Migration Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Board

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am announcing today that my Department will shortly commence the first triennial review of the Migration Advisory Committee and the

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technical advisory board. Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life. I will announce the findings of the review later this year.


Community Sentences and Probation Consultation

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): I am today publishing proposals for consultation in two key areas of the justice reform agenda: sentences in the community and the shape of probation services that deliver them. These proposals are set out in full in the consultation papers “Punishment and Reform: Effective Community Sentences” and Punishment and Reform: Effective Probation Services” respectively.

There is an urgent need to reform our criminal justice system in order to improve public safety. Reoffending rates remain too high despite recent improvements. Almost half of all adult offenders reoffend within a year of leaving custody. Reoffending of offenders sentenced to less than 12 months in prison is estimated to cost the economy up to £10 billion annually. Most seriously of all, left unchecked, these rates of repeat crime mean thousands of people are unnecessarily becoming victims.

That is why the Government have embarked on wholesale reform, beginning with the publication of the Green Paper “Breaking the Cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders”, in December 2010. This set out our ambition to reduce reoffending, deliver better punishment and improve public protection. We have made good progress in delivering reforms in this area, but we need to go further. The next stage of reform is sentences in the community and the operation of the probation service which supervises them.

In these two publications I set out radical plans to make sentences in the community more credible and more effective in reducing crime and to reform probation so that it makes the fullest contribution by extending competition and opening up the management of lower risk offenders to the innovation and energy of the widest possible range of providers.

We propose wide-ranging reforms to the way sentences in the community operate. Our aim is to provide sentencers with a robust community sentencing framework that is effective at punishing and reforming offenders, and in which they and the public can have confidence. Our plans include intensive community punishment to be delivered through a tough package of requirements that would involve community payback, a significant restriction of liberty backed by electronic monitoring and effective financial penalties. We also propose that every community order includes a punitive element. We will build on these options by being creative with the technology available for monitoring offenders’ movements and by exploring the use of asset seizure as a stand alone punishment.

With regard to probation services, our consultation proposals are the result of the Government’s review of the future shape of probation services, aimed at ensuring

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that they punish and reform offenders, and protect the public more effectively. They also take forward our “Competition Strategy for Offender Services” published in July 2011, which set our intention to compete all offender services unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.

We need to reform probation services to cut crime—by making better use of the innovation, capacity and diversity of different providers. We intend to extend the principles of competition in probation services as envisaged by the Offender Management Act 2007.

The safety of the public is our number one priority. Under our proposals, public sector probation will retain control of the management of those criminals who pose the highest risk, including the most serious and violent offenders. The public sector will also retain responsibility for all advice to court, and for public interest decisions over all offenders including initially assessing levels of risk, resolving action where sentences are breached, and decisions on the recalls of offenders to prison.

Through carefully managed competition, including competing the management and supervision of lower risk offenders, we will bring greater effectiveness and quality to probation services by ensuring that they are delivered by those best placed to do so, whether they are in the public, voluntary, or private sectors.

Under our proposals, public sector probation trusts will have a stronger role as commissioners of competed services, responsible for buying competed services and holding those who deliver them to account for the outcomes they achieve. In particular, we will devolve more responsibility to probation trusts by giving them control of local budgets including, for example, for electronic monitoring of curfews, so they can deliver programmes targeted at local needs and reducing reoffending.

The aim of giving further discretion and responsibility to providers and front-line staff is that public safety can be protected and resources can be targeted effectively, including extending the principles of payment by results where possible. We will encourage the participation of the voluntary, private and public sectors, alongside new models for delivering public services like mutuals. We are also consulting on the potential over time for other public bodies, such as local authorities or Police and Crime Commissioners, to take responsibility for probation services.

This consultation and subsequent Government response will form the basis of stage 1 of the triennial review of probation trusts, as part of the coalition Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability. The triennial review will be aligned with guidance published by the Cabinet Office: “Guidance on Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies”. The final report and findings will be laid in this House.

The Government’s goal is to reform sentences in the community and probation services so that they are able to both punish and reform offenders much more effectively. We will actively consult with stakeholders on these proposals.

Copies of “Punishment and Reform: Effective Community Sentences” and “Punishment and Reform: Effective Probation Services” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The documents will also be available online, respectively, at:

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Coroner Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): The Government are today publishing the new “Charter for Coroner Services”.

Charter for Coroner Services

The charter sets out for the first time the standards that bereaved family members and others who come into contact with coroner services across England and Wales can expect to receive. It also sets out what someone can do if they are unhappy with the level of service they have received.

The charter has been revised following a public consultation in 2011 and, as proposed in the consultation, is being published in a single booklet with an updated version of the Ministry of Justice’s “Guide to Coroners and Inquests”. Combining the guide and charter in this way will ensure that those coming into contact with coroner services have accessible and concise information on the processes and standards in a coroner inquiry and know their rights under the system. It will also ensure that all coroners’ offices in England and Wales are aware of the standards they should be meeting.

