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Written Statements

Friday 12 July 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Employment Law Reforms

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Jo Swinson): The coalition Government made a commitment to review employment legislation to ensure it provides the flexibility for employers without compromising fairness for employees. We have reported to Parliament at various points during the course of the employment law review and the employment-related law red tape challenge, the steps we are taking to reform UK employment legislation.

The Government have already taken significant steps in reforming employment law. We are now seeking to further reform employment law to help employers and employees. These are intended to provide greater flexibility, greater certainty at the end of the employment relationship, and greater confidence and consistency in the employment tribunals system. We are also providing employers with important tools to uses settlement agreements confidently. We are also seeking evidence on effectiveness of the whistleblowing rules to establish whether any changes are needed.

Today, we are:

Publishing the Government’s response to the consultation on reforms to the rules governing the recruitment sector.

We intend to proceed with replacing the current legislation with a new regulatory framework which removes some of the burden from business but continues to protect people who are looking for work. Regulation in the agency sector will be minimised and, for the most part, focused where workers are most at risk of exploitation.

The new legislation will support the outcomes that the Government believe are key to ensuring that workers are protected and that the sector operates fairly and flexibly; that employment agencies and employment businesses are restricted from charging fees to work seekers, there is clarity on who is responsible for paying temporary workers for the work they have done and that the contracts people have with recruitment firms should not hinder their movement between jobs. Some responses to the consultation indicated that there may be abuse of upfront fees in the entertainment and modelling sector, so we intend to speak informally to a variety of stakeholders to better understand the issues.

We also intend to change the enforcement strategy in the agency sector by moving to a more focused and targeted enforcement regime. In future we will focus Government resource on helping the most vulnerable workers who need protection, particularly those on the national minimum wage (NMW), by moving resources from the employment agency standards inspectorate within BIS to HM Revenue and Customs’ NMW team. The NMW team will investigate complaints of non-payment but individuals will also be able to enforce their rights informally and through the courts. A small team will remain in BIS to enforce the remaining regulations which apply to agencies.

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Publish the Government’s response to the consultation on how early conciliation will work in practice. This is an important part of implementing the change in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Act which creates an obligation for individuals to approach ACAS in the first instance to explore conciliation before being able to submit a claim to an employment tribunal.

This consultation was technical in nature, and sought views on how to administer the scheme in a way that ensures parties engage effectively with ACAS, while not adding unnecessary delays to the dispute resolution process. Responses on the procedural forms, the early conciliation support officer model for conciliation, exemptions, limits on ACAS attempts to contact parties and respondent-led early conciliation have not led to any substantial policy changes. They have helped us sharpen the proposed model however, and BIS will continue to work with ACAS and HMCTS towards implementation in early 2014.

Publish a call for evidence on the whistleblowing framework. In summary:

The Government believe that the overall framework works well, but changes in the way the labour market functions and ways of working since the introduction of the framework in 1998 mean that the time is right to look at the effectiveness. We would like to establish whether:

The categories of disclosure which qualify for protection are still effective in capturing all instances of wrongdoing.

The methods by which the disclosure is made are still relevant and effective.

The list of prescribed individuals/bodies, that is, to whom the disclosure can be made, captures the individuals and bodies sufficiently to ensure the whistleblower benefits from the protection.

The coverage of the definition of worker is sufficiently broad to capture all those that need to be protected by the framework.

Additional changes being made, and which this House has already scrutinised are:

Bringing into effect settlement agreements. These offer a consensual and beneficial end to the employment relationship, avoiding the cost and distress of a tribunal. We are building on the existing system to facilitate their increased use, making it easier to make offers of settlement outside of dispute situations.

A measure in the ERR Act 2013 makes the offer of a settlement agreement inadmissible as evidence in an unfair dismissal claim.

The legislative change will be accompanied by a new statutory code of practice and substantive guidance, to give employers and employees as much clarity and certainty as possible to negotiate settlement, including template letters and model agreements, and advice on how to negotiate settlement.

The measure and statutory code will come into effect on 29 July.

