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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 6 September 2011


Capital Allowances Anti-avoidance

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening): On 12 August 2011 the Government announced a change in legislation to prevent tax avoidance. The Government have set out a clear strategy on preventing tax avoidance and will not hesitate to take action to stop those who seek to obtain an unfair advantage by exploiting unintended tax loopholes. This measure demonstrates the Government’s commitment to act quickly to close loopholes when this happens.

The Government became aware that an avoidance scheme was being promoted that sought to take advantage of an exception from certain capital allowances anti-avoidance rules provided by section 230 of the Capital Allowances Act 2001 (CAA). The scale of the tax potentially put at risk by the scheme was such that the Government decided to announce that section 230 CAA will be repealed by legislation introduced in Finance Bill 2012 in relation to expenditure incurred on or after the beginning of 12 August 2011, to the extent that section 230 provided an exception from section 217.

HMRC published a statement on their website (www.hmrc.gov.uk/budget-updates/hmrcstatement-12Aug.pdf) on 12 August explaining the change, together with a technical document containing draft legislation which the Government intend to include in the next Finance Bill.

Deputy Prime Minister

Prisoner Voting Rights

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): In November 2010, the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Greens and MT v UK found that the UK’s ban on prisoners voting was in breach of article 3 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to free and fair elections). In the judgment the Court prescribed a timetable for the introduction of legislative proposals to amend the blanket ban, namely a period of six months from when the judgment became final (which was 11 April 2011). The Government have since been considering the appropriate course of action in order to respond to the Greens and MT judgment.

In July, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights accepted a referral in the case of Scoppola (No.3) v Italy. A hearing before the Grand Chamber has been scheduled for 2 November. The legal

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issues which arise in


under article 3 of the ECHR are analogous to those which arose in

Hirst v UK


Greens and MT


Given the close relationship between the cases, the Government have sought leave to intervene in the proceedings before the Grand Chamber in Scoppola. The Government also requested an extension to the deadline set in Greens and MT to enable it to take account of the Grand Chamber’s judgment. The Government were notified on 31 August that the Court has granted an extension of six months from the date of the Scoppola judgment, and on 5 September that the Government will have the opportunity to express our views on the principles in the Scoppola case.

The Government welcome the decision of the Court and believe it is right to consider Scoppola and the wider legal context before setting out the next steps on prisoner voting.


Southern Cross Healthcare

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Paul Burstow): I wish to update the House further on the situation regarding Southern Cross Healthcare.

Throughout, the Government’s overriding concern have been for the welfare and safety of the 31,000 residents in Southern Cross’s care. We are clear that this must be the paramount concern for all parties involved in the discussions about the future of the company.

Over the summer, officials have kept in close contact with Southern Cross’s senior management, landlords and lenders as the negotiations to achieve a consensual and solvent restructuring of the business have developed.

I have previously told the House that the intention is that the company will be wound up and its business transferred to other care operators. This will be done in such a way as to have minimal impact on the residents and staff of those homes. Until a new operator is registered and takes over the services in any care home. Southern Cross will continue with full responsibility for continuity of care.

In the last month, each of Southern Cross’s landlords has been considering which new care operator it will work with. Those discussions have progressed well and now all bar a handful of landlords are coming to the end of finalising the commercial arrangements that will apply in future. Within the next few weeks, we expect agreements to be signed that will effect the transfer of the business and assets of each home operated by Southern Cross to the new operators. The expectation is that formal transfer of care homes will be achieved in two waves, with around 330 homes transferred at the end of September and the remaining 400 homes transferred at the end of October. At that point Southern Cross will no longer be responsible for providing care anywhere in the country and the company will be wound up. Throughout, the Government have strongly urged all parties to agree their plans as swiftly as possible so as to offer reassurance to residents, staff and families. The company has informed all Southern Cross staff, together with residents and their families, of these plans in order to provide reassurance.

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Last week, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services published information for each of Southern Cross’s homes about the position it has reached in its transition to a new care operator. The information also included details of any inquiry or helplines set up locally or regionally by the company and by local authorities which can be accessed if further information is needed. As the new care operators are settled, their names will be added to the information. Within the next few weeks we expect the complete picture to emerge for each care home, and it will be clear who is the landlord and who is the new operator. Members may wish to draw this information to the attention of any constituents that are concerned or have relatives in Southern Cross’s homes. A link can be found at:


The process to register the new care operators with the sector’s regulators in each part of the United Kingdom and to cancel Southern Cross’s registration has begun. No transfer of homes will take place without new operators having been approved and registered. Alternative operators will need to demonstrate to the regulator that they are capable of delivering high-quality care and of meeting all regulatory standards in the homes they take over. It is important that this process moves quickly and smoothly and, in respect of operators in England, the Care Quality Commission have assured us that they have the resources to complete the necessary regulatory work in time. However, regulators will not lower the regulatory threshold or reduce the rigour of the registration process to achieve that. Standards will not be compromised.

