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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 30 June 2011


European Court of Justice Judgment (Use of Gender by Insurers)

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): On 1 March, the European Court of Justice ruled that the use of gender as a risk factor by insurers should not result in individual differences in premiums and benefits for men and women, with effect from 21 December 2012.

The Government were very disappointed with this result, which it expects to have a negative impact on consumers. The judgment goes against the grain of the common sense approach to equality which the UK Government want to see. The Government believe that nobody should be treated unfairly because of their gender, but that financial services providers should be allowed to make sensible decisions based on sound analysis of relevant risk factors.

However, in the light of our obligation to implement the judgment, this statement sets out the Government’s understanding of the judgment; their intention to amend the Equality Act 2010; and the steps we are taking in Europe to secure legal certainty and to ameliorate the worse effects for consumers.

Legal interpretation and domestic policy approach

The Government’s view is that the judgment only applies to new contracts for insurance and related financial services entered into on or after 21 December 2012. In such contracts, the use of gender as a risk factor should not result in individual differences in premiums and benefits for men and women. However, any contracts with gender-sensitive pricing of premiums or benefits concluded ahead of 21 December 2012 can continue unchanged after that date. We will therefore proceed with amendments to schedule 3 of the Equality Act 2010. These amendments would be effected by Statutory Instrument under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, which we propose to make early next year. Beforehand, the Government propose to issue a consultation on a draft order, including a full impact assessment, in the autumn.

European policy approach

The Government are working with the European Commission and other member states to ensure a unanimous view across the EU of the implications of the judgment, and the factors that need to be considered by member states in their implementation of the judgment.

While other EU member states and the European Commission are still considering the issues raised by the judgment, early indications are that our interpretation is shared across Europe. In view of the need for legal certainty, our preferred outcome would be an amendment of the gender directive to give effect to the judgment. We are therefore disappointed that the Commission has said it has no plans to propose any amendment, leaving the text of the directive inconsistent with the court’s

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decision. In view of the 21 December 2012 deadline, we will continue to work with other member states to press the Commission to propose such an amendment at the earliest opportunity.

The Commission has said that it proposes to issue guidance on the interpretation of the judgment and its implementation by member states. Although guidance will not offer all the advantages of a legislative amendment, we nevertheless welcome this and will work constructively to ensure it is as helpful and clear as possible. In view of industry’s need for early clarity about how to implement the judgment, we will press the Commission to bring this forward as soon as possible.

Cabinet Office

Industrial Action

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): I am updating the House on the impact of the strike action by the PCS union on the civil service today.

I can confirm that our latest data gathered from all Government Departments show that, as of 12 noon today, just less than 100,000 civil servants were on strike. This is around a fifth of the total civil service work force.

The civil service has rigorous contingency plans in place to ensure that essential public services are maintained during periods of industrial action. For example, I can confirm to the House that:

Nearly all jobcentres are open for business, with only a handful closed to the public.

All UK borders are open and operating with only minor delays to the travelling public.

150 out of 159 HMRC enquiry centres are open for business as usual.

All HMRC contact centres are open and online services to the public are operating as usual.

Very few civil servants wanted this strike at all, and less than 10% of them voted for it. Less than half of PCS’s own members chose to take part today, and far fewer than in previous strikes in 2004 and 2007. The vast majority of hard working public sector employees do not support today’s premature and unjustified strike and have come into work today.

The Government are still in detailed discussions with the trade unions on public sector pension reform. We had a constructive meeting on Monday, which was one of a series of ongoing talks the Government have committed to with the TUC, and further meetings have been scheduled for July.

The Government are committed to working openly and constructively with the trade unions on public sector pensions and we believe both sides have a responsibility to see the talks through. This is a genuine consultation in order to try to agree a way forward with the unions.

The reform of public sector pensions is essential, but we will ensure that public sector pensions will still be among the very best, with a guaranteed pension which very few private sector staff now enjoy. But they will be

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paid later because people live longer. And public sector staff will pay more, for a fairer balance between what they pay and what other taxpayers pay.

We know that pension reform is an important issue and one that public sector staff care about a great deal. I want to thank the vast majority of hard working public sector employees for coming in to work today, ignoring the pickets and putting the public first.

Culture, Media and Sport

News Corp/BSkyB Merger

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): I am today publishing the results of the consultation on the undertakings in lieu I launched on 3 March alongside the subsequent advice I have received from Ofcom and the OFT. The consultation did not produce any information which has caused Ofcom and the OFT to change their earlier advice to me. I could have decided to accept the original undertakings. However a number of constructive changes have been suggested, and as a result, I am today publishing a revised, more robust set of undertakings and will be consulting on them until midday Friday 8 July.

