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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 1 February 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Extractive Industries (Transparency)

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): The Government today set out their continuing commitment to transparency within the extractive industries. The Government continue to push for agreement at European level on new rules to require large and listed companies to report payment made to all levels of Government within the countries they operate. Strong EU action to create a new global standard for transparency in the extractive industry can help these citizens hold their Governments to account.

That is why we are giving careful consideration to whether the UK will sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and an announcement on the outcome of this review will be made in due course.

Communities and Local Government

New Homes Bonus

The Minister for Housing (Mr Mark Prisk): I refer to my written statement of 10 December 2012, Official Report, columns 1-2WS announcing provisional new homes bonus allocations for local authorities.

The representation period closed on 7 January 2013. In addition to the 29 authorities which we wrote to concerning empty homes data, we received a further nine representations. These have been taken into account in finalising the figures.

Commenced in April 2011, the bonus is based on the council tax of additional homes and those brought back into use, with an additional amount for affordable homes, and is paid for six years. It ensures that those local authorities which promote and welcome growth can share in its economic benefits, and build the communities in which people want to live and work.

The bonus will be paid in respect of 160,000 homes from October 2011 to October 2012 including 142,000 extra homes and 18,000 long-term empty properties brought back into use. The allocations also include an affordable homes enhancement, which totals £20 million in respect of 58,000 new affordable homes.

This means we will pay over £668 million of new homes bonus to local authorities in England. This includes the third instalment of £199 million in respect of year 1, the second instalment of £233 million in respect of year 2, and £236 million for housing growth in year 3.

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These allocations bring the total amount of funding awarded under the new homes bonus since it began in April 2011 to £1.3 billion. This total recognises delivery of over 400,000 homes, and over 55,000 empty properties being brought back into use.

The Department is writing to local authorities confirming their final allocations and I have written to all Members of Parliament and local authority leaders in England.

A full list of the allocations is being placed in the Library of the House. Further information on the bonus can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/increasing-the-number-of-available-homes/supporting-pages/new-homes-bonus.

Energy and Climate Change

European Opt-in Decision (Nuclear Liability)

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr John Hayes): The UK has opted in to the proposal for a Council decision on ratification of the 1997 protocol amending the Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage of 21 May 1963 (“the Vienna convention”). The proposal meets the criteria set out in the coalition agreement with regard to EU justice and home affairs measures. In particular, the Government consider that it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to the proposal because it will be of general benefit to EU citizens but it will not create any obligations in the UK.

The proposed decision authorises member states which are contracting parties to the Vienna convention to ratify the protocol of 12 September 1997 amending the Vienna convention in the interest of the European Union, or to accede to it. The Vienna convention was established to ensure fair and adequate compensation is available in the event of a nuclear accident. The protocol amendments will be beneficial to potential victims of nuclear accidents for which nuclear operators in states that are contracting parties to the Vienna convention are responsible. In particular, they mean that an increased amount of compensation will be available in respect of a broader range of damage across a wider geographical area.

The proposal will only apply to member states that are party to the Vienna convention, that is Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland (Latvia and Romania have already ratified the 1997 protocol). The proposal will not apply to the UK which is party to another international convention on liability for nuclear damage—the Paris convention on third party liability in the field of nuclear energy of 29 July 1960 as amended—which is based on similar principles to the Vienna convention.

Home Department

Public Order Powers

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Government have today published a summary of the responses to this consultation and a copy has been placed in the House Library. The summary is also available on the Home Office website.

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The Home Office published a consultation paper on 13 October 2011 to seek views on aspects of public order powers, one of which was the effect of the word “insulting” in section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. The summary published today relates to responses on that issue.

Having considered the views of respondents and both Houses of Parliament, the Government intend to remove the word “insulting” in section 5.

The Government believe that behaviour such as swearing at police officers and burning poppy wreaths on Remembrance day are completely unacceptable and the police must have the powers they need to deal with them. However, in the light of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ view that the word “insulting” could safely be removed without undermining future prosecutions, the Government have decided not to reverse the amendment to this effect made on 12 December 2012 in the House of Lords to the Crime and Courts Bill.

The Government will ensure that the police have clear guidance on the range of powers that remain available to them for dealing with the sort of behaviour covered by section 5.

The Government are considering the consultation responses on proposals to strengthen existing police powers to demand removal of face coverings and the introduction of new powers to impose a general curfew. A response will be published by the end of March 2013.

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College of Policing (Update)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): In October I set out further information about the establishment of a professional body for policing, the College of Policing.

I can now update the House with progress on its establishment.

I am very pleased to announce my intention to appoint Professor Shirley Pearce as non-executive chair of the college. Professor Pearce recently concluded seven successful years as vice-chancellor at Loughborough university and brings with her a wealth of experience in developing the health professions, in higher education, in research and development, and in working in partnership across sectors to further joint interests.

Earlier in her career Professor Pearce qualified and practised as a clinical psychologist before taking on a range of lecturing and senior executive roles, primarily at University College London and the University of East Anglia. Professor Pearce will bring extensive experience in the education and professionalisation arenas, and significant senior leadership experience to her role at the college.

The college became operational on 1 December 2012 and it will be established on a statutory basis as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Alex Marshall takes up his full-time role as the chief executive of the college from Monday 4 February.