I understand that staff consultation under the TUPE regulations has also commenced and that the staffs elected representatives and the incoming operators are to be invited to attend a series of meetings to discuss these arrangements.

Notwithstanding the good progress that has been made, it is important that I restate the Government’s commitment that whatever the outcome, no one—state-supported or self-funded—will find themselves homeless or without care. We remain in close touch with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to ensure that in all parts of the country they are ready to respond to any potential disruption to the continuity of care and to ensure that all residents are protected.

I have previously told the House that the Government will be considering what measures may need to be put in place to prevent similar situations from arising again. Options for financial regulation or other measures will be considered as part of the development of the forthcoming White Paper on social care. To that end, we will shortly publish a policy paper setting out an analysis of the possible options and seeking views.

I will update the House as the situation develops.


Cohabitation: Financial Consequences

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): I wish to make the following statement to the House announcing the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report “Cohabitation: the financial consequences of relationship breakdown”.

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The Law Commission published its report on 31 July 2007 but no action was taken by the previous Administration who wished to first seek research findings on the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. This Government have now carefully considered the recommendations of this thorough report, together with the outcomes of research on the 2006 Act.

The findings of the research into the Scottish legislation do not provide us with a sufficient basis for a change in the law. Furthermore, the family justice system is in a transitional period, with major reforms already on the horizon. We do not therefore intend to take forward the Law Commission’s recommendations for reform of cohabitation law in this parliamentary term.

Convention on Torture (Periodic Report)

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of the UK’s fifth periodic report under the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. I intend to send the report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture immediately, with a request that the committee post the report on its website.

The report sets out how the UK is fulfilling its undertakings under the convention, and updates the UN on developments since the examination of the UK’s fourth report in November 2004. It draws attention to recent initiatives with regard to the treatment of people in detention: publication of guidance on the treatment of detainees, and establishment of the detainee inquiry. Non-governmental organisations and members of civil society in the UK have had the opportunity to comment on the report in draft, and the Government have taken into account many of their comments and suggestions.

Transparency in the Justice System

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): Open justice is a long-standing and fundamental principle of our legal system. Justice must be done and must be seen to be done if it is to command public confidence.

This Government are determined to open up the justice system and have ambitious plans to increase transparency at every stage to allow everyone to see what is happening and how the system works.

Central to achieving this objective is a plan to publish far more and better data on justice:

On 29 September 2011, my Department will publish statistics by region which show the efficiency of the courts and tribunals in progressing cases. This will include brand new statistics on the time from the date an offence is committed to the date the case is finally dealt with by the criminal courts, whether at a magistrates court or the Crown Court.

On 12 January 2012, this will be extended down to court level. These data will include the number and type of cases dealt with at each court or local justice area, how long cases take to complete, as well as how many criminal trials could not commence on the scheduled date and how many had to be abandoned. The data will also allow the public to see the number of civil hearings and trials dealt with at courts in

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their area, how long it takes these cases to progress, and in family courts how long it takes for care proceedings cases to complete.

On 27 October 2011 we will publish reoffending rates for every probation trust and prison in England and Wales, along with anonymised datasets showing whether individual proven offenders go on to reoffend for each local area.

On 24 November 2011, we will publish, alongside our regular quarterly criminal justice system statistics, anonymised datasets on each case sentenced. This will include the sentence given, the court, the age group, gender and ethnicity of those sentenced, and the time from when the offence was committed to when the case was complete.

From May 2012 onwards, the national crime mapping website, police.uk, will provide the public with information on what happens next for crimes committed in their streets, so they can see what action the police took and the outcome of any subsequent court case.

In addition to providing more data, I am determined to reform fundamentally the way the justice system operates so it is more open. The names of offenders who are unlawfully at large can be—and often are—published by police forces to help bring these people back to custody—where they should be. We are committed to removing all unnecessary barriers to the naming of these offenders and to promoting best practice and consistency across all police forces.

Today, I can also announce my intention to legislate, as soon as parliamentary time allows, to remove the ban on cameras in courts.

As a starting point, judgments in the Court of Appeal will be broadcast for the first time. I want to see this

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expanded to the Crown Court, but I will work closely with the Lord Chief Justice and Judiciary on how this could be achieved.

I will consult further on the detailed approach, but I am clear that this must not give offenders opportunities for theatrical public display. We will work to ensure this does not hinder the administration of justice and that it protects victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors.

Collectively, these plans will open the justice system in an unprecedented manner, allowing the public to judge for themselves how we are performing and to hold us to account.

Northern Ireland

Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland (Report 2010-11)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland is responsible for all aspects of electoral administration in Northern Ireland, including the successful running of the parliamentary general election held on 6 May 2010. Section 14 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962—as amended by section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006—provides that the Chief Electoral Officer must submit an annual report to the Secretary of State. The annual report of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland for the year 2010-11 has been laid before Parliament today.