As previously, I was not required to involve independent regulators in assessing the revised undertakings. However I have again done so, and sought their independent advice. I am today also publishing that advice, which after careful consideration I have decided to accept.


On 3 March I informed the House that based on advice that I had received from OFT and Ofcom, I was minded to accept undertakings from News Corp in lieu of a reference to the Competition Commission. As the Enterprise Act 2002 requires, I published these undertakings for a public consultation which ended on 21 March.

I received over 40,000 representations to this consultation, including a very large number of near-identical responses as a result of internet campaigns. I have placed summaries of the main responses on the DCMS website. I met representatives from Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group, Telegraph Media Group, Associated News and Media, and Slaughter and May on 24 March and met Avaaz on 15 April. Notes of meetings will be published at the end of the process.

The substantive points have been carefully considered by me, advised by the independent regulators.

The Carriage and Brand Licensing Agreements

The carriage and brand licensing agreements are an important part of this process and I will only accept the undertakings once I have approved these agreements.

These documents have been reviewed in great detail by OFT, Ofcom and external lawyers. I believe that their independent, expert advice provides confidence that the undertakings and key agreements are robust. They have concluded that the drafts of the carriage agreement and the brand licence agreement are now fully consistent with the proposed undertakings. In addition, OFT confirm that the terms of the carriage agreement and brand licensing agreement mean that Sky News will be practically and financially viable for the lifetime of the carriage agreement. I can now therefore confirm that I am

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satisfied with both agreements and am able to approve them in line with the requirement in the undertakings. I will not be publishing these agreements given the nature and the extent of the commercially confidential material they contain.

Undertakings in Lieu

I received advice from Ofcom and OFT on 22 June, copies of which have been placed on the DCMS website. Both regulators are clear that the points raised in the consultation exercise do not require them to change their previous advice to me. Nevertheless, there have been some constructive suggestions for strengthening the undertakings which I am minded to accept.

Editorial Independence

A number of changes have now been made to the undertakings to strengthen further the arrangements for editorial independence:

Sky News’ articles of association set out the definition of independent directors;

Meetings of the board of Sky News about editorial or journalistic matters will

only be quorate if an independent director with senior editorial and/or journalistic expertise is present. Similar arrangements apply to the corporate governance and editorial committee. This is a response to representations that these arrangements could be undermined if this director was often unavailable for meetings for whatever reason. The change will ensure that Sky News organises its business so as to ensure that there is always appropriate senior editorial and/or journalistic expertise at relevant meetings.

The appointment of a monitoring trustee whose main role is to ensure that News Corp complies with the undertakings and make sure that News Corp does not do anything

“that would prevent Newco [i.e. the spun off Sky News] being placed in an overall position of editorial, governance, commercial and financial independence in which it will contribute to plurality as Sky News did prior to the Transaction”.

Business viability

Some representations were made about Sky News’ continued financial viability. I consider that Sky News’ financial viability is adequately secured through the carriage and brand licensing agreements. However, in the light of representations received in response to the consultation exercise, I am proposing to modify the undertakings to ensure that Sky continues to cross-promote Sky News on its channels to a level and in a manner comparable with such cross-promotion for the period of 12 months prior to the date on which the undertakings are accepted. This is important to ensure that Sky News continues to enjoy the same promotional support as the current business.

Also, the monitoring trustee will provide advice to me in my review of the key operational agreements requiring my approval to ensure that they are fair and reasonable.

Articles of Association

Because so many of the safeguards are contained in the articles of association, including the requirement that Sky News’ services will abide by the principle of editorial independence and integrity in news reporting, the undertakings have been amended so that I have to approve them. Furthermore, News Corp has offered an additional undertaking not to attempt to cause Sky News to act in breach of its articles of association. A copy has been published along with the consultation document and the revised undertakings.

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These are the main changes. All the changes are set out in the published revised undertakings, and a more detailed explanation of the reasons for the changes is included in the consultation document and OFT’s report. In my view, they provide a further layer of very important safeguards. As amended, I believe that the undertakings will remedy, mitigate, or prevent the threats to plurality which were identified at the start of this process. I therefore propose to accept the undertakings in lieu of a reference to the Competition Commission.

I have today placed on my Department’s website a revised version of the undertakings and an associated consultation document. There will now be a final consultation period starting today and ending at midday on Friday 8 July. During this time all interested parties will be able to express their views on the revised undertakings.

Once again I will seek the advice of Ofcom and the OFT on any responses to this consultation. As expert regulators they are best placed to thoroughly understand the issues and to offer comprehensive and impartial advice. Once I have considered these representations and the independent regulators’ advice, I will reach a decision on whether I still consider that the undertakings should still be accepted in lieu of a reference to the Competition Commission. If, after the consultation, I remain of the view that the undertakings properly address the concerns about media plurality, I will accept them and not refer this merger to the Competition Commission.

