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Written Statements

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Communities and Local Government

Planning Administration

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Nick Boles): We have already taken decisive action to cut unnecessary planning red tape, and to make the planning system operate more efficiently and effectively for applicants, local communities and councils. The national planning policy framework together with the new planning practice guidance website, once it is finalised, will have swept away 8,000 pages of previously impenetrable policy and guidance documents. We have also put in place new permitted development rights to make it easier to get empty and underused buildings back into public use.

In January 2013, my Department launched the planning administration theme on the red tape challenge website. We sought views on how to make the mechanics of the planning system more efficient and accessible, ensuring it is simple, clear and easy for people to use.

As I explained in my written ministerial statement of 31 January 2013, Official Report, column 52WS, this review did not involve considering any changes to planning policy. Moreover, the Government are committed to ensuring that countryside and environmental protections continue to be safeguarded and to decentralising power over planning to local councils, neighbourhoods and local residents.

I would like to inform the House that the Government are today announcing the outcome of the planning administration red tape challenge.

We received around 150 comments in response to our consultation, which we have carefully considered in developing our proposals. Of the 182 regulations on which we consulted and following a rigorous challenge process, we propose, through a prioritised and phased programme, to reduce the overall number of planning regulations to 78—a reduction of 57%.

The principal changes we propose to make to the regulations will:

consolidate the rules on development that does not require a planning application. The current permitted development regulations have been amended 17 times, and need an overhaul to make the arrangements accessible and easy to use for all;

bring together recent amendments to the regulations for the planning application process, and use this opportunity to tackle unnecessary or overly burdensome requirements in the application process;

merge a number of regulations in relation to major infrastructure projects and hazardous substances to simplify and clarify those consent processes; and

scrap 38 redundant regulations that are no longer needed.

Alongside this programme of further simplification, we will also develop and bring forward later this year additional measures to streamline and improve the end-to-end planning process to address other issues raised

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through the consultation, including reducing delays in getting development underway on sites caused by planning conditions.

Implementing the Growth and Infrastructure Act

I will also be publishing shortly draft secondary legislation on the types of business and commercial projects that can use the nationally significant infrastructure regime. The Planning Act 2008 provides for a streamlined authorisation process for nationally significant infrastructure projects. Changes brought forward under the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 enabled the Secretary of State to provide developers of the most significant business and commercial projects in England with the option of having their projects considered through that process.

Under the draft regulations, any developer who wishes their project to be dealt with under the 2008 Act will need first to ask the Secretary of State for a direction. The Secretary of State must be satisfied that the project falls within one of the prescribed types of project and is nationally significant. A policy statement has been placed in the Library of the House setting out the factors that the Secretary of State will take into account when considering whether a direction should be given and how developers can apply for a direction.

Electoral Commission Committee

European Union (Referendum) Bill

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission): The Electoral Commission has today published its statutory assessment of the referendum question contained in the European Union (Referendum) Bill ('the Bill'), which was introduced to the House of Commons as a Private Members Bill by the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) on 19 June 2013.

The Commission has a statutory obligation under section 104 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act (PPERA) 2000 to consider the wording of the question in any referendum Bill that is introduced to the UK Parliament and to publish a statement on its views on the intelligibility of that question. The question currently contained in the Bill is: 'Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?'

When assessing a referendum question, the Commission's assessment guidelines say that the question should be clear and simple. It should be easy to understand, to the point and not ambiguous. The Commission has a well-established process for making this assessment, which includes undertaking public opinion research through focus groups and one-to-one interviews, writing to interested individuals and groups to ask their views and seeking advice from experts on plain language and accessibility.

Having completed this process, the Commission has concluded that the wording of the proposed question itself is brief, uses straightforward language, and is easy to understand and answer. However they also found it could be improved, in particular to reduce the risk of misunderstanding or ambiguity about the current

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membership status of the UK within the EU. It therefore recommends that the question should be amended to make it more direct and to the point, and to improve clarity and understanding.

