14 Jun 2011 : Column 57WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 14 June 2011


ECOFIN (20 June 2011)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Luxembourg on 20 June 2011. The following items are on the agenda:

Legislative proposals on economic governance

Given the Hungarian presidency’s aim of reaching agreement on the economic governance legislative package before the end of June, they have scheduled an informal ECOFIN dinner for 14 June in Brussels, which the Financial Secretary will attend. Trialogues with the European Parliament (EP) are ongoing on an almost daily basis, and the presidency is keen to get Finance Ministers’ support for an updated general approach on the six legislative proposals. Negotiations with the Parliament will then continue, with the aim of agreeing the final compromise package at the 20 June ECOFIN.

Greater economic stability within the euro area is firmly in the UK’s interests, and the Government broadly support this legislation; it should be noted that the UK’s partial opt-out from the fiscal frameworks directive remains protected. The EP is attempting to secure: a greater role in economic surveillance including through public debates and hearings with member states; a stronger role in setting the scoreboard of indicators for macro-economic imbalances; and to introduce reverse qualified majority voting more widely. It will be important to ensure that the presidency maintains a firm line in negotiations with the Parliament given that, under the treaty, the EP has a limited formal role in fiscal and macro-economic surveillance.

Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council granting an EU guarantee to the European Investment Bank (EIB) against losses under loans and guarantees for projects outside the EU

The presidency will report back on trialogues with the European Parliament, and seek Council agreement to adopt a new EIB external lending mandate as part of the mandate’s mid-term review. The Government will work to ensure that the EIB’s external lending is allocated appropriately.

Directive on Deposit Guarantee Schemes

This directive is a revision of the 1994 EU rules on deposit guarantee schemes, in order to improve depositors’ confidence and promote financial stability. The new rules are designed to ensure sound, effective deposit guarantee schemes across the EU and EEA. The Government broadly support the directive, and will seek to ensure that it meets its aims of improving depositor confidence and providing a level playing field for depositors without imposing unreasonable costs on the industry.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 58WS

Regulation on over-the-counter derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories (EMIR)

The Commission issued legislative proposals in September to implement G20 commitments on the regulation of derivatives markets, and the presidency will aim to agree a general approach at this ECOFIN. The Government welcome these measures to increase transparency and reduce systemic risk in derivatives markets, and believe that this must be done in an internationally consistent and non-discriminatory way, in line with the G20 commitments and with the agreement on the establishment of the European supervisory authorities last year.

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros

The UK supports the proposed regulation, which will facilitate the creation of a single market for electronic payments in euros.

European Banking Authority stress testing

This item will be an orientation debate on how to communicate the results of the European Banking Authority (EBA) stress tests, which are due to be published in the first half of July. Finance Ministers are also likely to discuss how to link the results to the backstops measures put in place by member states to address potential vulnerabilities in their banking systems. The Government believe that it is important to increase confidence in the European banking system through the implementation of coherent and transparent measures to address any vulnerabilities. It is also important to demonstrate the EU’s commitment to medium-term reforms, as agreed internationally, by implementing Basel III in full.

European Semester

ECOFIN will agree country-specific opinions and recommendations (CSRs) on member states’ fiscal and structural reform policy, under the EU’s stability and growth pact (SGP) and Europe 2020 strategy. Member states are expected to take these CSRs into account when preparing their budgets and structural reform plans for the year ahead. The European Commission’s proposed recommendations to the UK are supportive of the Government’s fiscal plans, and the Commission urges the Government to proceed as planned with implementing fiscal consolidation. Other recommendations focus on the housing market, tackling youth unemployment, addressing the proportion of people in jobless households, and improving access to finance for SMEs. The Government will negotiate the precise drafting of these recommendations in the lead-up to ECOFIN. The recommendations will then be formally adopted by the European Council on 24 June as Council recommendations.

Quality management for European statistics

Finance Ministers will agree conclusions on ensuring the quality of public finance statistics in the EU. The Government support the principles of this proposal, and will work to ensure that the approach to implementation allows proper usage of the relevant statutory bodies’ existing responsibilities.

Code of Conduct (business taxation)

ECOFIN will agree conclusions on the work of the code of conduct group over the last six months. The code of conduct is an EU-level political agreement

14 Jun 2011 : Column 59WS

between member states to work co-operatively to identify and eliminate harmful business tax measures in the EU and prevent the introduction of new ones. The code group’s report is a standing ECOFIN agenda item at the end of each presidency, and the conclusions follow standard wording.

