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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Business, Innovation and Skills

Workplace Rights and Enforcement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): I announced to the House in December 2010 that the Government would undertake a review of workplace rights and enforcement to establish the scope to streamline them and make them more effective. The terms of reference for the review were lodged in the parliamentary Library in January this year. In looking at this complex architecture it is clear that we first need to ask a number of questions as part of the red tape challenge, which launched its spotlight on employment law on 3 October 2011. I draw the House’s attention to the discussion paper, “Flexible, effective, fair: Promoting economic growth through a strong and efficient labour market” published on this date, in which we present some of our initial findings and set out the strategic questions for the red tape challenge spotlight period.

Our initial assessment is that there is significant fragmentation within the enforcement landscape, but this is largely as a consequence of the underpinning regulations. There is no common rationale for determining those rights that are Government enforced and those that are enforced through tribunals. There is no single overarching compliance strategy for Government enforcement of workplace rights, nor is there a mechanism for reviewing whether the risk associated with particular workplace rights still warrants Government enforcement. The different enforcement bodies have a range of powers and penalties at their disposal, including naming, civil penalties, criminal prosecution, licence revocation and prohibition for a defined period of time. These varying powers are also a consequence of differences in the underpinning regulations.

The creation of the pay and work rights helpline has done much to align the work of the different agencies and the impact of the fragmentation of the enforcement activity has not significantly impacted the experience of those workers seeking redress through the helpline. However, those furthest from the labour market often do not trust Government bodies to act on their behalf, perhaps as a consequence of cultural and historical experiences in other countries, or for fear of personal consequences. It is essential that the most vulnerable workers have confidence in their ability to access the protection they need and we are keen to learn lessons from unions and community groups who have a long track record in reaching these individuals.

While all the enforcement bodies have made significant efficiency savings, there is duplication of activity between the different enforcement bodies. Each of the bodies, for example, has separate corporate and management functions, intelligence assessment and risk evaluation functions. When carrying out enforcement inspections, the different enforcement bodies often look

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at the same evidence (such as contracts/statements of particulars, pay and work time records) and ask the same questions of employers or agencies, but there remain some legal barriers that prevent enforcement bodies from co-operating with each other, and with other regulatory bodies.

In order for us to be able to make progress on reviewing Government enforcement, I believe that we must review the underpinning regulations as part of the red tape challenge, including whether a lighter-touch enforcement regime could be implemented where rights are currently enforced by Government. In parallel to this work the Government will continue to consider potential enforcement models, including whether there could be benefits from establishing a fair employment agency to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. I will report back to the House again on progress in the spring.


Libya (Operation Ellamy)

The Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Liam Fox): In a written statement on 23 June 2011, Official Report, column 24WS, I informed the House that the costs of Operation Ellamy—the United Kingdom’s contribution to coalition operations in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973—for the six months from mid-March to mid-September were estimated to be £120 million. I can now update this estimate.

The revised figure for the whole operation, from mid-March to mid-December, is £160 million. Our estimate of the cost of replenishing munitions used in Libya remains £140 million. As previously announced, the additional costs incurred by the Ministry of Defence on Operation Ellamy will be borne by the reserve, and will be in addition to the core defence budget.

Energy and Climate Change

Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): I am today announcing the outcome of the offshore energy strategic environmental assessment (OESEA2) regarding future offshore energy developments.

In 2009, DECC completed a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of a draft plan/programme to hold further rounds of offshore leasing for wind and offshore oil and gas licensing in United Kingdom waters (OESEA). Then in 2010, DECC undertook an exercise to update and extend the scope of the OESEA environmental report (OESEA2) and issue it for consultation to enable further licensing/leasing for offshore energy (oil and gas, gas storage including carbon dioxide transport and storage as part of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore marine renewables, including wind, wave and tidal.

The renewable energy elements of the draft plan/programme cover parts of the UK renewable energy zone and the territorial waters of England and Wales; for hydrocarbon gas and carbon dioxide storage it

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applies to UK waters (territorial waters and the UK gas importation and storage zone); and for hydrocarbon exploration and production it applies to all UK waters.

A 12-week public consultation on the OESEA2 environmental report closed on 12 May 2011. All responses received on the draft plan/programme and the environmental report have been considered by DECC and a post consultation report for the offshore energy SEA has been prepared and placed on the SEA website (www.offshore-sea.org.uk). This summarises consultee comments and DECC responses to them, and presents a final list of recommendations.