The Commission's consultation, analysis and research with the public has not, however, identified a single preferred wording for the question. Because of the complexity of the issues covered by this referendum question, its research suggests that currently, in the context of a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, a question using 'Yes' and' No' as response options would not be able to fully resolve those issues. The Commission's recommendations therefore highlight an important decision for Parliament, as to whether to retain or move away from the UK’s recent experience of referendum questions using 'Yes' and 'No' responses.

If Parliament wishes to retain the use of 'Yes' and 'No' as response options, then the Commission recommends that the referendum question should be amended to: 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'

However, the Commission's research suggests that some people will perceive either positive or negative associations with the phrase 'remain a member of the European Union', although there was no evidence that this wording resulted in research participants changing their voting preference in any way. If Parliament decides not to retain a referendum question which uses 'Yes' and 'No' as response options, having taken into account the risk of a perception of bias which might be associated with that approach, then the Commission recommends amending the question to: 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?' with 'Remain a member of the European Union' and 'Leave the European Union' as response options.

This alternative version of the referendum question wording was also tested in its research with the public and was considered the most neutral of the questions tested. However, the Commission did not explore the impact of variations to the specific wording of the question and responses, nor did it receive views from would-be referendum campaign organisations about this approach. If Parliament amended the Bill in this way, the Commission would therefore need to undertake a further assessment of the intelligibility of the proposed wording, which it would do as quickly as possible.

The Bill also makes provision for a Welsh version of the referendum question to be included on the ballot paper, although a Welsh translation of the question was not included in the Bill as introduced. Following a request from the hon. Member for Stockton South, and in line with its Welsh Language Scheme, the Commission has also tested as part of its assessment process a translation of the question included in the Bill in Welsh. It is recommending that if the version of the question included on the ballot paper in Welsh is the amended yes/no question, it should be: 'A ddylai'r Deyrnas Unedig ddal i fod yn aelod o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd?' If Parliament decides not to retain the 'Yes' and 'No' question and the question included in the ballot paper in Welsh is the alternative question recommended, then it should be: “A ddylai'r Deyrnas Unedig bara i fod yn aelod o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd neu adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd? Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

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Copies of both the full question assessment and the accompanying research report, which sets out in detail the Commission's analysis and the rationale for the recommended changes to the question included in the Bill, can be found on the Commission's website at: www.electoralcommission.org.uk.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dog Attacks (Maximum Penalties)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Owen Paterson): My Department consulted this summer in England, and in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government, on possible increases to the maximum penalties for aggravated offences under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. These relate to a dog being dangerously out of control and a dog killing or injuring a person or an assistance dog.

We undertook a short, online survey of people’s views on options for an increase in maximum penalties which currently stand at two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for aggravated offences.

A total of 3,180 people and organisations completed the online survey and a number of organisations sent written representations. In summary, some 91% of respondents considered that maximum penalties should be increased. 83% thought there should be an increase for injury to an assistance dog or a person, 69% for the death of an assistance dog, and 76% for the death of a person.

In coming to a decision on new maximum penalties for dog attacks, we have taken into account the responses to the consultation and the need for maximum penalties to be proportionate to the offence. We have also compared the current maximum penalty with the maximum penalties for other offences. The maximum penalty of causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years’ imprisonment and the maximum penalty for causing actual bodily harm is 5 years’ imprisonment. Anyone who deliberately sets their dog on a person and kills them—in effect using their dog as a weapon—could be charged with murder or manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The Government propose, therefore, to increase the maximum penalties for aggravated offences under section 3 of the 1991 Act in England and Wales to:

14 years’ imprisonment if a person dies as a result of a dog attack

5 years’ imprisonment if a person is injured by a dog attack, and

3 years’ imprisonment if an assistance dog either dies or is injured by a dog attack.

