14 July 2011 : Column 35WS

14 July 2011 : Column 35WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 14 July 2011


Asset Protection Agency

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): The annual report and accounts 2010-11 of the Asset Protection Agency (APA) has been presented to Parliament today.

The report contains commentary on key developments in relation to the APA and the asset protection scheme (APS) over the period from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011.

I am pleased to note the statements in the report that the likelihood of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) being able to make a claim under the APS has further receded and that the British taxpayer is therefore expected to make an overall profit of £5 billion from the APS. Moreover, the amount of covered assets has further reduced from £234 billion at scheme inception to £182 billion at 31 March 2011.

The APA has today also published a legal agreement relating to the APS. This aligns the operation of the scheme more closely with RBS’s regular “business as usual” finance and risk management process. This agreement is in addition to the supplemental agreements on the implied write-down trigger for long-dated assets, revised arrangements for the assessment of APS performance-related remuneration for relevant RBS staff and a move from annual to quarterly fees, which were outlined in the written ministerial statement laid on 15 February 2011. It is expected that this agreement will increase operational efficiency for RBS and the APA leading to reduced costs for both and, by extension, the taxpayer.

Tax Consultations

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Budget 2011 announced a number of tax policy changes and longer-term tax reforms that will be subject to consultation. These, and other consultations, are summarised in the tax consultation tracker, which is available on the HM Treasury website at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/tax_updates.htm.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has today published the following documents:

Working with tax agents: dishonest conduct—a discussion document which seeks views on draft legislation which reflects comments received during earlier consultation. As part of a wider modernisation of HMRC’s powers, deterrents and safeguards this document looks at how HMRC interacts with tax agents to deal with dishonest conduct other than by way of a criminal investigation.

HMRC will publish the following remaining consultations before the end of July:

Civil Investigation of Fraud - Contractual Disclosure Facility—a discussion document which explores one option for toughening and tightening HMRC’s approach to civil investigation of fraud through the concept of a contractual disclosure facility.

14 July 2011 : Column 36WS

Modernising Customs and Excise Law—a consultation on modernising the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979 and other customs and excise law with a view to simplifying the legislation, closing the tax gap, removing burdens on business and strengthening the UK’s borders.

VAT: online registration and online filing of VAT returns—a consultation on the next steps in moving VAT online, and the assistance into digital that will be required in support.

Digital by Default—a consultation seeking views on making online the Digital by Default channel to register for direct business taxes (income tax self assessment/class 2 NICs, corporation tax, PAYE).

Communities and Local Government

Affordable Homes Programme

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): Further to my written statement of 14 February, Official Report, column 36WS, I am today announcing the outcomes of the Homes and Communities Agency’s invitation for proposals for affordable rent under the Government’s affordable homes programme for 2011-15.

The affordable homes programme, which I launched on 9 December 2010, was designed to support the delivery of up to 150,000 new affordable homes through a mixture of new investment (some £4.5 billion over the next four years) and greater flexibility for social housing providers to make the best use of existing and future assets. The new affordable rent model, which will be the principal element of the programme, will make public subsidy go further while enabling local authorities and providers to target support where it is most needed.

When I launched the invitation for bids under the framework in February, I said that my aspiration was to deliver more than 150,000 new affordable homes, and challenged the sector to deliver. The response from providers to the invitation for proposals under this programme has exceeded my original expectations, and I now believe that we will be able to deliver up to 170,000 new affordable homes. The programme I am announcing today includes around 80,000 homes for affordable rent or affordable home ownership, supported by funding of £1.8 billion from the Government.

Further details of the programme can be found at:


Firebuy Ltd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): A copy of the annual report and accounts of Firebuy Ltd for the financial year 2009-2010 has today been laid before Parliament.

Firebuy Ltd is an Executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Communities and Local Government to help deliver procurement efficiencies for the fire and rescue service in England through nationally negotiated framework contracts with suppliers. It also has a range of contract management and technical functions.

It was announced on 14 October 2010 that Firebuy would be closing in 2011 as part of Government’s review of arm’s length bodies.

14 July 2011 : Column 37WS

Building Stock

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): I am pleased to announce that I am today laying before Parliament the third report required under the provisions of the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004.

The report considers the progress towards the sustainability of the building stock in England and Wales in the preceding two years. It reports on changes made to building regulations over the period and their expected impact, plans for future legislation, and proposals for the setting of targets in relation to sustainable buildings. The report also covers changes in the energy and carbon efficiency of the building stock, the extent to which buildings have their own facilities for generating energy, and the recycling and reuse of construction materials over the period.

During the period covered by the report, one of the key legislative changes was the introduction of improved energy efficiency requirements to the building regulations and the publication of updated practical and technical guidance with respect to these requirements in October 2010. The new Government have also initiated a programme of work looking at potential deregulatory changes to the building regulations to be introduced in 2013. It also includes work to deliver the Government’s commitment to further increase energy efficiency through part L (conservation of fuel and power), delivering the next steps to zero carbon for homes and non-domestic buildings, and will consider the wider policy for the retrofit of existing buildings.

The report also notes this Government’s commitment to zero-carbon new homes from 2016 and their announcement as part of the growth review that the 2016 standard would require a 100% reduction of emissions from energy use covered by the building regulations. The report highlights the progress in the last two years in the energy efficiency of dwellings, including heating and insulation measures, as well as providing data on the first year of the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme which aims to encourage deployment of additional small-scale low-carbon electricity generation.

Improving the sustainability of the country’s building stock is critical to tackling climate change. The Climate Change Committee’s recent third annual report reminds us of the size and nature of the challenge. Building regulations have a vital role. The work described in the report which I am publishing today describes the progress which has been made, but we need to take this further, and I expect to return to the House with further proposals in the coming months.

