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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 18 March 2011

Business, Innovation and Skills

Flexible Working

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): I am announcing today that I intend to repeal shortly the regulations on extending the right to request flexible working to parents of 17-year-olds that were laid before Parliament on 16 December 2010 and that were due to come into force on the 6 April 2011.

The Government remain committed to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees in due course. We will consult on this extension later in the spring.

The Government are constantly listening to the views of all stakeholders including business, and it has recently become clear that this small extension to the flexible working regulations could be an unhelpful complication at this important point in the UK’s economic recovery when employers need to focus on growth and creating jobs. We therefore intend to repeal these regulations, which will also avoid multiple changes to the flexible working regulations over the coming years.


Parliamentary Oral Question (Correction)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): I regret to inform the House that an answer I gave in response to a supplementary question about nuclear test veterans from the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) during Defence oral questions on 31 January 2011, Official Report, column 573, could have been misleading. I said:

“the courts have found there is no causal link whatever between many of the disabilities and illnesses suffered and any exposure to radiation”.

This statement could have been open to interpretation and I wrote to the hon. Member for Scunthorpe in response to a letter from him to clarify the position on 23 February. I also mentioned this to him when we met on 1 March. The position is that the Court of Appeal judgment in the Atomic Veterans Group litigation granted the Ministry of Defence’s appeal on limitation, not on causation. However, as part of this judgment, the Court said that the claimants have produced no evidence which begins to satisfy those usual causation requirements and that the general merits of the claims were extremely weak.

Cabinet Office

Commission on a Bill of Rights

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): The Government have established an independent Commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of

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Rights, fulfilling a commitment made in our programme for government. The Commission will explore a range of issues surrounding human rights law in the UK and will also play an advisory role on our continuing work to press for reform of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The UK will be pressing for significant reform of the European Court of Human Rights, building on the reform process underway in the lead up to our Chairmanship of the Council of Europe later this year. We will be pressing in particular to reinforce the principle that states rather than the European Court of Human Rights have the primary responsibility for protecting convention rights.

The Commission will be chaired by Sir Leigh Lewis KCB, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions with a long career in public service. He will be joined on the Commission by: Jonathan Fisher QC, Martin Howe QC, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, Philippe Sands QC, Anthony Speaight QC, Professor Sir David Edward QC and Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky.

The terms of reference for the Commission are:

The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties. It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties. It should provide interim advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process to reform the Strasbourg Court ahead of and following the UK’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. It should consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved Administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012”.

The Commission members have, between them, extensive legal expertise and experience, and we expect the Commission to take into account a broad range of views as it fulfils its remit. In addition, an advisory panel will be established to provide advice and expertise to the Commission on issues arising in relation to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission will report jointly to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice. The Commission will be supported in its work by a small secretariat of civil servants.

Energy and Climate Change

Feed-in Tariffs (Review)

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): I am today announcing a consultation as part of the fast-track review of feed-in tariffs (FITs) for small scale low-carbon electricity generation.

On 7 February, I announced the start of the first comprehensive review of the FITs scheme for small scale low-carbon electricity generation which would:

assess all aspects of the scheme including tariff levels, administration and eligibility of technologies;

be completed by the end of the year, with tariffs remaining unchanged until April 2012 (unless the review reveals a need for greater urgency);

fast-track consideration of large scale solar projects (over 50kW) with a view to making any resulting changes to tariffs

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as soon as practical, subject to consultation and parliamentary scrutiny as required by the Energy Act 2008; and

alongside the fast-track review of large scale solar PV, undertake a short study into the take-up of FITs for farm-based anaerobic digestion plants.

The document published today deals with the last two of these points, and seeks views on proposals to changes tariffs for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations larger than 50 kilowatts and farm-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) of up to 500 kilowatts. The proposed new bands and tariffs are as follows:

For large PV installations:

>50kW - ≤150kW: 19p/kWh

>150kW - ≤250kW: 15p/kWh

>250kW - ≤5MW: 8.5p/kWh

And for farm-scale AD installations:

≤250kW: 14p/kWh

>250 - ≤500kW: 13p/kWh

The FITs scheme has been a success since its launch in April 2010 with over 27,000 FITs installations registered to date, of which 92% are domestic-scale solar PV generators, which are not affected by the proposed changes in the fast-track review. The FITs scheme rewards generators for the green electricity they produce, use and sell back to the grid. We want to protect the diversity of the FITs scheme, and ensure that it benefits homes, small businesses and communities, and the full range of innovative technologies.

