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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 25 March 2013

Deputy Prime Minister

The McKay Commission

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Miss Chloe Smith): In January 2012, the Government announced the establishment of a Commission to consider how the House of Commons might deal with legislation which affects only part of the United Kingdom, following the devolution of certain legislative powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales. Today, the Commission has published its report and I have placed a copy in the House Library.

The Government have made clear their commitment to maintaining the UK and to making sure that the devolution settlements work. The Government are very grateful to Sir William McKay and his colleagues for setting out how the House of Commons might deal with legislation which affects only part of the United Kingdom. The report represents a positive step forward. This is a very important issue, which is why the Government asked this expert Commission to look into it. We will consider seriously and constructively this report and provide a substantive response to it in due course.


Defence Estate Rationalisation

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Andrew Robathan): The strategic defence and security review (SDSR), announced in October 2010, marked the start of the process of transforming defence and identified the need for rationalisation of the defence estate. This included the sale of surplus land and buildings and the delivery of associated running cost reductions. The Army basing plan announcement by the Secretary of State on 5 March 2013, enabling the return from Germany and implementation of Army 2020, indicated that there would be a further announcement concerning other changes elsewhere in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) estate across the UK.

Today I am providing an update to the House on the results of work to implement the SDSR’s commitments on rationalisation and on unit relocations on the wider defence estate. Service and civilian personnel at the affected locations will be briefed; we will also engage with the trade unions where appropriate. This work will now be taken forward into detailed planning.

Lightning II Aircraft Basing at RAF Marham

Our first two Lightning II aircraft (joint strike fighter) are currently participating in the US test programme and will remain in the US. We expect to receive front-line

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aircraft from 2015 onwards with an initial operating capability from land in 2018, followed by first of class flights from HMS Queen Elizabeth later that year.

I can now inform the House of the outcome of the further basing review recently undertaken in respect of the Lightning II aircraft.

Following the SDSR, a number of changes have occurred on the defence estate that justified a further review of the basing options for Lightning II. This review has concluded that RAF Marham is the most appropriate station for the main operating base. Given that RAF Lossiemouth will now host three squadrons of Typhoon and given the altered draw-down profile and out of service date for Tornado (in line with the SDSR decision to concentrate our fast jet fleet on Typhoon and Lightning II ), RAF Marham will have sufficient capacity for the basing of Lightning II, which will be operated jointly by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Further work will now be carried out to determine the precise investment requirements as the base transitions to support Lightning II.

Drawdown at RAF Leuchars

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron and No 6 Squadron currently based at RAF Leuchars which provide the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) (Interceptor) North role will relocate to RAF Lossiemouth beginning summer 2014, with Typhoon flying operations ceasing at RAF Leuchars during autumn 2014, following a progressive transfer of the base from the RAF to the Army. The relocation of the Typhoons from RAF Leuchars will affect 347 service personnel who will transfer from RAF Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth, it will also affect 148 civilian staff.

No. 6 RAF Force Protection (FP) Wing Headquarters and No 58 Squadron RAF Regiment, both based at RAF Leuchars, will be disestablished, with the personnel in No. 6 RAF FP Wing Headquarters and No 58 Squadron RAF Regiment being reassigned during spring 2014. The future of the squadron number plate is yet to be determined. This will affect 183 military posts. Those personnel will be reassigned to other RAF force protection tasks across the UK.

Relocation of flying units resulting in the closure of the airfield at RAF Wyton

Due to the significant running costs associated with maintenance of an operational airfield at RAF Wyton, it has been decided to relocate the flying units based there. No. 57(R) Squadron, who undertake elementary flying training (EFT), will relocate from RAF Wyton to RAF Cranwell by the summer of 2013. The relocation of Cambridge and London University Air Squadrons (UAS) and No. 5 Air Experience Flight (AEF) to RAF Wittering is planned by mid-2014, once preparatory work has been completed. We are working closely with the Homes and Communities Agency on the possibility of them acquiring part of the Wyton airfield since it has potential for new housing growth as identified in Huntingdon district council’s emerging local plan.

The opportunity has been taken to rationalise other light aircraft flying tasks in the region to achieve greater coherency and more efficient use of manpower and assets, delivering better value for money for the taxpayer. This will result in East Midlands Universities Air Squadron and No. 115(R) Squadron relocating from RAF Cranwell to RAF Wittering.

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There are 18 service personnel who will be redeployed as a result of this change and two MOD civilians will be affected.