Culture, Media and Sport

Remote Gambling

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (John Penrose): British consumers face different consumer protection arrangements and have to deal with myriad different regulators and languages depending on where the gambling they are taking part in is regulated. This problem is growing as more countries permit online gambling. At the same time, it is unfair to GB-licensed gambling operators that

14 July 2011 : Column 38WS

overseas competitors benefit from access to the market in Great Britain without bearing a fair share of the costs of regulation, or of research, education and treatment of problem gambling.

I am proposing that the Gambling Act should be amended so that remote gambling is regulated on a point of consumption basis, so that all operators selling into the British market, whether from here or abroad, will be required to hold a Gambling Commission licence to enable them to transact with British consumers and to advertise in Great Britain.

As I intend to allow operators anywhere in the world to apply for a Gambling Commission licence, my proposals will mean that the white list will be phased out, although the Gambling Commission will ensure that regulatory good practice is recognised so that overseas-based businesses in trusted jurisdictions such as the white-listed countries, will have much lighter touch approach and, for example, will not have to duplicate regulatory work.

To ensure the minimum disruption for operators in the British market, I intend to put in place a period of transition which will see operators already licensed in EEA member states and the existing white-listed jurisdictions entitled to or eligible for an automatic transitional licence to prevent them having to cease trading.

These proposals are an important measure to help address concerns about problem gambling and to bridge a regulatory gap, by ensuring that British consumers will enjoy consistent standards of protection, no matter which online gambling site they visit. For example, previous work by the Gambling Commission has highlighted deficiencies in some remote operators’ arrangements for preventing under-age play, and, for the first time, overseas operators will be required to inform the UK regulator about suspicious betting patterns to help fight illegal activity and corruption in sports betting.

These reforms will ensure consistency and a level playing field as all overseas operators will be subject to the same regulatory standards and requirements as British-based operators.

The Government will work with the Gambling Commission and other stakeholders to develop the detailed arrangements for the new licensing system which will require changes to primary legislation.

Horserace Totalisator Board

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (John Penrose): In my ministerial written statement to the House on 7 June, Official Report, columns 6-7WS, I announced that the Government have reached a legally binding agreement with Lightcatch Ltd, the parent company of BetFred, for the sale of the Tote. The Government are now able to announce that the sale was completed yesterday.

The Government would like to place on record their gratitude to the board and staff of the Tote, past and present, for their stewardship of the Tote, and to wish the combined businesses of BetFred and the Tote a successful future.

The Government will now enter into detailed discussions with representatives of the racing industry on the design of a scheme for disbursing its share of the net proceeds of sale in a manner which complies with EU state aid rules.

14 July 2011 : Column 39WS


Defence Vetting Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): Key priorities have been set for the chief executive of the Defence Vetting Agency (DVA) for financial year 2011-12 to deliver national security vetting and related services for Defence personnel and for contractors working for the Ministry of Defence. Vetting for its repayment customers across Government will be delivered against standards set in individual joint business agreements with the agency.

Following Defence reform, it is likely that vetting services will be provided under a new business model from 2012, and I expect the DVA to be disestablished as a next steps agency from April 2012. The following key priorities are for its final year of operation. They also reflect the introduction in March 2011 of a major new vetting management and information system (Cerberus). As is common in such substantial transition programmes, short-term operating difficulties have been encountered. These are, however, being resolved, and the expected benefits should be delivered within the period covered by the key priorities.

Maintaining quality

Key priority 1: External validation of quality of defence vetting cases.

To achieve at least a 98% satisfaction rating with 200 cases independently selected and reviewed from a random sample of security cleared (SC) and developed vetting (DV) cases completed in the preceding 12-month period.

Key priority 2: Delivering excellent customer service to all our customers.

To maintain customer service excellence accreditation.

Restoring service delivery

Key priority 3: For all routine defence cases received after 1 January:

a. 85% of counter-terrorism checks (CTCs) to be completed within 25 calendar days,

(improved from 30 days);

b. 85% of SCs to be completed within 25 calendar days, (improved from 30 days);

c. 85% of DVs to be completed within 95 calendar days, (improved from 100 days).

Key priority 4: For all defence priority cases received after 1 October:

a. 95% of CTCs and SCs to be completed within 10 calendar days, (no change);

b. 95% of DVs completed within 30 calendar days .(no change).

Key priority 5: Completing defence aftercare cases received or scheduled for action after 1 October:

a. Take into action all aftercare incident reports (AIRs) within seven calendar days of receipt, (no change);

b. Take into action 95% of scheduled aftercare within 30 calendar days of the scheduled date of review, (no change)

c. Taking into action (where appropriate) 95% of security appraisal reviews within 21 days of receipt, (no change).

The above timeliness targets represent net performance that excludes delays outside of the DVA’s control.

Business Improvement

Key priority 6: Business transformation

By 30 September 2011 produce a transition plan to implement the move to the Defence Business Support Organisation during autumn 2011, and remove agency status by 31 March 2012 (new).

14 July 2011 : Column 40WS

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

DEFRA Agency (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): The 2010-11 annual report and accounts for the Food and Environment Research Agency was laid before Parliament on 13 July.

Hazardous Waste (National Policy Statement)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The Planning Act 2008 provides for national policy statements (NPSs) that set out Government policy for particular types of development. It requires the draft NPSs to be publicised, consulted on, and laid in Parliament with the intention of enabling public and parliamentary debate to take place.

Public consultation on the hazardous waste NPS for England started today, 14 July, lasting for 14 weeks. At the same time I have laid it before Parliament for a period of scrutiny (the “relevant period”) ending 20 January 2012.

The hazardous waste NPS sets out our need for hazardous waste infrastructure to enable hazardous waste to be managed in a way that safeguards human health and protects the environment. Although we are taking steps to minimise the production of all waste, there will remain for the foreseeable future processes that will produce hazardous waste and products that contain hazardous substances and which will need to be managed as hazardous waste when discarded. Hazardous waste arisings remain significant with around 4.8 million tonnes arising in 2008 and are expected to rise further in future years as improvements in waste management such as producer responsibility schemes and European changes to the definition of hazardous waste take effect and require the management of more waste streams separately as hazardous waste. It is important that we have sufficient infrastructure both to manage this waste in an environmentally sound manner and to move the management of hazardous waste up the waste hierarchy so that we maximise the amounts recycled and recovered and minimise amounts sent for disposal.