In these financially challenging times, it is even more important that we get the balance of the scheme right. The projections for take-up of FITs published by the previous Government failed to anticipate any large or small scale non-domestic solar PV installations until 2013. These projections have clearly proved to be flawed. Current market indications are that a rapid increase in the number of larger solar installations entering the scheme could distort funding for smaller and domestic scale installations as well as other technologies. Conversely the current tariff levels have failed to spur a meaningful uptake for anaerobic digestion which means that this technology is not fulfilling its potential contribution to our energy mix.

Decentralised renewables are a vital part of green growth and the FITs scheme has proved highly successful at stimulating growth, driving innovation, creating jobs and cutting carbon. We must act now to ensure that the scheme continues to deliver and we are able to achieve both our spending review commitment to improving the efficiency of the scheme, which will deliver £40 million of savings (around 10%) in 2014-15, as well as ensuring that the benefits of a faster fall in technology costs are shared as widely as possible rather than captured in higher returns for a small number of individual investors.

We are seeking views on proposed tariffs until 6 May 2011. The Government will not act retrospectively and any changes to generation tariffs implemented as a result of the review will only affect new entrants into the FITs scheme. Installations which are already accredited for FITs at the time will not be affected. We propose that these changes take effect from 1 August 2011, subject to the outcome of this consultation and parliamentary scrutiny.

We are also seeking views on the scope of the comprehensive review by 12 April 2011.

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The consultation document can be accessed at: www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/fit_review/fit_review.aspx.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UK 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 publishing the UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS). I am 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 Act). The MPS is UK-wide and has been developed jointly with officials in the devolved Administrations. The 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 Act with the overall aim of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. The MPS is the decision-making framework for the UK marine area and guides the development of marine plans and marine licensing decisions across the UK. 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 MPS therefore covers all major activities and sectors in our seas from renewable energy to nature conservation and from fishing to tourism. It 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 decisions that may affect the marine area 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, developers and all those with an interest in our marine environment, a clarity which will be built on with the development and adoption of marine plans.

The draft MPS was laid in Parliament on 21 July 2010 and the final version takes on board comments made during parliamentary scrutiny. In accordance with the Act, we have produced a document summarising the differences between the draft consultation version of the MPS and the final version being published today.

The MPS was developed with an appraisal of sustainability (incorporating a strategic environmental assessment). A post-adoption statement has been published in accordance with the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) directive explaining how sustainability considerations have been integrated into the MPS. In addition to these documents, the MPS is supported by a habitats regulations assessment, an equality impact assessment screening report and an impact assessment. The documents have taken into account comments from stakeholders, especially during public consultation last year.

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Published copies of the MPS, the post-adoption statement and the document summarising the differences between the draft and final versions of the MPS will be placed in the House Libraries. Electronic copies of these documents are available of the official documents website: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/. The other documents can be found on the DEFRA website: www.defra.gov.uk.

My Department also published a description of the marine planning system for England. This document, together with the MPS, represents a package of action that the Government are taking to improve the management of our seas.


NHS Access

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anne Milton): I am today publishing the Government’s response to the public consultation on access to the national health service by foreign nationals that was issued by the previous Administration before the election.

The NHS is built on the principle that it provides a comprehensive service, based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. However, it is not free of charge to all comers. Legislation dating back to 1977 permits persons who are not ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom to be charged for NHS services and subsequent regulations, first introduced in 1982, impose a charging regime in respect of hospital treatment.

The charging regime provides for some categories of non-residents to be exempt from charges, and international agreements provide reciprocal healthcare that benefits visitors from and to participant countries. It also takes full account of humanitarian obligations in the provision of healthcare, in particular ensuring that the emergency medical needs of any person are treated irrespective of their status or ability to pay.

The consultation was based on a limited review of access and charging policy. After considering the responses we received the Government have decided to take forward their main proposals, specifically to lay the new consolidated charging regulations including the specific changes that were consulted on:

extend the time UK residents can spend abroad without losing automatic entitlement to free hospital treatment from three months to six months;

allow failed asylum seekers who are on UK Border Agency support schemes for families or because there is a barrier to their immediate return, to continue to receive free hospital treatment (but retain charges for those other failed asylum seekers who refuse to return home); and

guarantee the provision of free hospital treatment for unaccompanied children while under local authority care.

