of the UK's electricity generating capacity needs to be replaced by 2020 and it will be important we create the right environment for business to invest in the energy market. The revised statements will give investors the certainty they need to bring forward proposals to maintain security of supply and ensure progress towards decarbonisation.

The energy NPSs set out national policy on a number of key energy policy areas: fossil fuels; renewables; gas supply and gas and oil pipelines; electricity networks; and nuclear. Each of these forms a separate NPS, sitting below an overarching energy NPS.

Each of the NPSs is accompanied by an appraisal of sustainability (AOS), which incorporates environmental reports which have been prepared under European law, and by a habitats regulations assessment (HRA). We are also consulting again on these associated documents.

Earlier this year, Parliament scrutinised draft energy NPSs both here and in another place. I would like to thank the Energy and Climate Change Committee for its report, and those in another place who also undertook important scrutiny work on the earlier drafts. I am today publishing the Government's response to Parliament alongside the revised NPSs.

I am today also publishing a Government response to the previous consultation, to which there were over 3,000 responses, which identifies the key themes in the responses and responds to them.

Copies of all these documents have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available at http://www.energynpsconsultation.decc.gov.uk.

Regulatory Justification

I have today laid before the House draft statutory instruments containing my decisions, as Justifying Authority under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004, that the generation of electricity from the nuclear reactor designs known as the AP1000 and the EPR is justified.

Regulatory Justification is one of the actions which the Government are taking to facilitate the building of new nuclear power stations. It is required under EU legislation that provides that before any new practice involving ionising radiation (such as new designs of nuclear reactors) can be introduced, it must first undergo a high-level generic assessment to determine whether its economic, social or other benefits outweigh the health detriment it may cause.

As Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change I am the Justifying Authority and it is my responsibility to take these decisions.

Justification decisions are made by statutory instruments. The statutory instruments which I have today laid in draft before the House are supported by reasons documents, copies of which have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

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The reasons documents set out how I have considered responses to the public consultations carried out by my Department, how I have assessed the net benefit of the classes or types of practice against the radiological health detriment they may cause, and how I have come to the decisions that they are Justified.

In summary, the basis for my decisions, as set out in the draft statutory instruments, is that there is a clear need for the generation of electricity by the nuclear reactor designs to which the statutory instruments relate, because of the contribution they can make to increased security of energy supplies and reduced carbon emissions. Against this the radiological detriment to health from these nuclear reactor designs and their associated waste facilities will be low compared to overall levels of radiation, and effectively controlled by the UK's robust and effective regulators. I have therefore concluded that the reactor designs should be Justified.

The Justification Regulations provide that

Having considered all the evidence supplied in the course of the public consultations, I have concluded that interested parties have been provided with sufficient opportunity to make their views known; that I have been provided with sufficient information to balance the competing arguments, interests and evidence bases in the relevant areas; and that I have sufficient information before me to make a decision. The draft statutory instruments containing the decisions will also be subject to debates in both Houses of Parliament. I have therefore concluded that holding an inquiry or other hearing as part of the process would produce insufficient further information or other benefit to justify delaying the making of these decisions and that it is not expedient to do so.

Copies of a statement to this effect, and of the reasons documents, have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on my Department's website at

Financing of Nuclear Waste and Decommissioning

The Energy Act 2008 puts in place the framework to ensure that operators of new nuclear power stations meet in full their waste management, waste disposal and decommissioning costs.

Today I am laying in the House the Nuclear Decommissioning and Waste Handling (Designated Technical Matters) Order 2010. This order will give operators greater clarity over which liabilities require monies to be set aside in segregated funds.

The order will proceed under the affirmative procedure and, if passed, will be followed by the Decommissioning and Waste Handling (Finance and Fees) Regulations 2010.

The order and the regulations together complete the statutory framework for the financing of nuclear waste and decommissioning.

No Subsidy for New Nuclear Power

Alongside the other announcements being made today on steps the Government are taking to enable new nuclear power, I should like to take the opportunity to reconfirm the Government's policy that there will be no public subsidy for new nuclear power.

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To be clear, this means that there will be no levy, direct payment or market support for electricity supplied or capacity provided by a private sector new nuclear operator, unless similar support is also made available more widely to other types of generation.

New nuclear power will, for example, benefit from any general measures that are in place or may be introduced as part of wider reform of the electricity market to encourage investment in low-carbon generation.

I would also like to make it clear that we are not ruling out action by the Government to take on financial risks or liabilities for which they are appropriately compensated or for which there are corresponding benefits.

Specifically, within the framework of the Government's policy under the Energy Act 2008, that new nuclear operators must have arrangements in place to meet the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of waste management costs, we will not rule out taking title to radioactive waste, including spent fuel, at a fixed price provided that price properly reflects any financial risks or liabilities assumed by the state.

In addition, the Government are committed to the Paris convention on nuclear third-party liability and the Brussels supplementary convention. These conventions establish an internationally agreed framework for compensating victims in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident. The UK is already a party to them-and currently caps operators' liability at £140 million. The UK is also bound, with other Brussels signatory states, to contribute to a fund that will compensate victims both in the UK and other convention countries should a serious nuclear incident happen.

The Government will consult later this year on our proposals to implement amendments to the conventions. These amendments impose a more stringent regime for operators than the current one, and alongside these improvements, the Government will be consulting on whether to continue to include an upper limit on operator liability, as permitted by the conventions. Accordingly, in line with the policy I am outlining, and without prejudice to the outcome of that consultation, the Government have not ruled out the maintenance of a limit on operator liability set at an appropriate level provided that it is justifiable in the public interest, is the right way of ensuring that risk is appropriately managed, and that, overall, any potential cost or risk to the Government can be justified by the corresponding benefits of the Paris/Brussels regime.