We look to the market to provide the facilities. The national policy statement for hazardous waste does not make proposals, therefore, for any specific developments. However, it sets out the types of nationally significant infrastructure required and sets a policy framework to guide the determination of applications for development consent.

The hazardous waste NPS is available on the DEFRA website at www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/07/14/hazardous-waste/.

Agency Key Business Outcomes

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) will work to the following key business outcomes for 2011-12:

14 July 2011 : Column 41WS

Value for money (Operational efficiency and value for money)

Demonstrated by:

Meeting the financial performance target by the end of financial year 2011-12.

Delivering savings in line with the CSR settlement in 2011-12 and producing plans to achieve savings required in later years.

Implementing and harmonising clear SLAs with all customers to reflect their priorities.

Driving sustainability through carbon reduction and water usage reduction.

Customers (Customer satisfaction)

Demonstrated by:

Striving to maintain and develop excellent relationships with the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and with the new Animal Health and Welfare Board for England once it is established.

Designing and implementing a customer insight programme—this will provide the baseline from which, in consultation with customer groups, an improvement plan will be driven for key segments.

Capability, resilience and outbreak management

Demonstrated by:

As far as possible safeguarding resilience in the face of reducing funding levels and continuously working to improve outbreak management through learning from the structured programme of exercises (focusing in 2011-12 on arrangements for resource sharing across Great Britain in the light of the devolution of budgets).

Developing a scanning and surveillance model which will optimise investment (in staff, estate and technology) and maximise the use of external providers and the farming industry to deliver the greatest benefit in the prediction of new and recurring threats.

Implementing release six of the business reform programme to deliver efficiency savings and capability enhancements, ensuring that resilience is protected.

Bovine tuberculosis

Demonstrated by:

Pulling together the joined capabilities on research, evidence generation, analysis and delivery to offer innovative options to policy and industry customers, to support the delivery of TB eradication programmes for England and Wales, and the risk-based testing approach for Scotland.

Further details are given in the AHVLA business plan for 2011-12 a copy of which has been placed on the AHVLA website.

The Centre For Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) will work to the following key business outcomes for 2011-12. These are demonstrated through a combination of detailed metrics and actions summarised as:

Value for money (Finance)

Demonstrated by:

Delivering full cost recovery.

Delivery of sound financial management and governance.

Successful widening of CEFAS’ customer base and growth of non DEFRA income.

Delivery of tangible effectiveness gains.

Customers (Customer satisfaction)

Demonstrated by:

Levels of customer satisfaction for each project.

CEFAS impacts: Progress against the four priority DEFRA customer impact areas (CFP reform, marine planning and licensing, evidence needs for marine strategy framework directive and enhancing the sustainable contribution offish and shellfish to UK food security).

14 July 2011 : Column 42WS

Science excellence

Demonstrated by:

Numbers of published papers and media references.

Level of customer satisfaction in scientific quality of work.

Delivery of ongoing investment in new science and capabilities.

Employee engagement

Demonstrated by:

The relative performance in the annual staff survey compared to cross civil service scores.

Delivery of specific actions including sickness absence improvement.

Social Responsibility

Demonstrated by:

Delivery of H&S key performance indicators.

Maintenance of OSHAS18001 and ISO14001 accreditations.

Delivery of sustainability priorities concerning wastewater discharge, increasing volunteering and reduced car travel on business.

Further details are given in the CEFAS business plan for 2011-12, a copy of which has been placed on the CEFAS website.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) will work to the following key business outcomes for 2011-12:

Value for Money

Demonstrated by:

Achieving cost recovery and demonstrating progress in the three elements of value-for-money (economy, efficiency and effectiveness).


Demonstrated by:

Ensuring that at least 80% of customers in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry consider the level of service provided by the VMD to be good or excellent and that the VMD act on areas identified requiring improvement within the confines of the available resources.

Policy customers in DEFRA and 0ther Government Departments considering the level of service provided by the VMD to be satisfactory.

Operations/Policy Delivery

Demonstrated by:

Authorising veterinary medicinal products according to legislative requirements and their ongoing benefit: risk assessment remaining positive through taking proportionate action on quality, safety and efficacy as necessary.

Providing evidence of actions that encourage the responsible, safe and effective use of veterinary medicinal products according to the legislative requirements through proportionate surveillance and inspection activities—and where necessary using enforcement action to detect and deter illegal use.

Ensuring UK policy principles influence EU legislative change, further the principles of market harmonisation and the development of efficient and effective procedures and guidance within the European Medicines Regulatory Network.

Capacity and Capability

Demonstrated by:

Ensuring the VMD utilises its funding streams efficiently to maintain capability and capacity to deliver its business objectives and is fit for purpose.

Further details are given in the VMD business plan for 2011-12 to 2014-15, a copy of which has been placed on the VMD website.

14 July 2011 : Column 43WS

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) will work to the following key business outcomes for 2011-12:

Value for money (financial performance)

Demonstrated by:

Meeting agreed financial performance, service delivery and efficiency targets.

Customers (Customer focus)

Demonstrated by:

Delivering the outcomes detailed in the DEFRA/Fera SLA through the provision of independent and impartial advice.


Demonstrated by:

Delivering effective and efficient plant health, bee health and PVS policy services and outcomes.

Science Capability and Incident Response

Demonstrated by:

Providing a robust food and environmental research, response and recovery capability that supports Fera’s, DEFRA’s and wider Government requirements.


Demonstrated by:

Developing and maintaining a culture of ownership and accountability that values everyone for their contribution.

Embedding Sustainability and Support for the Big Society

Demonstrated by:

Driving value by maximising the exploitation of our assets and embedding the principles of sustainability further into our business operations.