The increase in maximum penalty for a dog attack on an assistance dog, such as a guide dog for the blind, reflects the devastating effect such an attack has on the assisted person. As now, each of these offences could also be punishable by an unlimited fine instead of, or in addition to, imprisonment. An amendment to the 1991 Act to effect these changes will be tabled for consideration during Lords Committee Stage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

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Responsible dog ownership

Increasing the maximum penalties for dog attacks is only one aspect of the Government’s overall approach to tackling irresponsible dog ownership. Government consulted on a range of possible measures to encourage responsible dog ownership in 2012 and published a summary of results and the way forward on 6 February 2013.

As a result of that consultation, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill—clauses 98 and 99—includes amendments extending the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to private property and provisions that extend the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control to all places, including people’s homes. This will give protection to family members, friends and visitors including postal workers, nurses, utility workers and other professionals who visit homes as part of their job. At the same time, there will be an exemption from prosecution for householders whose dogs attack trespassers in or entering the home. There will also be a specific offence of allowing a dog to attack an assistance dog.

In addition, the Bill includes new measures for local authorities and the police to take action before a dog attack occurs. These measures can require dog owners to take any reasonable steps to address their own or their dog’s behaviour, including, but not limited to: attending dog training classes, requiring the dog to be on a lead in public, repairing fencing to their property to prevent the dog escaping, and even requiring the dog to be neutered. These measures supplement the non-statutory tools such as acceptable behaviour contracts that are already used by many local authorities to address antisocial behaviour including that involving dogs.

A comprehensive practitioner’s manual has been drafted in liaison with the Welsh Government, police and local authorities to ensure that these new measures tackle irresponsible dog ownership without compromising dog welfare.

The UK Government and Welsh Government have both announced measures to require the microchipping of all dogs by April 2016 in England and by March 2015 in Wales. This will allow lost and stray dogs to be reunited quickly with their owners, minimising stress for both dog and owner, and saving considerable time and resource for hard-pressed local authority dog wardens and animal welfare charities. Separate regulations on dog microchipping will be published in 2014.

Way forward

Parliament will consider the Government proposals for increased maximum penalties for dog attacks and, if agreed, they should come into force in 2014 following Royal Assent of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils (21-22 October)

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) on 21 October and I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 22 October. The Foreign

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Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, and the General Affairs Council by the Lithuanian Presidency. The meetings were held in Luxembourg.

Commissioners Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy) and Piebalgs (Development) were in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC.

Commissioner Šefcovic (Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration) was in attendance for some of the discussions at the GAC.

Foreign Affairs Council

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


Introduction- Iran

Baroness Ashton updated Ministers on the E3+3/Iran talks in Geneva, and the issuing of the first joint statement. The next meeting would be on 7-8 November in Geneva with experts discussions in advance.

Introduction- Serbia/Kosovo

Baroness Ashton briefed on the 17th round of the Serbia/Kosovo facilitated dialogue, the elections preparations, and noted that the EU's Election Observation Mission had begun its work.

Introduction- Bosnia and Herzegovina

Baroness Ashton highlighted the Conclusions agreed on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which emphasise the importance of implementing the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the Sejdic-Finci constitutional issue, and commit to a broader discussion on Bosnia and Herzegovina at the November Foreign Affairs Council. They also signal the EU's readiness to renew the executive mandate of Operation EUFOR Althea for another year.

Introduction- Maldives

Baroness Ashton expressed her concern that the Presidential election in the Maldives had again not proceeded, and stated that the EU needed to monitor the situation closely.

Eastern Partnership

Baroness Ashton looked forward to a successful Summit at Vilnius in November, noting the backdrop of increased Russian activism. Ministers exchanged views on Ukraine's progress in implementing the conditions for the possible signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The Foreign Secretary stated that the EU needed to keep the focus on Ukraine's reform progress, until the Vilnius Summit and beyond. The Foreign Secretary also underlined that closer economic ties between the EU and Eastern Partners would have significant economic benefits for the wider region including Russia.

