25 Apr 2013 : Column 59WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 25 April 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Royal Mail

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): At the beginning of this new financial year, I would like to report to Parliament on progress made in relation to Royal Mail since the Postal Services Act 2011.

Royal Mail is an essential part of Britain’s social and economic fabric. It is one of the UK’s largest companies with over 150,000 employees and a turnover approaching £9 billion.

Parliament decided, via the Postal Services Act, to give Royal Mail access to private capital in order to secure the universal postal service. Our overarching objective remains to safeguard the one price goes anywhere, six-days-a-week universal service. All the steps we are taking have this commitment at their core.

As recommended in the independent Hooper reviews of 2008 and 2010 and decided by Parliament, we have already relieved Royal Mail of its historic pension deficit and we have established a new regulatory regime. The benefits of this integrated approach are clear. Royal Mail’s results show how its staff and management, together with the Government’s reforms, have put the company on the road to sustainable profitability and long-term viability.

The final step in safeguarding the universal service is to give Royal Mail access to the flexible private capital it needs to innovate and invest. We are strongly committed to a sale of shares in Royal Mail, as Parliament enabled through the Act, and are advancing our preparations rapidly. Our firm intention is to give Royal Mail access to private capital during this financial year through a sale of shares.

We have put in place objectives for the sale which have been published today on the gov.uk website. These objectives set out that we will sustain the universal postal service for the benefit of all users by securing Royal Mail’s future through the introduction of private sector capital and associated disciplines.

This will be achieved through:

i. Delivering a sale of shares in Royal Mail within this Parliament;

ii. Creating an employee share scheme that, as Parliament has decided, will lead to at least 10% of the company in employee ownership, to drive stronger staff engagement; and

iii. Delivering a financial outcome for the taxpayer, which when considered in the context of the overarching policy objective, represents overall value for money.

We are exploring sale options and no final decisions as to the type of sale have been taken. We recognise the attractions of an initial public offering (IPO) and we have received positive investor feedback to date. However, all options remain open. If an IPO is not possible, we will pursue the option of a private sale if this can be achieved on acceptable terms.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 60WS

A priority for Government is to honour the commitment that Parliament enshrined in statute in 2011 that at least 10% of shares should be reserved for employees so that they can share in the company’s success. We are rapidly progressing plans for an employee share scheme which would be the largest such scheme for 25 years.

I meet regularly with Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to discuss progress on plans for a sale of shares, and I have invited the CWU to give their views as to the structure and terms of the employee share scheme.

The delivery of Parliament’s commitment to private capital and employee shares will be good for employees, consumers and business, and will ensure a better capitalised, more adaptable company, better able to meet its customers’ changing needs.

We will continue to keep Parliament informed of developments as we progress our plans for a sale of shares in Royal Mail.

Treasury

Payment and Settlement Systems

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Clark): HM Treasury has today published a consultation document setting out its plans to change the way that systemically important payment and settlement systems are dealt with in the event of insolvency.

Under the proposed special administration regime, the administrator would have the overarching objective to maintain the continuity of the insolvent firm’s critical services, thereby ensuring that the failure of such a company would not threaten the stability of the wider financial sector.

The Government are determined to ensure that no firm, of whatever type, threatens financial stability in the event of failure. Today’s consultation is just the latest step in the Government’s efforts to learn the lessons of the past and to create a safer financial system for the future.

Copies of the consultation document have been deposited in the House Libraries.

Loans to Ireland

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Clark): HM Treasury has today provided a further report to Parliament in relation to Irish loans as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010. The report relates to the period from 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013.

A written ministerial statement on the previous statutory report on the loan to Ireland was laid in Parliament on 15 October 2012, Official Report, column 1WS.

Communities and Local Government

Local Audit

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis): I am today laying before Parliament the “Government’s response to the pre-legislative scrutiny report by the Draft Local Audit Bill Committee” (Cm 8566).

25 Apr 2013 : Column 61WS

The Draft Local Audit Bill Committee published its report, “Draft Local Audit Bill: Pre-legislative Scrutiny” (HC 696), on 17 January 2013. We are grateful to the Committee for their deliberations and thank them for their report.

We have given the Committee’s report careful consideration in relation to the draft Bill and the proposed new local audit framework. We have also taken the opportunity to discuss specific recommendations with the National Audit Office and other partner organisations. This has provided the opportunity to further refine the Bill, making our intentions clearer, improving the drafting and the overall working of the Bill.