Further details are given in the Fera business plan for 2011-12, a copy of which has been placed on the Fera website.

The Rural Payments Agency will work to the following interim key business outcomes for 2011-12:

Value for money (Effectively delivering accurate and timely payments)

Demonstrated by:

The single payment scheme fund being paid, in an accurate and cost-effective manner, between 1 December 2011 and 30 June 2012.

(i) SPS 2011 payments by value to customers in regulatory window (> 95.238% by 30 June 2012).

(ii) Additional indicators to be available after the delivery of the RPA strategic improvement plan.

To process and pay valid claims for trader schemes and rural development implementation schemes.

(i) 90% within Ministerial guidelines (28 days).

(ii) 99% within set EU Commission deadlines or in their absence 60 days of receipt of the claim.

Customers (Putting customers at the heart of Agency delivery)

Demonstrated by:

Demonstrating strong commitment to focus on customers by delivering a clear set of customer service standards for the end of August 2011.

Delivering operational excellence

Demonstrated by:

Minimising the risk of disallowance and make payments accurate to within materiality for all subsidy schemes under RPA’s direct management with current indicative levels.

14 July 2011 : Column 44WS

Further details are given in the interim RPA business plan for 2011-12, a copy of which has been placed on the RPA website. That plan, including objectives and indicators will be reviewed and updated when a longer-term strategic plan is implemented in late summer.

Copies of the business plans will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Veterinary Residues Committee

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): On 14 October 2010, the Government announced the outcome of their review of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). This reported that the majority of DEFRA’s scientific and technical advisory bodies were to be abolished and reconstituted as expert scientific committees to provide advice on specific areas. As part of implementing these reforms, the Veterinary Residues Committee (VRC), which is a non-statutory advisory NDPB, will be reconstituted as an expert scientific committee on 14 July 2011.

The VRC will continue to support DEFRA, the devolved Administrations and the Food Standards Agency on the scope and operation of surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines in food and the significance to consumers of any residues detected.

The committee’s membership and new terms of reference can be found on the VRC’s website: www.vmd.gov.uk/vrc.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): The Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 18 July. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will attend the Foreign Affairs Council. I will attend the General Affairs Council.

Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)

Initiatives in the area of the EU s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

We expect Baroness Ashton to present a report on CSDP which will be used as the basis for a discussion by Ministers. This follows an interim report which was presented to Defence Ministers at a FAC on 23 May. We are keen to support any initiatives that ensure the EU and NATO complement each other better. More generally, we will encourage the continued development of European civilian and military capabilities, and improvement to the co-ordination between EU civilian and military planning structures to help achieve a more joined up approach to crisis management. But we are opposed to the creation of any new institutions.

Southern Neighbourhood (Syria / Lebanon / Libya)

On Syria, we expect the Council to agree conclusions which will keep up the pressure on the Syrian regime to end the violence engage in meaningful reforms and take forward a genuine and inclusive national dialogue.

14 July 2011 : Column 45WS

We also expect conclusions on Lebanon which, while we recognise the complex challenges of the country’s internal political structure, make clear our expectations that the new Government uphold their international obligations, particularly by committing to co-operate with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

And on Libya, we expect EU Ministers to take their lead on the discussion at the contact group meeting due to be held on 15 July. We may also take the opportunity to remind Ministers of the need to push ahead with implementation of the ambitious new approach to the region set out in the new European neighbourhood policy endorsed by the European Council and the FAC in June.

Climate Change and Security

Following a joint request by the Foreign Secretary and his German counterpart, Dr Westerwelle, that the FAC discuss climate change in the light of the urgent and serious threat it poses to growth and security. Foreign Ministers will have the opportunity to consider the respective roles they, the High Representative, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and National Diplomatic Services can play in responding to climate change. Our view is that there is a need for greater emphasis on this in both member states’ and the EEAS’s approaches to foreign policy. We also expect the adoption of formal conclusions.

Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)

The 18 July FAC will receive a report from Baroness Ashton on the 11 July quartet meeting. We expect Ministers will want to support quartet efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back into direct talks. There is also likely to be a discussion of how the EU should respond to proposals for a UN vote on Palestinian statehood in September.


We welcome the opportunity to discuss Pakistan. We want to emphasise Pakistan’s strategic importance to the EU, and the need to re-energise the EU-Pakistan relationship. We would like conclusions which include commitments that will lead to a broader and deeper relationship and set the framework for a third EU-Pakistan summit.


Discussion on Afghanistan is likely to cover a wide range of issues including security transition, the EU’s long-term engagement with Afghanistan, and the EU police mission (EU POL). We will encourage a focused discussion, emphasising the importance of the EU’s commitment to Afghanistan post-2014 and urging progress on key areas of the EU’s expertise such as governance and capacity building.

Strategic Partners

If there is time. Ministers may consider the EU’s relations with its strategic partners. They would focus in particular on Brazil and South Africa (given forthcoming EU summits with those countries in October and September respectively). They may also cover China, Russia and the US, following Baroness Ashton’s work last year to define EU priorities with those countries. We are keen that the EU identifies concrete goals, preferably using its trade levers, with each country. And that the EU places an equally high priority on its relations with India.

14 July 2011 : Column 46WS

General Affairs Council (GAC)

Multiannual Financial Framework

The European Commission will present their proposals for the EU budget multiannual financial framework 2014-2020. The proposals can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/budget/index_en.cfm.

This could be the opportunity to remind the Commission of the joint letter to the President of the European Commission signed by the Prime Minister and leaders from Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland in December 2011. This letter can be found at:


Reform of the Statue of the European Court of Justice

The Court of Justice of the European Union has submitted a number of proposals for reform to improve its efficiency and, in particular, to clear the significant backlog of cases in the General Court (GC). The GC is important because it has jurisdiction to hear at first instance competition and trademark cases that are vital to the functioning of the single market. The key proposal is to increase the number of judges in the GC by 12, from 27 to 39, at a cost of an additional €13.6 million a year. While we support reform, we will have to take account of the need to deliver real budgetary restraint at EU-level.