Southern Neighbourhood

On Egypt, Baroness Ashton briefed Ministers following her most recent visit to Cairo. Ministers expressed strong support for her efforts. The Foreign Secretary argued that the EU should address the issue of political detainees, and supported electoral observation by the EU of the constitutional referendum.

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On Syria, Ministers emphasised that progress towards Geneva II and a political solution remained the priority; underlined the importance of the UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) on Syrian chemical weapons; and stressed that the humanitarian situation remained dire. Ministers agreed Conclusions which, in particular, reiterated that the objective of Geneva II would be swift establishment, by mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers and control of all governmental and all security institutions, and underlined that there should be no impunity for human rights abuses, including those committed with conventional weapons.

On Libya, Ministers agreed that EU support would be important in helping Libya to address the migratory situation. The Foreign Secretary emphasised the need to focus on practical support following recent tragic events, with the UK offering support to the Libyan security sector. He stated that the EU should focus on ensuring that the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya delivered training as quickly as possible.


Before lunch with Aung San Suu Kyi, Baroness Ashton gave an overview of Burma's continuing reform process, highlighting progress made and the remaining challenges. In November she will lead a taskforce to Burma, the first outside Europe's neighbourhood, aimed at bringing EU representatives and businesses to Burma to offer comprehensive EU support for the transition to democracy.

Over lunch, Aung San Suu Kyi highlighted the central importance of amending the Burmese constitution in order to allow for credible presidential elections. The Foreign Secretary underlined his support for constitutional change, and the role the EU could play, including in supporting and monitoring the 2015 elections. He also raised the plight of the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious tensions.

AOB- Central African Republic

The Foreign Minister of France, Laurent Fabius, debriefed on his recent joint visit with Commissioner Georgieva (International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response), outlining three central concerns: the security situation; the humanitarian crisis; and the political process. Conclusions were agreed.

Other business

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures:

The Council adopted the EU position for the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Council.

The Council adopted conclusions on Yemen.

The Council adopted conclusions on the special report No 4/2013 of the Court of Auditors concerning EU cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance.

The Council extended the EU restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea, consisting of restrictions on admission to the EU and asset freezes, until 27 October 2014.

The Council allocated €8.05 million from the EU budget to support the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear security and verification.

The Council adopted conclusions on the new challenges presented by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.

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The Council adopted the second part (country reports) of the EU annual report on human rights and democracy. The first part (thematic reports) was adopted on 6 June 2013.

General Affairs Council

The 22 October GAC focused on: the preparation for the October European Council, which the Prime Minister attended on 24-25 October; the next stage of the European semester; macro-regional strategies; and enlargement.

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


Preparation of the 24-25 October European Council

The GAC discussed the 24-25 October European Council, both in the plenary session of the General Affairs Council and over lunch with the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy. This European Council had an extensive agenda covering: the digital economy, innovation and services; growth, competitiveness and jobs; Economic and Monetary Union; the Eastern Partnership summit; and migration issues, following the tragedy in Lampedusa.

I signalled our strong support for the digital agenda, emphasising the importance of the Digital Single Market in promoting growth but reminding my counterparts of the need to avoid setting unrealistic timelines, including on data protection. I also stressed the need for further progress in the services agenda and reducing regulation.

The Commission had recently produced a welcome report on reducing regulation titled REFIT. This looked at how to improve regulation across the board. The Prime Minister has consistently championed this work and has separately challenged businesses to identify the most burdensome regulations. The Business Taskforce which responded to this challenge, presented its report drawn from the views of over 100 businesses from across Europe. The Taskforce report put forward 30 clear recommendations to remove or improve the EU rules that are the most burdensome to businesses.

European Semester

The Lithuanian Presidency presented their 'synthesis report' on lessons learned in this year's European Semester. The European Semester gives macro-economic and fiscal guidance to Member States, assessing the implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs agreed by the June 2012 European Council. The discussion that followed the presentation raised the importance of ensuring that the timing of recommendations is right.

