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Written Statements

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Business, Innovation and Skills

UK Green Investment Bank

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I would like to inform Parliament that I have agreed with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Secretary of State for International Development that the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) will be working with their Departments to explore the potential for GIB to assist in investment of the UK’s international climate fund (ICF).

GIB has been very successful in mobilising private sector investment into the UK’s green infrastructure and economy—since its official launch in autumn 2012, it has committed £1.3 billion to green projects in the UK, and mobilised an additional £3.3 billion of private sector funds. The projects supported by GIB will, when complete, save 3.5 million tonnes of C02 per year.

At the same time, the Government have ambitious targets for providing support to projects in developing countries that will mitigate climate change or enable communities to adapt to its effects. We have already allocated £3.87 billion to the UK’s ICF to finance such projects. We are keen to explore how the depth of expertise in GIB, and the commercial discipline that it brings to its transactions, can benefit the deployment of climate aid to mitigation projects in developing countries, alongside existing and planned ICF investments including international initiatives such as the green climate fund.

To this end, GIB will be working with the Government over the coming months to assess the feasibility of the GIB developing and managing some ICF projects. This will have no impact on the resources or £3.8 billion of funding which we have allocated to GIB for investment in the UK. GIB remains fully committed to helping the UK meet its domestic climate change goals. Indeed, this additional activity should benefit GIB’S core UK operations as GIB further builds its global reputation both as an expert in project finance for green projects and as a potential manager of other people’s funds.

Should the Government decide to move beyond, to the pilot, we will make a further ministerial statement to Parliament.

Cabinet Office

Big Lottery Fund (Triennial Review)

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): On 21 November 2013, as Minister with responsibility for Civil Society, I announced in Parliament through a written ministerial statement, Official Report, column 55WS,

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commencement of the triennial review of the Big Lottery Fund. I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.

The review concludes that the functions performed by the Big Lottery Fund are still required and that it should be retained as a non-departmental public body (NDPB). The review also looked at the governance arrangements for the fund in line with guidance on good corporate governance and considered the efficiency and effectiveness of the fund. The report, which has been examined by a challenge group, makes recommendations in this respect.

The full report of the review of the Big Lottery Fund can be found on the gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Communities and Local Government

Private Rented Sector Programme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Kris Hopkins): The Government are investing in building a bigger and better private rented sector through the Department for Communities and Local Government’s expanding the private rented sector programme. The programme’s work includes the £3.5 billion private rented sector housing debt guarantee scheme, the £1billion Build to Rent fund and the private rented sector taskforce.

The Build to Rent fund provides development phase finance to large-scale private rented sector projects and is on track to create up to 10,000 new homes for private rent. It will demonstrate the viability of developing and investing in large-scale private rented sector developments. The programme received £1.4 billion of bids under round 1. This round of funding is currently expected to support 2,550 homes across England in locations that include Durham, Liverpool, Manchester and London. Five round 1 projects with a combined value of over £74.5 million are already in contract and will deliver over 1,000 new homes for private rent; construction has already started in Southampton (Centenary Quay) and Manchester (Three Towers), with further round 1 projects undergoing legal work in advance of exchange of contracts.

Bidding for round 2 of the Build to Rent fund was significantly oversubscribed, receiving 126 bids to the value of around £3 billion. Thirty-five projects on the shortlist from round 2 are now going through a competitive due diligence process, with successful bids receiving funding to deliver thousands of new homes. A list of all shortlisted bids has been placed in the Library. Sixteen projects, with a combined value of circa £625 million, are already in detailed due diligence. The shortlist is over-programmed, meaning not all shortlisted projects will receive funding. Shortlisting and due diligence are the first stages of the Build to Rent approval process and the Homes and Communities Agency will continue to work with bidders until exchange of contracts in order to ensure value for money for taxpayers. I anticipate that all round 1 projects will be in contract by the end of June 2014 and the first round 2 contracts are scheduled to be signed by autumn 2014.

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In addition to direct funding, the Government’s private rented sector taskforce is continuing to build the private rented sector as an investment market and have identified £10 billion of domestic and foreign investment available in the private rented sector.