I am required to publish the revised undertakings in lieu and an explanation as to why I have made the proposed changes, and I have done so. In the interests of transparency I have also published a number of other documents where there is no legal requirement upon me to do so. These are: the advice I have received from OFT and Ofcom; the Articles of Association of Sky News; and a summary of responses to the consultation process. The carriage agreement and the brand licence agreement have not beeen published given the nature and the extent of the commercially confidential material they contain. I hope that this openness will help strengthen public confidence in the process and decision.

Other issues raised in the consultation

During the consultation period, a number of issues were raised that were not material to the issue of media plurality.

A number of respondents raised competition issues. In addition to the fact that this could not be considered as part of the media plurality public interest test, these issues have already been considered by the European Commission which concluded on 21 December last year that the increased shareholding would not significantly impede effective competition.

Some respondents also argued that News Corp could not be relied upon to abide by the requirements set out in the undertakings, citing previous guarantees and assurances given by News in the past, and the current phone-hacking allegations against The News of the World.

I have taken the view that News has offered serious undertakings and discussed them in good faith. In all the circumstances, and given that the implementation of those undertakings will be overseen by the monitoring trustee and thereafter monitored, and if necessary enforced, by the OFT, I believe that there are sufficient safeguards

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to ensure compliance with the undertakings. Furthermore, the various agreements entered into pursuant to the undertakings will each be enforceable contracts. Therefore while the phone-hacking allegations are very serious they were not material to my consideration.

I would also like to draw attention to a point stressed by Ofcom in its report. Namely, that the undertakings must be assessed against the fact that the plurality concerns arose out of a change in the degree of control News Corporation has over Sky. The undertakings do not and should not seek to establish Sky News in a position where News Corporation has no relationship with it at all, because today News Corporation controls 37.19% of Sky’s voting shares.

I am committed to maintaining the free and independent press for which this country is famous. I have sought and published independent advice throughout this process. I have listened carefully to points made in the consultation and amended the undertakings where appropriate. I have also gone for maximum transparency while taking reasonable account of commercial confidentiality considerations. I continue to believe that, if I allow this deal to proceed, Sky News will be able to continue its high-quality output and in fact will have greater protections for its operational and editorial independence than those that exist today.

Communities and Local Government

Review of Statutory Duties on Local Authorities

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): In March, I announced our intention to take stock of the statutory duties placed on local authorities by central Government and at that time, I committed to keeping the House informed of progress.

At no point in recent history has there been a comprehensive list of the legal duties placed on councils.

The Government therefore agreed with the Local Government Association that we should compile a list of these duties to give clarity about what these duties are. We recognise that many ensure the provision of vital front line services but there are others which may be creating unnecessary burdens and bureaucracy for local authorities.

We published the draft list in March and invited local authorities and the general public to respond, identifying any existing duties that needed to be added to the list to make it more comprehensive and identify any that were redundant. For the avoidance of doubt, inclusion of a particular duty on the overall list was not an indication that the Government were considering that duty for removal.

The opportunity to comment closed in April. We received much public interest with over 6,000 respondents. Many respondents focused on protecting vital services, such as support for disabled children and children with special educational needs, allotments and libraries, all of which we have committed to maintaining. There was also significant interest in removing process-based

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requirements placed on local authorities as an important step in moving towards a decentralised system of governance.

This review has not happened in isolation, for example, the Munro review on child protection and the Law Commission’s work on adult social care are currently being considered by Government. This work did not seek to pre-empt the outcomes of such reviews.

From the outset, we have been clear this is an exercise in compiling as comprehensive a list of duties as possible and obtaining feedback on those thought to be redundant. We said unequivocally that the Government would not remove any statutory duties that protect vital front line services.

In closing this review 1 am today publishing a summary of responses and the latest revised list of duties, which has been updated with feedback from the responses received. I have made both available on the Department's website:


Also, I have placed a copy of the summary by my Department and the latest revised list of duties in the Library of the House.

At the point of publication of the consultation, we had identified that there were at least 1,294 duties imposed on each local authority. Between 1997-2009, 647 duties were imposed that are still current today. The table below illustrates the introduction of new duties by Government Administration:

Table: Statutory duties placed on local government by central Government extant in 2011 by Government Administration

By period of Introduction Proportion











This exercise has successfully enabled a clearer picture of the requirements placed on local authorities, and created a valuable record that had previously never existed.

Any future consideration of whether to remove specific duties or associated guidance will be a separate process, and we will consult further as appropriate.

Deputy Prime Minister

Individual Electoral Registration

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): I am announcing today the publication of draft legislation on individual electoral registration (IER) for pre-legislative scrutiny. The draft legislation is accompanied by a White Paper which sets out the proposals for how this will be implemented.