Enlargement (Turkey)

The Council agreed to confirm the EU common position for the opening of chapter 22 dialogue on regional policy and co-ordination of structural instruments with Turkey, and to convene an Accession Conference at Ministerial level on 5 November in Brussels to do so. This will be the first chapter opened with Turkey for three years. There will be a more general debate on enlargement at the GAC on 17 December.

Macro-Regional Strategies

Following a presentation by the Commission, the GAC endorsed conclusions on macro-regional strategies and exchanged views on the added value of the existing strategies. The draft conclusions on macro-regional strategies reiterated that they should require no new

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money (though structural and cohesion funds already allocated to those regions could be channelled towards projects complementing the macro-regional strategies); no new institutions and no new legislation. The conclusions set out preconditions that would help make any new strategies effective. France also presented its plans for a new macro-regional strategy; the Alpine Region Strategy.

Home Department

Scotland Analysis: Security

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The UK Government have today published the seventh paper in their Scotland analysis programme, “Scotland analysis: security”. This series of publications is designed to inform the debate on Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom ahead of next year’s referendum.

The “Scotland analysis: security” paper analyses the UK’s approach to security and the potential consequences of Scottish independence. Scotland and its people are an integral part of the UK’s national security, and the UK Government believe both that Scotland is better off as part of the UK, and that the UK is stronger, safer and more secure with Scotland as part of it.

The first duty of any state is the defence of its territory and institutions, and the protection of its citizens and property from both internal and external sources of threat or harm. As a part of the Union, Scotland benefits from the full spectrum of capabilities available to the UK’s security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

There is greater security through integrated UK-wide security and intelligence agencies with global reach. The UK’s security and intelligence agencies protect against terrorism and espionage, enable the collection of secret foreign intelligence, and make possible intelligence gathering through the monitoring of communications. An independent Scottish state would lose automatic access to UK intelligence, impacting on its ability to counter espionage and hostile foreign intelligence activity as well as terrorism.

We are better protected through enhanced justice and policing capabilities and international partnerships to tackle serious and organised crime. Long-established UK-wide laws facilitate the cross-border pursuit of justice despite different legal systems and police jurisdictions. This works with the minimum of bureaucracy and more quickly and efficiently than is possible between EU states. Independence would see the existing powers lapse, impacting negatively on an independent Scotland’s ability to pursue justice across borders.

There is greater resilience through UK-wide cyber security, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response and border protection arrangements. The UK’s £860 million cyber security programme delivers enhanced cyber security for the benefit of the whole of the UK, which leads other G20 countries in its ability to withstand cyber attacks.

The UK Government also maintain a number of capabilities to deal with CBRN devices as well as explosive materials.

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Scotland also benefits from a nationally run scheme to prevent both specified foreign national passengers travelling to the UK and British nationals boarding flights when assessed to pose a threat to that aircraft. An independent Scottish state would be responsible for its own border security.

More broadly, and in support of many of the security capabilities I have outlined here and which are detailed in the paper itself, Scottish security and resilience companies currently stand to benefit from HMG’s efforts to increase global UK security exports. The security and resilience industry in Scotland is estimated to generate over £200 million per annum and employ over 2,000 people. UK Government efforts to promote Scottish security firms overseas would cease in the event of independence; a significant potential loss to this important element of the Scottish economy.

In the event of a vote in favour of leaving the UK, Scotland would become an entirely new state and would have to establish its own security arrangements. The start-up costs and complexity of establishing separate intelligence, border and CBRN capabilities would be very significant. It would cease to enjoy the influence that derives from the UK’s established status as a key player within the international system and the opportunities this offers to advance the security and prosperity objectives of the UK including Scotland.

Future papers from the Scotland analysis programme will be published over the course of 2013 and 2014 to ensure that people in Scotland have access to the facts and information ahead of the referendum.


Victims of Crime

The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Damian Green): Today the Government have published a new Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Victims' Code).

The Victims' Code applies to all victims of criminal offences under the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) and sets out the services to be provided to victims of crime in England and Wales by criminal justice agencies.

