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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 13 May 2011

Cabinet Office

The State of the Estate 2010

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (as amended), “The State of the Estate in 2010”. This report provides an assessment of the efficiency and sustainability of the Government’s civil estate in 2010. It provides early insights into the progress Government are making since introducing the national property controls and moratorium on leaseholds. In the report I set out the future direction for using the Government estate more efficiently, including our commitment to meeting the 10% reduction in carbon emissions target. The report is published on an annual basis.

Updated Departmental Business Plans

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr Oliver Letwin): Today we are publishing updated departmental business plans.

The updated business plans now include actions from “The Plan for Growth” and the social mobility strategy and reflect the current assessment of when the Government will implement the commitments set out in the programme for Government. In addition, the updated business plans reflect responses to Departments’ consultations on the transparency sections run in December 2010 and January 2011. We have also made some minor presentational changes, including incorporating milestones into the main section of the business plans.

Where Departments have amended text from the versions published on 8 November 2010, they have provided the reason for the change. These reasons are set out in an annex which I have placed in the Library of the House. Please note that this list does not include new actions, but details any changes to existing text or deadlines. The numbering of the list is based on the revised business plans.

The business plan for the Department for Health will be published after the NHS listening exercise.

The business plans are all available on the No.10 website at www.number10.gov.uk and can also be accessed via departmental websites. Copies have also been placed in the Library of the House. Departments will continue to publish their monthly progress updates which are also available on the No.10 website and from the Vote Office.

From July, the latest information on performance against business plan indicators will be published in a quarterly data summary for each Department.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Circuses (Wild Animals)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The protection of the welfare of performing wild animals in circuses is a matter that the Government take very seriously. Rigorous standards for the protection of animals kept by man are already set in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but there are a few areas—including the use of wild animals in travelling circuses—where additional safeguards are necessary.

The Austrian Government have recently been taken to court for their attempt to ban wild animals in circuses. This Government want to take action as soon as possible to protect wild animals in circuses without waiting for the outcome of that judgment. For this reason we propose to introduce a strict licensing regime using powers provided under the 2006 Act.

Any circuses that perform in England that wish to have wild animals such as tigers, lions and elephants performing in them will need to demonstrate that they meet high animal welfare standards for each animal before they can be granted a licence to keep those animals.

Areas being considered as part of licensing conditions include:

The rules for transport of the animal, including how long animals can spend being transported without rest periods;

The type of quarters that must be provided for the animal, including the size of the quarters and the facilities provided, including winter quarters;

The treatment of animals by trainers and keepers, including performance and the training methods that may be used.

Most circuses choose not to feature wild animals in their shows, and I believe that most people would prefer not to see them performing in circuses. But where circuses do choose to show wild animals, people expect those animals to be kept in the best possible conditions.

If circuses cannot meet these high welfare standards, they will not be allowed to use wild animals in their performances.

The Government will consult on the standards, which will be drawn up in consultation with welfare experts and other interested parties.

The licensing scheme will be enforced through inspections by Government-approved vets.

In the summer of 2009 there were 39 wild animals being used by circuses in the UK, which included elephants, tigers, lions, camels, zebras and crocodiles. There are now no longer any elephants kept in circuses in the UK.

The previous Government were similarly concerned and that is why they launched a public consultation. This consultation closed in 2010 and a summary of the responses can be found on the DEFRA website.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Government Wine Cellar Review

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham): I am announcing today the outcome of a review of the Government wine cellar. Government Hospitality provides

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corporate hospitality services for the whole Government, and has done so for over 80 years. It is administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As part of its functions it includes a wine cellar. On 18 June 2010 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs instituted a thorough review of the cellar’s functions to ensure that the purchase, retention and use of wines and spirits for official Government events hosted by senior members of Government was appropriate to the contemporary environment and would provide value for money for the taxpayer.

That review has now finished. It concluded that retaining a Government wine cellar remains the most cost-effective way to supply wine for Government hospitality functions and state banquets, but that substantial reform was needed.

The management of the cellar will be reformed in the following ways, ensuring that the provision of wine for Government hospitality is entirely self-financing for the lifetime of this Parliament:

We will conduct targeted sales of high-value stock in order to pay for future purchases.

There will be an annual statement to Parliament on the use of the wine cellar, covering consumption, stock purchases, costs, and value for money. I am arranging to have placed in the Library of the House such a report for the financial year 2009-2010. A report on the cellar’s operations in 2010-2011 and subsequent years will be placed in the Library of the House during the month of May following the end of the appropriate financial year.