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An electoral register that is secure and trusted, and as complete and accurate as possible, is a key component for our democracy. It is widely recognised that the current system of electoral registration, which has been in place since the early twentieth century, is outdated and requires change. It is also clear that, although proven electoral fraud is relatively rare, there is widespread concern about electoral fraud in this country.

In the coalition programme for government we said we would

“reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration”.

I announced on 15 September 2010 our intention to legislate to speed up the move to IER by introducing it into Great Britain fully during this Parliament, in 2014. Individual electoral registration will bring greater protection against electoral fraud and modernise our electoral system. IER will ask each person to register themselves, rather than by household, and provide information which will be cross checked by registration officers before a person is added to the electoral register.

Learning from the experience in Northern Ireland we have put in place arrangements to help people manage the transition to the new system. Any electors who do not respond to the initial invitation to register under IER in 2014 will be carried forward unless the registration officer has concerns the registration is ineligible. An individual registration would be required for new registrations and for any elector who wishes to use an absent vote.

The White Paper also considers how else the system of electoral registration could be modernised, making it easier and more convenient to register to vote. Reforming the system also provides the opportunity to take steps to tackle the problem of under-registration. The UK’s registration rate compares well internationally but evidence suggests that a significant number of people are missing from the register. This year data-matching pilots will allow registration officers to compare their electoral register with other public databases to identify people missing from the register or entries on the register that are inaccurate or fraudulent. If data matching proves effective, we will consider rolling it out more widely across the country.

It should be made absolutely clear that no new national databases will be created and that no additional information will be placed on the electoral register as a result of the changes to the system.

We are committed to ensuring there is sufficient funding for implementation, with £108 million allocated over the course of the spending review period. We have also sought to reduce costs where possible and have already cut £74 million of the costs of the previous Government’s plans by dropping the voluntary phase.

In developing the proposals in the draft legislation and the White Paper we have worked closely with and listened to the views of stakeholders. I thank those who have already provided valuable input into the development of the proposals, and welcome input during the pre-legislative scrutiny period from those and others who have not yet had the opportunity to engage with us.

Copies of the White Paper and draft legislation have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Memorandum of Understanding (UK Government and the Devolved Administrations)

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): A meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) of Ministers from the UK Government and the three devolved Administrations took place at 10 Downing Street on 8 June 2011. With respect to the Memorandum of Understanding between their Administrations, the Ministers agreed, first, that amendments should be made to the memorandum; and, secondly, that the secretariat to the JMC should initiate a technical review of the memorandum which should report to the domestic and/or European sub-committees of the JMC in due course.

The amendments to the memorandum focus on the dispute-resolution protocol contained in annex A.3. The purpose of the amendments is to allow for the possibility of an independent third-party providing an analysis of an inter-administration dispute where all four administrations agree that independent analysis would be helpful.

A copy of the memorandum has been placed in the Library of the House and can be found in the Vote Office and on the Cabinet Office website, www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.


Industrial Action in Schools

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): On Tuesday I gave a statement to the House on this Government’s response to the planned industrial action by two of the classroom unions. In that response I outlined the action I had taken and I also provided data on likely closures based on early estimates from local authorities and academies.

We now have a fuller picture, updated this morning based on data from all 152 local authorities and all 707 academies.

Our data show that 5,679 local authority schools were closed, 4,999 were partially open and 5,860 were fully open, while the situation with a further 4,320 has not been reported to us.

The figures also show that of the 707 academies and city technology colleges, 201 were closed, 235 were partially open and 271 fully open.

This means that 27% of all local authority schools were closed, 24% were partially open and 28% were open. Data were unavailable for the remaining 21%. Of the academies, 28% were closed, 33% were partially open, and 38% open.

I know that many teachers are concerned about the changes that have been proposed to their pensions. But I believe that we must resolve these differences through discussions and that the action today, while discussions are still going on, was disappointing and unnecessary. I am grateful to head teachers and governors who have worked hard to keep schools open. And I am particularly grateful to all those school staff who—while they may

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also have concerns about pensions—have decided to go into work today to minimise the impact on pupils and their parents. However, I am also disappointed that there has been disruption to the lives of so many parents across the country. The Government remain committed to discussing pension reforms with all the teacher unions openly, honestly and constructively.

Energy and Climate Change

Simplifying the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): Last year in the annual energy statement my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State announced that we would consider the future of the climate change agreements and review the CRC energy efficiency scheme. We did this because we wanted to ensure that the policies we had inherited from the previous Administration were fit for the future, and that any regulations we retained were less burdensome for business, and more practicable. Today we will set out our initial conclusions following a helpful dialogue with business, the public sector and regulators. As part of this, we have considered radical options, including the possibility of scrapping either or both of the schemes to simplify the landscape. We have concluded that in order to achieve our objectives, while at the same time minimising burdens on business, we will retain and simplify both the CRC and CCAs, with a particular emphasis on ensuring the overlaps are removed and the schemes are each streamlined.