Presentation of the Presidency s Programme

Ministers will be given a presentation by the Polish presidency on their main priorities for the next six months. More information on the Polish presidency can be found at: http://pl2011.eu/en.

June European Council

Ministers will discuss follow-up to the June European Council, which covered migration, economic policy, north Africa and the middle east. Following the Council, the Prime Minister reported the outcomes to the House in his statement on the

“Statement on the European Council”.

The statement can be found at the following link:


The conclusions of the June European Council meeting can be found at: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/st00/st00023.en11.pdf.

Malawi (Bilateral Relations)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I would like to update the House on the outcome of the review of the UK’s relations with Malawi which I announced in a written statement on 28 April 2011, Official Report, column 13WS. This followed Malawi’s unwarranted decision to expel our High Commissioner.

I told the House on that occasion, the FCO had already instructed Malawi’s acting high commissioner in London to leave, which she did. Her invitation to attend the royal wedding was also rescinded.

The review covered the full range of the UK’s relations with Malawi, including migration, defence relations, and educational and cultural relations. This review has been undertaken in close consultation with the Secretary of State for International Development as it also covered development assistance. Aid from all donors accounts

14 July 2011 : Column 47WS

for one-third of the Malawian Government’s budget; the UK is one of the largest bilateral donors. The review also took into account the very significant links between Scotland and Malawi, which are an integral part of the overall relationship. The overriding principle in conducting this review was to demonstrate the serious consequences which we told Malawi would come from a decision to expel the British high commissioner, without letting the Malawian people suffer for the actions of their Government.

Our position remains that, while formal diplomatic relations continue to exist between the UK and Malawi, the UK will not appoint a new high commissioner to Malawi for the time being; nor will we accept a new high commissioner from Malawi to the UK.

We have also taken certain measures concerning our visa service for senior Malawian visitors to the UK. The present visa arrangements for all other Malawian citizens however are unaffected.

The review also considered the UK’s relations with Malawi in the context of the various international organisations to which we both belong—particularly the Commonwealth—as well as of Malawi’s relations with the European Union. The UK will not be supporting Malawian candidates for elections to international organisations of which the UK is a member for the time being.

On the issue of UK aid to Malawi, my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary has decided to halt all general budget support until progress has been made in economic management, but to continue the programmes which protect Malawi’s many poor people.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anne Milton): EU Health Ministers met in Sopot, Poland for an informal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on 5 and 6 July. I represented the UK.

There was a discussion on the prevention and treatment of communication disorders among children. Member states stressed the importance of improving access to screening for communication disorders and early intervention.

The presidency presented an item on organ donation, which focused on sharing of best practice to improve donation rates across the EU.

The presidency highlighted the risks presented by the growing availability of “designer drugs”. Member states encouraged the sharing of information to help address the issue.

Member states received an update on the recent E.coli outbreak in Germany and France and the measures put forward by the European Commission to control the marketing of seeds from Egypt.

In a discussion on health determinants, diet and physical activity. Member states emphasised the importance of addressing inequalities between and within member states, through a range of mechanisms including social, economic and behavioural change.

14 July 2011 : Column 48WS

During a discussion on e-health. Member states outlined development at a national level and considered work at EU level.

Finally, Sweden raised the issue of the environmental impact of pharmaceutical production in third countries. This attracted support from several member states, including the UK.


"Healthy Lives, Healthy People"

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): Today I am laying before Parliament “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Update and way forward” (Cm 8132), which sets out the progress we have made in developing our vision for public health, and a timeline for completing the operational design of this work through a series of public health system reform updates.

The White Paper “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for public health in England” (Cm7985), described a new era for public health, with a higher priority and dedicated resources. It set out that local authorities would take new responsibilities for public health, tackling the wider determinants of health, supported by a ring-fenced budget, with directors of public health leading on this work locally. A new integrated public health service, Public Health England, would bring together in one body the diverse range of public health expertise to provide public health advice and support at all levels of the system.

The White Paper generated real enthusiasm for a new approach to public health. We want to maintain this momentum, and by setting out progress to date, and clear next steps, we aim to reduce uncertainty and encourage local authorities and public health professionals to continue to plan and build the local relationships and partnerships that will be key to implementing the new public health system.

This policy statement sets out how we expect the reformed public health system to work and the progress we have made in a number of areas, including the role and functions of Public Health England as an executive agency. It sets out greater clarity about the role of the Director of Public Health within local government, including how public health advice will be provided to help inform NHS commissioning. It provides an update in relation to commissioning routes for public health funded activity and provides greater clarity around roles and responsibilities for preparedness, resilience and response to health protection incidents and emergencies. It also indicates the functions we plan to mandate of local authorities, and what general conditions we intend to place on the ring-fence grant.

The high-quality of consultation responses received also helped us to identify where we need to do further work to address concerns raised around a number of policy and implementation issues. We will continue to engage with key stakeholders to ensure that by the autumn we have developed credible policy and implementation solutions for those issues which need further development. We will produce a series of public health system reform updates to complete the operational

14 July 2011 : Column 49WS

design of the public health system including on: the public health outcomes framework; the Public Health England Operating Model, public health in local government and the role of the Director of Public Health; public health funding; and a workforce strategy.

Copies of “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Update and way forward” are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

The document is also available at:


Home Department

Code of Practice (Examining Officers)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I am today issuing a Home Office circular to all chief constables advising them that the code of practice for examining officers introduced by order SI NO 2009/1593, following resolutions of both Houses, contains a factual inaccuracy in the TACT2 (Notice of Detention) form included as annex B. The Criminal Defence Service (General) (No.2) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (SI NO 712 2002) provide that the Legal Services Commission shall fund advice and assistance as it considers appropriate in relation to any person detained under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000. This was not reflected in the TACT2 form included in the code of practice. The Home Office circular provides a revised form, which examining officers are required to use. This advises those detained under schedule 7 that they may consult with a solicitor and that this may be at public expense (subject to the normal requirements of merit and means testing). We will lay a draft revised code of practice before Parliament in due course.