IMF (Increase in Subscription)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): Yesterday, the Government laid the International Monetary Fund (Increase in Subscription) Order 2011 before the House of Commons in draft. Copies of resolution 66-2 of the board of governors of the fund, which relate to this order, have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Communities and Local Government

Business Rates (Ports)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): From day one, the coalition Government have been committed to finding a solution to the “ports tax”—the unfair backdated rates bills incurred by some businesses (including many located within ports) across England following alterations proposed in 2008.

This coalition Government recognised that the backdated “port taxes” threatened the viability of Britain’s export industry, with many firms facing hefty retrospective bills that they could not reasonably have planned for, or expected, and which threatened the solvency of some businesses.

That is why, despite the financial situation that we inherited, we have honoured our commitment to find a permanent solution to the problem and are proud that our actions will protect jobs and support economic growth.

We have already taken the first sensible step of introducing a moratorium on the repayment of certain backdated liabilities, and, subject to parliamentary approval of the Localism Bill, and once the necessary legislation is in place, eligible businesses will finally be able to have this debt dealt with appropriately—by having it cancelled.

The regulations to be made under the Localism Bill will cancel the backdated business rates liabilities of those businesses that were hit with unexpected and significant backdated rates after their property was split from another property for rating purposes. The regulations will apply to all eligible businesses across England faced with a similar backdated rates liability and not just businesses within ports.

Today I am placing a copy of the draft guidance and regulations in the Library of the House before it is released to interested parties. The publication of this guidance note in draft form is intended to give authorities and interested parties the opportunity to make any comments or ask questions on the process, the draft

14 Jun 2011 : Column 60WS

regulations and the examples, to ensure that the final versions will enable local authorities to fully implement the cancellation policy.

Leasehold Value Limits

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): I have today published a consultation paper containing proposals for updating the property value limits which are used to determine whether certain rights are available to residential long leaseholders. These are rights for such leaseholders to remain in their properties as assured tenants when their lease comes to an end, to extend the lease of their leasehold house or to purchase the freehold of a leasehold house (enfranchise) on particular terms.

One qualifying condition for these rights is that the property should fall within a certain value limit. These limits were last updated in April 1990. We are now proposing that they should be updated again so that these rights are not taken away from residential long leaseholders through the effects of property price inflation.

This is part of our wider desire to ensure that an appropriate balance is maintained between the rights of freeholders and leaseholders.

The online consultation seeks views on the proposals and will run for 12 weeks until 12 September 2011. The Government would welcome responses from a wide range of organisations and individuals.

A copy of the consultation paper has been placed in the Library of the House.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Waste Review

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I am today publishing the findings of the Government’s review of waste policies in England 2011.

The review has looked at all aspects of waste policy and delivery in England to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps towards creating a “zero-waste” economy, where resources are fully valued, and nothing of value gets thrown away. I am grateful to all those who took their time to respond to our call for evidence, or with whom we have discussed ideas.

Ensuring that we manage our material resources and waste as sustainably as possible is central to protection of our natural environment and a range of related priorities including material security, energy policy, climate change, and creation of a green economy.

The waste review includes a range of commitments designed to move waste more quickly up the waste hierarchy, away from disposal in landfill, with waste prevention a priority, followed by reuse, recycling and recovery.

The review concludes that preventing waste wherever possible can deliver the best environmental and economic outcomes. The Government will work with business

14 Jun 2011 : Column 61WS

sectors and the waste and material resources industry to develop voluntary approaches to cutting waste and increase recycling. We will also consult on banning wood waste from landfill and assess whether further bans may be appropriate in the future.

In order to improve the service to householders and businesses we will:

Encourage councils to sign a new recycling and waste services commitment, setting out the principles they will follow in delivering local waste services;

Protect civil liberties by decriminalising trivial household bin offences, while ensuring that stronger powers exist to tackle those responsible for fly-tipping and serious waste crime;

Support initiatives which reward and recognise people who do the right thing to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste;

Support councils and the waste industry in improving the collection of waste from smaller businesses;

Reduce the burden of regulation and enforcement on legitimate business, but target those who persistently break the law.

Alongside the waste review, I am also publishing an anaerobic digestion strategy. The coalition Government are committed to being the “Greenest Government ever” and achieving that will in part mean substantially increasing energy from waste through anaerobic digestion (AD).

This offers a local, environmentally sound option for waste management which helps us divert waste from landfill, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce renewable energy which could be used to power our homes and vehicles. Farmers and gardeners can also benefit from the fertiliser produced, returning valuable nutrients to the land.