The first reporting year of the CRC is now over, and many organisations are, for the first time, identifying and recording their entire energy use. Over this period we have seen the importance of the CRC for stimulating the market for new low-carbon goods and service industries—including in energy measurement, in voltage optimisers and in low-energy lighting. I expect this to continue.

Today my Department, together with the devolved Administrations, publishes a vision for the way ahead in simplifying the CRC scheme. This document sets out the main simplifications that we would like to propose for formal consultation early next year. These proposals will provide greater business certainty by continuing the fixed price sales into the second phase (rather than auctions of allowances in a capped system), as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change and requested by stakeholders. Our proposals will provide business with greater flexibility by allowing organisations to participate as natural business units. They will also reduce the administrative burden; for example by reducing the number of the fuels which are subject to the scheme from 29 to four. We will also reduce the complexity of the scheme by removing the 90% rule and CCA exemption rules, while achieving broadly the same outcomes and remove any overlap between schemes at registration. In particular, businesses covered entirely by CCAs will not need to register and we will no longer require EU ETS installations to purchase allowances for electricity supplies.

Some have suggested that we should replace the CRC with a conventional tax. After considering this, and

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other policy alternatives suggested by stakeholders, we have decided to retain the CRC, in a simplified form. We believe that the tailored combination of reputational, financial and standardised energy measurement and monitoring drivers remain the most effective way to tackle the barriers to the uptake of energy efficiency. We have ample evidence that price alone does not ensure non-energy intensive organisations implement cost-effective energy efficiency measures which are available to them. Therefore, we consider the simplified CRC—alongside the Green Deal—is the best way to achieve greater energy efficiency and contribute to meeting our carbon budgets in the relevant sectors.

These proposed changes provide the basis for a simplified CRC and certainty for the future. We will review CRC and its fit with other policy measures in 2017.

Following the Budget announcement to increase CCA participants’ tax relief and extend the scheme until 2023, and as part of the considerations to streamline and simplify the policy landscape we have also considered options for the future of CCAs. We will shortly publish a consultation on revisions to the scheme to reduce its administrative burden on participants. We are exploring moving the future administration of the scheme to the Environment Agency, to exploit the synergies with the EU Emissions Trading System and the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, already administered by the agency. This will give industry a one stop shop for energy efficiency regulation. Target negotiation will remain a matter for Government and the sectors.

Finally, we have looked at the interplay between the EU Emissions Trading System and UK regulation, in particular how the UK can best implement the provisions in the directive that allow for small emitters to opt out. My officials are continuing to discuss options with the European Commission and are developing proposals on the “equivalent measures” as required by the directive. These discussions have not yet concluded. I am grateful for the assistance my Department has received from the UK Emissions Trading Group in making the case to Brussels for proportionate implementation of the directive.

In order to ensure our CRC proposals maximise the simplification opportunities, and take account of all the lessons learned in the first full reporting cycle, DECC and the devolved Administrations will continue the informal dialogue with participants throughout this autumn. My Department and the devolved Administrations will welcome comments on our proposed way forward published today. We will then formally consult on legislative proposals early next year.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Pet Travel Scheme

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): Today I am announcing changes to the rules on the movement of pet dogs, cats and ferrets into the UK under the pet travel scheme. These changes will make it cheaper and easier for people to travel with their pets while putting in place proportionate controls to prevent rabies incursion and enabling the UK to maintain its rabies-free status.

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The pet travel scheme is the system of controls in place to reduce the risk of rabies and certain parasites from entering the UK via the importation of domestic pet animals.

Before pets can enter the UK under the pet travel scheme they must meet certain animal health requirements, such as being vaccinated against rabies, which are laid down in European Union (EU) law (EC Regulation 998/2003). The EU regulation applies to all pet dogs, cats and ferrets moving between member states and from non-EU countries into the EU and sets out standard entry conditions. The regulation currently provides two temporary derogations to the UK to apply more stringent controls on rabies, ticks and tapeworm. These derogations expire on 31 December 2011.

Having considered all the options very carefully, I have decided, in agreement with ministerial colleagues in the devolved Administrations, that from 1 January 2012 the UK will harmonise its controls on rabies with the EU-wide pet movement system. This is in line with the positions of Ireland, Sweden and Malta who will also be harmonising their rabies controls from this date.

The key differences between the current pet travel scheme rules and how they will change from the 1 January 2012 are:

Pets travelling from other EU member states and “listed” third countries (countries which the EU considers do not present a higher risk of rabies incursion compared to movements within the EU, for example USA, Australia and Japan) will no longer need to be blood tested after they have been vaccinated against rabies.