Commencement of ERR Act provisions on the Unfair Dismissal Compensation Cap:

Bringing into force the measure in the ERR Act which caps the compensation element of unfair dismissal awards at 12 months’ pay, in addition to the existing overall cap of £74,200 (the lower of which would apply in an individual case).

This cap aims to give employers and employees more realistic expectations about unfair dismissal award levels.

The draft Statutory Instrument which introduces this cap was laid before Parliament on 10 June, and is subject to the affirmative procedure. Subject to completing parliamentary approval process, we would into to bring this measure to come into force on 29 July.

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The new rules coming out of the “Fundamental Review of Employment Tribunal Rules” by Lord Justice Underhill have been laid in Parliament and will come into force on 29 July (to coincide with the planned introduction of ET fees). These changes will make tribunals easier to understand and more efficient. The rules are already in the public domain, and the announcement would help further signal the changes to users of the ET system and reassure stakeholders that Government are taking action to address weak or vexatious claims. At the same time. Government will also make some small amendments to the way in which interest is charged on employment tribunal awards, designed to encourage prompt payment. This approach was set out in the Government response to Lord Justice Underhill’s review.

These measures will reduce risks to employers, increase their flexibility to deal with workplace issues, and decrease the costs of resolving disputes. Business will have the support to resolve workplace disputes earlier and, if they proceed to employment tribunal, they will experience a quicker, more efficient process.

I will be placing copies of the documents in the Libraries of both Houses.

Automotive Sector Strategy

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): The Government have today published “Driving success—a strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, which has been produced in partnership with stakeholders from across the industry through the Automotive Council.

This strategy sets out a shared vision for a UK automotive manufacturing industry that is diverse, dynamic, growing and globally competitive, that makes a large and increasing economic contribution to employment and prosperity in the UK, that plays a decisive role in developing and manufacturing low and ultra-low emission vehicles and technologies, that is supported by a highly skilled work force and a strong supply chain and that inspires young people to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing.

This strategy focuses on opportunities from the move to ultra-low emission vehicles to 2040 and beyond, strengthening the domestic supply chain to rise to the challenge from a growing sector and take a £3 billion opportunity that has been identified, ensuring that industry are able to find enough people with the right skills and ensuring that the UK business environment can compete internationally as a location for automotive investment.

Key actions include investing around £1 billion over 10 years in a new Advanced Propulsion Centre, improving access to finance through a new tooling finance framework and industry expecting to take on more than 7,600 apprentices and 1,700 graduates over the next five years.

In addition to wider Automotive Council support for the strategy, the Advanced Propulsion Centre has received specific letters of support from 27 companies: Bentley, BMW Group, Bosch, BP, Castrol Innoventures, Caterpillar, Ford, GKN, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Intelligent Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Lotus, Mahle, McLaren Automotive, Millbrook, MIRA, Morgan, Nissan, Optare, Productiv, RDM Group, Ricardo, SMMT, Tata Motors, Transport Systems Catapult, and West Midlands Manufacturing Consortium.

I will place a copy of the strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Energy and Climate Change

Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): I am pleased to announce today the publication of DECC’s policy document “Renewable Heat Incentive: the first step to transforming the way we heat our homes”. This meets the Government commitment, as set out in my statement to the House on 26 March, to publish the framework for providing longer-term financial support to households for the installation of renewable heating technologies in summer 2013. We remain committed to opening the scheme for applications in spring 2014. This marks a major milestone in achieving our renewable heat goals; it builds on the successes of the renewable heat premium payment which has seen more than £20 million spent on the installation of 16,000-plus domestic renewable heat systems over the last two years.

The domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) will pay owners of solar thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps for heat generated at the following levels: 7.3p/kWh for air source heat pumps; 12.2p/kWh for biomass boilers; 18.8p/kWh for ground source heat pumps and at least 19.2(1) p/kWh for solar thermal.

Alongside the policy statement, DECC is publishing the “Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive: Government response to the September 2012 consultation proposals for a domestic RHI” which explains in greater detail the rationale for the final Government position, stakeholder views and comments on original proposals outlined in the consultation document. We received over 400 responses to that consultation, and I would like to thank all those that submitted a formal response.