The guide and the charter apply to current coroner services under the Coroners Act 1988. We will update the booklet as and when changes to the coroner system are introduced.

The charter is an integral part of the Government’s plans for reform of the coroner system and, alongside the appointment of a chief coroner and implementation of most of the provisions in part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, will help to ensure much more consistent standards of service between coroner areas.

The charter comes into effect today and we are distributing hard copies of the booklet to all coroners’ offices across England and Wales, as well as publishing it on the Justice and Directgov websites.

Copies of the guide and charter booklet have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. The guide and charter is also available online at:




Appointment of the Chief Coroner

Under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, appointment of the chief coroner is a matter for the Lord Chief Justice, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor. Detailed discussions are taking place and I will make a further statement once these discussions have concluded.

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Motoring Agencies Business Plans and Performance Frameworks

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): I am pleased to announce the publication of the business plans for the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport’s Motoring Agencies—the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Vehicle Certification Agency (VGA), and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

The business plans set out:

i. the services each agency will deliver and any significant changes they plan to make;

ii. the resources they require; and

iii. a framework of measures by which their performance will be assessed.

The measures allow service users and members of the public to assess how the agencies are performing in delivering their key services and reforms and in managing agency finances.

The business plans will be available electronically on agency websites and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses in due course.

EU Transport Council

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I attended the first Transport Council under the Danish presidency (the presidency) in Brussels on Thursday 22 March.

The presidency sought agreement to a general approach on a proposal for a regulation which defines the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). This sets out the actions to be undertaken at EU and member state level to develop the network. I was able to support the general approach after securing a UK amendment that will ensure that progress on the projects required by the regulation would be subject to the availability of financial resources. This amendment received support from Germany, Latvia, Finland, Romania, Ireland, Bulgaria, Slovenia and France. In my contribution to the debate, I also argued that governance structures on corridors should be less burdensome, more flexible and focus on contentious cross-border projects. Most member states supported the compromise text which was viewed as a balance between the Commission’s initial proposals and what they could accept.

The Council also agreed a general approach on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on ground-handling services at EU airports and repealing Council directive 96/67/EC. This proposal is part of the airports package. My intervention emphasised the UK’s reservations about the cost impact and administrative burdens of the original proposal, but I acknowledged that these had been largely addressed in the presidency’s revised text. In particular, I welcomed the removal of compulsory licensing and of the Commission’s proposed powers to tell a member state to close its markets to third country operators that

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refused to open theirs. Another important point secured in the negotiations in the run up to the meeting was the assurance that service quality would be set locally, with enforcement centred on the contractual relationships between airports, airlines and ground-handlers, with efforts to set homogenised Europe-wide standards removed from the proposal.

In the light of these changes and the fact that the regulation is expected to deliver more competition in ground-handling at airports in other European countries and hence reduce costs for airlines (and indirectly for passengers), I felt able to support the presidency’s compromise text.

Under any other business, the Commission set out their future intentions on the follow up to the Costa Concordia accident in Italy in January. They intend to carry out a review of legislative proposals on domestic passenger ships, to be submitted for consideration at the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). The Commissioner also indicated there may be a revision to the ship stability directive, and work on watertight doors, with a second wave of regulatory activity later in the year. The Commissioner was supportive of renewed discussion both with the EU and the IMO on passenger ship safety. Italy gave an account of the emergency response to the accident and noted there would be an administrative enquiry.

I intervened to stress the need for a considered response that takes on board the outcome of the investigation currently underway before any decisions are taken as to whether regulatory changes are needed.

Also under any other business, the Commission provided an update on the international reaction to the inclusion of aviation in the emissions trading system (ETS). The Commission reported that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had initiated new work to identify a global market-based measure for the aviation sector. If this work leads to an international agreement on tackling climate change emissions from aviation, the EU could, as set out in the ETS directive, review its legislation. I stressed the importance of maintaining a unified and robust European position and there was clear support from other member states for the aviation ETS.

The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport on which the presidency was hoping for a general approach and the any other business item Galileo and EGNOS programmes on which the Commission was providing information, were not discussed at the Council.

During my visit, I was also able to hold a bilateral discussion with the vice-president of the Commission, Siim Kallas on the main items for Transport Council discussion. A constructive exchange took place on upcoming Commission proposals for airport slots and rail policy. I used the opportunity to highlight the UK’s work with the Commission on the better regulation agenda.

I also met my counterparts from Cyprus and Ireland to discuss plans for their forthcoming presidencies of the EU, in July-December 2012 and in January-June 2013, respectively. The Cypriots’ main priorities focus on re-energising the integrated maritime policy, and promoting ‘Blue Growth’. The Irish are at an early

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stage in their preparations and sought UK’s views ahead of their presidency. My discussion with the Cypriots and Irish Ministers also included an overview of the important work that the UK is taking forward with the European Commission on the better regulation agenda.