The Government propose to guarantee long-term debt raised by housing providers investing in large scale, new build private rented housing projects through the £3.5 billion private rented sector housing debt guarantee scheme. The scheme aims to facilitate the construction of new private rented accommodation through incentivising private sector investment. Specifically, the guarantees will use the Government’s fiscal credibility to reduce the cost of borrowing for private rented sector housing providers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government intends to take on a contingent liability for the guaranteed debt of up to £3.5 billion (nominal value of the guaranteed debt). This is a limit, not a target for the guarantees. How much of it is used will depend on the appetite of those who apply for the guarantees and the quality of the applications. This amount forms part of the £10 billion made available for both housing guarantees schemes. Should demand for private rented sector guarantees exceed £3.5 billion, the Government may make available a greater share of the total £10 billion for private rented sector housing. I will, of course, inform Parliament in a further minute before taking this step.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is open for business to issue direct private rented sector housing debt guarantees and continues to progress discussions with a number of borrowers looking to invest in large-scale developments. Following extensive pre-market engagement, on 18 March 2014, the Department also launched a procurement exercise for a delivery partner for the private rented sector housing debt guarantees scheme, with the aim of increasing access for smaller borrowers and maximising take up of the guarantees. My Department is currently evaluating bids to perform the role and I expect the delivery partner to be in place in autumn 2014 and approving its first borrowers in early 2015.

A departmental minute providing full details of contingent liabilities arising from the issuing of private rented sector housing debt guarantees is being laid before Parliament.


Training Libyan Troops in the UK

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): On 9 July last year, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs informed the House that the UK had offered to train up to 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel in basic infantry skills as part of an international commitment with other G8 nations to train a general purpose force to help the Libyan Government disarm and integrate militias and improve the security and stability of the country.

I am pleased to inform the House that today we are starting training for the first tranche (around 325) of Libyan recruits at Bassingbourn Camp. The training, in basic infantry and junior command skills, will be carried out by troops from 3 Scots and will last for 24 weeks.

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These recruits have been carefully vetted by the Libyan Government and Home Office officials to ensure that security and immigration controls are maintained and that those selected are representative of all of Libya. We have also started to work with the Libyan Government and international partners on plans for reintegration of trainees after their return to Libya.

In the year since the Prime Minister announced the UK’s commitment to the general purpose force initiative, the unstable political and security situation in Libya has underlined the complex challenges and the need for the international community to support the transition to a stable, open and democratic Libya.

Libya faces many challenges as a result of over four decades of misrule. It will take time for state institutions to become effective and for Libyans to agree on the path of their own democratic transition. The UK, along with our international partners, remains committed to support Libya. The start of the training of the general purpose force is a further testament to this commitment.


National Curriculum

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): On 11 September 2013, I published the new national curriculum for all subjects except for English, mathematics and science at key stage 4. Following a consultation on draft programmes of study for key stage 4 English and mathematics from 2 December 2013 to 3 February 2014, the Department is consulting, until 13 June, on the draft order and regulations that will give effect to the new programmes of study. The final programmes of study are planned to be published by the end of the current school year.

Today, I am publishing for consultation the programme of study for science at key stage 4. The consultation will run until 23 July 2014. On 9 April 2014 we published the new GCSE subject content for science. It is important to consider this programme of study alongside the GCSE subject content to ensure that the curriculum and qualifications are fully coherent.

The programme of study in science at key stage 4 is more challenging. It has been drafted by experts to ensure that it sets expectations that match those in the highest performing jurisdictions. The content is closely aligned to GCSE combined science content. It builds upon and deepens understanding of ideas developed in earlier key stages in the subject disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. It focuses on the big ideas in science such as evolution and inheritance, the atomic structure and energy and forces and includes new content on developing areas such as the human genome. The working scientifically section emphasises the importance of practical work including experimental skills, analysis and evaluation of data and the understanding and nature of scientific evidence. It makes clear that working scientifically should be embedded within the subject content across all three science disciplines.

The key stage 4 programme of study for science will be introduced from September 2016, alongside first teaching of the new science GCSEs.

Copies of the consultation on the programme of study for key stage 4 science will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Registration

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon): (The hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission:) The Electoral Commission has today published a report containing an analysis of electoral registration data relating to the 2013 annual canvass—the last household registration canvass in Great Britain. The report also includes an update of its final assessment of the performance of Electoral Registration Officers’ (EROs) performance in 2013.

The Commission reports that overall, the canvass was well run, and the key outcomes from the canvass were similar to those in previous years. The overall level of response to the canvass was 94%, although the absolute number of entries on the registers has declined slightly from December 2012 (the parliamentary register declined by 0.5%, the local government register declined by 0.1%).