Pets travelling from other EU member states and listed third countries will only have to wait 21 days following their rabies vaccination before they can enter the UK, rather than waiting 6 months as they do now.

Pets travelling from “unlisted” third countries (countries which have not applied or been accepted for listed status because of less robust veterinary or administrative systems or higher rabies incidence, such as China, India and South Africa) will no longer be required to undergo six months’ compulsory quarantine and will be able to enter the UK if they meet certain requirements These include being microchipped and having been vaccinated against rabies and passed a blood test. They will not be allowed to enter the UK for at least four months after the date of the vaccination.

Pet owners who need to travel to the UK at short notice will continue to have the option of voluntarily placing their pet in UK quarantine, where it will be required to undergo the necessary health treatments, such as being vaccinated and blood tested if required, before being released.

The European Commission has given a strong indication that it will shortly come forward with proposals that would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls with a treatment window of one to five days. There will be no mandatory tick treatment before pets enter the UK.


The proposed changes to the controls on rabies are proportionate to the disease risks involved and are scientifically justified. Since the UK pet travel scheme was introduced in 2000, the likelihood of a human case of rabies in Europe has substantially reduced as a result of an effective and ongoing programme to reduce the disease in the domestic and wild animal populations of EU member states, together with improvements in the accessibility to rabies vaccination and post-exposure treatment. There has been not one reported case of rabies in the EU associated with the legal movement of

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pets under the EU pet movement system since it was introduced in 2004, with many hundreds of thousands of pet movements having taken place during that time.

This reduction in the level of rabies across the EU is reflected in the findings of a quantitative risk assessment undertaken for Defra by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. Their report, which has been peer reviewed, concluded that the risk of a rabies case in the UK will remain very low when we harmonise with the EU pet movement rules, with a chance of, on average, one case in 211 years. The risk of an outbreak leading to a human fatality in the UK would be much lower. This report has been published on the Defra website today.

In addition to the robust scientific case for harmonisation, these revised pet movement rules will deliver substantial benefits to UK pet owners, particularly those people with assistance dogs, making it easier and more affordable for the people who presently travel from the UK and back with their pets (on average 100,000) each year and will open opportunities for many more to travel abroad with their pets. It will also reduce the time dogs need to spend cooped up in kennels. The annual benefits of reduced controls to pet owners resident in the UK are estimated to be £7 million. These changes will also provide UK citizens the same level of free movement with their pet animals which other EU citizens are allowed.

We will continue to ensure that the UK maintains a robust level of protection against rabies, given the seriousness of the disease. We have robust plans in place to deal with rabies should it be detected. As part of our ongoing disease preparedness work we keep the rabies control strategy under constant review, and will be consulting with stakeholder organisations later this year to ensure our plans remain appropriate and proportionate. When the rules change on 1 January 2012 we will be looking to ensure that every pet arriving in the UK will continue to be checked to ensure that it meets the EU requirements, regardless of which country it comes from, and we expect the private quarantine sector to retain a vital role in dealing with non-compliant animals. Stringent penalties remain in place for those that breach the law by smuggling animals into the country or by knowingly using false or misleading information/documentation.


The UK is currently free of the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis and there is a strong scientific case for keeping controls in place to prevent its incursion into the UK. The European Commission has given a strong indication that it will shortly come forward with proposals that would enable the UK and other tapeworm-free countries to retain tapeworm controls with a treatment window of one to five days.


Tick controls will no longer apply when the rules change on 1 January 2012. Although ticks which are capable of transmitting the disease Mediterranean Spotted Fever might enter the UK via pet movements, they could also enter the UK via other routes (for example on people or vehicles). Even then, the likelihood of ticks establishing in the UK is negligible. Our evidence base for maintaining tick controls is less robust than for tapeworm and we would have difficulty putting forward

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a case to show tick controls are fully effective, scientifically justified and proportionate to the risk of disease incursion. We will continue to work with vets to encourage pet owners travelling abroad to treat their pets against ticks, as they do at present, as part of good pet ownership practice. Pet owners are advised to talk to their vets about the appropriate course of action for their animals when planning a trip abroad.

There are a number of practical issues that still need to be worked through and Defra will be engaging with key stakeholders, including the quarantine and carrier industries, over the coming months. Members of the public who intend to travel abroad with their pet from 1 January 2012 should consult the Defra website for advice on the procedures to follow in the first instance, contact the Pets helpline or speak to their vet.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Libya (Equipment for the National Transitional Council)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I informed the House on 16 May 2011, Official Report , vol 528, column 161, that the Government intended to provide additional practical and material support to the National Transitional Council (NTC), as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. I can now confirm that the following additional equipment has been granted to the NTC for the sole use of the civilian police force.

