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Written Statements

Thursday 10 October 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Competitions and Markets Authority

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): The Competition and Markets Authority will be a new non-ministerial department created by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. The authority will become operational on 1 April 2014 and exists as a legal entity from 1 October 2013. It replaces the existing Competition Commission and Office of Fair Trading which will close on 31 March 2013.

There is a need to meet the cash requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority from 1 October 2013 to pay for staff costs. Although Parliament has already approved the specific enabling legislation, the resources to fund the creation of the Competition and Markets Authority are currently within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Pending the commencement of full operation in April 2014, when the budget for the Competition and Markets Authority will be delivered from the existing budgets of the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading, immediate expenditure estimated at £1.6 million for staff costs will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.

If further costs arise that would be irregular for BIS to pay on behalf of the CMA, between now and March 2014 when the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill achieves Royal Assent, I will return to the House.

Parliamentary approval for resources of £1.6 million for this new expenditure will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £1.6 million will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.


Money Services Businesses

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sajid Javid): Annual remittances from the UK stand in excess of £15 billion with up to 65% flowing to developing countries. The UK has one of the largest money transfer markets in Europe and the largest number of money transfer operators (MTOs).

Globally, some major banks are withdrawing bank accounts from MTOs because of the reputational and regulatory concerns. A number of UK banks have recently chosen to close accounts for a number of money transfer companies which has resulted in concerns being raised about the continued viability of remittance flows to a few developing countries, including Somalia.

The Government are acutely aware of the importance of remittances to these countries and to UK residents. The Government are committed to doing the utmost to ensure that remittances continue to flow through secure, legitimate channels.

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We recently asked our officials to convene stakeholders to discuss possible actions the Government could take. A round table was held at the Department for International Development (DFID) on Friday 27 September 2013. The round table was co-chaired by senior officials from HM Treasury and DFID. It was attended by Government, the money transfer industry, NGOs and international organisations.

The purpose of the round table was to agree a set of actions to be taken by Government, supervisors and industry to promote a safe, secure and compliant UK money transfer sector that continues to support legitimate remittances while maintaining effective measures against money laundering and terrorist financing.

As a result of this meeting, and the continued cross-Government effort to find solutions, the Government can today announce a range of actions which they are committed to taking forward. These actions include:

The UK Government will form an action group on cross-border remittances, which will include relevant stakeholders.

The action group will draft guidance on applying a risk-based approach to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism when banking money transfer companies.

The National Crime Agency will provide more detailed and specific risk assessments and alerts about the sector to banks and money transfer companies, to help differentiate the risks involved in dealing with different money transmitters.

DFID will take forward a pilot project to help develop secure remittance channels to Somalia.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will increase “days of action” with law enforcement and the number of risk-targeted supervisory visits they undertake to provide further confidence that non-compliant money transmitters are being required to improve or are removed from business.

HMRC will also provide further training to money transmitters to help them achieve an effective level of compliance.

The full list of Government and supervisor actions with respective timelines has been placed in the Library of the House.

Securing a sustainable future for the UK remittance market will require all of the stakeholders to work together. The Government remain committed to playing their part in this and we hope these clear actions will be a key step in the right direction.

Communities and Local Government

Local Planning and Renewable Energy Developments

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): Planning works best when communities themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives.

My Department published new planning practice guidance in the summer to help ensure the planning concerns raised by local communities are given proper weight in planning decisions on onshore renewable energy 29 July 2013, House of Lords, Official Report, 162-164WS. The national planning policy framework includes strong protections for the natural and historic environment. Yet, some local communities have genuine concerns that when it comes to developments such as wind turbines and solar farms insufficient weight is

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being given to local environmental considerations like landscape, heritage and local amenity. The new guidance makes it clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the views of local communities should be listened to.

The new planning practice guidance has been published to assist local councils and planning inspectors in their consideration of local plans and individual planning applications. Of course, planning is a quasi-judicial process, and every application needs to be considered on its individual merits, with due process, in the light of the relevant material considerations.