We have taken on board a number of the Committee’s proposals: for instance, to provide the Comptroller and Auditor General with powers to issue guidance to support the code of audit practice and increasing the explicit provisions for auditors to recover additional cost incurred through undertaking their functions. All of these proposals will help drive improvements in local audit, aims which were strongly supported by the Committee.

However, we have not taken on some of the Committee’s recommendations. We are not proposing to retain central capacity to procure and appoint auditors on behalf of local bodies as we do not believe that enforcing a centralised structure onto local bodies is efficient or effective. Local public bodies are perfectly capable of procuring and appointing their auditors once the Audit Commission has closed, however the Bill will allow local bodies to jointly procure their auditors, if they so wish.

We expect our reforms to bring significant long-term savings to taxpayers. Those significant savings will be fully quantified and will be published in the impact assessment that will accompany the final Bill. The majority of those savings will be realised by local government, representing meaningful reductions that will assist councils to manage their budgets during this challenging period, while ensuring that the same high audit standards are maintained to safeguard public money.

It remains our intention to introduce the final Bill as soon as parliamentary time permits. Subject to the timing of legislation, we intend to close the Audit Commission by April 2015.

Copies of the Government’s response are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The report is also available on www.gov.uk. the United Kingdom public sector information website.

Defence

Defence Matériel Strategy

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): For decades, there has been an acknowledgement that defence acquisition in this country can, and should, be done better. Despite almost countless reviews and reorganisations, successive Governments have failed to embed the radical changes necessary to provide our armed forces with the equipment they need in the most effective and efficient way possible.

In 2011, my predecessor established the materiel strategy programme to consider what changes would be required to the defence equipment and support organisation (DE&S) to resolve this problem.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 62WS

In July last year, I announced to the House that, after a rigorous examination of all the possible options open to us, our preferred model for the future operation of DE&S was a Government-owned, contractor-operated entity, a “GOCO”. Since then, we have conducted more analysis that has confirmed our thinking in this regard, and today I am pleased to be able to announce the next steps in taking this work forward.

This final assessment phase, which we expect to last approximately 12 months, will allow us to make a true comparison between two options. These are a public sector comparator which is known as “DE&S +”; and a GOCO, implemented in two stages.

I would like to put on record my appreciation of the excellent staff at DE&S and the work they do. This programme is about giving them access to the necessary skills, processes and resources to enable them to do their job better, ensuring that the armed forces are provided with battle-winning equipment on time and to budget.

During this assessment phase, we will work with HMT and the Cabinet Office on the “DE&S+” option to explore the extent of change that could be delivered while keeping the organisation fully within the boundaries of the public sector.

In parallel, a commercial competition will be launched that will enable us to determine with potential private partners how a GOCO would work in practice, and what the costs and benefits would be. By the end of the assessment phase, we would expect to have proposals in a form capable of being contracted, if we decide to proceed with the GOCO model.

We have made no secret of our expectation that the GOCO option is likely to prove better value for money, but we need to test this assumption with the market, to see what can be delivered and at what cost. No decisions have yet been made. At the end of this 12 month assessment phase we will have a comprehensive set of qualitative and quantitative data for both possible operating models which will enable us critically to evaluate the two options and make a final decision about the future of DE&S.

I expect to publish a White Paper later in the spring setting out further details of our analysis of the problems in defence acquisition, of the options for potential solutions and the reasoning behind our focus on the GOCO as the preferred solution.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs/Foreign Affairs/Defence Foreign Affairs Councils

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Luxembourg on 22 April. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence (Dr Murrison), who is responsible for international security strategy, attended the Defence Foreign Affairs Council (Defence FAC) and the European Defence Agency steering board

25 Apr 2013 : Column 63WS

in Luxembourg on 22-23 April. The GAC was chaired by the Irish presidency, namely the Foreign Minister for Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, and the FAC and Defence FAC were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.

Commissioners Reding (justice, fundamental rights and citizenship), Füle (enlargement) and Lewandowski (financial programming and budget) were in attendance for some of the discussions at the GAC, and Commissioners Georgieva (international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response), Oettinger (Energy), Füle (enlargement) and Tajani (industry and entrepreneurship) were in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC and Defence FAC.