5,000 sets of body armour;

6,650 police uniforms;

5,000 high visibility vests and t-shirts;

Communications equipment for police stations.

Provision of this equipment is fully in line with UNSCRs 1970 and 1973, including the arms embargo. This equipment will enable the civilian police to carry out their functions more securely and better protect NTC representatives and the significant international and NGO communities in Benghazi, Misrata and other areas of Libya now controlled by the NTC.

Under the HM Treasury guidelines set out in “Managing Public Money” these items are grants and grants-in-aid to the NTC and not gifts. Therefore Crown immunity applies to the supply of body armour and an export licence is not required. The other equipment does not require export licences. However, I am committed to keeping Parliament informed, which is why I am setting this out in a WMS.

Public Records: Colonial Documents

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): In my statement to the House on 5 May 2011, Official Report, column 24WS, I announced my intention to appoint a senior and independent figure to oversee the process of reviewing and transferring migrated archives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to The National Archives.

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I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Tony Badger, Paul Mellon Professor of American history and Master of Clare College at the university of Cambridge, to this position.

The independent reviewer will:

Provide independent oversight of the process of selection, review and release into the public domain of papers from the FCO’s “migrated archives”.

Provide assurance to the wider public that the process is being carried out in accordance with my commitment to transparency, notably my intention to release

“every part of every paper of interest, subject only to legal exemptions”.

These exemptions are set out in the Freedom of Information Act,

Offer guidance on prioritisation of the files for selection, review and release to ensure that the papers of greatest interest or highest significance are dealt with first and without undue delay.

Provide independent scrutiny of the steps FCO has taken to locate or confirm destruction of the missing top secret files.

Send a short report to me at the conclusion of the process, for publication.

Home Department

Forensic Science Research and Development

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): On 27 January I announced a review of research and development in forensic science. The Government are today publishing this review and copies will be placed in the House Library. The review is also available on the Home Office website.

I welcome this review into research and development in forensic science. I would like to encourage all members of the forensic science community to consider it carefully, and consider how they can work together to co-ordinate, deliver and communicate research in this important field.

Research within commercial providers is one element of a much bigger landscape. I note the recommendation that the Home Office forensic transition board, which I chair, should pay specific attention to the research and development requirement in the framework agreement for forensic science providers. The review shows that research and development is already an integral part of the work of any commercial forensic science provider and that there are natural links between casework and research.

I fully accept the recommendation and can underline the Home Office’s view that forensic science providers do need to undertake appropriate research and development to support their role in the criminal justice system. Providers competing to provide innovative services at the lowest cost will preserve police resources and maximise the positive impact forensic sciences can have on tackling crime.

Professor Silverman, the Home Office chief scientific adviser, will continue to work with the forensic science research community and research funders to help co-ordinate and support research in forensic science.

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National DNA Database Ethics Group

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I am pleased to announce the publication of the fourth annual report of the National DNA Database Ethics Group on 27 June 2011. The group was established on 25 July 2007 to provide Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the National DNA Database (NDNAD).

I welcome the consideration given in the report to a number of important issues. The Government share the concerns of the group to ensure both the effectiveness of the database and its ethical operation. The Protection of Freedoms Bill takes account of the advice of, and a number of concerns raised by, the group. For example, as well as requiring the destruction of all DNA samples within six months of being taken, the Bill places the National DNA Database strategy board on a statutory footing and requires the Home Secretary to lay the board’s annual report before Parliament.

The ethics group’s annual report can be viewed on the website of the independent forensic science regulator and a copy will be placed in the House Library.


Matrimonial Property and Registered Partnership Property Regimes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, has made the following written ministerial statement:

The Government have today decided not to opt in to the European Commission’s proposals on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions in matters of matrimonial property regimes and the property consequences of registered partnerships.

The Commission’s proposals aim to regulate jurisdiction and applicable law as they apply both to the daily management of the property of spouses and registered partners (which would include civil partnerships registered in the UK) and to how disputes relating to the distribution of assets in cross-border situations are handled following the ending of a couple’s relationship through divorce or dissolution of the partnership, separation or death.

The broad balance of opinion from the Government’s consultation was that it would not be in the UK’s interests to participate in these proposals. A number of difficulties were identified. First, the concept of a matrimonial property regime (or equivalent for civil partners) does not exist in the UK in the sense understood in most other member states. Currently our courts take a wide view of the capital resources available to the parties on divorce or dissolution (including maintenance). Many of these issues are not included in traditional matrimonial property regimes. If the UK was to opt in it would be more difficult for our courts to deal with all aspects of the financial provision of international couples on divorce or dissolution in cases which fall within the scope of these proposals.