In addition, we are taking this opportunity to introduce a limited term exemption for Olympic and Paralympic games competitors and officials in line with a commitment made in our successful 2005 bid, and to amend the trigger for exempting charges for pandemic flu treatment to protect public health.

We also support the Home Office’s plan to introduce proportionate immigration sanctions on overseas visitors

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who refuse to pay appropriate charges for treatment provided. The Department will therefore introduce measures to enable data-sharing with the Home Office to support this while guaranteeing necessary data privacy standards.

However, it is increasingly clear that the overall charging regime is neither balanced nor efficient. Overall entitlement to free healthcare, through residency or other qualifying exemptions is often more generous to visitors and short-term residents than is reciprocated for UK citizens seeking treatment in many other countries. Charging regulations only cover hospital treatment, so visitors may receive free primary care and other non-hospital based healthcare services. Although hospitals have a statutory duty to enforce the regulations, effective enforcement by hospitals appears to vary considerably.

For these reasons we believe that a further fundamental review of the current policy is needed. The review will include:

qualifying residency criteria for free treatment;

the full range of other current criteria that exempt particular services or visitors from charges for their treatment;

whether visitors should be charged for GP services and other NHS services outside of hospitals;

establishing more effective and efficient processes across the NHS to screen for eligibility and to make and recover charges; and

whether to introduce a requirement for health insurance tied to visas.

Access for European Union residents is determined by separate EU regulations. The review will not consider changes to these regulations.

The review will respect the NHS’s core values and its obligations to provide urgent treatment, as well as the need to protect public health and observe international agreements. Denying necessary access to any person or group is not an option. We will consider the full benefits and costs of introducing new charges including risks of deterred or delayed treatment and any other societal costs. It will be informed by exploring equivalent policies in other health economies and we will seek views and input from NHS managers and other interested parties. The scope of options is deliberately wide-ranging and we do not want to rule individual changes in or out pending this further evaluation. The proposals will be the subject of a full public consultation on completion of the review.

The Government’s response to the consultation has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the printed Paper Office.

Home Department

“Refusing Entry or Stay to NHS Debtors”

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): I have today published a report detailing the Government’s response to the public consultation “Refusing entry or stay to NHS debtors” conducted by the UK Border Agency between February and June last year. The consultation sought views on a proposal to amend the UK’s immigration rules so that those subject to immigration

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control who fail to pay treatment charges made by the national health service under the relevant charging regulations for overseas visitors will normally be refused further leave to enter or remain. It also covered associated arrangements for the national health service to notify the UK Border Agency of relevant non-payments. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton), who is responsible for public health, is also publishing today a consultation report detailing the response to a separate Department of Health public consultation on changes to the NHS charging regulations in England.

We have carefully considered the response to the UK Border Agency consultation, which was generally supportive of the proposals, and have decided to implement the proposed change to the immigration rules in October this year. Those who fail to discharge debts to the NHS of or in excess of ,(£1,000 will normally be refused by the UK Border Agency if they seek further permission to enter or remain in the country.

Copies of the response document will be placed in the Library of the House.


Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Crispin Blunt): The Government will commence section 2(1)(d) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The Act, the majority of which came into force on 6 April 2008, creates an offence whereby an organisation can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and this amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased.

Section 2(1)(d) of the Act makes the duty of care that a custody provider owes to certain persons who are detained a relevant duty of care for the purpose of the offence. However, its implementation was delayed to allow custody providers time to ensure they were compliant with the Act. Those custody providers subject to the

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Act have indicated that they are ready for this provision to be commenced, and the Government intend to do this by the summer.

The Act allows the Secretary of State to add further categories of persons in custody or detention to the list of those to whom a relevant duty of care is owed by reason of section 2(1)(d). The Secretary of State intends to extend the Act to cover persons detained in Ministry of Defence service custody premises and in UK Border Agency facilities not already covered by the Act at the same time as commencing the existing custody provisions.

Both the commencement and extension orders will be subject to an affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament.


Urban Congestion Performance Fund

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am today announcing the final tranche of payments from the Urban Congestion Performance Fund that will see the 10 largest urban areas in England receive a further £3.75 million to address the causes of urban congestion.

These payments are the final payments made through the fund, which is linked to the local congestion targets set by the 10 largest urban areas in England in their local transport plans.

The £3.75 million payment will be shared between the participating areas as below:

Urban Area Sum to be paid via Tranche 4



Greater Manchester


West Midlands


West Yorkshire


South Yorkshire


Tyne & Wear






West of England (Bristol)