General Affairs Council

The 22 April GAC focused on enlargement, the multiannual financial framework, preparation for the May European Council and EU fundamental values, specifically democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/136915.pdf.

Enlargement reports for Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia

Commissioner Füle presented joint EEAS-Commission reports on Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Baroness Ashton briefed the GAC on the 19 April agreement between Serbia and Kosovo reached through an EU-facilitated dialogue. Member states welcomed the agreement and praised Baroness Ashton for her positive role.

On Macedonia, Füle noted that implementation had continued on reforms through the high-level accession dialogue and that steps had been taken on good neighbourly relations alongside a new momentum to resolve the name issue.

Multiannual financial framework

The presidency outlined the European Parliament’s demands on the MFF, namely: reform to the system of own resources; a mid-term review that would allow the ceilings levels agreed to be revisited; and flexibility in how the budget can be spent. I emphasised that nothing should undermine the deal that leaders reached in good faith in February. We needed faithful translations of those Council conclusions into the regulations.

There was some discussion of the draft amending budget for 2013 in which the Commission have requested an additional €11.2 billion to meet existing commitments and the European Parliament has linked to agreement on the MFF. I argued with other like-minded colleagues that this was clearly too high and that any amending budget must be based on evidence.

Initiative on democracy, human rights and the rule of law/EU fundamental rights

Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands sent a letter before the GAC asking for a discussion on their initiative for a new mechanism to safeguard fundamental values in member states and a greater role for the European Commission. Commissioner Reding gave an overview of the existing mechanisms for the

25 Apr 2013 : Column 64WS

protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law. She undertook to come with a more detailed examination of this issue at the GAC in May.

I welcomed the letter from these member states calling for work on this initiative, acknowledging the challenge of ensuring that the rule of law, democracy and human rights are not eroded once countries join the EU, as many of the levers for delivering in these areas only apply during the accession process. However, there were already existing mechanisms to address these issues, both within the EU and through the Council of Europe and it was important to ensure that these were not duplicated and that member state competence in these areas was not compromised.

May European Council

The presidency gave a presentation on the agenda for the 22 May European Council which will discuss the following: the energy aspects of the single market; tax policy focusing on improving tax collection and tackling tax evasion and fraud; a stocktake on the deepening of economic and monetary union (EMU); and foreign policy issues. The GAC took note of the agenda without discussion.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/136921.pdf.

Energy

Commissioner Oettinger introduced a lunch discussion on energy and foreign policy, drawing out in particular the need for diversification of supply, including pipeline development. The Foreign Secretary noted the potential impact of shale gas on global energy prices, stating that it was important that the EU developed its own shale gas reserves and kept regulation to a minimum. The Foreign Secretary also underlined that energy should form a key part of the EU’s free trade agreements; this would respond to the need for diversification that Commissioner Oettinger had highlighted. Ministers also discussed the importance of the EU developing its southern corridor pipeline.

Introduction

Baroness Ashton began the plenary session of the FAC by briefing on her activities on a range of issues. She started with an update on the Serbia/Kosovo dialogue, reiterating the message given at the GAC. Her efforts were again praised by Ministers. Baroness Ashton then outlined the state of discussions with Iran following the E3+3 (UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, US) talks with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 5-6 April, including next steps and the forthcoming presidential election. Baroness Ashton updated the Council on the situation regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The FAC formally adopted a decision on restrictive measures against the DPRK, transposing sanctions under UN Security Council resolution 2094.

Southern neighbourhood

Baroness Ashton set out recent EU activity on Syria, including intensified contacts with Russia; discussions with UN and Arab League Special Representative Brahimi on how to build on the Geneva communique; additional humanitarian support to the opposition, plus amendments

25 Apr 2013 : Column 65WS

to sanctions; and a permanent EU presence in Gazaintep in Turkey to support cross-border projects. At the UK’s behest, working groups were tasked to look at all the options for supporting the opposition, including amendments to the EU arms embargo on Syria. The Council amended the oil embargo against Syria to allow for greater EU support to the Syrian opposition. Once the detail of the exemption and the necessary safeguards have been negotiated, which the UK will ensure are robust, the amendment will allow the EU to support the oil trade in areas free from regime control by supplying equipment and finance to the oil sector as well as purchasing oil directly.

On Lebanon, discussion primarily focused on the effects of the conflict in Syria, including the influx of refugees. Baroness Ashton stated that the EU and the international financial institutions needed to look at how to support the Lebanese Prime Minister designate’s efforts.