High Speed Rail

The Secretary of State for Transport (Justine Greening): At the end of this month I will receive HS2 Ltd’s route and station advice for high speed rail lines to Leeds, Manchester and Heathrow. This is an important next step in our aspiration for a truly national high speed network, as set out in our programme for government. Phase 2 of High Speed 2 will spread the benefits of high speed rail further across the country, increasing capacity and enhancing connectivity by extending high speed rail lines to Leeds and Manchester and connecting other major conurbations in the north and in Scotland through seamless transition onto the existing network.

In fulfilment of its remit, HS2 Ltd’s advice will include options for stations in Manchester, Leeds, South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and at Heathrow Airport, as well as advice on the case and potential locations for additional stations. It will also cover the impact of phase 2 of the network in releasing capacity on the midland and east coast main lines, as well as further extending the benefits of released capacity within the west coast corridor.

I will consider this advice objectively and in detail over the coming months, and I intend to publish it in the autumn together with a Government response setting out initial preferred route and station options. An important part of this process will be to consider the views of delivery partners in the cities where HS2 stations may be located, including any underpinning evidence which they have identified. Understanding local desires and plans for development will be crucial in helping me reach initial preferences for station locations. I am particularly keen to ensure that the network best supports the economic potential of the cities and regions it serves, through well-integrated station locations that build on local and regional plans.

Minimising the risk of blight is a serious consideration, and it is for this reason that I expect to publish HS2 Ltd’s advice once I have reached a view on routes and station options. Publishing a detailed range of possible options without an indication of the Government’s preferences would generate unnecessary and harmful blight across areas that ultimately might never be affected by the lines. I will be working with national environmental stakeholders to discuss key sustainability issues and how best to consult on lines of route going forward to help meet the needs of different stakeholders and the public.

Following publication, the input of interested parties, including MPs and their constituents, will be valuable to help further develop the proposals that will go forward for subsequent formal public consultation. Only once a full public consultation has been launched and completed will any decisions be reached.

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When preferred route options are published in the autumn we will consult on and introduce an exceptional hardship scheme to assist property owners impacted by the proposals. Further, in order to reduce uncertainty for those affected by the proposals, and to ensure that the benefits for passengers and business of a national high speed rail network are realised as soon as possible, I have asked my officials to explore options for bringing forward formal public consultation on phase 2 of High Speed 2 to 2013, and I will set out my proposed timetable later this year.

Driving Tests (Taking Testing to the Customer)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): Last year I asked the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) to consider arrangements for delivering practical car driving tests from premises other than traditional driving test centres such as local authority buildings or leisure centres to provide a more local service for candidates.

Early indications from a limited pilot are encouraging and I am pleased feedback so far has been positive.

I have now asked the agency to further develop the model. Five additional areas have been identified in and/or surrounding: Kettering, Glasgow, Manchester, Worcester and Watford. These will be centred on an existing driving test centre “hub”. They represent a mix of urban and rural locations. Examiners based at the hub will conduct tests from additional satellite locations within the zone. Subject to finding suitable premises and the availability of driving test standard routes I have asked DSA to explore the possibility of providing tests from the following satellite locations:

Kettering—Corby, Market Harborough and Wellingborough

Glasgow—Johnstone, Renfrew, East Kilbride, Cathcart and Bearsden

Manchester—Cheadle, Altrincham, Salford, Middleton, Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham

Worcestershire—Kidderminster, Droitwich and Bromsgrove

Watford—Hemel Hempstead, Harpenden, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City.

I am also pleased to announce the publication of a prior information notice in the Official Journal of the European Union for public and private organisations

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to work in partnership with the DSA to identify and provide locations from which the practical car test could be delivered. DSA will encourage engagement by a wide section of the business community, including retail and hotel groups to provide premises from which the agency could operate.

Tests will continue to be conducted by DSA examiners.

Work and Pensions

Universal Credit (Passported Benefits)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): In May 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions commissioned the Social Security Advisory Committee to undertake an independent review of passported benefits and their interaction with universal credit.

The Committee has completed the review. Later today I will publish its final report which includes the Government’s response. I will place a copy in the House Library.

The Committee’s report does not make specific recommendations on the future design of passported benefits but suggests a number of high level principles that may help guide the direction of travel in future. These principles are focused on simplification and making work pay.

We recognise that the immediate priority is to determine how passported benefits will operate when universal credit is introduced in 2013. The Government’s response to the Committee’s report therefore sets out how various organisations are considering new eligibility criteria for individual passported benefits.

In the longer term, our aim is to explore a generic approach for the current suite of passported benefits. This approach could enable people to claim universal credit, but with added components for a range of other benefits and public services. The total award, including the additional components would then be withdrawn gradually as income rises. We will consider this alongside other priorities for the next spending review.