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Written Statements

Monday 30 June 2014


Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

The Attorney-General (Mr Dominic Grieve): I am announcing today the Government’s intention to table amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill [HL Bill 30] which would omit clauses 51 and 52 from the Bill. Clause 51 would amend the Contempt of Court Act 1981, in particular, to provide that a publication will not be treated as being in contempt of court under the strict liability rule in connection with legal proceedings where the publication is first made available before those proceedings are active. Under this clause, this defence would cease to be available on my giving notice to the publisher. Clause 52 would provide a related right of appeal against court injunctions.

The genesis of clause 51 was the Law Commission report Contempt of Court (1): Juror Misconduct and Internet Publications (Law Com No 340). The Commission’s consultation and review revealed concern among the mainstream media at their vulnerability to proceedings for contempt in relation to online archive material. The concern was that the law as it currently stands means prejudicial online material, even if published before proceedings became active, is still subject to the laws of contempt. The Commission acknowledged this and put forward a proposal that the Attorney-General should be responsible for alerting publishers to the presence of material which was potentially prejudicial and that proceedings were active. Until such time as an Attorney-General’s notice was served, a publisher would have a defence to contempt proceedings. The proposal was intended to provide the media with a measure of protection and reassurance while at the same time enabling the integrity of proceedings to be safeguarded. The Government agreed with the Commission’s legal analysis and believed the proposal struck the right balance between the right to a fair trial and the freedom of the press.

Although intended as a measure designed to assist and protect the media, the clause has been criticised on the grounds that it gives too much power to the Attorney-General. These representations were made to me, in particular, by the Society of Editors who in addition do not accept that this clause addresses a pressing problem and have suggested that the current powers available are sufficient to protect proceedings. In addition, the Joint Committee on Human Rights—14th Report of Session 2013-14—while considering that the provisions of the Bill are

“in principle an improvement on the position under the current law”,

have raised concerns about the safeguards connected with the notice procedure.

The Government have considered these concerns very carefully. Although the Government remain of the view that this is a balanced and measured proposal, they recognise the disquiet surrounding the proposal. Given that this measure was designed to assist the media, it is

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significant that representatives of the media consider that this provision does not do so. While the Government consider that the notice provision would be an improvement for the media, courts and Attorneys-General alike, it is satisfied that the existing law will continue to provide satisfactory protection to the integrity of legal proceedings. On this basis, the Government have decided not to pursue this measure or the related clause on rights of appeal. The Government will accordingly table amendments to omit these clauses at the first opportunity.



The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nicky Morgan): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Luxembourg on 20 June 2014. The following agenda items were discussed:

Draft general EU budget for 2015

The European Commission presented its draft for the EU’s general budget for 2015. The UK made clear that the European Commission should not be asking for a cash increase to the annual budget of almost 5% compared to the agreed 2014 annual budget at a time when countries across Europe continue to take difficult decisions to deal with deficits.

Parent Subsidiary Directive

Council agreed an amending directive to the parent subsidiary directive, which will effectively close a tax loophole whereby companies operating across Europe could exploit differences between member states in the tax classification of certain financial instruments in order to reduce their overall tax liability.

Current Legislative Proposals

The presidency provided an update on the ongoing work on financial services.

Level 2 legislation on bank contributions under Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the Single Resolution Mechanism

The Council discussed the preparation of implementing legislation that will determine the contributions to be paid by banks to resolution funds established under the directive on Bank Recovery and Resolution (BRRD) and the regulation on the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM).

Code of Conduct (Business taxation)

Ministers endorsed the report on business taxation prepared by the code of conduct group, and adopted the report’s conclusions.

European Semester 2014

Ministers approved recommendations for 26 member states and the euro area as a whole, in preparation for discussions at European Council on 26 and 27 June, and subsequent adoption at ECOFIN on 8 July.

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Council adopted decisions bringing to an end excessive deficit procedures for six member states.

Ministers endorsed terms of reference on the review of the methodology for assessing effective action in the context of the excessive deficit procedure.

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Joint ECB and Commission Convergence Reports (including euro area enlargement)

Euro area member states adopted a recommendation on the adoption of the euro by Lithuania, in preparation for discussions at European Council on 26/27 June, and formal adoption at ECOFIN on 8 July.