In the light of the final recommendations set out in the post-consultation report, the Department concludes that there are no overriding environmental considerations to prevent the achievement of our draft plan/programme of leasing offshore wind, wave and tidal, licensing/leasing for seaward oil and gas rounds, hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide storage, provided appropriate measures are implemented that prevent, reduce and offset significant adverse impacts on the environment and other users of the sea.

In all cases, the relevant competent authority should undertake any appropriate assessments(s) prior to awarding licences or leases under the rounds, where screening shows this to be necessary. This is to meet the requirements of EU Council Directive 79/409 EEC on “the conservation of wild birds” and Council Directive 92/43/EEC on “the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora”, and UK implementing regulations.

DECC will now make preparations to proceed for a further round—the 27th—of offshore licensing for oil and gas. This is expected to be launched in early 2012 and a further announcement will be made on the timing of the round.

DECC and Scottish Ministers (where appropriate) are now also in a position to consider applications for carbon dioxide storage licences, and to issue those licences, and subsequently to issue storage permits, where the applications meet regulatory requirements.

OESEA2 paves the way for future leasing rounds for marine (wave and tidal) energy. It allows for an installed capacity of up to 33GW of offshore wind—subject to mitigation measures. This is in excess of the central range set out in the UK renewable energy roadmap, which indicates that up to 18GW of offshore wind could be deployed by 2020.

The environmental report highlights that siting and consenting processes for offshore renewable energy developments must remain flexible to allow for technological innovation, including any mitigation measures.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Somali Piracy (Funding Regional Maritime Capacity-Building Projects)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham): I would like to inform the House that the Government have decided to fund a package of counter-piracy projects, building on support provided in 2010-11. This support provides concrete evidence of this Government’s

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determination to deliver a comprehensive range of action in response to the threat from piracy, complementing the robust action being taken by the Royal Navy at sea.

The projects support court and prison capacity building in Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tanzania and Somalia delivered through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (£2.25 million); a maritime security sector needs assessment planning mission in Somalia, delivered through the UN Development Programme (£200,000); maritime security co-ordination offices in Somalia, delivered through the UN Political Office for Somalia, and including the Somali regions (£120,000); and projects supporting community engagement and economic development in coastal areas of Somalia, developed with UN partners in Somalia, including UNODC and UNDP (£2 million).

Home Department

Licensing Hours (Queen's Diamond Jubilee)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Today I am publishing a consultation on proposals to make an order to relax licensing hours to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations for the period Saturday 2 June to Tuesday 5 June 2012. The proposed order will extend licensed opening hours on Friday 1 June to l am on Saturday 2 June 2012, and on Saturday 2 June to l am on Sunday 3 June 2012, for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and the provision of regulated entertainment and late night refreshment by licensed premises in England and Wales.

Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 allows the Secretary of State to make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of “exceptional international, national or local significance”. A “licensing hours order” overrides existing opening hours in licensed premises, that is, any premises with a premises licence or club premises certificate, and can apply to a period of up to four days. An order may apply to all licensed premises in England and Wales, or be restricted to premises in one or more specified areas. It is also possible to impose different opening hours on different days during the relaxation period and to allow different licensing hours for different licensable activities.

The Government consider that, as the Queen’s diamond jubilee is an occasion for national celebration, licensing hours should be relaxed in all licensed premises in England and Wales. However, we are mindful that late night drinking can lead to crime and disorder and public nuisance. On this basis, we are proposing a modest relaxation of licensing hours until l am on each of two days and intend to restrict the order to the sale of alcohol in pubs, clubs and anywhere else where alcohol is consumed on the premises and to regulated entertainment such as live and recorded music, dancing, plays and films. We are also limiting the order to the nights of Friday 1 June and Saturday 2 June 2012, as these are the days when people are most likely to want to celebrate.

The consultation will be published today (Wednesday 12 October) on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/consultations. A copy has also been placed in the House Library.

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Prime Minister

Intelligence and Security Committee Report

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): The annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee was laid before Parliament on 13 July 2011 (Cm. 8114). The

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Government have considered the Committee’s many useful conclusions and recommendations, I have today laid the Government’s response to this report before the House (Cm. 8168).

Copies of the response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.