Baroness Ashton reported on her recent visit to Egypt, stating that while discussions with President Mursi had been constructive, the situation in Egypt remained fragile. She said that Egypt needed further financial support and to build political stability. The EU was a vital partner for Egypt and did not have the baggage of other international partners. The EU was talking to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank about the support they could provide and had provided advisers to Mursi on the proposed law on non-governmental organisations.

Eastern Partnership

Ministers discussed the Eastern Partnership, looking ahead to November’s summit in Vilnius. The UK made clear that it was open to initialling and signing association or deep and comprehensive free trade agreements, as long as conditionality is met. On Belarus, Ministers welcomed the news that Sweden can re-establish a diplomatic presence in Minsk, and reviewed the scope of travel bans. The Eastern Partnership will be discussed again at the June FAC, focusing on preparations for the July Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting. There will also be an early discussion of the Vilnius summit declaration.

Mali

Ministers adopted formal conclusions on Mali. Baroness Ashton gave an update on the work of the EU training mission, stating that it was now fully operational, although more contributions of equipment were needed. She updated on progress at the UN Security Council on the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation for Mali. The Malian Government were now preparing for the July elections, with the first round of the presidential elections on 7 July: the EU would provide financial support and an observation mission. Baroness Ashton also noted that the members of the Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission had been appointed and would start work immediately.

Burma

Baroness Ashton outlined the remarkable progress made in Burma over the last 18 months. Significant challenges remained, but the EU was working closely with the Burmese Government and Aung San Suu Kyi to begin a new chapter in relations. To that end, Ministers agreed to lift sanctions, except the arms embargo and restrictions on equipment for internal repression,

25 Apr 2013 : Column 66WS

and adopted conclusions on the future of EU-Burma relations. Baroness Ashton also stated she would launch a taskforce to provide further political and economic support. Commissioner Georgieva welcomed the Burmese Government’s engagement on development assistance and outlined plans to share EU expertise on ethnic integration; provide political and financial support to the Rohingya; and continue to pressure the Government for humanitarian access to Kachin and Rakhine state.

Ministers discussed the importance of keeping human rights central to the EU’s planned comprehensive approach to Burma, and the need to develop a coherent framework for EU engagement with Burma, focusing on human rights and the resolution of ethnic and religious tensions. The UK also highlighted the need for greater international action to resolve the serious humanitarian situation in Rakhine state, and welcomed President Thein Sein’s commitment to renounce military ties with the DPRK.

Other business

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of others measures, including:

The Council approved the EU position for the EU-Algeria Association Committee regarding the implementation of the provisions concerning industrial products set out in the association agreement.

The Council approved preparations for the annual review of EU restrictive measures against certain persons, entities and bodies threatening the peace, security or stability of Guinea-Bissau.

The Council amended EU sanctions in view of the situation in Libya to take account of changes adopted at the UN. It permitted the supply of non-lethal military equipment and technical assistance intended solely for security or disarmament assistance to the Libyan Government. It also allowed the supply of small arms, light weapons and related materiel, for the sole use of UN personnel and development workers.

The Council reinforced restrictive measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea so as to implement UN Security Council resolution 2094 (2013).

The Council agreed conclusions on Iraq, expressing concern about recent violence but welcoming the relatively peaceful conduct of provincial elections. The conclusions commit the EU to long-term engagement with Iraq in our priority areas: rule of law and economic growth.

The Council adopted revised EU guidelines on the death penalty, outlining how the EU intends to continue its long-standing campaign against the death penalty.

The Council endorsed the 14th progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. The report covers activities during the second semester 2012.

The Council amended the legal basis for the European Security and Defence college, allocated funding and approved an increase in seconded staff to the college.

The Council adopted the EU position on the rules of procedure of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) committee, the customs co-operation committee and the joint development committee provided for by the interim EPA with eastern and southern African states.

Defence Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/136921.pdf.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 67WS

Sahel/EU training mission Mali

Ministers discussed security threats in the Sahel and wider region over dinner, with a focus on the EU training mission (EUTM) to Mali. EUTM commander, General Lecointre, highlighted early successes in training the Malian armed forces but also the considerable challenges of training a severely limited army and officer corps lacking in equipment in only four months. Ministers praised France’s leading role in the response to the crisis but recognised the significant support required to rebuild Mali. The UK flagged the importance of earlier conflict prevention activity upstream demonstrated by the crisis in Mali. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Vershbow made the case for co-ordinated EU/NATO work on capability development.