Criminal Records Bureau (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): I am pleased to announce that the 2010-11 annual report and accounts for the Criminal Records Bureau is being laid before the House today and published on the CRB website. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

Direct Airside Transit Regime (Yemen)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Today my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I have written to the Government of the Republic of Yemen announcing that on 14 July 2011 we will be imposing a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) regime on Yemeni citizens who wish to transit at a UK airport.

Britain is a major hub for transit passengers travelling on long-haul flights. Since 2003 we have required certain nationalities to obtain a visa (DATV) before they travel even if they are arriving at and leaving from the same airport. This was introduced as an immigration tool to prevent people destroying their documents before claiming asylum (possibly using a false identity or nationality) on arrival at a UK airport.

14 July 2011 : Column 50WS

The implementation of the first DATV regime helped to export the UK border and allowed us to run comprehensive checks on those transiting the UK. Since the original introduction of the DATV there has been a noticeable fall in transit passengers destroying their travel documents before claiming asylum. And where they do, the information we have collected as part of the application process (including biometrics) makes identifying and re-documenting them simpler.

Since the introduction of the DATV regime a number of countries have been added to the list of those required to obtain clearance before transiting the UK. This has been done in response to emerging counter-terrorism threats to the UK. We are already committed to reviewing the whole DATV regime when we conduct the next visa waiver test.

Recent events have highlighted Yemen as being of real and pressing concern to the international community. It was in Yemen that the Detroit bomber received his training and it was the source of the bombs disguised as toner cartridges in cargo aircraft last October. We feel that imposing a DATV regime on those Yemeni citizens who are transiting the UK is a sensible and proportionate response to the threat.

Independent Police Complaints Commission

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I am pleased to announce that today my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and I are publishing the annual report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Copies of the report have been laid before the House and will be available in the Vote Office.

This is the seventh annual report from the IPCC. The report covers the work of the IPCC during 2010-2011 and includes a discrete chapter on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.


Office for Judicial Complaints

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): With the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, I will today publish the annual report of the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC). The OJC provides support to the Lord Chief Justice and myself in our joint responsibility for the system of judicial complaints and discipline.

This report is the fifth published by the OJC, and marks the end of a year which has seen the OJC transition from an arm’s-length body, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, to become a part of the Judicial Office, which supports the Lord Chief Justice and senior judiciary in discharging their responsibilities.

While now a part of the Judicial Office, the OJC retains both its operational and decision-making independence and continues to report to both myself and the Lord Chief Justice on matters relating to judicial conduct and discipline. I am confident that this arrangement will realise significant administrative and organisational savings while protecting the independence of the investigatory and disciplinary process.

14 July 2011 : Column 51WS

I am pleased to note that the OJC continues to deliver an effective complaint-handling service to all of its customers, which is both transparent and efficient; processing over 1,600 complaints and 800 inquiries in the last year. None the less, it is always possible to seek further efficiencies and improvements and to that end the Lord Chief Justice and I have agreed that the OJC should conduct a thorough review of the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations to identify any areas where the disciplinary process may be improved or streamlined. That review is ongoing and the OJC will be consulting key stakeholders and inviting submissions from interested parties before providing both the Lord Chief Justice and myself with recommendations in 2012.

Copies of the report are available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies of the report are also available on the internet at http://www.judicialcomplaints.gov.uk/publications/publications.htm.

Justice's of the Peace Act 1949 (Compensation) Regulations

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): I am announcing today that I have approved a recommendation by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service that the Justice of the Peace Act 1949 (Compensation) Regulations as amended (known as “Crombie” regulations) are to be revoked by a statutory instrument that will be laid before Parliament on the 14 July 2011.

Under arrangements dating back to 1949 justices’ clerks and their assistants are currently entitled to receive higher compensation than other civil servants—in certain circumstances—for loss of office, resettlement and retirement. We have a duty to ensure that we get value for taxpayers’ money and following consultation the Ministry of Justice has decided to revoke this entitlement.

All civil servants, including justices’ clerks and their assistants will continue to benefit from the protection of the civil service compensation scheme.

Copies of the response to consultation on the proposal to revoke the “Crombie” regulations have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Leader of the House

Members' Pensions

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): I am today announcing the next step in the Government’s approach to MPs’ pensions.

On 26 July 2010, I issued a written ministerial statement (Official Report, column 70WS) on the publication of the Senior Salaries Review Body’s (SSRB) fundamental review of parliamentary pensions. This statement also set out our longer-term approach to the reform of MPs’ pensions, including our expectation that the current final salary terms of the scheme would end. The SSRB report was a thoughtful and welcome consideration of the pension arrangements for Members of Parliament. However, as recognised at the time, there had been several developments in the area that could not be ignored in reaching a sustainable conclusion on the issue.

14 July 2011 : Column 52WS

The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which achieved Royal Assent in April 2010, conferred powers on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to determine hon. Members’ salary and pensions, independently of the House. The independent determination and administration of these matters is a crucial part of the process of restoring trust in Parliament, and any decision to defer the move to independence will result in MPs continuing to determine their own remuneration, which the House has firmly rejected.

Additionally, the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission, chaired by Lord Hutton of Furness, was established in June 2010, and published its Final Report on 10 March 2011. We have consistently made clear that parliamentary pensions must be reformed in the light of the Commission’s findings and subsequent application to other public service schemes. There is no case for MPs being treated differently from other public servants on this issue.

As the next step, I will table a motion before the House rises for the summer recess. This will invite the House to support the approach to public service pension reform set out in the Final Report of the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission. The motion will propose that IPSA should introduce a new pension scheme for MPs by 2015, informed by the Commission’s findings, and their subsequent application to other public service pension schemes. In recognising the case for an increase in pensions contributions made in Lord Hutton's interim report, the motion will invite IPSA to increase contribution rates for hon. Members from 1 April 2012 in line with changes in pension contribution rates for other public service schemes.