There are many different technologies available that can process waste and each may have a role to play, given the variety of waste arising and local situations. AD is the technology on which we are focusing in the strategy and action plan but we are also looking at how other technologies can also contribute to providing renewable gas. We do recognise that there are significant barriers that must first be overcome. During the past six months, we have been working closely with industry to identify the key barriers to uptake and to agree an ambitious programme of work to help overcome them.

This strategy and action plan are the result of this work. Each action has a named lead organisation and all have committed to drive the work forward. Changes cannot be delivered overnight, and the action plan may well need to be modified by experience, but this plan is the first and key step to enabling a thriving AD industry to grow in England over the next few years, delivering new green jobs as well as new green energy.

The waste review and anaerobic digestion strategy are both available at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/ and in the Libraries of both Houses.


NHS Future Forum

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): As I informed the House on 7 June, the listening and engagement in relation to the Health and Social Care Bill and related issues has been very successful. The NHS Future Forum has now reported to the Government.

I am today publishing a list of the key changes the Government intend to make as a result of the NHS

14 Jun 2011 : Column 62WS

Future Forum’s report. Some, but not all, of these changes require amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill.

These changes follow the Government’s decision on 6 April to take advantage of a natural break in the legislative process to pause, listen and reflect on the national health service modernisation plans and to make any necessary improvements to the Health and Social Care Bill. The NHS Future Forum, a group of 45 senior professionals from across health and social care, was established to help drive an intensive eight-week period of engagement, beginning on 6 April and ending on 31 May.

Members of the NHS Future Forum attended around 250 events and heard opinions on the Government’s plans for modernisation from over 8,000 people, including some 250 stakeholder organisations. Following a period of reflection, the Future Forum yesterday published their report; a copy of this has already been placed in the Library.

The Future Forum confirmed that the principles underpinning our plans for modernisation are the right ones, but also set out where we could make improvements, for patients and the NHS.

The Government have accepted the core recommendations of the report from the NHS Future Forum and will now make improvements to their modernisation plans. A document listing these improvements has been placed in the Library and we will provide more detail on exactly how we plan to implement these changes, including amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, shortly.

The fundamental principles of our plans remain the same as those we set out in our White Paper, “Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS”. The Government are committed to creating a modernised NHS that achieves among the best health care outcomes in the world. Our proposals are rooted in the principles of empowering, focusing on health care outcomes and quality, and giving front-line professionals more capacity to design and deliver services around the needs and expectations of patients.

The Government remain firmly committed to the ideals of the NHS—a comprehensive health service, funded from general taxation, based on need and not ability to pay.

I would like to give my thanks to all of the Future Forum’s members and to its chair, Professor Steve Field, for their work, as well as those who contributed to the engagement exercise. I have asked the Future Forum to continue to advise on the way that our proposals are developed and put into practice.

In order to ensure that Parliament is given sufficient opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s proposed changes, I can confirm that our intention is to recommit the relevant parts of the Health and Social Care Bill to a Public Bill Committee. Exact details will be announced in due course.

Home Department

Sexual Offences Act 2003

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): The Home Office is today introducing a proposal for a draft remedial

14 Jun 2011 : Column 63WS

order, The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2011, to rectify the legislative incompatibility identified by the Supreme Court in the case of R (on the application of F and Angus Aubrey Thompson)


Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 17. In this case, the Supreme Court made a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of notification requirements for an indefinite period under section 82(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. We are also launching today a targeted eight-week consultation on four key proposals to strengthen the existing notification requirements for sex offenders and further enhance our ability to manage registered sex offenders in the community: “Reforming the Notification Requirements of Registered Sex Offenders (Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003): A Targeted Consultation”.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Remedial) Order 2011 will give offenders a right to seek a review of their indefinite notification requirements once they have completed a fixed period of time subject to those requirements (15 years from the point of first notification following release from custody for adults and 8 years for juveniles). The review will be carried out by the police and will take into account a range of factors, including any information provided from agencies which operate within the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) framework. It is our view that these measures provide a proportionate response to the Supreme Court ruling, ensuring that there is a robust and individual assessment of risk before an offender is considered for removal from the notification requirements. Sex offenders who continue to pose a risk will remain on the register and will do so for life, if necessary.