European Defence Agency steering board

The EDA steering board addressed a number of capability issues, with the UK reiterating its offer regarding unallocated Voyager refuelling hours to help meet a shortfall across European nations’ capabilities. The EDA also reiterated the importance of better EU/NATO working, a key UK argument for a number of years.

December European Council

As part of a wider discussion on preparations for the December European Council Ministers concentrated on the defence industry. The UK and a number of key partners expressed closely aligned views on a number of issues, including competitiveness and access to non-European industry.

Battlegroups

Ministers discussed the EU battlegroup concept, focusing on member states considering adopting a more flexible and usable approach, in line with our intent. The UK highlighted its recent political exercise with its four battlegroup partner nations, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the Netherlands, as part of preparations for being on the battlegroup roster from 1 July.

Public Records Update

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): On 5 May 2011, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary informed Parliament of his intention to release to the public every paper from a large collection of colonial administration files, subject only to legal exemptions, Official Report, column 24WS. We remain on target to release these files by the end of 2013. The fifth tranche will be released at the National Archives (TNA) on 26 April 2013 in line with the published timetable on the www.Gov.uk website.

I also wish to inform the House that, following an initial release in 2005, we are making available a second tranche of files from the Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department (PUSD) on 23 May 2013. These files cover the years 1939-1951. This transfer of PUSD papers to TNA is part of a twin thematic release alongside a tranche of the Cabinet Secretary’s miscellaneous papers being released by the Cabinet Office. Both sets of papers are intelligence-related and the majority date from the second world war.

This Government are fully committed to transparency and openness. The release of Government records is an important part of our commitment.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 68WS

Home Department

Police Pay Review Body

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): On 24 October 2012, Official Report, column 56WS, I issued a written statement to the House launching a public consultation seeking views on how to implement Tom Winsor’s recommendations on changes to the police officer pay machinery, including establishing a pay review body for officers. In seeking views, I set out the Government’s belief that Tom Winsor’s report as a whole provided a good basis for discussion and consultation. The consultation closed on 14 January 2013. A total of 56 responses were received, from members of the public, individual officers, staff associations, and others.

I am today publishing the Government’s response to that consultation exercise, which will be available on the Gov.uk website and in the Library of the House. I have carefully considered the detailed issues which were raised in response to the consultation. My overriding concern has been to establish a pay review body which is able to take as wide a view of police remuneration as possible, to act in a strategic, forward-looking manner and not be constrained by the inefficiencies and time delays brought about by the current system of collective bargaining. This is in keeping with the thrust of Tom Winsor’s recommendations. The new review body will make recommendations on police officer remuneration up to and including the rank of chief superintendent. The Senior Salaries Review Body will make recommendations on chief officer pay.

The changes to the way in which police pay and conditions are determined is part of a wider programme of police reform which includes the introduction of police and crime commissioners, the creation of the College of Policing, the establishment of the National Crime Agency, and legislating to ensure a more independent HM inspectorate of constabulary. Police officers deserve to have pay and workforce arrangements that recognise the vital role they play in fighting crime and keeping the public safe, and enable them to deliver effectively for the public. The Police Remuneration Review Body will help deliver this and to provide pay and conditions that are not only fair to police officers, but are fair to the public as well.

Passports

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The British passport is a secure document issued in accordance with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The British passport achieves a very high standard of security to protect the identity of the individual, to enable the freedom of travel for British citizens and to contribute to public protection in the United Kingdom and overseas.

There is no entitlement to a passport and no statutory right to have access to a passport. The decision to issue, withdraw, or refuse a British passport is at the discretion of the Secretary of State for the Home Department—the Home Secretary—under the royal prerogative.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 69WS

This written ministerial statement updates previous statements made to Parliament from time to time on the exercise of the royal prerogative and sets out the circumstances under which a passport can be issued, withdrawn, or refused. It redefines the public interest criteria to refuse or withdraw a passport.

A decision to refuse or withdraw a passport must be necessary and proportionate. The decision to withdraw or refuse a passport and the reason for that decision will be conveyed to the applicant or passport holder. The disclosure of information used to determine such a decision will be subject to the individual circumstances of the case.