Concerns were raised about how the use of foreign law could drive up costs and complicate the resolution of disputes in the family courts and create uncertainty for third-parties who enter into a legal relationship with the couple. There was also considered to be uncertainty about the interaction with succession law.

Both the House of Lords European Union Select Committee and the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee have recommended the UK should not opt-in.

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Prime Minister

Reports of the Chief Surveillance, Interception of Communications, and Intelligence Services Commissioners

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I have today laid before both Houses the annual reports of the former Intelligence Services Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson (HC 1240), the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy (HC 1239) and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose (HC 1111).

The responsibility of the Commissioners is to provide independent oversight of the use of the investigative powers contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Police Act 1997. They play a vitally important role in ensuring that public authorities make use of these powers in a way which is necessary, for a legitimate aim and also proportionate to what is sought to be achieved. They are required under the provisions of the legislation to provide an annual report to me with respect to the carrying out of their functions.

All three Commissioners have concluded that these powers are being used properly and appropriately, in accordance with the requirements set out in statute and that respective Secretaries of State and the various members of the intelligence services, police and law enforcement authorities and other public authorities are properly complying with the duties set out in the legislation. They consider that the public authorities concerned are undertaking their work with diligence and in accordance with the law. There have, regrettably, been breaches and errors. However, these have been relatively few in number and in all cases they were caused by procedural or technical problems that have since been addressed.

I am grateful to Sir Peter, Sir Paul and Sir Christopher and to the inspectors and staff which support them, for their work on these reports—which taken together represent a significant increase in the transparency and oversight of these intrusive powers.


Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing (Charges)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): I am publishing today, a consultation paper on proposals to change the charging regime at the Dartford-Thurrock river crossing. The proposals concern new possible charging rates according to type of vehicle using the crossing.

The Dartford-Thurrock river crossing is a key part of the strategic road network. It consists of two two-lane tunnels carrying traffic to the north, and a four-lane cable stayed bridge (the Queen Elizabeth II bridge) carrying traffic to the south. The crossing spans the River Thames between Dartford and Thurrock, forming a trunk road link (the A282 trunk road) in the M25 orbital motorway.

A road user charge has been collected at the crossing since 2003, using the powers in the Transport Act 2000, in order to manage the high demand for use of the

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crossing. The Department for Transport (DfT) revised the charging regime in 2008 following public consultation. Details of the current charging regime are set out in the A282 Trunk Road (Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Charging Scheme) Order 2008 (Statutory Instrument No. 1951).

In recognition of the strategic importance of the crossing the Government are committed to tackling the current and forecast performance issues affecting the crossing. As part of the spending review, the Department announced that, subject to consultation, prices would increase from £1.50 to £2.00 in 2011 for cars, rising to £2.50 in 2012 and that prices for other vehicles would also increase. The proposal to increase the charges at the crossing is both a measure to manage demand and to help to fund transport investment. For this reason I am today launching a consultation on proposals to change the charges.

The consultation makes reference to, but does not include detailed proposals for, other short, medium and long-term measures to be taken forward in this spending review period in relation to the crossing. In the short term we are announcing an initial six-month trial of a protocol for suspension of the charges during periods when the severity of congestion is such as to constitute an emergency, and charge suspension would help to ease that congestion.

In the medium term our objectives are, the introduction of a free-flow charging scheme and a review of options for additional crossing capacity.

I am pleased to announce that the consultation will run until 23 September 2011. Everybody with an interest is invited to take part. A consultation document and instructions for responding can be found on my Department’s website. An electronic copy has been lodged with the House Library. A public notice marking the publication of these proposals will be posted in the London Gazette and the Dartford Messenger on 30 June and in the Thurrock Gazette on the 1 July and copies of all the documents will be made available for public inspection at the offices of Dartford borough council and Thurrock council.

Work and Pensions

Social Fund Community Care Grants

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): I am announcing changes to the community care grant scheme to ensure the fund is appropriately used. Discretionary social fund directions will be amended with effect from 4 July 2011.

The Public Accounts Committee hearing on the community care grant scheme was held on 3 November 2010. One of the recommendations was that more could be done to prevent abuse of the scheme. I am therefore amending Social Fund Direction 7 to prevent repeat applications being awarded, unless there has been a relevant change of circumstances. The current direction, which applies to both community care grants and crisis loans, prevents repeat applications being awarded if an application is made within 28 days of a previous application for the same expenses. This period will be extended to 12 months.

The 12-month time limit has been chosen because this is broadly in line with manufacturers guarantee

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periods. In addition the period is well within the scope of the Sale of Goods Act and is a reasonable period during which customers are able, if goods are faulty, to take the matter up with the retailer.

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I am also taking the opportunity to make some minor and technical amendments to the directions.

Copies of the amended Secretary of State directions have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.