Protecting the public is a priority and to this end, the Home Office continues to engage with public protection agencies to ensure that the risk posed to the public by sexual offenders is managed effectively. The consultation launched today by the Home Office seeks views on four key proposals for widening the type of notification requirements which can be imposed on sex offenders. These proposals include requiring an offender, subject to the notification requirements under section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, to: notify the police of all foreign travel (including travel outside of the UK of less than three days); notify weekly where they are registered as having “no fixed abode” (i.e. where a registered sex offender has no sole or main residence and instead must notify the police of the place where he can regularly be

14 Jun 2011 : Column 64WS

found); notify where they are living in a household with a child under the age of 18; notify passport, bank account and credit card details and to provide identification at each notification to tighten the rules so that sex offenders can no longer seek to avoid being on the register when they change their name (including by deed poll). Following the outcome of the consultation, the Home Office will seek to implement these amendments by December 2011.

The final impact assessment for these proposals can be found on the Home Office website.


Coroner Reform

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): Further to the ministerial statements on 14 October 2010, Official Report, column 37WS and 19 May 2011, Official Report, column 38WS,I am today announcing the detail of our plans for coroner reform without proceeding with the Office of the Chief Coroner. This statement sets out the functions which the Government propose to transfer from the Office of Chief Coroner to the Lord Chancellor or Lord Chief Justice. It also sets out proposals for a ministerial board to oversee the non-judicial aspects of the service provided in England and Wales.

It is my intention that the Office of Chief Coroner be listed in schedule 5—Power to modify or transfer functions: bodies and offices of the Public Bodies Bill which will allow for the transfer of certain of the chief coroner’s statutory functions without the abolition of the Office of Chief Coroner. This takes into account concerns expressed by stakeholders and Members of another place about the abolition of the office. The transfer of functions is, of course, subject to the outcome of the progress of the Bill through Parliament and a subsequent order to transfer functions made under the Act.

Reallocation of the Statutory Functions of the Chief Coroner

The table below details those statutory functions of the chief coroner, as set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which the Government propose to transfer to either the Lord Chief Justice or the Lord Chancellor. Where a function is not to be transferred from the chief coroner, this is because it is not possible to implement them in a cost-neutral manner as required in the current economic climate.

Section Description of Statutory Function of Chief Coroner Transfer of F unction


Chief coroner to direct a coroner to conduct an investigation.

Lord Chief Justice

12 & 13

Chief coroner to notify Lord Advocate that an investigation should take place under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry Act 1976.

Chief coroner to direct a coroner to conduct an investigation in England or Wales where the body is brought into Scotland.

Lord Chief Justice


Chief coroner to designate medical practitioners for the purpose of performing post mortems.

Lord Chancellor


Senior coroner conducting an investigation which is not completed within one year to notify the chief coroner of that fact and notify the chief coroner of the date on which the investigation is completed.

Chief coroner to keep a register of notifications given under this section.

Lord Chancellor: function limited to collation of reports and keeping of the register.


The chief coroner must—

Monitor investigations into service deaths.

Secure that coroners conducting such investigations are suitably trained to do so.

Provision not to be implemented: training to be dealt with under section 37 (see below)

14 Jun 2011 : Column 65WS

14 Jun 2011 : Column 66WS


Lord Chancellor to consult the chief coroner before making regulations relating to medical practitioner notifications

Lord Chief Justice to be consulted in lieu of the chief coroner


Chief coroner to report to the Lord Chancellor each year.

Coroners to report action to prevent other deaths to the chief coroner.

Requirement for an annual report to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor not to be implemented.

Reports from coroners on action to prevent other deaths to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor in lieu of the chief coroner.


Chief coroner to make regulations on training.

Lord Chief Justice


Chief coroner to be responsible for a new appeals system.

Not to be implemented


Investigation to be conducted by the chief coroner, Coroner for Treasure, judge, former judge or former coroner.

Chief coroner to request that the Lord Chief Justice appoint a judge or former judge so to act.

Lord Chancellor to request the Lord Chief Justice to appoint a judge.


Lord Chancellor to issue guidance on the way in which the coroner’s system is to operate in respect of interested persons following consultation with the chief coroner.

Lord Chief Justice to be consulted in lieu of the chief coroner.

The proposed reallocation of functions has been agreed with the Lord Chief Justice. In practice it is likely that the Lord Chief Justice will delegate the exercise of these functions to another judge. As the functions to be transferred are limited, and the Office of Chief Coroner not filled, neither the judge nor any other individual will be responsible for the leadership, culture or behaviour of coroners. As now, complaints about a coroner’s personal conduct should be made to the Office for Judicial Complaints; all complaints about the administration of the coroner service or the conduct of coroners’ officers should be raised with the relevant coroner or the local authority (if it relates to the service provided).

Proposals for oversight of the non-judicial aspects of the service provided by coroners and how we achieve, maintain and monitor changes to those services in the absence of a chief coroner are set out below.