The decision to refuse or to withdraw a passport under the public interest criteria will be used only sparingly. The exercise of this criteria will be subject to careful consideration of a person’s past, present or proposed activities.

For example, passport facilities may be refused to or withdrawn from British nationals who may seek to harm the UK or its allies by travelling on a British passport to, for example, engage in terrorism-related activity or other serious or organised criminal activity.

This may include individuals who seek to engage in fighting, extremist activity or terrorist training outside the United Kingdom, for example, and then return to the UK with enhanced capabilities that they then use to conduct an attack on UK soil. The need to disrupt people who travel for these purposes has become increasingly apparent with developments in various parts of the world.

Operational responsibility for the application of the criteria for issuance or refusal is a matter for the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) acting on behalf of the Home Secretary. The criteria under which IPS can issue, withdraw or refuse a passport is set out below.

Passports are issued when the Home Secretary is satisfied as to:

i. the identity of an applicant; and

ii. the British nationality of applicants, in accordance with relevant nationality legislation; and

iii. there being no other reasons—as set out below—for refusing a passport. IPS may make any checks necessary to ensure that the applicant is entitled to a British passport.

A passport application may be refused or an existing passport may be withdrawn. These are the persons who may be refused a British passport or who may have their existing passport withdrawn:

i. a minor whose journey was known to be contrary to a court order, to the wishes of a parent or other person or authority in whose favour a residence or care order had been made or who had been awarded custody; or care and control; or

ii. a person for whose arrest a warrant had been issued in the United Kingdom, or

iii. a person who was wanted by the United Kingdom police on suspicion of a serious crime; or a person who is the subject of:

a court order, made by a court in the United Kingdom, or any other order made pursuant to a statutory power, which imposes travel restrictions or restrictions on the possession of a valid United Kingdom passport; or

bail conditions, imposed by a police officer or a court in the United Kingdom, which include travel restrictions or restrictions on the possession of a valid United Kingdom passport; or

an order issued by the European Union or the United Nations which prevents a person travelling or entering a country other than the country in which they hold citizenship; or

25 Apr 2013 : Column 70WS

a declaration made under section 15 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

iv. A person may be prevented from benefitting from the possession of a passport if the Home Secretary is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so. This may be the case where:

a person has been repatriated from abroad at public expense and their debt has not yet been repaid. This is because the passport fee supports the provision of consular services for British citizens overseas; or

a person whose past, present or proposed activities, actual or suspected, are believed by the Home Secretary to be so undesirable that the grant or continued enjoyment of passport facilities is contrary to the public interest.

There may be circumstances in which the application of legislative powers is not appropriate to the individual applicant but there is a need to restrict the ability of a person to travel abroad.

The application of discretion by the Home Secretary will primarily focus on preventing overseas travel. There may be cases in which the Home Secretary believes that the past, present or proposed activities—actual or suspected—of the applicant or passport holder should prevent their enjoyment of a passport facility whether overseas travel was or was not a critical factor.

EU Treaties (Justice and Home Affairs)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice have prepared the third annual report to Parliament on the application of protocols 19 and 21 to the treaty on European Union (TEU) and the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (“the treaties”) in relation to EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) matters. The report, which is today being laid before the House, is submitted on behalf of both my own Department and that of the Secretary of State for Justice.

On 9 June 2008 the right hon. Baroness Ashton, the then Leader of the House of Lords, made a statement setting out commitments by the Government to Parliament in respect of the scrutiny of decisions to be taken by the Government in accordance with protocol (No 21) to the treaties on the position of the UK and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice (“the Justice and Home Affairs opt-in protocol”). These commitments were designed to ensure that the views of the Scrutiny Committees should inform the Government’s decision-making process.

This included a pledge that the Government would table a report in Parliament each year and make it available for debate, both looking ahead to the Government’s approach to EU Justice and Home Affairs policy and forthcoming dossiers, including in relation to the opt-in, and providing a retrospective annual report on the UK’s application of the opt-in protocol.

On 20 January 2011, the Minister for Europe confirmed in his statement to Parliament on enhancing parliamentary scrutiny of decisions in the area of EU Justice and Home Affairs that the coalition Government have undertaken to maintain this commitment, and this is the third such report. It covers the period 1 December 2011 to 30 November 2012. For completeness, the report also covers the application of protocol 19 to the treaties on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework

25 Apr 2013 : Column 71WS

of the EU (“the Schengen opt-out protocol”). The Government’s decision-making process for this protocol is the same as for the Justice and Home Affairs opt-in protocol.