The old code, written in 2006 was in need of revision as it was out of date and did not meet victims' needs - that is why the Government committed to review the code in the response to the 'Getting It Right For Victims and Witnesses' consultation in July 2012.

From 29 March to 10 May this year the Government held a public consultation on “Improving the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime”, seeking views on a draft code. The 197 responses received helped to inform the drafting of the new Victims' Code published today.

The new Victims' Code is written in plain English with victims of crime as the target audience. It meets the Government's commitment to deliver an accessible code that works for victims. It is structured around the journey victims of crime face when they come into contact with the criminal justice system and sets out the information, services and support they can expect to

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receive at every stage of the process. This includes enhanced entitlements for victims who are most in need, namely:

victims of the most serious crime;

persistently targeted victims; and

vulnerable or intimidated victims.

Key improvements to the new Victims' Code include:

Strengthening the voice of the victim by putting the Victim Personal Statement under a statutory code for the first time and giving an entitlement to victims to choose whether they would like to read their statement aloud in court or to have it read aloud on their behalf if the defendant is found guilty.

A separate chapter for businesses and an opportunity for businesses of all sizes to make an impact statement so that their voice is fully heard.

Information on restorative justice for victims of adult offenders for the first time. This includes a duty on criminal justice agencies to meet existing quality standards and put in place robust safeguards to ensure repeat victimisation does not occur.

An improved complaints process so that victims are better able to hold criminal justice agencies to account if things go wrong.

A new dedicated section for victims under 18 and their parents and guardians written in an accessible way.

An automatic referral of all victims to support services has been retained in the final version of the code. This change to the consultation version of the code will ensure consistent and immediate access to support services is provided to all victims.

It is crucial to the success of the new Victims' Code that victims, criminal justice practitioners and victims' organisations are fully aware of the services and support that victims of crime are entitled to receive. The Government are developing a wide-ranging communications package to raise awareness of the code, including leaflets on the code in various formats including EasyRead; a YouTube video and educational materials for use by schools, local government and voluntary organisations. This will help to make sure victims know what they are entitled to and that criminal justice agencies fulfil then obligations under the code.

A Statutory instrument will be laid in November, which will bring the code into force in December.

Copies of the new Victims' Code are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The Government Response to the consultation has been deposited in the libraries of both Houses. More information on the code and relevant consultation documents can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: https://consult.justice. gov.uk/digital-communications/code-victims-crime.



The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): The Government have today published “The Strategic Case for HS2”, an updated economic case and other supporting documents, including a technical report into possible alternatives to HS2 by Atkins and Network Rail

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I regard the publication of these documents as an important step in my preparations for laying the hybrid Bill before Parliament later this year and I consider this to be an opportune time to explain the benefits of HS2 clearly and comprehensively.

Good quality transport is at the heart of our economic success and the decisions we take now about transport investment will determine our country’s economic future.

The case for the new line rests on the step change in capacity and connectivity it will provide.

The new north-south railway is a long-term solution to a long-term problem. Without HS2, the west coast, east coast and midland main lines are likely to be overwhelmed. With it, we will transform intercity travel. There will also be benefits for regional and commuter services. It will increase the amount of freight that can be carried by rail.

HS2 will provide a very significant increase in capacity on the rail network. It will deliver a 14 trains per hour capability in phase 1, rising to 18 trains an hour in phase 2— transforming intercity rail services.

Significant journey time improvements will be possible, such as reducing the journey time between London and Manchester from two hours eight minutes to one hour eight minutes. HS2 will connect eight of our 10 largest cities and bring two thirds of the population within two hours of London.

And HS2 could provide space for at least an extra 20 west coast main line freight paths, with each extra freight train typically taking 40 lorries off our roads; easing congestion and reducing carbon emissions.