I want to give particular scrutiny to planning appeals involving renewable energy developments so that I can consider the extent to which the new practice guidance is meeting the Government’s intentions. To this end, I am hereby revising the appeals recovery criteria and will consider for recovery appeals for renewable energy developments. This new criterion is added to the recovery policy issued on 30 June 2008 and will be applied for a period of six months from today after which it will be reviewed.

For the avoidance of doubt, this does not mean that all renewable energy appeals will be recovered, but that planning Ministers are likely to recover a number of appeals in order to assess the application of the planning practice guidance at national level.

Energy and Climate Change

Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board (Triennial Review)

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Michael Fallon): I am today announcing the start of the Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board (NLFAB) triennial review.

Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that non-departmental public bodies continue to have regular independent challenge.

The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for NLFAB’s function and its form and whether it should continue to exist at arm’s length from Government.

If there is evidence of a continued need for the body, the review will also examine whether NLFAB’s control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

European Environmental Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Owen Paterson): The Council meeting will open with an exchange of views on a proposal to amend regulation (EC) No. 1013/2006 on shipments of

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waste. The Commission is concerned by the uneven standard of enforcement across member states against illegal shipments of waste and would like to strengthen the requirements for enforcement. The Commission has issued a proposal to amend the regulation to require competent authorities to prepare and publish inspection plans. The amendments would introduce provisions for competent authorities to request proof from an exporter where it was suspected that they were exporting waste in the guise of a product in order to evade the controls, and also to request evidence that material exported for recovery had been recovered in an environmentally sound manner in the destination country. The amendments would also allow the Commission to adopt delegated acts on technical and organisational requirements for the practical implementation of electronic data interchange for the submission of documents and information. The UK supports the principle of strengthening the enforcement of the regulations, but has concerns about some of the detail in the proposal.

After a series of AOB points, the Council will then seek to adopt non-legislative Council conclusions on preparations for the 19th Session of the conference of the parties (COP 19) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) and the ninth session of the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto protocol (CMP 9). COP 19 will take place in Warsaw, Poland from 11 to 22 November 2013, and these conclusions will form the basic framework of the EU’s negotiating position at COP 19.

Ministers will then break for a working lunch, during which they will discuss green infrastructure. In May 2013, the Commission adopted a communication on an EU-wide strategy on green infrastructure, which foresees a series of actions that provide an enabling framework, combining policy signals, technical or scientific actions, and better access to finance. The strategy will be implemented within the context of existing legislation, policy instruments and funding mechanisms.

In the afternoon the presidency will present a compromise package of amendments, determining how vehicle manufacturers will achieve existing long-term CO2 targets for cars. Some member states have expressed reservations with the deal following concerns raised by industry, and discussion of the package and possible compromise amendments are expected.

Over the course of the day, the following topics will be covered under “any other business”:

Information from the Commission on the EU emissions trading scheme/aviation.

Information from the presidency and the Commission on international meetings and events.

Information from the Commission on a system for monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international maritime transport.

Information from the Danish delegation on a political declaration concerning the use of industrial gas credits under the effort-sharing decision and from the Commission on facilitating a global HFC phase-down agreement under the Montreal protocol.

Information from the Hungarian delegation on the “Budapest Water Summit” (8-11 October 2013).

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Urgent and Emergency Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr Daniel Poulter): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, Earl Howe, has made the following written ministerial statement:

We have today laid before Parliament “Government Response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee report into Urgent and Emergency Services: Second Report of Session 2013-2014”, Cm 8708.

We believe the NHS is world class when it comes to the quality and ease of access to urgent and emergency care. However, as the Committee has identified, the system faces increasing pressure. We welcome the Committee’s recommendations and the opportunity to explore and discuss the issues highlighted by the report.

This response describes the comprehensive initiatives, both short-term and long-term, the Government have put in place to assist the NHS in meeting ever-growing demand for urgent and emergency services. These range from the provision of an additional £500 million for this winter and the next, to the NHS England review of the urgent and emergency care framework.