The decline in numbers on the registers can be largely attributed to the lower level of electors carried forward by EROs. The Commission reports that EROs have a power, not a duty, to carry electors forward in circumstances where they do not have confirmation that they still live at their previously-registered address. It is for each individual ERO to decide whether to exercise that power at the end of the annual canvass. EROs should make their decision based on their individual, local knowledge, and they should consider the balance between the risk of retaining electors who may no longer be eligible, and the risk of removing electors who are in fact still eligible, meaning they are potentially disenfranchised.

The Commission reports that the decline in the use of carry forward on conclusion of the 2013 canvass can be explained by a decision by some EROs not to exercise their power to carry forward entries in advance of the transition to individual electoral registration (IER), when electors who are currently on the register but have been carried forward will need to go through a separate process in order to remain registered and cannot be automatically transferred to the new IER register following confirmation.

The decisions taken by EROs at the end of the 2013 canvass will change the nature but not the scale of the challenge facing them in the transition to IER. In each case, while the administration process will vary, they will still need to carry out work to target all individuals in their area who are not registered individually, and these individuals will all need to take some action in order to be included on the revised register published on the conclusion of the 2014 canvass.

On 31 March, the Commission published a report on readiness for the transition to IER, which included an assessment of ERO performance in 2013. The Commission noted in that previous report that as the canvass was completed only very shortly before its publication, detailed analysis of the electoral registration data, which informs the Commission’s assessment of ERO performance, was still under way. It also explained the Commission’s expectation that, as was the case in 2011 and 2012, this

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continuing analysis might identify some further EROs whose canvass activity did not, in practice, meet the standard.

The Commission’s detailed analysis of the registration data has identified that in addition to the five EROs (for Mid Devon, Taunton Deane, Torridge, West Devon and West Somerset) who reported that they did not meet performance standard 3—the house-to-house enquiry standard—in 2013, there are a further 17 EROs who did not ensure that during 2013 all non-responding properties were canvassed in person.

These are the EROs for: Broxbourne Borough council; Castle Point Borough council; Ceredigion County council; Durham County council; East Devon District council; Gwynedd County council; Kingston-upon-Hull City council; Maldon District council; Mid Sussex District council; Northumberland County council; North Devon District council; North Dorset District council; North East Lincolnshire council; North Warwickshire Borough council; Scarborough Borough council; Sedgemoor District council and South Staffordshire council.

This means that the Commission’s final assessment is that 22 EROs (6%) did not meet the standard in 2013. (In 2012, 30 EROs did not meet the standard).

The reasons given by each ERO for not carrying out house-to-house enquiries with all non-responding households are provided within the Commission’s report. The Commission has written specifically to those hon. Members whose ERO(s) have failed to meet the standard and it will soon write to all hon. Members to update them regarding the progress of the transition to IER. This update will include suggested questions which hon. Members may wish to put to their local EROs regarding what practices they follow, and propose to follow in future, in order to keep their electoral registers as complete and accurate as possible.

Although IER will present different challenges from the household registration system—particularly in the unique circumstances of the 2014 write-out and canvass period—house-to-house enquiries will remain a key area of ERO performance which will continue to be of significant importance in ensuring registers are as accurate and complete as possible. The Commission report that they will continue to work with those EROs who did not meet performance standard 3 in 2013 to ensure they have arrangements in place to carry out house-to-house enquiries as required under IER, and will continue to monitor their progress to ensure that they deliver this in practice.

In the event that an ERO does not carry out these enquiries, the Commission will consider all available options to ensure that EROs are carrying out their duties in full. This could include making a recommendation to the Secretary of State to issue a direction to the ERO to require them to make improvements to their performance in the discharge of their functions. Discussions are already under way between Commission and Cabinet Office officials to confirm the process to be followed in any such situations, ensuring that action can be taken quickly in the event of any issues emerging.

Copies of the Commission’s report have been placed in the library and it is also available on the Commission’s website: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/.

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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 will be on 16 and 17 June in Luxembourg. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), will represent the UK. Richard Lochhead MSP and Alun Davies AM will also attend.

There are both fisheries and agriculture items on this month’s agenda.

On agriculture the Commission may present its progress reports on proposals for a regulation combining and reinforcing existing school fruit and milk schemes, and a regulation fixing certain aids and refunds related to the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products. Draft Council conclusions on the Commission’s reports on the implementation of the provisions concerning producer organisations, operational funds and operational programmes in the fruit and vegetables sector since the 2007 reform and an optional quality term “product of island farming” will be adopted. The Commission will present its report on the development of the market situation in the milk and milk products sector. A Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations on agreements between the European Union and third countries on trade in organic products may be adopted. There will also be an exchange of views on the implementation of CAP reform at national level.