Arguably, few economic activities can be absolutely free of subsidy in some respect, given the wide-ranging scope of state activity and the need to abide by international treaty obligations. Our "no subsidy" policy will therefore need to be applied having regard to proportionality and materiality.

We will not rule out the Government providing support to industry in the normal course of the business of government, for example through the activities of the Office for Nuclear Development in taking forward the actions to facilitate the deployment of new nuclear power in a similar manner to the facilitation of other energy types. The Government will continue to meet their international obligations and support wider activity in the nuclear sector, including support for research and development, supply chain and skills activity.

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The Government will also continue to provide funding to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to ensure the efficient and effective clean-up of the UK's civil, public sector legacy nuclear facilities.

Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study

I am also today publishing the conclusions of the Severn tidal power feasibility study and the key documents which informed its conclusions.

Following a positive recommendation from the Sustainable Development Commission in October 2007, a two-year cross-Government feasibility study was launched to inform a decision whether or not to promote a tidal power scheme in the Severn estuary. The cross-Government feasibility study, led by my Department, also included representatives from the Welsh Assembly Government and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.

The Severn's enormous tidal range could provide up to 5% of our current electricity generation from an indigenous renewable source, and bring new employment opportunity both locally and nationally. But costs would be high, and a scheme would have to have a strategic need compared to other ways of meeting our need for renewable energy. Furthermore, the Severn estuary and some of its tributaries are designated as internationally important nature conservation sites. The study has considered whether Government could support a tidal power project in the Severn estuary and, if so, on what terms.

It has looked at five potentially viable scheme options in outline and assessed their costs, benefits and risks. The evidence base which I am publishing with the findings of the study is extensive and includes a strategic environmental assessment of the Severn tidal power options short-listed following last year's consultation.

The key conclusion of the feasibility study is that the Government do not see a strategic case at this time for public funding of a tidal scheme to generate energy in the Severn estuary. The costs and risks for the taxpayer and energy consumer would be excessive compared to other low-carbon energy options. Furthermore, uncertainties over compliance with regulation would add to the cost and risk of construction. The Government believe that other options, such as the expansion of wind energy, carbon capture and storage and nuclear power, represent a better deal for taxpayers and consumers at this time.

However, the Government recognise that factors which will determine the feasibility of Severn tidal power could change over time. The feasibility study evidence therefore includes potential triggers for a future review, so that it can be considered by the Committee on Climate Change in the work they will be doing on the level of renewables ambition required to meet the 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target. The committee is expected to report next year. The Government do not intend to review Severn tidal power before 2015.


NHS White Paper

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): Today I am publishing two further consultation documents seeking views on proposals set out in the White Paper, "Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS" (Cm 7881).
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We are consulting on proposals for an information revolution and to give patients greater choice and control. The vision set out in the White Paper is of an NHS and social care system that puts patients and the public first and is more responsive to their needs and wishes-an NHS where patients, service users, carers and families have far more influence and choice in the system and where they have the information they need. "Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control-A consultation on proposals" and "Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution-A consultation on proposals" have been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. The documents are also available electronically at www.dh.gov.uk/liberatingtheNHS.

"Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control-A consultation on proposals" further develops the choice commitments set out in the White Paper to:

The proposals envisage choice of treatment and health care provider becoming the reality in the vast majority of NHS-funded services by no later than 2013-14.

The second consultation "Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution-A consultation on proposals" is about transforming the way information is collected, analysed, controlled and used in NHS and adult social care services. The information revolution is about moving:

These consultations are opportunities to seek the views of patients, the wider public and the NHS, about the challenges that lie ahead, how we can successfully
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address them, and how we best take forward the choice and information commitments. Responses to the consultation will help us shape how greater choice and control and the information revolution are delivered.

The consultation period for both documents will close on 14 January 2011.

Prime Minister

National Security Strategy

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am today publishing Britain's National Security Strategy, "A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty" (Cm 7953). Together with the strategic defence and security review, which will be published tomorrow, it sets out our strategic choices on how to ensure the security of our country. Both will be covered in my oral statement to Parliament tomorrow.

The United Kingdom faces a complex array of threats from a myriad of sources. The national security strategy describes the strategic context within which these threats arise, and how they may develop in the future. It describes Britain's place in the world, as an open, outward-facing nation whose political, economic and cultural authority far exceeds our size. Our national interest requires our continued full and active engagement in world affairs, promoting our security, our prosperity and our values.

Our objectives are ensuring a secure and resilient United Kingdom, and shaping a stable world. In pursuit of those goals, our highest priorities are tackling terrorism, cyber security, international military crises and natural disasters such as floods and pandemics. We will draw together and use all the instruments of national power to tackle these risks, including the armed forces, diplomats, intelligence and development professionals, the police, the private sector and the British people themselves.

The national security strategy, together with the measures in the strategic defence and security review, will enable us to protect our security and advance our interests in the world.

Copies of the national security strategy have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses .

Work and Pensions

Benefits System (Fraud and Error)

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): I am today publishing "Tackling fraud and error in the benefit and tax credits systems" a new joint DWP and HMRC strategy. This will be followed by a wider cross-government approach to tackling fraud, error and debt collection across the rest of the public sector being led by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. This strategy contains proposals to reduce significantly the level of fraud and error in the welfare system. It contains measures to prevent fraud and error from the outset of any claim; root out and correct mistakes where they do happen; deliver tough punishments for those who defraud the system; and deter those who would try to abuse the system in future.

Copies of the report will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

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