It is important to note that decisions taken pursuant to the JHA opt-in and Schengen opt-out protocols are separate from the decision the UK must take, by 31 May, 2014, pursuant to article 10(4) of protocol 36 to the TEU and TFEU (the “2014 decision”).

Justice

Language Services Framework Agreement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant): Today the Government responded to the Justice Committee report “Interpreting and translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract”. This sets out some of the work which has already taken place and some of which is planned in order to bring about improvements to the contract and the associated framework agreement for the justice sector.

Part of this work was to review the current terms and conditions for interpreters under the contract in discussion with Capita and taking into account the feedback from groups of interpreters. I can announce that several changes will come into effect in May this year which will have a direct impact on take-home pay for interpreters. We are confident that these measures are affordable for the taxpayer, but will also have a direct effect on performance levels by attracting more interpreters to register to work, as well as encourage those already registered to undertake more bookings.

The changes address a number of concerns that interpreters have raised with the Department and Capita and include paying interpreters at their qualified tier and in 15-minute blocks, extending the use of mileage payments and introducing cancellation fees where the hearing is cancelled or runs significantly shorter than expected through no fault of the interpreter. We are also introducing a fee to cover incidental costs that the interpreter might incur.

Other work is ongoing in our challenge to Capita to improve performance under the contract.

Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant): In my written ministerial statement of 18 December 2012, Official Report, column 96WS about the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010 (“the 2010 Act”) I undertook to make a further statement before the end of the current Session of Parliament.

I am pleased to announce that the Government intend to amend the 2010 Act to include (a) a number of specific insolvency situations and (b) a power for the Secretary of State to add further insolvency situations to the 2010 Act by order should the need arise. We intend to bring the 2010 Act into force as soon as reasonably possible after these amendments have been made.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 72WS

The specific insolvency situations omitted are within the scope of the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1930 and the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1930 (Northern Ireland). Commencing the 2010 Act without first including them would deprive third parties, such as individuals and businesses, of the protection they now have from the consequences of the insolvency of the person who has incurred a liability to them. These insolvency situations include: administrations (other than those ordered by the court) under the Insolvency Act 1986; debt relief orders in Northern Ireland; and certain subject specific types of administration orders, such as air traffic administration orders and energy administration orders. The proposed power will provide a straightforward means to remedy any other omissions that may exist now and to add any insolvency situations that are created in the future.

Legislation to effect the necessary amendments to the 2010 Act will be introduced when parliamentary time permits.

Northern Ireland

Independent Monitoring Commission

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I have today published and laid before Parliament my seventh and eighth annual report(s) on the operation of the agreement between the British and Irish Governments which established the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report covers the period 18 September 2009 to 31 March 2011 when the IMC ceased to exist.

In line with a commitment made by one of my predecessors, this report also contains the audited accounts of the IMC for the 18-month period ending 31 March 2011.

The seventh report covers the 22nd and 23rd reports on paramilitary activity. It also covers the 24th report (third ad hoc report). The eighth report covers the 25th report on paramilitary activity and the 26th and final report on change, impact and lessons learnt.

The IMC performed a hugely important role, supporting the transition to a peaceful society and stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland. I am very grateful to the Commissioners for their valuable contribution. The publication of this report brings to a close all matters relating to the IMC.

Transport

High Speed Rail

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I am today publishing supplementary information regarding the consultation on an exceptional hardship scheme for phase two of high speed two. I am also extending the exceptional hardship scheme consultation period until 20 May 2013.

On 28 January I announced the Government’s initial preferred route, station and depot options for phase two of HS2. Alongside this I set out for consultation an exceptional hardship scheme (EHS). The EHS is intended to enable owner-occupiers whose property has reduced in value as a result of the route announcement—and

25 Apr 2013 : Column 73WS

who can demonstrate a need to sell their property—to sell it to the Government at its full un-blighted market value.

We always welcome feedback on our proposals for HS2 and in response to some such feedback we have decided to publish further information to supplement the consultation document that we published in January.