Non-statutory Reform

Since the parliamentary debate on abolition of the chief coroner during Lords Committee stage of the Public Bodies Bill on 14 December 2010, colleagues and I have had positive discussions with MPs, peers and civil society groups about how best to ensure oversight of the non-judicial services provided by coroners in the absence of a chief coroner. This is necessary because it is not possible to transfer these non-statutory functions formally through the Public Bodies Bill.

These discussions have resulted in a proposal for a ministerial board which would be focused on matters of policy, the standards of service and other administrative aspects of the delivery of the coroner service which are non-judicial in nature. The board would be responsible for advising the Lord Chancellor on his statutory duties and on the setting of priorities for action with regards to policy on coroners at a national level, where these do not impact on judicial independence or judicial matters. It would be advised and supported by a Bereaved Organisations Committee, which would be independently chaired, and represented on the ministerial board. The committee would have a particular remit in monitoring the non-judicial “National Charter for the Coroner Service” which we published for consultation on 19 May 2011.

The ministerial board would be able to look at specific issues that may exist and consider whether there may be appropriate action to address these. In addition, the board would consider national statistics gathered from the coroner service in England and Wales to support the action plan for reform. The routine quarterly publication of progress on inquests of service personnel killed in operations and exercises overseas provides a model for transparency.

This proposal enables representatives of those who use and are affected by the coroner service to give direct feedback to Ministers on the overall administrative standards of service that coroners provide. The terms of reference for the ministerial board will reflect the judicial independence of coroners; the board will have no remit to look at those judicial services delivered by coroners.

Copies of the “Reallocation of Statutory Functions of the chief coroner” table have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. Copies of the consultation on the national charter were placed there on 19 May.


EU Transport Council

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I will attend the second Transport Council of the Hungarian presidency which will take place in Luxembourg on 16 June.

The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a directive which recasts the 2001 first rail package. The 2001 legislation set the initial framework for a single European rail market. The proposal aims to address the fact that the first railway package has not achieved its declared objective of market opening through a number of proposals to improve the transparency of rail market access conditions and access to rail-related services.

Although we support the Commission’s overall aim of clarifying and strengthening the regulatory framework for rail access and recognise the need for some further liberalisation in continental Europe, we have concerns

14 Jun 2011 : Column 67WS

about the investment disincentives and the cost impacts of some of the proposals on the UK. We have negotiated changes which align the text more closely with the arrangements which prevail in the UK, while preserving the proposals for liberalisation in continental Europe. However, there is little in the package which gives the UK any added value over the existing first railway package directive.

The Council will also be asked to reach a general approach on the draft amending regulation 1406/2002, which established the European Maritime Safety Agency. The proposed amendment, while maintaining the agency’s present objectives, gives it several new, largely technical, tasks. While we recognise the importance of the additional tasks, we are opposed to any increase in the budget, unless it is financed through reprioritisation of funds from other areas of the EU budget.

There will be a policy debate on the European Commission’s recent White Paper, “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area—Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system”. The broad thrust of the White Paper is in line with the UK’s goal of a transport system that supports economic growth while delivering CO2 reductions. The Council debate will centre on a number of questions put by the presidency. Our position includes a clear request to the Commission that detailed initiatives arising from this general policy framework are feasible and realistic, avoid excessive regulatory burdens on business, and respect the principle of subsidiarity.

The Council will be asked to adopt conclusions on a recent Commission communication, “The way ahead towards integrated and competitive EU inland waterway transport”. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 68WS

The Council will be asked to adopt a decision on the signing and conclusion of an agreement with the intergovernmental organisation for international carriage by rail on the EU accession to the convention concerning international carriage by rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980, as amended by the Vilnius protocol of 3 June 1999. The UK can support adoption of the decision.

The Council will be asked to adopt two decisions in the area of aviation external relations.

The first is a decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations with Moldova on a comprehensive air transport agreement. A comprehensive air transport agreement will result in the integration of the Moldovan aviation market into the single European market through the convergence of EU aviation regulations, technical assistance and market opening. I will support the decision authorising the opening of negotiations.

The second decision is on the signature of an air transport agreement which has been negotiated with Brazil. This agreement will significantly liberalise the market in air services between the EU and Brazil, providing new opportunities for the aviation industry. I will support the decision and sign the agreement.

Among AOB items, the Commission will be reporting on progress in work on air cargo security. As I did at the March Council, I will reiterate the importance of moving forward quickly with this work.

Also under AOB, the Commission will report on the follow-up to the volcanic ash crisis of 2010, looking at the wider scope of crisis management and EU methodology and on recent developments in implementing the Single European Sky.