Copies of the Government response are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.


International Prisoner Transfer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Jeremy Wright): On 26 April 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) convicted Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, on 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including, murder, forced labour and slavery, recruiting child soldiers and rape. On 30 May 2012, the SCSL sentenced him to 50 years’ imprisonment. On 26 September 2013, the SCSL dismissed former President Taylor’s appeal against that conviction and confirmed the sentence. Following a request from the President of the SCSL to the United Kingdom, former President Taylor will now be transferred to a prison in the UK to serve that sentence.

The United Kingdom’s offer to enforce any sentence imposed on former President Taylor by the SCSL was crucial to ensuring that he could be transferred to The Hague to stand trial for his crimes.

The International Tribunals (Sierra Leone) Act 2007, which allows for SCSL sentences to be enforced here, was passed with wide cross-party support in June 2007. During the passage of the Bill it was made clear, and accepted by the House, that former President Taylor could serve his sentence in the UK should it be required, and that Her Majesty’s Government would meet the associated costs.

International justice is central to foreign policy. It is essential for securing the rights of individuals and states, and for securing peace and reconciliation. The conviction of Charles Taylor is a landmark moment for international justice. It clearly demonstrates that those who commit atrocities will be held to account and that no matter their position they will not enjoy impunity.

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HS2 Ltd

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I am announcing the appointment of Sir David Higgins as chair of HS2 Ltd. Sir David will be taking over the role from the current chair, Sir Doug Oakervee, as of January next year.

A revised HS2 Ltd framework document which sets out the governance and sponsorship arrangements between the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd has been published. Copies of the document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Any future revision to the document will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The document is available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/developing-a-new-high-speed-rail-network and http://hs2.org.uk/.

New Better Bus Areas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): My noble Friend, the Minister of State for Transport (Baroness Kramer), has made the following written ministerial statement:

I am delighted today to announce the designation of four new better bus areas (BBAs) in Merseyside, York, Nottingham and the West of England partnership region (comprising Bath, Bristol and south Gloucester).

Last year the Government announced plans to reform the way in which we directly support the bus market through the bus service operators grant (BSOG). The reforms included our intention to create a limited number of new BBAs, the first of which was designated in Sheffield earlier this year. A competitive process was then held across the summer allowing other local authorities to submit proposals for achieving improved bus services in partnership with their local operators.

BBAs have been created to trial new ways of supporting the bus market. Within these areas the BSOG paid to operators of commercial bus services will gradually be reduced to zero across a four-and-a-half-year period, with the equivalent amount devolved to the relevant local authority together with a top-up fund worth 20% of commercial BSOG. This money will allow local authorities, working in partnership with bus operators, to tackle the issues negatively impacting on local bus markets.

Total funding for the four new BBAs amounts to some £16.5 million across the full term of the scheme; this is in addition to the £18.5 million that the Sheffield BBA will receive up to 2017.

We will work closely with the new BBAs to monitor progress and to ensure these grants target bus subsidy to the areas where it is most needed.

DSA Tests

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I have today announced that, from April 2014, foreign language support for candidates taking driving tests will no longer be available. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) undertook a consultation on this issue between February and April 2013.

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Candidates have previously been able to take the theory test in 19 languages, in addition to English and Welsh, and can attend for theory and practical tests with an interpreter. We are making this change to:

Improve road safety—in response to concern about the ability of non-English or Welsh speakers to understand road signs and other advice to drivers.

Enhance social cohesion—to help individuals’ integration in society by learning the national language.

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Reduce fraud—to address the issue of an interpreter attending for test with a learner driver and giving information in addition to a translation of the theory test questions or the instructions given by the examiner.

Reduce costs—there will be modest savings to DSA from not paying a fee to the theory test service provider for the annual update of voiceovers.

DSA has issued a response to consultation report, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/driving-test-language-support.