Reserve Forces (Cyprus)

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): With the expiry of the call-out order made on 29 June 2013, a new order has been made under section 56(l)(a) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service as part of the UK’s contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

One hundred and fourteen reservists have been called out for UN operations in Cyprus over the last 12 months. Over the period this new order is in force we anticipate calling out around 60 reservists, who will be fully integrated with their regular colleagues. While the use of reserves in Cyprus is now considered routine business, it is fully in line with our policy of having more capable, usable, integrated and relevant reserve forces.

The order takes effect from 28 June 2014 and ceases to have effect on 31 December 2014.

Gifting of Equipment to Afghanistan

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I have today laid before the House a Ministry of Defence departmental minute describing a gifting package which the UK intends to make to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Towards the end of 2014, UK forces will redeploy from southern Helmand, returning Camp Bastion to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). The built infrastructure will largely remain in place, together with some equipment that will be required by UK forces to the end and will not, therefore, be able to be sold or redeployed.

This gifting is expected to underpin the transition by supporting the further development of a capable, credible and confident Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), within a sustainable security footing. The combined effect of training, mentoring and sustainment through gifting will help secure the positive support of the ANSF to UK and US forces and increase the capability of the ANSF. This is seen as being a key factor in enabling a low-risk extraction of the UK and US forces from Camp Bastion.

There has been very little UK property gifted to GIRoA, other than in cases where the handover of infrastructure at outlying locations has offset the cost to the UK of remediation. Our priority has been to seek best value for the taxpayer through redeployment and by the release of surplus property for sale. This policy will remain during our extraction from Bastion and, where the opportunity arises to redeploy valuable equipment for future contingency operations rather than gifting, this will be undertaken.

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The departmental minute, which I have today laid before the House, describes the gifting package to the GIRoA.

Subject to completion of the departmental minute process, gifting is expected to be undertaken by the end of 2014.

Tornado ZD743 and ZD812 (Service Inquiry)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry): I wish to inform the House of the findings of the service inquiry into the accident involving two Tornado GR4 aircraft of XV(Reserve) Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth on 3 July 2012, in which Sqn Ldr Sam Bailey, Fit Lt Hywel Poole and Fit Lt Adam Sanders tragically died. On the day of the accident, the two aircraft were conducting training sorties when they collided over the Moray Firth.

A service inquiry was convened by the director-general of the Military Aviation Authority to establish the cause and examine those factors which contributed to the accident and to make recommendations to ensure that the circumstances which led to the collision are avoided in the future. The service inquiry panel has conducted an independent, thorough and objective inquiry and their report is now complete.

A copy of the report has already been provided to relevant personnel and units in defence to ensure the timely dissemination of these air safety lessons. The recommendations from the report have either been addressed or are in the process of being addressed.

A copy of the service inquiry, redacted in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, is being placed in the Library of the House today and on the Ministry of Defence website. Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council/General Affairs Council

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 on 23 June, and I attended the General Affairs Council on 24 June. The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) 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 (GAC) was chaired by the Greek presidency. The meetings were held in Luxembourg.

Commissioner Füle (Enlargement) was in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC. Commissioners Šefcovic (Inter-institutional relations and Administration) and Füle were in attendance for some of the discussions at the GAC. President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy was present for the GAC ministerial lunch which discussed preparations for the 26 and 27 June European Council.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa. eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/143347.pdf.

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Introductory remarks

Baroness Ashton updated Ministers on the situation in Kosovo following the elections on 8 June. On Iran, she reminded Ministers that the E3+3 joint plan of action was due to expire on 20 July.

Under AOB, the Foreign Secretary raised the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, which launched the new international protocol. Implementation was the next step, and the Foreign Secretary looked to the EU to mainstream this into its crisis response and conflict prevention work. In addition under AOB, Croatia highlighted the severity of the recent floods in the Balkans, and Poland argued for broadening the remit of the European Endowment for Democracy’s work.


The newly appointed Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin attended part of the FAC to present President Poroshenko’s peace plan. Mr Klimkin stressed that the peace process should be inclusive, and reflected on the risk of further destabilisation of the situation. He acknowledged the need for social and economic development in eastern Ukraine. On Crimea, he set out the political, economic and humanitarian challenges that faced the Government of Ukraine. Klimkin said Ukraine had begun preparations for implementation of the EU/Ukraine association agreement, and noted that the Government of Ukraine was committed to European integration. He underlined the importance of energy security.

Ministers continued the discussion after Klimkin left. The Foreign Secretary noted the importance of continued diplomacy and of maintaining pressure on Russia to de-escalate, including by being ready to move to further measures. Ministers agreed to establish a civilian common security and defence policy mission, a key UK priority, and decided to prohibit the import into the EU of goods originating in Crimea or Sevastopol without a certificate of origin from the Government of Ukraine. Ministers agreed conclusions which make it clear that preparatory work on sanctions continues so that further steps can be taken should events in eastern Ukraine so require, and restate the Council’s strong condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea. The conclusions also welcome President Poroshenko’s inauguration; express support for his peace plan as a major chance for de-escalation, and call on Russia to support the peace plan and adopt measures to stop the flow of illegal fighters, arms and equipment into Ukraine. Ministers also encouraged the Ukrainian authorities in their reforms, expressed concern about the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and looked forward to an end to the gas dispute.

Southern Neighbourhood

Ministers discussed Libya, and agreed conclusions calling for political dialogue and peaceful elections on 25 June, reaffirming EU support for improving Libya’s border controls and securing arms stockpiles. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the work of international envoys.

On Egypt, Baroness Ashton issued a statement expressing Ministers’ concern about the recent court cases, including the sentences pronounced against the al-Jazeera journalists. After the FAC the Foreign Secretary told the press that he was “absolutely appalled” and said that

“Egypt has taken a major step in the wrong direction”.

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Ministers also discussed the importance of the EU providing more support to Tunisia to promote economic growth to underpin Tunisia’s political reforms.

Iraq and Syria

Ministers discussed the latest developments in Iraq, in the presence of Nikolay Mladenov, UN Special Representative for Iraq. Ministers were united in concern about the rapidly deteriorating security situation, strongly condemning the attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Mladenov set out his five-point plan for Iraq, including humanitarian assistance, an inclusive political process, and work with the Kurds.

The Foreign Secretary said that Ministers may need to consider a new architecture to handle the transnational threat that ISIL represented, involving regional actors. He called for humanitarian assistance for Iraq, and continued pressure on the Syrian regime for a political solution, humanitarian access and chemical weapons destruction.

Ministers agreed conclusions on Iraq, condemning ISIL’s attacks and human rights abuses. The conclusions call on Iraqi leaders to unite to fight terrorism and underline the need for political reconciliation and more inclusive Government. The conclusions also pledge €5 million of EU humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of internally displaced persons.

On Syria, Ministers agreed to extend sanctions to 12 Ministers.

Kidnap for Ransom

Ministers agreed conclusions on Kidnap for Ransom, a key step in our drive to develop international consensus against paying ransoms. In line with the commitments made at the G8 summit and UN Security Council Resolution 2133, the conclusions condemn the use of Kidnap for Ransom and unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms and political concessions. They reaffirm the EU’s commitment to uphold UN resolutions which require all UN member states to prevent terrorists benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments.

Other business

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures, including the following:

The Council adopted conclusions on Thailand; Afghanistan; on the Union’s approach on responsible sourcing of minerals; on the 10th anniversary of the EU guidelines on human rights defenders; and on the role of the private sector in development.

The Council amended EU restrictive measures against the Central African Republic in the light of UN Security Council Resolution 2127 (2013).

The Council extended the restrictive measures against the leadership of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova until 31 October 2014.

The Council adopted the EU’s annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in 2013.

The Council approved the EU priorities for the 69th UN General Assembly.

The Council extended the mandates of the EU special representative for human rights and of the EU special representative in Afghanistan until 28 February 2015 and agreed on the budget for their activities.

The Council approved the budget for the activities of the EU special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the period from 1 July 2014 until 30 June 2015.

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The Council approved the association agendas between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova, and between the European Union and Georgia.

The Council approved the EU position for the first meeting of the Association Council with central America.

General Affairs Council

The 24 June 2014 General Affairs Council (GAC) focused on: the enlargement and stabilisation and association process; a report on following up European Council conclusions; the preparation of the 26 and 27 June European Council; the European semester process; the application of article 10 of protocol 36 to the treaties; the 18-month programme of the Council; the EU maritime security strategy; and the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region. Under any other business, the GAC discussed EU cohesion policy and the flooding in Bulgaria.

A provisional report of the meeting can be found at:


Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process

The GAC considered Albania. Since the GAC last discussed the issue, Albania has made progress on key justice and home affairs (JHA) reforms, including a seven-fold increase in cocaine seizures and action to dismantle a fraudulent passport factory, tackling illegal migration. The Government therefore agreed candidate status, but only on a clear understanding in the GAC conclusions that Albania still has much work to do and will need to show sustained political commitment to tackling deep-rooted problems, including through concrete and measurable steps. Candidate status is a symbolic step which has no implications for migration, no automaticity for joining the EU and is not a decision to open accession negotiations. The Government will adopt a very rigorous approach at every stage of this long process to ensure that Albania roots out corruption, cracks down on organised crime and firmly institutionalises the rule of law.

In my intervention, I also raised the importance of the GAC returning in December to the issue of reform of transitional controls on free movement for future enlargements, in the context of its consideration of the Commission’s annual enlargement package to be published this autumn.

Report on following up European Council conclusions

The presidency presented its report on the implementation of European Council conclusions covering: economic issues; the European semester process; climate and energy; and justice and home affairs.

Preparation of the June European Council

The GAC discussed the draft conclusions for the 26 and 27 June European Council, which the Prime Minister and other EU leaders will attend. The June European Council will include a dinner in Ypres on 26 June to commemorate the outbreak of the first world war followed by a Council meeting on 27 June in Brussels.

The June European Council is expected to focus on: the future justice and home affairs programme; economic issues, including better regulation; climate and energy including a Commission report on EU energy security; and Ukraine. Association agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will be signed. The issue of the EU’s strategic priorities and institutional changes is also likely to be discussed.

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I reaffirmed the need for clear objectives on job creation, growth and competitiveness; and called for text on the EU’s priorities to be as focused and ambitious as possible.

European Semester

Following discussion at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on 19 June and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 20 June, the GAC approved the European semester country specific recommendations (CSRs) published by the Commission to all non-programme EU member states.

The advice to the UK is to continue reducing the deficit, tackle youth unemployment, reform the housing market and invest in infrastructure. This is generally in line with the Government’s long-term economic plan and reflects the advice of others.

Application of Article 10 of Protocol 36 to the Treaties

The Council discussed the UK’s decision pursuant to article 10 of protocol 36 to the treaties to opt-out of all pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures. The Council noted that the UK Government and the Commission had reached an understanding on the list of non-Schengen pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures that the UK Government would seek to rejoin. In respect of the Schengen pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures, the Council recalled that it had previously provisionally noted a broad technical agreement on the draft Council decision although at this stage not all reservations could be lifted.

18-month programme of the Council

The new EU presidency trio of Italy, Latvia and Luxembourg presented their programme for the Council for the period of 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2015. This will focus on: growth and jobs; fundamental rights; climate and energy; and the post-2015 development programme.

The EU Maritime Security Strategy

The GAC adopted the EU maritime security strategy (EU MSS). The strategy aims to define the maritime security threats, risks and interests affecting the EU, while also strengthening the EU’s response to them. It will also serve to inform future action plans—due to be produced under the Italian presidency—which incorporate maritime security considerations more widely across EU policies.

The EU MSS is broadly consistent with the UK’s maritime security objectives and we will continue to work with European and other international partners on this global issue.

EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region

The Commission presented its communication and action plan for the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region. Italy confirmed that it would take this forward during their presidency.

Under any other business, the GAC discussed the idea of holding formal sessions of the General Affairs Council dedicated to cohesion policy to allow greater scrutiny at a political level of its implementation over the 2014-20 multi-annual financial perspective, and its contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy. No clear conclusions were reached on this at this stage.

The GAC also considered and expressed sympathy for the recent flooding affecting Bulgaria which has caused considerable damage to infrastructure.

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Gifting of Equipment to Pakistan

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): The Government are committed to developing counter-terrorism capability in Pakistan in furtherance of their counter-terrorism objectives under the counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST). As part of this approach, the UK assists key partner nations to develop effective and sustainable counter-terrorism capabilities which operate in line with agreed international human rights standards. By helping countries to undertake counter-terrorism activities locally, it targets the problem at source and reduces the risk of a terrorist attack against that nation or another.

Pakistan has a particularly severe problem with improvised explosive device (IED) attacks perpetrated by terrorist groups and insurgents based within the country. Pakistan has sought assistance from the UK in tackling this threat and developing the capabilities of its security forces. The UK is delivering a counter-improvised explosive device (CIED) programme to assist Pakistan in establishing a multi-agency capability for tackling IEDs. The programme aims to build capacity to dismantle IED networks and improve intelligence available to countering emerging IED threats.

The project is now entering the final year of a three-year programme. A total of £6.995 million was allocated during the first two years which focused on training and gifting of equipment for the Pakistan Army, police, civil defence and frontier corps. Two departmental gifting minutes were laid on 15 October 2012 and 18 November 2013 in relation to these gifts.

The departmental minute laid today sets out our plans to gift counter improvised explosive device (CIED) equipment and training to Pakistan, totalling £4.72 million. Of this, an estimated £3.22 million is related to equipment as follows:

1) Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) Equipment (£2,471,000)

2) Search Equipment (£666,000)

3) Vehicles (£75,135)

4) Storage and flights (£7,865)

Alongside the gift, the cost of training, project delivery, key leader engagement and maintenance costs will be approximately £1.5 million. The training aims to enhance Pakistani police, civil defence and military capacity to dismantle IED networks and improve intelligence available to countering emerging IED threats.

The gift is being met through the supply procedure, together with a contribution of £400,000 from the Danish Government.

The package of equipment and training will provide the military and law-enforcement agencies with a valuable and sustainable capability to deal with the threat.

The request for the UK’s assistance in tackling the CIED issue is an excellent opportunity to work in partnership with Pakistan to develop its indigenous capability and mitigate the terrorist risk to the UK, Pakistan, the UK’s interests in Pakistan and wider south Asia region.

The proposed gift has been assessed and approved against the consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The proposed gift has been scrutinised and approved by the cross-HMG Overseas Contest

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Group, which has confirmed that it fits with the Government’s strategic and delivery objectives. FCO officials also assessed the project for human rights risks, using the overseas security and justice assistance guidelines established by the Foreign Secretary in 2011.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

Home Department

European Asylum Support Office

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is the agency that promotes practical co-operation on asylum between EU member states. It was established by the 2010 EASO regulation and the UK participates in it. The EASO has extended its co-operation to the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation which have now become observers at EASO through external agreements that were negotiated and adopted by the European Union. The UK opted-in to all four agreements on 3 February and two of them were adopted by the Council on 19 May.

These working arrangements will allow Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to participate in the EASO’s work and be entitled to receive support from it. All four associate countries already participate in the Dublin Regulation and contribute to its effective operation. We welcome the enhanced co-operation on asylum issues that these arrangements will bring and we look forward to their participation in future EASO initiatives.


Inquiries Act 2005

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Simon Hughes): Today I have published the Government’s response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Inquiries Act 2005.

Public inquiries are well regarded and valued by the people of this country as a means of holding public bodies to account, investigating matters of concern and maintaining confidence in just and transparent government. They are a means of bringing out into the open, and providing answers to, some of the most troubling events.

A post-legislative scrutiny review of the 2005 Act, carried out by this Government in 2010, concluded that the Act itself was generally working well but identified several areas of concern with the practical application of the Inquiry Rules 2006.

Four years on, the Select Committee’s timely and thorough report has been a great help in advancing the Government’s thinking on such questions as the applicability

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of the Act, its fitness for purpose, the powers of the inquiry Chair, and how to ensure that best practice is captured and passed on.

The Government have given careful consideration to the Committee’s 33 recommendations, agreeing with the majority of them. We will implement changes as soon as practicable and, where primary legislation is needed, when parliamentary time allows.

The Select Committee has made a significant contribution to the Government’s ongoing efforts to make inquiries more effective and efficient, and the benefits will be seen in the conduct of future inquiries.

Public inquiries which are in the appropriate form, conducted as speedily as possible, respond to public concerns and investigate the facts thoroughly are an essential part of an accountable and transparent democracy.

Copies of the Command Paper are available in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available online, at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-select-committee-post-legislative-scrutiny-of-the-inquiries-act-2005.


Essex Thameside Rail Franchise

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): On Friday 27 June 2014, the Department for Transport announced its intention to award the Essex Thameside franchise to NXET Trains Ltd. The franchise will begin in November this year (2014) and run for 15 years until 2029.

The new franchise builds on the firm foundation of high standards of punctuality and passenger satisfaction that passengers on the route have come to expect. The bid sets out a clear plan for how NXET Trains Ltd will seek to exceed these expectations and meet the significant demand for transport services that is expected from the continuing strong economic growth in the area.

This is an excellent bid for passengers and will provide a large number of improvements, which include:

Additional fleet of 17 brand new trains providing almost 4,800 extra seats;

More than 25,000 additional seats for the morning peak-time commuters every week by the end of the franchise;

£5 million invested to improve Barking station;

£1.6 million invested to improve Fenchurch street station;

£10 million on improving further stations across the route;

Making staff more visible at stations;

Over 200 new car parking spaces;

More than £457,000 spent on cycle spaces and other accessibility improvements;

Free wi-fi at stations and on board trains;

Better information for customers;

SMART ticketing scheme including automatic delay repay for passengers.

NXET Trains Ltd bid is an ambitious one that not only provides for existing and future passengers but also delivers great returns for the taxpayer with over £2 billion in premium expected to be paid to Government over the course of the franchise.

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In accordance with usual procurement practice, we are now in a standstill period of 10 days before my Department will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to NXET Trains Ltd.

Reaching this milestone demonstrates that rail franchising is on track and providing a world-class railway that benefits the taxpayer and has the passenger at its heart.

Work and Pensions

Child Maintenance Service

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Today the Government reach a key milestone in their progress towards reforming the child maintenance system in Great Britain, by first bringing into force the regulations allowing the Department for Work and Pensions to end child maintenance arrangements in the 1993 and 2003 child maintenance schemes and, secondly, introducing a range of fees for using the 2012 child maintenance scheme, managed by the Child Maintenance Service.

The Government want to help parents to reduce levels of conflict after a separation and work together more effectively. After a relationship breakdown most parents still want what is best for their children and we want to support them to achieve this. Wherever possible we want to encourage more parents to consider arranging maintenance directly between themselves, rather than viewing statutory child maintenance arrangements as the default option.

Both parents will be offered free information and support to help them make the right choices for them about their child maintenance arrangements through the Child Maintenance Options service.

For those unable to make their own arrangements, there is a new more efficient and effective child maintenance scheme, managed by the Child Maintenance Service.

The introduction of fees is designed to act as an incentive for parents to collaborate following a separation, encouraging them to think again before defaulting to the Child Maintenance Service. The fees are also about people making a small contribution to the cost of an expensive service that will continue to be heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. The Government do, however, recognise that the collection charges for paying parents should be higher as they have greater control over whether or not maintenance is paid. The charges are encouraging not just compliance but also a shift towards collaboration, which is in the best interests of the children involved.

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 19 June 2014 in Luxembourg. Shan Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the United Kingdom.

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The Council approved the country-specific recommendations (CSRs) on the national reform programmes 2014 for each member state, including the macro-economic imbalance procedure (MIP). The opinions of the Employment Committee (EMCO) and Social Protection Committee (SPC) on the examination of the national reform programmes 2013 and the implementation of the 2013 country-specific recommendations were endorsed. EMCO and SPC reports on cross-cutting issues were noted, as was the employment performance monitor (EPM).

During the policy debate on the European semester, the UK stated that it was pleased that the Commission had struck the right balance between providing recommendations and recognising progress. This year’s CSRs reflected the work under way in the UK in a number of areas where we were already seeing significant progress (youth unemployment, child care provision and Universal Credit). The UK also tabled a minute statement reiterating its position that education policies remain a national competence.

Ministers had an exchange of views on the social dimension of the EU and the European monetary union

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(EMU) for which the discussion centred on the value of minimum income schemes. The UK made it clear that minimum income schemes were an area of national competence and that a “one size fits all” approach would not work.

The presidency’s progress reports on the equal treatment directive, women on company boards directive and the European network of employment services, workers access to mobility services, and further integration of labour markets (EURES) regulation were noted. The presidency gave a progress report on the proposal for a European platform to enhance co-operation in the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work, and Ministers also adopted Council conclusions on women and the economy.

Under any other business, the presidency provided information on the outcomes of the Roma summit which took place on 4 April 2014 and the 2014 International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference. The incoming Italian presidency presented its upcoming work programme which begins on 1 July.