The Minister will join informal talks with US Secretary of Agriculture Mr Tom Vilsack during a working lunch hosted by the presidency and Commission.

On fisheries there will be a state of play item to endorse a draft omnibus (landing obligation) regulation. The presidency is expected to present a state of play paper on the implementation of the common fisheries policy discard plans in all regions followed by an exchange of views. Denmark has requested a discussion on setting the capelin total allowable catch (TAC) for 2014.

There are currently four any other business items:

Animal and plant health control package

Plant reproductive material

Country of origin labelling for meat

Conference in Athens “Scientific support to agriculture: Competitiveness, quality and sustainability”

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

South Sudan

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): I wish to update the House on the situation in South Sudan and UK efforts to help resolve the conflict.

We remain deeply concerned about the security situation and growing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The agreement reached by the parties on 9 May seeks to end months of fighting, in which atrocities have been committed by both sides. Although the fighting on the ground has

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diminished, the ceasefire remains fragile. Regional leaders, led by Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia, have made clear that they will not stand by while South Sudan descends further into conflict. We continue fully to support regional efforts to broker inclusive and substantive peace talks leading towards a lasting political settlement.

The already fragile humanitarian situation in South Sudan has become desperate. Since the conflict started, thousands of innocent civilians have died and 1.3 million have fled their homes, of whom 80,000 have sought shelter in UN bases and 300,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Millions more face the serious threat of famine. Humanitarian access continues to be restricted by both sides. Enabling humanitarian access and assistance is an immediate priority for the UK. When I visited South Sudan in April and met the South Sudanese vice-president, I made clear that South Sudan was on the brink of disaster.

This Government are also concerned about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan. On 8 May, the UN mission in South Sudan issued a human rights report that makes clear the scale of human rights atrocities committed since the conflict began. It concludes that civilians were directly targeted by forces on both sides, often along ethnic lines. South Sudan’s own National Human Rights Commission has come to broadly similar judgements. Justice is essential for sustainable peace and national reconciliation in South Sudan. It is therefore vital that all allegations are subjected to thorough, impartial investigation and that perpetrators are brought to justice. The UK looks forward to the outcome of investigations of the African Union’s commission of inquiry on South Sudan.

The Foreign Secretary and I, working with our international counterparts since the conflict started, have urged President Kiir and former Vice-President Machar to show leadership by ending the fighting and committing to an inclusive political process. We have increased our diplomatic and political engagement with regional leaders to encourage international unanimity and pressure on both sides to resolve the crisis through dialogue. UK officials work closely with regional mediators and others to maintain pressure on the parties and ensure that the international community speaks with one voice. We are considering all levers at our disposal, including the possibility of targeted sanctions, which we are currently discussing with EU partners.

In addition to diplomatic and political support, the UK continues to provide financial assistance and expertise to the regional mediation efforts led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). UK expertise supports both the political process and arrangements for monitoring and verifying ceasefire violations. The swift deployment of the protection force for the IGAD monitoring and verification mechanism as part of the UN mission in South Sudan will help build confidence and ensure that the fragile ceasefire holds.

In the UN Security Council, the UK worked to achieve a more focused mandate for the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), adopted on 27 May 2014 as UN security council resolution 2155 (2014). The new mandate will allow UNMISS to respond more effectively to the current situation in South Sudan, focusing on better protection of civilians, enabling the provision of

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humanitarian assistance, monitoring the human rights situation and crucially providing protection and other support to regional efforts to maintain a ceasefire.

At the UN Human Rights Council this month we are aiming, with African support, for a strong resolution that properly reflects the seriousness of recent events in South Sudan. The gravity of the situation in South Sudan will also be highlighted at this week’s global summit to end sexual violence in conflict that the Foreign Secretary is co-hosting with Angelina Jolie, special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

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The UK is one of the leading donors to the humanitarian effort in South Sudan, contributing around £93.5 million since the conflict started, including £13 million for regional support to refugees. UK humanitarian assistance helps support food security and provides an emergency lifeline of tents, health care and other vital supplies to millions. At the Oslo humanitarian pledging conference on 20 May, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development announced new UK funding of £60 million for the humanitarian effort in South Sudan.