The motion, which will be debated, will also reassert the importance of independent determination of MPs’ remuneration. Subsequently, I will commence the relevant sections of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, transferring all future responsibility for MPs’ pensions to IPSA.

This approach is similar to the one followed for MPs’ pay, where the House resolved to freeze pay, before the relevant commencement order transferred responsibility to IPSA.

Once responsibility for MPs’ pensions has been transferred to IPSA, MPs will have finally relinquished the power to set the terms of their own remuneration. Given the failure of self-regulation, which so damaged Parliament’s reputation, this represents a significant step in drawing a line under the problems of the past and rebuilding public confidence.


Aviation Security

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): Today I am launching a consultation on the Government’s proposals to modernise the way we regulate aviation security. Better regulation for aviation security proposes a new outcome focused, risk-based approach to regulation which builds on the successful and similar approach to aviation safety.

While the UK is recognised internationally as having one of the most effective aviation security regimes in the world, we also face a continuing threat from international and domestic terrorism. The Government’s recent strategic

14 July 2011 : Column 53WS

defence and security review set out their proposals for securing Britain in an age of uncertainty and included a commitment to improve aviation security.

The proposals in this consultation offer a new approach to the regulation of aviation security. Our current system can place significant financial burdens on the aviation industry along with inconvenience to passengers, and could be more consistent with the Government’s better regulation principles. I think we can do better—with a new regime that maintains and improves security standards but in a more efficient and passenger-friendly way.

I therefore propose that the Government should move from prescribing security processes to setting security outcomes. This will give airports and airlines greater flexibility to deliver high standards of security in ways that that are better integrated with their day-to-day business and designed around the needs of the passenger. It will allow them to adopt appropriate new technology as it become available. I want to move away from the current, highly prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach where all operators run the same regime to one where industry takes a more proactive and more innovative and tailored approach to security.

This approach will also enable the regulator to operate a system of “earned autonomy”—rewarding those operators with the most robust systems of aviation security with greater trust in how they deliver the specified outcomes. Conversely, the level of scrutiny by the regulator will increase proportionately where any concerns arise about the delivery of the required outcomes.

The safety and security of passengers will remain of paramount importance to the Government, and so the new arrangements will have robust oversight procedures in place to ensure security standards are not compromised. To do this, I am proposing to require all industry operators to develop a security management system. This would demonstrate a clear commitment to providing an overall high-level of security and set out how security outcomes specified by the UK regulator and EU requirements will be delivered. Integral to this will be robust internal quality assurance and auditing arrangements which will complement the regulator’s own assurance and compliance processes.

The consultation also proposes new reporting arrangements whereby industry will regularly report to the regulator on performance and occurrences (including the rectification measures to be taken). This gives the regulator a fuller picture on which to base decisions and direct regulatory effort. I also propose to introduce a system that allows staff to report on a confidential basis any concerns relating to aviation security. These proposed arrangements will provide an additional layer of assurance.

This approach offers a new partnership between Government and the industry, one that is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards in aviation security while also improving the passenger experience.

These are complex proposals, which require further development in consultation with the aviation industry and other interested parties. The Department for Transport will be making extensive efforts to engage industry during the consultation process to explain the proposals further and to seek input.

Following the end of the consultation, the Government will then consider all responses and produce a summary report along with next steps. I will make a further statement to the House at that point.

14 July 2011 : Column 54WS

Coastguard Modernisation

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I will be making an oral statement later today, following the Leader of the House’s business question.

Humber Bridge (Debts) Order 2011

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am pleased to announce that I have today laid the Humber Bridge (Debts) Order.2011 before Parliament.

The order provides for the interest rate payable on the debt owed by the Humber bridge board to the Department for Transport to continue to remain at the reduced rate equivalent to 4.25% on the total debt of £332 million during the period 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2016. The debt represents borrowing from Government for the construction of the Humber bridge and the subsequent capitalisation of annual deficits in the early years of its operation.

Without this order, the interest rate payable on that part of the debt not suspended (£275 million) would revert to 7.75%, as set by the Humber Bridge (Debts) Order 1998. The value of the interest rate reduction to the Humber bridge board amounts to £48 million over the five years, which the board can use to fund maintenance and renewals and/or to make capital repayments.

This order demonstrates a major commitment by this Government to the council taxpayers, travelling public and businesses of the Humber area. Without it, the Humber bridge board would have been obliged either to surcharge council taxpayers in the Humber area, or to increase the tolls on the bridge by as much as 60%.

The arrangement forms part of the base case for second phase of the Humber bridge review announced on 14 June, and is made separately to the process of the review, which is now under way and on which the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and I will make a further announcement in November.

I have stated that the reduced interest rate on the loan is the equivalent of 4.25% payable on the entire debt of £332 million. In 2011-12 this will comprise 5.13% charged on the active portion of the debt (£275 million) and nil payable on the suspended portion of the debt (£57 million). As set out in the 1998 Order, the suspended portion of the debt will progressively be added back into the active debt over the three years to 2014. The interest rate will be reduced accordingly to equate to the 4.25% on the whole debt. Therefore the rate payable on the active debt in the three years 2011-12 to 2013-14 will be 5.13%, 4.82% and 4.52% respectively.

This order is made under the provisions of the Humber Bridge (Debts) Act 1996, and comes into force on 9 August. Upon the coming into force of this order, a revised loan agreement will be signed between the Secretary of State and the Humber bridge board.

South East Airports Taskforce

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): On 15 June 2010, the Government announced the establishment of the South East Airports Taskforce with representatives from the aviation industry

14 July 2011 : Column 55WS

to explore the scope for measures to help make the most of existing airport infrastructure and improve conditions for all users. I chaired the taskforce. Its focus was on action at our three biggest airports—Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. Today I am announcing the publication of the taskforce’s final report.