These transport improvements will help support economic growth and make a major contribution towards rebalancing the economy.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the new railway will be built in two phases. It will be fully integrated with the rest of the railway network. It will bring benefits to places with stations on the new railway including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London; to stations on the classic network like Liverpool, Darlington and Newcastle which will receive high-speed services; and to other places on the existing mainlines like Milton Keynes, Rugby and Peterborough, which will have better services from released capacity on the existing main lines.

Analysis by Atkins and Network Rail has considered whether we could meet the capacity challenge in other ways—for example through upgrades to the current railway. But HS2 emerges as the only option that provides not only the capacity and the connectivity this country needs, but is also deliverable, minimises disruption to existing rail services and allows us to leap ahead of demand and reshape the economic geography of the country.

The updated economic case scrutinises again the costs and benefits of HS2. The new analysis shows that the Y network delivers a good return on investment, with a standard cost benefit ratio of 2.3.

HS2 has been allocated a funding envelope of £42.6 billion in the 2015 spending review and will not exceed that allocation. It includes £14.4 billion of contingency, which I am determined to bear down on and I have put in place rigorous controls, including a target price for HS2.

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We are continuing to work with the construction and supply industry and with local communities to ensure that this unprecedented investment in a new north-south line will deliver the best possible return to the British economy, and be built at the lowest possible cost and with the lowest possible environmental impact.

I am laying copies of these documents in the Libraries of both Houses.

Highways Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): Today I am beginning a period of public consultation on the Government's proposals for transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company.

At the spending round in June, the Government announced a transformational investment in our strategic road network worth £28bn by 2022 and up to £50bn over the next generation. To ensure efficient and effective delivery of this, the Government also set out plans for reforming the way our strategic roads are managed and run in Action for Roads.

We promised to consult later in 2013 on the details of transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company, with a long-term framework for roads investment and creating an independent watchdog to ensure that the interests of road users are represented and the company's performance is subject to effective scrutiny and challenge.

The consultation sets out the Government's detailed proposals for:

Setting up the Highways Agency as a government-owned company, with a licence regime and comprehensive governance framework to ensure the company is properly held to account. This company will remain in public ownership and we will seek to guarantee this through legislation.

The process through which we expect to set the Roads Investment Strategy (RIS), which will contain a clear performance specification, a guaranteed statement of available funding and a defined funding and investment programme. This will make the company more transparent, and let road users and the public hold it to account for what it has promised to deliver. It will also give confidence to suppliers over investment plans and future funding levels, enabling

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them to plan ahead, drive down costs and recruit and train the workers needed to deliver the increase in road projects over the coming years.

Establishing a road user watchdog and efficiency monitor, using existing organisations such as Passenger Focus and the Office of Rail Regulation to make use of existing experience and avoid creating unnecessary new bodies. Together, these functions will ensure that the interests of road users are well-represented and given a strong voice in influencing what the company delivers, and that the company's performance is subject to effective independent scrutiny and challenge.

Transferring the necessary powers and duties to the company in order for it to effectively operate, manage and improve the strategic road network with day-to-day operational freedom and flexibility, by designating the company as the statutory "highways authority" and adjusting other legislation where necessary. This includes ensuring that the company will continue to work in partnership with local authorities, emergency services and others bodies, and safeguarding current protections regarding environmental and safety standards.

The consultation also explains how the terms and conditions of staff will be protected during the transfer. Separately to this, the Highways Agency will continue to work with representatives to keep staff fully informed.

The outcome of this consultation will inform the final model of the new company, and shape the legislation needed to empower the new company, which we plan to introduce in 2014.

The Government believe that the proposals set out in this consultation provide the freedom and flexibility for the roads operator to deliver efficiently and effectively without day-to-day interference from central Government. At the same time, they put in place sufficient accountability and safeguards to ensure that the roads are run responsibly and in the public interest. It is expected that these reforms will enable cost savings for the taxpayer of at least £2.6 billion over 10 years.

A copy of the consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document is available at:


Related to this consultation, I am today also publishing an impact assessment containing analysis of the impacts of these proposed changes.