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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 18 January 2013

Culture, Media and Sport

Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tickets)

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): This is to inform the House of the publication of the register of names in receipt of tickets purchased by Government to the Olympic and Paralympic games.

In line with its values of transparency and accountability the Government committed to publishing all details relating to tickets provided which entailed a cost to the public purse. These accounted to less than 0.04% of the total ticket sales.

All Departments’ tickets are included within the publication and the purchasing Department, the Government Olympic Executive, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or UK Trade and Investment, is listed against each ticket.

All invitations were issued against criteria agreed by the Cabinet Secretary in May 2012. These were:

Encouraging growth;

Encouraging health and sports participation;

Encouraging community engagement and volunteering.

The register can be found: http://www.dcms.gov.uk/publications/9672.aspx.


HM Courts and Tribunals Service Trust Statement (2011-12)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant): Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has prepared a trust statement providing an account of the collection of revenues which are due to be paid to HM Treasury. The statement includes the value of fines and confiscation orders imposed by the judiciary; fixed penalties imposed by the police; the value of collections; the balances paid over to third parties including victims of crime, the Home Office and HM Treasury; and the balance of outstanding impositions.

We welcome the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s (C&AG) report on the trust statement which recognises the improvements HMCTS has made in its accounts. The statement shows in 2011-12 HMCTS collected more than £484 million from offenders. A record £22.3 million in compensation has been paid to victims of crime—funded by criminals’ cash and assets recovered through confiscation orders. During 2011-12 the total value of outstanding impositions decreased from £1.9 billion to £1.8 billion. We recognise that more must be done to tackle this outstanding debt.

Seventy-five per cent of the orders imposed in 2011-12 have already been paid in full. Of the balance outstanding, £1.2 billion is made up of confiscation orders. Around one third of this is money that cannot be collected—

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£141 million (12%) relates to individuals who are deceased, deported or who cannot be located, £40 million (3%) relates to orders which are being appealed and cannot be enforced while under appeal; and £154 million (13%) relates to orders where following the conclusion of financial forensic investigations the assets have been assessed as hidden. Also, £278 million is interest which has accrued on confiscation orders which are outside the agreed payment terms.

Cracking down on those who do not pay is an absolute priority. The agencies involved in enforcement, including the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service take every step to tackle outstanding debt including targeted fine blitzes, taking deductions from offenders’ benefits or their earnings and by seizing and selling their property and goods. Those who do not pay can go to prison.

Criminals go to extraordinary lengths to hide the proceeds of their crimes by transferring funds abroad and disguising it with friends and family, but we are succeeding in recovering more money every year. The agencies responsible for enforcement are building better relationships with overseas authorities and engage specialist forensic teams to track down hidden assets.

Crucially, an outstanding order stops the criminal benefiting from the proceeds of crime and from using it for further criminal activity. If they ever surface, the assets will be seized.

HMCTS is actively seeking a commercial partner to help increase fine collection, reduce enforcement costs and importantly, ensure more criminals pay. Also, a new system is being implemented to improve the collection of fixed penalty notices, making payment easier and further improving the financial information.

The continuing improvement the agencies are making, combined with our future plans will ensure that more criminals pay and that taxpayers get better value for money.


Local Speed Limits

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): The Department has today published a revised speed limit circular, “Setting Local Speed Limits” (DFT Circular 01/2013). This follows a consultation held last summer, the report of which is also published today. The Department is also today publishing a speed limit appraisal tool, which will be hosted on the DFT’s website. These follow up key commitments from the Government’s “Strategic Framework for Road Safety” published in May 2011.

Setting the right local speed limits is vital for road safety, local growth and local health outcomes. Speed limits need to be suitable for local conditions and local authorities are best placed to develop solutions that suit their communities, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and taking on board the views of the community they serve.

The updated circular gives guidance to local councils which will help them implement more consistent speed limits on local roads. It incorporates recent changes that create more flexibility for authorities to implement 20 mph

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limits and zones. It also sets out the process for applications for further rural 40 mph zones. To date no applications have been made for new areas.

The speed limit appraisal tool will help councils assess the full costs and benefits of any proposed local speed limit schemes, and help them to make evidence-based decisions to introduce local speed limits that reflect the needs of all road users. As well as casualties and other traffic effects, we have made particular efforts to build into the tool effects that cannot be monetised, such as those that enhance quality of life.

The revised circular replaces Circular 01/2006, also called “Setting Local Speed Limits”, which is now withdrawn.

I am placing a copy of the circular and the consultation report in the Library of the House.

Work and Pensions

State Pension Reform

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Today I am publishing draft legislation which provides for a new flat-rate contributory state pension for future pensioners, as described in the White Paper, “The Single-Tier Pension: A Simple Foundation for Saving”, published on Monday 14 January 2013.

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Fundamental reform of the state pension system is needed to provide the firm foundation necessary for people to plan and save for their retirement with confidence. These reforms will also address historic inequalities which remain in the state pension system. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has agreed to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny on these measures.

This draft legislation is being published in a draft Pensions Bill alongside other provisions which include the proposed change to the timetable for the increase in state pension age to 67 and a framework for regular, independent reviews of state pension age thereafter; the simplification of the current complex system of bereavement benefits through the introduction of the bereavement support payment; and measures to clarify existing private pensions legislation. The draft Pensions Bill will be available in the Vote Office later this morning and will be on the Department for Work and Pensions’ website shortly afterwards.

It is my intention to introduce the Pensions Bill to the House as soon as possible after consideration of the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report and the addition of outstanding measures.

Impact assessments related to these measures, in addition to the previously announced consultation document on protected persons regulation and its related impact assessment, are also being published today and these will be available on the Department for Work and Pensions’ website.