The taskforce was given a challenging remit. It had 12 months to identify operational improvements that could enhance the performance of these airports and bring benefits to passengers. The report is the culmination of a year-long programme of work across seven areas, including punctuality, security and border controls. It sets out the issues considered by the taskforce and its conclusions.

I would draw particular attention to the chapter on improving punctuality, tackling delay and strengthening resilience. The focus of this chapter is on Heathrow, which is the UK’s biggest, busiest and most capacity constrained airport. The main recommendation is that the scope for establishing a set of operational freedoms at Heathrow should be explored. These would enable the greater use of tactical measures in defined and limited circumstances to prevent or mitigate disruption and to facilitate recovery. These measures are consistent with our commitment to runway alternation at the airport and there would be no increase in the number of flights at the airport which will remain capped at current levels.

Tactical measures, such as operating twin arrivals streams for limited periods to tackle inbound delays, are already used at Heathrow; implementation of these proposals would mean greater use of such measures on days when the airport faced particular disruption. The taskforce has concluded that such an approach would deliver benefits, particularly in improving reliability, but would also mean some limited redistribution of noise when measures were applied.

The work carried out so far indicates that the proposals could result in net environmental benefits,—for example, through reducing stacking and cutting the number of unscheduled flights during the night period. However, on the limited occasions where these freedoms would operate, some communities would be likely to experience aircraft noise during current respite periods; hence the need for safeguards to ensure they are deployed only to anticipate, prevent and mitigate disruption and to facilitate recovery.

Before any commitment is made to implementing such operational freedoms, better evidence is needed of the potential benefits and impacts. I am therefore announcing a phased trial of operational freedoms at Heathrow. The trial will provide firm evidence on the benefits and impacts of these measures and will provide a basis for consultation with local communities before a decision is taken on whether the proposed additional operational freedoms should be adopted on a permanent basis and what safeguards should apply in relation to their use.

The trial will be in two phases to enable evidence to be gathered for both winter and summer operations. Following engagement with local communities, the first phase will run from November 2011 to February 2012, followed by a four-month period of initial assessment and further engagement on how the regime might be refined to mitigate any impacts of particular concern and deliver additional benefits.

14 July 2011 : Column 56WS

The second phase will run from July 2012 to September 2012, providing the added benefit of enabling greater resilience during the London Olympic and Paralympic games when the UK’s airports will be under more pressure than normal. The trial will be undertaken by BAA, the airport operator, under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority, the independent aviation regulator.

BAA will be required to engage fully and transparently with relevant local authorities, communities and other stakeholders throughout the process, particularly on the monitoring of noise impacts. Once assessed, the results of the trial will form the basis for a consultation with local communities which would in due course inform the Government in deciding whether an operational freedoms regime should be adopted at Heathrow.

I am grateful to the taskforce members not only for their constructive input into the taskforce over the past few months, but also for their continuing commitment to delivering real improvements for passengers. I intend to reconvene the taskforce in a year’s time to review the progress made.

Copies of the report document are available from the Department’s website at: www.dft.gov.uk.

Work and Pensions

Work Capability Assessment

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): Today the Government will publish a call for evidence as part of Professor Malcolm Harrington’s second independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

In November 2010 we published Professor Harrington’s first review, which was the first of five annual independent reviews of the WCA. Professor Harrington concluded that the WCA was not broken but made a number of recommendations to improve its fairness and effectiveness. We fully endorsed his review and have implemented the vast majority of its recommendations, with all the recommendations relating to IB reassessment already in place.

We reappointed Professor Harrington to undertake the second year review of the WCA and this call for evidence will be one of several methods used to gather information to support the review and inform its recommendations. The call for evidence is particularly interested in views and evidence about:

The implementation of Professor Harrington’s year 1 recommendations and the impact they are having;

What, if any, further work is required in future reviews; and

The face-to-face assessment.

The call for evidence runs until 16 September 2011.

Professor Harrington will make his final recommendations to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by the end of the year.

A copy of the call for evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available on the Department’s website.


14 July 2011 : Column 57WS

Informal Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The informal meeting of Employment and Social Policy Ministers took place on 7-8 July 2011 in Sopot, Poland. The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), who is responsible for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, represented the United Kingdom.

The theme for this informal meeting was active labour market policies and reconciliation of work and family life. On the first day of the meeting, the presidency invited views on how to increase the effectiveness of pro-active employment policies through greater competition. The Commission stressed the need to improve further the efficiency of public employment services. For the United Kingdom, my hon. Friend, delivered a keynote speech explaining how, in the UK, we are using competition to help reduce the numbers of people on-out-of work benefits. He highlighted that the recently introduced Work programme aimed to help those furthest from the labour market, including providing support for people moving off incapacity benefit and those coming from the most challenging backgrounds. This support would be provided by specialist private and voluntary sector providers, rewarded on a payment-by-results approach. The funding for this programme would come from savings generated as well as from the European Social Fund.

On the second day, there were three simultaneous workshops aimed at sharing national experiences covering: reconciliation of work and family life; raising the retirement

14 July 2011 : Column 58WS

age; and solidarity between generations. The United Kingdom chose to participate in the workshop discussing reconciliation of work and family life. My hon. Friend, described the success of the right to request flexible working and how the Government plan to extend this to all employees. He further described how the United Kingdom Government are consulting on changes to its parental leave system to make it more flexible by allowing greater sharing of leave between partners and for leave to be taken in blocks rather than a continuous period. Other member states described their own domestic priorities. In conclusion, the presidency once again underlined the value of sharing experiences and stated that its family ministerial conference on 21 October would build on these discussions by focusing on reconciliation of work and family life issues including the pregnant workers directive.

Social Fund Reports

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): The Secretary of State’s annual report on the Social Fund for 2010-11 is to be laid before Parliament and published later today. Copies will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

The Social Fund Commissioner’s report will also be published today and copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.