The additional information we are publishing consists of:

A summary of the more significant feedback that we have received on the operation of the EHS that is already in place for phase one of HS2, and our responses to those points;

Data about the operation of the EHS for phase one; and

A study of property blight around the phase one route in the six months immediately following the announcement of the proposed route.

We are also taking the opportunity to clarify some of the terminology used in the consultation document; and about how the scheme’s criteria are applied.

We have published this information on HS2 Ltd’s website and will be making printed copies of this information widely available in libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaux and at local authority customer service departments along the line of route for phase two. We will also advertise it in newspapers. HS2 Ltd will be writing to those who have already responded to this consultation to make them aware of this additional information and the extension of the deadline for responding to the consultation. I have placed a copy in the House Libraries.

The Government are committed to delivering a compensation scheme that is fair and appropriate both to those directly affected by HS2 and to taxpayers. We have been clear all along that we want to get compensation to the people who need it as quickly as possible and this remains our intention.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, it is still our intention to have an exceptional hardship scheme in place for phase two in the summer of this year.

Work and Pensions

Health and Safety Executive

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): In April 2011, the Cabinet Office announced that all non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) would undergo a substantive review at least once every three years. I have today launched a review of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that NDPBs continue to have regular challenge on their remit and governance arrangements. The review will be conducted in two stages as set out in the Cabinet Office guidance.

The first stage will examine the key functions and form of HSE. If the outcome of this stage is that delivery should continue in its current form, the second stage of the review will consider whether HSE is operating in line with the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

When it is completed I will inform the House of the outcome of the review and place a copy of the outcome in the House Libraries and on the Gov.uk website.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 74WS

Private Pensions

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): As part of the Government’s red tape challenge programme, the Department has undertaken a detailed examination of the regulatory framework for private pensions. This has been supported by input from the pensions industry, employers, consumer groups and the public. With the conclusion of this work, the Department can confirm a number of proposed changes to private pension regulation, as well as areas where further work will be undertaken.

In particular we are proposing:

a simplification, consolidation and future-proofing of the regulations that deal with disclosure of information by pension schemes. This was a key request in the representations we received from stakeholders during the red tape challenge process and we have since published a consultation proposing improvements. We estimate net savings to business of £10 million per year, subject to the consultation response. We have also asked in the consultation whether respondents would welcome a move to a more principles-based approach to the disclosure regulations.

a new statutory objective for the Pensions Regulator to support scheme funding arrangements that are compatible with sustainable growth for the sponsoring employer and fully consistent with the 2004 funding legislation.

continuing to examine whether to make indexation for future accruals discretionary as part of our ongoing work to encourage more risk-sharing in pensions, through “defined ambition” pensions.

further work to consider how the current processes relating to employer debt that cause difficulties for charities and others participating in multi-employer schemes could be improved.

amendments to the regulations setting out the treatment of pension rights on bankruptcy to ensure compliance with EU treaty obligations.

a series of minor improvements and revocations of statutory instruments relating to the operation of the Pension Protection Fund, financial assistance scheme and the Pensions Regulator.

In coming to these conclusions through the red tape challenge process, we have sought to balance a reduction in burdens with the need to protect accrued rights and keeping an appropriate level of consumer protection. Broadly speaking, we feel the current regulatory framework strikes the right balance, though as can be seen from our proposals, there are some areas for improvement and further consideration.

In addition, we are proposing to make technical changes to improve the automatic enrolment process for employers, pension and payroll providers. We are currently consulting on proposals and expect to bring changes into force by April 2014.

We are grateful for those who have contributed to the debate around the regulatory regime for pensions and will continue to explore areas where we might be able to ease burdens without reducing member protection. In particular, as outlined in our recent reinvigoration strategy, we are carefully considering the future regulatory framework for private pensions as part of our work to enable greater risk-sharing and the development of defined ambition pensions.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 75WS

Work-Focused Health-Related Assessment

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): The work-focused health-related assessment (WFHRA) was introduced in October 2008, as part of the employment and support allowance process, to allow claimants to explore with an independent healthcare professional (HCP) their perceptions about work and potential obstacles to employment.

25 Apr 2013 : Column 76WS

External evaluation found that the WFHRA was not delivering the intended outcomes and it was decided in July 2010 that it should be suspended for a period of two years. We now believe that a further period of review is necessary to properly evaluate the impacts of both the work programme and universal credit systems. As such we are extending the initial suspension period of the WFHRA for a further three years, starting immediately.