The former Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine, ceased to be a non-departmental public body in October 2010. We have agreed with its members that Government Hospitality will continue to benefit from the expertise of the Committee on an ad hoc basis. I should like to record my thanks to the members of the Committee for their agreement to continue this unpaid expert advice.

I am confident that the changes set out above will enable the cellar to achieve best possible value for money for the taxpayer and greater transparency in how its resources are used.

Libya: Visit of the National Transitional Council

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): The chairman of the Libyan national transitional council (NTC) in Libya, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, visited London on Thursday 12 May. Mr Abdul-Jalil met the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for International Development, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and me.

In line with our assessment of the NTC as the legitimate interlocutor in Libya representing the aspirations of the Libyan people, the Government have invited the NTC to establish an office in the UK. This will enhance our existing relationship with the NTC, and better enable us to fulfil our commitment to protect civilians under threat of attack from the Gaddafi regime. It will help us to work more closely together on sharing information and formulating our policy towards Libya. This arrangement does not affect our position on the legal status of the NTC: the British Government will continue to recognise States, not Governments. The UK will also strengthen its presence in eastern Libya when our new Permanent Head of Office in Benghazi John Jenkins arrives in the near future.

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In parallel to this, the UK will be a key contributor to the deployment of a multi-national team of experts to Benghazi. With the UN still unable to deploy, this team will conduct a stabilisation assessment, and advise and assist the NTC on meeting their longer-term needs. I also intend to provide further practical and material support to the NTC in the form of further communications equipment, bullet-proof vests and uniforms for the civilian police authorities. I also intend to provide support for the NTC’s fledging media and broadcasting operations.

As with all the material and advisory support we are providing to the NTC, this support is within the terms of UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya. This support has been requested by the NTC and will help them ensure that they administer territory under their control to international standards and to protect the aspirations of the Libyan people.

Her Majesty’s Government remain resolutely committed to implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya and to supporting the Libyan people in determining their own future.


The Equality Act 2010 (Work on Ships and Hovercraft) Regulations 2011

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): I have today laid before the House draft affirmative regulations which, if approved, will apply part 5 (Work) of the Equality Act 2010 to work on ships and hovercraft and to seafarers.

The regulations will ensure that, as far as possible, the level of protection afforded under part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 is extended to those working at sea. This was not done at the time that part 5 of the Act was commenced because further consideration needed to be given to the issue of seafarers’ pay.

As the law currently stands, section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976 provides that it is not unlawful for seafarers to be paid different rates of pay on the basis of their nationality if they were recruited outside Great Britain. This includes seafarers from EEA states and designated states, which are states with particular bilateral agreements with the European Union. The European Commission has been investigating a complaint that UK law does not comply with European Law and in January this year it issued a reasoned opinion on that basis. In order to meet its treaty obligations, the Government are obliged to bring UK law into line with European law.

The regulations which I have laid before the House today will, if approved, apply part 5 of the Equality Act to work on ships and hovercraft and to seafarers. The Government are already committed to the Equality Act, most of which, including part 5, was commenced on 1 October 2010. The international nature of the shipping industry requires further clarity in specifying to which seafarers, working on which vessels, operating in which waters, part 5 of the Act applies. The relevant provisions legislate in respect of employment, offering protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in relation to certain protected characteristics,

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these being age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation. Section 81 of the Act contains the power to achieve this by means of an affirmative statutory instrument.

The power within section 81 is also wide enough to legislate in respect of differential pay. The regulations will, if approved, provide that it is not unlawful to offer to pay or pay different rates of pay to seafarers (applicants, employees and contract workers), other than those from EEA or designated states, if a person applies for work as a seafarer or is recruited as a seafarer outside Great Britain.

Under section 19 of the Equality Act (indirect discrimination), where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice has an effect which particularly disadvantages seafarers from EEA or designated states in terms of a difference in pay, this will nevertheless be lawful if the employer can show that the provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified. If differential pay were challenged by a seafarer from an EEA or

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designated state, it would be for the employer to satisfy an employment tribunal as to that justification.

The Government have consulted ship owners and the Chamber of Shipping as well as the trade unions before proceeding with this measure and have prepared an impact assessment. In preparing these regulations, we have applied the principles of our reducing regulation initiative and taken every care to ensure that the regulations meet the requirements of EU law without unwarranted elaboration, the better to safeguard the continued competitiveness of the UK fleet. We remain committed to the red ensign and to maintaining a sizeable, high-quality and highly competitive fleet under the UK flag.

In accordance with Government policy on transforming the role of regulation in our society and reducing regulation, these regulations will be reviewed every five years and the conclusions of such reviews will be published.

These regulations will apply in England, Wales and Scotland while Northern Ireland will shortly be introducing similar regulations.