The closure of RAF Church Fenton

Reductions in the flying training pipeline, directed by the SDSR, mean that RAF Church Fenton is no longer required to host training operations and will close by the end of 2013. The units based at Church Fenton, including the Yorkshire University Air Squadron (incorporating No. 9 Air Experience Flight), will relocate; work is ongoing to determine the optimum location for the University Air Squadron.

There are five service personnel who will be redeployed as a result of this change and three MOD civilians will be affected.

Relocation of Military Scottish Air Traffic Control from Prestwick

The Military Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre (ScATCC(Mil)) currently operates from the NATS Air Traffic Control Centre at Prestwick in Ayrshire. ScATCC(Mil) controls military and some civilian air traffic within its area of responsibility, which roughly extends north from Newcastle. Technological advances mean that the system can be rationalised and it will be possible to cover the military control task for the entire country from the London Air Traffic Control Centre (LATCC(Mil)) at Swanwick. There will be no detrimental impact on air traffic control.

The phased relocation of the RAF presence from Prestwick will be completed by the end of 2013, and will be managed in consultation with NATS En-route Ltd, who will provide the necessary technical and equipment changes under the Future Military Area Radar Services contract. Around 30 service personnel will be redeployed as a result of this change, which will also impact up to six civilian personnel.

Disposal of the former airfield and technical site at Kirton in Lindsey

Following the vacation of RAF Kirton in Lindsey by No. 1 Air Control Centre (1ACC), the site has been used to house personnel employed at RAF Scampton. While this use will continue, alternative defence uses have not been identified for the former airfield and technical facilities, so a decision has now been taken to dispose of these parts of the site.

Rationalisation of Shornchffe Garrison

There is an enduring requirement for facilities at Shorncliffe Garrison. However much of the infrastructure is old, in poor condition and expensive to heat, light and maintain. MOD is therefore commencing redevelopment and rationalisation of the garrison to deliver a long-term, sustainable estate.

Shepway district council’s local development framework core strategy has identified Shorncliffe Garrison for a development of up to 1,200 homes to help regenerate the western end of Folkestone; the site will also contribute to the Government’s Plan for Growth housing strategy. Surplus land will be released in phases over the next decade.

Rationalisation of the Defence presence at MOD St Athan

In announcing the outcome of the Army basing review on 5 March 2013, the Secretary of State confirmed that 14 Signal Regiment would relocate to St Athan.

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This is likely to result in consolidation of the defence presence on the site into a military enclave centred on Churchill Lines (St Athan West Camp).

Discussions have been ongoing with the Welsh Government, which leases large areas of the St Athan site, to establish how defence plans can also complement economic development by enabling its aim to develop an aerospace business park within the St Athan enterprise zone. MOD has no current requirement beyond 2017 for the St Athan “Superhangar”, which will progressively be made available for commercial occupation. The intent remains to relocate No. 4 School of Technical Training from East Camp at St. Athan to Lyneham, Wiltshire in the medium term as part of the defence technical training change programme.

We also intend to move personnel of the RAF’s No. 71 Investigation and Repair Squadron from St Athan to collocate with other components of No. 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing at RAF Wittering. The relocation of the squadron will affect 47 service personnel who will transfer to RAF Wittering. It will also affect 27 civilian staff.

The Future of MOD Ashchurch

The MOD Ashchurch site is currently the central MOD hub for vehicle operations. However, the Ashchurch depot facilities are coming to the end of their lifespan and parts of the site are no longer used. The facilities would need extensive renewal to continue effective operation, while the vehicle numbers that the site supports are reducing as a result of the SDSR. The MOD is reviewing a number of vehicle basing options and has identified opportunities for greater efficiency from relocating facilities, rather than investing in the infrastructure at the site. Consequently, MOD will be withdrawing from the site entirely unless retention of a small number of specific buildings proves better value for money.

This site has the potential capacity for up to 2,100 new homes. A public consultation has been conducted so that wider views and opinions can be taken into account in any future development.

Rationalisation of the MOD Bicester site

On 3 October 2011, the MOD made an application to Cherwell district council for outline planning permission to allow the release of the Graven Hill site at Bicester to accommodate a mixed use development, including 1,900 dwellings, and with the potential to deliver over 2,000 jobs and a new MOD logistics facility on part of the site.

