2 Nov 2011 : Column 37WS

2 Nov 2011 : Column 37WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Home Department

Civil Partnerships (Religious Premises)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): The Government are committed to advancing equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people and to ensuring freedom of religion or belief for all people.

To further both of these aims, the Government are committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen. This will be done by implementing section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This is a permissive measure; section 202 states that there will be no obligation on faith groups to host civil partnerships.

The Government published a consultation document on 31 March providing detailed proposals on the scheme to be introduced that would allow this to happen. Today, we are publishing an analysis of the consultation responses and the Government response, confirming our intention for the scheme to allow religious premises to apply to be approved for civil partnership registrations to be in place by the end of this year.

This document contains the final economic and equality impact assessments and the proposed regulations which will be made and laid in the first half of November.

This is an important step forward, though focuses only on this specific measure and does not set out any further proposals for change, such as with equal civil marriage, which the Government have committed to consulting on in March next year.

A copy of the document will be placed in the House Library.

Communities and Local Government

Homes and Communities Agency Regulation Committee

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): I wish to inform Parliament that the Department for Communities and Local Government has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund

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to allow the recruitment and appointment of committee members for the reformed Homes and Communities Agency’s Regulation Committee, ahead of Royal Assent of the Localism Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

Bringing forward this expenditure through a Contingencies Fund advance will enable efficiency savings to be achieved and provide significant reductions in public spending.

The Regulation Committee will focus on the economic regulation of the social housing sector. Economic regulation provides investors with necessary assurance that the sector is properly governed and financially viable.

Parliamentary approval for resources of £20,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Communities and Local Government. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £20,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.


Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): The then Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), announced on 18 May 2011, Official Report, column 351, that a submarine design, powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system, the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) 3, had been selected and the Initial Gate investment approved.

Historically the Ministry of Defence has operated an onshore nuclear submarine reactor prototype at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment (NRTE) site in Caithness, in support of in-service nuclear submarines and the development of new reactor core designs. Confidence in the technology is such that it is not now necessary to undertake reactor core prototyping activities; instead the PWR 3 reactor core design will be supported through an extensive test and validation programme using computational modelling, analogy from current reactor designs and testing of individual components and systems.

The Vulcan NRTE site will therefore not be required to support reactor core prototyping activity when the current series of PWR2 reactor core prototype tests are complete in 2015. Options for the future of the site are currently being assessed; these range from placing the prototype facilities into care and maintenance while retaining the site’s strategic capabilities, to decommissioning the site and returning it to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority ownership.

We will work closely with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government during this process.