Government also consulted on proposals for expanding the existing non-domestic RHI scheme at the same time as we consulted on our proposals for domestic support. DECC is currently finalising the details of the expansion of the non-domestic RHI scheme and we will confirm the way forward in the autumn alongside the outcome of the tariff review. Our aim to introduce support through these changes from spring 2014 remains unchanged.

The policy statement, Government response and further supporting documentation can be found on gov.uk.

(1)This tariff is capped by reference to an assessment of the marginal cost of renewable energy. The tariff will be at least 19.2p, but may be higher depending on the outcome of further work. The announcement on the final tariff will be made in the autumn.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Owen Paterson): The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council is on Monday 15 July in Brussels. I will be representing the UK. Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Alun Davies AM and Michelle O’Neill MLA may also attend.

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On fisheries business the Commission will give a presentation on the consultation on fishing opportunities for 2014. The presidency will also seek agreement to a general approach on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Agriculture business will focus on the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform package. At present there are six any other business items;


Labelling of meat from animals slaughtered without stunning;

Economic consequences to the Cyprus poultry sector due to the occurrence of Newcastle disease;

Food loss and waste;

Mislabelling of beef product is a presentation from the Commission;

North East Atlantic mackerel.

National Forest Company

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr David Heath): Today I am announcing a triennial review of the National Forest Company. The National Forest Company was set up in 1995 to oversee the creation of the National Forest—a multi-purpose forest across 200 square miles of the midlands.

Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life.

This review will be conducted in accordance with Government guidance for reviewing non-departmental public bodies. The review will be carried out in an open and transparent way and interested stakeholders will be given the opportunity to feed in their views. I will announce the findings of the review later in the year.

Further information on the review is available on the Government website.


Tobacco Products (Packaging)

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt): The Government have today published “Consultation on the standardised packaging of tobacco products: summary report”. The consultation was undertaken, with the agreement of the devolved Administrations, on a UK-wide basis and the summary report has been prepared and published by the Department of Health.

Reducing in England the health harms caused by smoking tobacco is a public health priority for the Government and the United Kingdom is recognised across the world for having comprehensive, evidence-based tobacco control strategies.

Standardised packaging of tobacco products refers to measures that may be taken to restrict or end the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names that are displayed in a standard colour and typeface.

The consultation sought views on whether standardised tobacco packaging would:

reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers;

increase the effectiveness of health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products;

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reduce the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking; and

have a positive effect on smoking-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours,

particularly among children and young people.

Many thousands of responses to the consultation were received, and the views expressed were highly polarised, with strong views put forward on both sides of the debate and a range of organisations generating campaigns and petitions. Of those who provided detailed feedback, some 53% were in favour of standardised packaging, while 43% thought the Government should do nothing about tobacco packaging.

Having carefully considered these differing views, the Government have decided to wait until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia can be measured before we make a final decision on this policy in England.

Currently, only Australia has introduced standardised packaging, although the Governments of New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland have committed to introduce similar policies. Standardised packaging, therefore, remains a policy under consideration.

In the meantime, the Government in England will continue to work to reduce smoking rates through ending the display of tobacco in all shops, running national behaviour change campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and through supporting local authorities to provide effective stop smoking services. Our strategy is working—we are recognised as the leading country in Europe for tobacco control and for the first time since records began, adult smoking rates are under 20%.

“Consultation on the standardised packaging of tobacco products: summary report” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available from:


The consultation exercise fulfilled our commitment in “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England” which sets out our comprehensive, evidence-based, programme of tobacco control for England.

Informal Health Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry): EU Health Ministers met in Vilnius, in Lithuania, on 8 and 9 July. I represented the UK. The agenda included discussions on sustainability of health systems, mental health and well-being of older people, and of smoking prevention in youth.

The meeting began with a discussion on sustainable health systems, with emphasis placed by the presidency on the need to reduce health inequalities. There was broad agreement that innovation in technology is an important tool in making healthcare more efficient and affordable.

For the UK, I stressed that while the EU can add value to member states work on the three major life choices of smoking, obesity, and alcohol, it is important that the principle of subsidiarity is respected. I noted the important recent progress on the tobacco products directive, which crucially allows member states to go beyond the requirements of the directive where this is essential for public health.