Chemical Weapons Convention

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Andrew Robathan): The UK’s chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. The programme is permitted by the chemical weapons convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government’s commitment to openness, I am placing in the House of Commons Library a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK’s chemical protection programme in 2012.

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Service Children's Education Executive Agency

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Mark Francois): I wish to inform the House that with effect from 31 March 2013, Service Children’s Education (SCE) will cease to have the status of an Executive agency within the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

SCE was formed as an Executive agency within MOD in 1996, following the merger of the Service Children’s Schools (North West Europe) Defence Agency and the Service Children’s Education Authority. The SCE mission statement is to provide a coherent and co-ordinated education service that delivers high standards of education from foundation stage to age 19 for dependent children residing with MOD personnel serving outside the UK. There are currently 33 SCE schools worldwide providing education for approximately 9,500 children.

The concept of SCE operating as a self-contained business unit has been diluted by recent changes to the defence operating model, in particular the centralisation of MOD corporate services. These changes, coupled with tighter manpower controls being applied to the agency, in common with all areas of the MOD, have meant that the efficient and effective delivery of agency objectives is now much more dependent on decisions taken elsewhere within the MOD. Moreover, the SCE operating context is changing significantly. The draw down of British Forces from Germany will see the number of SCE schools reduce, on current numbers, to 12. Managing this transformation without compromising educational standards, either in those schools that are closing or those that remain, will require sound policy decisions rooted in educational realities and informed directly by the needs of children and service families. The continued separation of policy making from delivery, as required by the agency constrict is therefore no longer helpful.

The SCE title will remain, so that the sense of a shared identity is retained by schools. The change will have no impact on teaching staff. Some rationalisation between the MOD and the SCE headquarters element will be possible. Initial savings are estimated to be in the region of £180,000 per year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan (Monthly Progress Report)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 25th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

On 3 and 4 February my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hosted a summit at Chequers, attended by the Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were joined by Foreign Ministers, Chiefs of Defence Staff, Chiefs of Intelligence, the Afghan National Security Adviser and the Chair of the Afghan High Peace Council. Key achievements included agreement on co-operation between Afghan and Pakistan military and security services, strengthened co-ordination of Taliban prisoner

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releases from Pakistani detention and a public statement in support of the opening of a Taliban political office in Doha.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made her first visit to Afghanistan 24-27 February. The visit focused on British-Afghan co-operation in areas including police training, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism and migration. The Afghanistan Minister of Defence, Bismellah Mohammadi, visited the UK 24-26 February. He held discussions on the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, Institutional Development, countering the insider threat, and progress of the UK-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral with the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Minister for the armed forces and the Chief of the Defence Staff.

The UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan reported that civilian casualties in 2012 decreased by 12% compared with 2011. Civilian deaths caused by ISAF and Afghan Forces fell from 14% of the total to 8%, while deaths caused by the insurgency rose by 9% to 81%.

In February, my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary approved £12 million from existing DFID funds to help deliver emergency food support to over 900,000 people in Afghanistan. This assistance will support activity over a five month period up June 2013 and target food insecure regions of Afghanistan to help reduce malnutrition-related rates of mortality and morbidity.

In his State of the Union Address on 14 February President Obama confirmed that the US military presence will be approximately halved over the next year, reducing to 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan to the end of 2014. The reduction in international forces is made possible by the increasing capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces.

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).

BBC Monitoring Scheme

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): Following the announcement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 20 October 2010, Official Report,column 962 that from 2013 BBC Monitoring will be funded from the TV Licence fee, I can confirm that I will be the Cabinet Minister representing the Government’s interests with regards to BBC Monitoring. A new Monitoring Consultative Group (MCG) consisting of Government officials and BBC representatives will meet twice a year to discuss BBC Monitoring’s strategic direction, to review BBC Monitoring’s performance, and to resolve any issues as necessary.

This arrangement takes effect from 1 April 2013 and will be set out in the BBC Monitoring Scheme. I will place a copy of this “Scheme” in the Libraries of both Houses after that date.

FCO Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): FCO Services operates as a trading fund of the FCO. I have set the following performance targets for 2013-14:

An in-year surplus before interest and tax producing a net margin of between 1 and 5%.

A return on capital employed of at least 3.5% (weighted average).

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Cost of corporate functions as a % of revenue of no more than 10%.

A utilisation rate for revenue earning staff of between 75 and 80%.

Customer satisfaction rating to be within or above the 2nd quartile in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, as produced by the Institute of Customer Service.

Employee engagement in FCO Services using civil service survey of at least 60%.

FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets through its annual report for 2013-14.

Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will shortly commence a triennial review of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission (MACC), to Cabinet Office guidelines. As part of the coalition agreement, all Government Departments are required to review all their non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) at least every three years. The review of MACC will commence during the final quarter of the programme (2012-13), and will be conducted in two stages. The first stage will examine the key functions of MACC. Providing the outcome of this stage is that the work of the commission should continue, the second stage of the project will ensure that MACC is operating in line with the recognised principles of good corporate governance. Copies of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (UK Appointed Person)

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr Jeremy Browne): I am pleased to announce the recruitment of Mr Douglas Bain as the new appointed person for the United Kingdom, who will fulfil the requirement under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to be an independent overseer of reports on cases where a search is carried out, without prior judicial approval, on persons or property for cash that is the proceeds of unlawful conduct or intended for use in such conduct.

Mr Bain was recruited after a fair and open competition and took up the role on 3 March 2013. Mr Bain brings a wealth of relevant experience to this role and I am confident he will ensure that the use of this power is scrutinised effectively and rigorously. It was agreed with my ministerial counterparts in the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Administration that we would jointly recruit one candidate to cover all three Administrations. This will help improve the consistency in the scrutiny of this power and save the public money.

As there were no reports on cash forfeiture in 2011-12 for consideration by the appointed person for England and Wales, a separate report to Parliament under section 219 of the Proceeds of Crime act 2002 will not be laid for 2011-12.

Terrorism Suspects (Police Detention)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I am today commencing subsections 4 to 8 of section 117 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which provides for important enhanced

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safeguards for terrorist suspects in police detention. This implements a recommendation of the Government’s “Review of Counter-terrorism and Security Powers”, published in January 2011.

Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) is the well established system whereby volunteers may make unannounced visits to police stations to check on the treatment of detainees and the conditions in which they are held to ensure that their rights and entitlements are being observed. Section 117 amends section 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which places a statutory obligation on Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales to have an effective Independent Custody Visiting scheme in their force area, by requiring PCCs to ensure equivalent arrangements are in place for any visit made to an individual held under terrorism powers. Independent Custody Visitors will also be required to prepare and submit a copy of the report of their visit to the relevant PCC and the Independent Reviewer Of Terrorism Legislation, currently David Anderson QC.

I have also today laid the revised Independent Custody Visitor code of practice, under section 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002. The revised code has been updated to reflect the new arrangements and requirements for ICVs visiting suspected terrorist detainees; to reflect recent changes to police accountability mechanisms, in particular the transfer of responsibility to provide ICV schemes to PCCs; and to take account of legislative changes since the code was last revised in early 2010. The revised code also benefited from a public consultation, which closed on 28 January. The revised code is available from the Vote Office and a copy of the summary of consultation responses will be placed in the House Library.


British Transport Police Authority

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr Simon Burns): We will shortly commence a triennial review of the British Transport Police Authority (BTPA). The BTPA oversees the operation of the British transport police, set its targets, and allocates funding for its budget.

Reducing the number and cost of public bodies is a coalition priority. The triennial review process has been established to continue the Government’s work ensuring accountability in public life by examining all NDPB’s at least once every three years.

The review will be conducted as set out in Cabinet Office guidance. This review has two aims:

to provide a robust challenge of the continuing need for this NDPB—both its functions and form; and,

if it is agreed that it should remain as an NDPB, to review the control and governance arrangements in place to ensure that the public body is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.

Further details of the review, including detailed terms of reference, will be published shortly.

If you would like further information, or to contribute to the review, please contact Richard Davey by email (richard.davev@dfit.gsi.gov.uk)

I remain committed to the ongoing review of public bodies and my Department continues to work with the Cabinet Office to develop forward plans of reviews.

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The report of the review, which is expected to be completed in six months, will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

GLA Transport Grant

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): Following consultation with the Mayor of London, I have today determined the GLA transport grant for 2013-14 at £1.988 billion.

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This grant is provided by the Government to Transport for London to deliver transport services and investment in the capital, including London Underground.

In line with my predecessor’s 20 October 2010 letter to the Mayor “Spending Review 2010: TfL funding agreement” £894.960 million of this grant is designated an investment grant to support delivery of the tube upgrade programme and other projects, as set out in annex B of the 20 October letter, and the remaining £1.09 billion is for the purposes of TFL.