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Many member states highlighted the importance of member states collaborating to learn from each other.

There was also a discussion on the mental health and well-being of older populations, during which I stressed the equal importance of mental and physical health, and the UK work on dementia.

The second day included discussions on smoking prevention in youth, focusing on nicotine containing products and on the marketing of tobacco.

The meeting concluded with an AOB item on differential pricing of medicines in member states. A variety of different views were expressed but the UK and a number of other member states opposed the launching of any new EU initiative on the pricing of medicines as this is a matter of member state competence, while recognising the common issues faced by member states, particularly in relation to rare diseases.

“Six Lives: Progress Report on Healthcare for People with Learning Disabilities”

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): I have today published the Department of Health’s second progress report in response to the recommendations of the parliamentary and health service ombudsman and the local government ombudsman in their March 2009 report “Six lives: the provision of public services to people with learning disabilities”. At the same time, I am also publishing the Government’s response to the recent “Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities”.

“Six Lives: Progress report on healthcare for people with learning disabilities” provides an assessment of the progress made since the previous progress report published on 14 October 2010 in health and social care services to fulfil the ombudsmen’s recommendations and improve health care and treatment for people with learning disabilities.

The report demonstrates that more people with learning disabilities than ever before have taken up the opportunity of an annual health check which will help improve their health and enable preventive interventions to stop potential health crises. The report also sets out priority areas for further progress including:

giving greater voice and power to people with learning disabilities and their local communities to develop services for everyone, including those in vulnerable or marginalised groups;

supporting the spread of personal health budgets for people with learning disability with greater integration across health and social care;

ensuring that health and well-being boards have information to support them in understanding the complex needs of people with behaviour that challenges; and

working with NHS England to make sure that the system continues to monitor and improve the health and care outcomes of people with learning disabilities.

The Department of Health worked with Mencap and the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) to engage with and listen to people with learning disabilities and family carers about their views and experiences of health care to find out more about where progress had been made and where more work needs to happen. Alongside the second progress report, we are publishing a summary of the outputs from that engagement event,

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including the results of a questionnaire about whether health care is getting better for people with a learning disability.

“Government response to the Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities” addresses all the inquiry’s recommendations, taking account of the changes to the health and care system which have been set in train since the Confidential Inquiry was established. The Department of Health, NHS England and other delivery partners will have an important role to play in leading change to improve access, experience and outcomes for people with learning disabilities and family carers. Specific changes include:

using the Government’s information strategy for health and care to drive improvements in the way in which we identify people with learning disabilities so that we can better respond to their needs;

linking data about cause of death with other data such as the GP practice learning disability registers to better understand and respond to premature mortality among people with learning disabilities;

using local mortality data on people with learning disabilities to inform Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies;

using the NHS Standard Contracts to better take account of and respond to people’s needs;

aiming to have a known contact for people with multiple long-term conditions to co-ordinate their care, communicate with different professionals and be involved in care planning with the individual;

looking at introducing patient-held records for all people with learning disabilities who have several health conditions;

looking at the Mental Capacity Act guidance, advice and training for professionals, that is available to inform decisions about people's care; and

assessing with NHS England, Public Health England and other partners the costs and benefits of establishing a National Learning Disability Mortality Review Body.

For both the Six Lives progress report and the response to the confidential inquiry, we want to see a fundamental culture change so that people with learning disabilities, autism and those people with complex needs and behaviour that challenges and their family carers have the same rights as anyone else to accessing the best possible quality care and support. We expect this in turn to lead to better outcomes and fewer premature and avoidable deaths.

The Government are determined to work across the system to improve standards of care. Following events at Winterbourne View and Mid Staffordshire hospitals, we have conducted thorough investigations and delivered strong responses to enable the system change and shift in attitudes needed to support people with learning disabilities and their families.

I want to put a stop to bad practice. Good practice must be our everyday expectation and services must strive for excellence. Everyone involved in the provision of services needs greater awareness of the personal impact they can make on the health and quality of life of people with learning disabilities so that poor practice and unacceptable health inequalities can be tackled head on.

Both the report and the response have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The documents are also available at: