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Written Statements

Monday 1 September 2014

Communities and Local Government

Summer Recess Activities

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I would like to update hon. Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department since the House rose for the summer recess.

Helping people move up and up the housing ladder

As part of our long-term economic plan, the coalition Government are working to increase housing supply, build more affordable homes, support the private rented sector and champion home ownership.

On 26 July, new departmental figures showed almost 40,000 households have bought a new home through the Help To Buy schemes. More than 32,500 new homes have been bought through the Equity Loan and NewBuy options, with a further 7,300 sales so far through the Mortgage Guarantee scheme (which commenced at the end of last year). More than eight out of 10 sales have gone to first-time buyers and have been for new build homes. The Help to Buy is creating a new generation of affordable homeowners, and boosting house building to the highest level seen since 2007. The latest sales figures will be published tomorrow.

On 21 August, my Department published new figures which show work began on 36,230 new homes in England between April and June. This is an increase of 18% on the same quarter last year. This brings the total number of starts over the last 12 months to 137,780 and is further proof that the Government’s long-term economic plan to improve the housing market is working, building 0.5 million homes that have already been delivered since 2010.

On 5 August, we announced that hardworking council house tenants who want to own their own home will now benefit from higher right to buy discounts, and be guided through the homebuying process by a new team of experts. My Department’s team of right to buy advisers will be on hand to offer free advice, support and information for any tenant who dreams of becoming a homeowner, while the maximum discounts available now stand at £102,700 in London and £77,000 outside the capital. Councils that bring forward brownfield land for development could benefit from a share of £5 million to get work started on the new homes, under plans announced by my Department on 7 August. This fund will help unlock up to 100 brownfield sites and could pave the way for planning permissions on up to 200,000 new homes.

On 7 August, we set out plans that put people at the heart of shaping the future development of the Ebbsfleet garden city. My Department is consulting on plans to create a development corporation that will work with local residents and businesses to grow the garden city in the way that is right for the local area. The corporation

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will help local authorities drive forward development, co-ordinate investment and solve the issues that held the regeneration of Ebbsfleet back under the last Labour Government.

On 13 August, my Department launched a £200 million fund that will help create 10 housing zones on brownfield land where it will be easier to build new homes quickly. The new zones, which will be outside London, should be large enough to deliver 750 to 2,000 properties, and will complement plans for 20 new housing zones in the capital.

On 15 August, we announced the first wave of projects which could benefit from a £1 billion scheme to create 200,000 new homes across the country in locally-led, large scale sites. My Department published a shortlist of 36 large-scale housing projects in line to receive a share of £850 million of funding to get work going onsite and house building started. Sites include the continued development of the Greenwich peninsula in south-east London, which will help provide nearly 10,000 new homes; and the redevelopment of the former Rugby radio station site, to help provide 6,200 homes.

Our housing policies are assisted by our planning reforms, scrapping top-down targets, and giving people a greater say over planning decisions that them. On 31 July, my Department published a technical consultation paper on a range of proposals to build on the improvements we have already made. These will make it easier for communities to devise neighbourhood plans, get empty and redundant buildings back into productive use, remove gold-plating of EU directives, help builders get onto sites with planning permission without delay and reduce bureaucracy and red tape.

In addition to these planning changes, the Government are taking more steps to unlock stalled sites and get Britain building again. My Department launched a £3 million fund on 30 July to enable work to get started more quickly on up to 85 new housing sites where development has been agreed. The funding is available to councils across the country to tackle planning issues that can cause delay and prevent builders getting on site and starting work quickly.

My Department published the progress update on the review of local authorities’ role in housing supply from Natalie Elphicke and Keith House on 31 July. They highlighted how innovative councils are already levering private finance to help deliver the homes their communities need—and how more could follow in their footsteps. The review argues that many councils could significantly boost their house building plans by using more private sector investment.

On 12 August, my Department introduced a new law which caps the amount councils can charge leaseholders for repairs to their homes. This Government are acting not least because of the tragic case of my constituent, Florence Bourne, a 93-year-old who was landed with a £50,000 bill by her local authority for roof repairs. She suffered a fatal heart attack and her family claim she “died of shame” because she had never been in debt in her life and could not afford to pay for the work on her Brentwood home. “Florrie’s law” will limit the amount councils and housing associations can charge for major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the Government. The maximum charge outside London is £10,000 in any five-year period, with a cap of £15,000 for the capital.

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We have also ensured that protections for leaseholders are embedded in the renovation programmes being supported by our 2015-16 Decent Homes Backlog fund. We will examine what further support can be offered to other leaseholders. Already, plans are in place to require managing agents to belong to a redress scheme so leaseholders have somewhere to go if they get a raw deal. We will also look to address:

providing access to summaries of the determination of tribunal cases so people have a better understanding of the outcome;

making it easier to get recognition of a tenants’ association;

increasing awareness of what being a leaseholder means before people buy leasehold properties;

gaining information on absentee leaseholders, especially where owners wish to buy the freehold;

ensuring landlords provide a realistic valuation of the price a leaseholder would have to pay to buy the freehold or extend their lease;

the specific issue of transfer (exit) fee covenants particularly found in the retirement leasehold sector by referring the matter to the Law Commission.

A triennial review of the functions and form of the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) started over the summer. The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for it. Should it conclude there is it will go on to assess the body’s capacity for delivering more effectively and efficiently, and examine whether its control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

Supporting local firms and local jobs

On 29 July, the Future High Street Forum—which my Department created—published an in-depth study into the state of British high streets revealing resurgent high streets are adapting to meet the changing demands of the nation’s consumers.

The university of Southampton report revealed how fundamental changes to Britain’s convenience culture are transforming the way we shop and bringing new business into town. This coincided with the launch of the Great British High Street competition to celebrate the nation’s best high streets. We have received over 130 entries under seven separate categories: city centres, town centres, market towns, coastal communities, villages, parades and London. Colleagues should get behind this initiative and champion their own high streets.

The winners will receive a share of £50,000 worth of prize money and dedicated support from industry experts, as part of the Government’s commitment to high streets and its long-term economic plan. It is supporting local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.

Seaside towns have untapped potential to create vibrant economies and are an important part of the Government’s long-term economic plan to boost jobs and businesses around the country. On 1 August, my Department announced £8.5 million of funding would go to projects in 10 coastal towns to help create and safeguard nearly 1,400 jobs, while supporting essential repairs in areas affected by the winter storms. The Coastal Communities Fund is already making a real difference to our coastal towns and helping communities regenerate their local economy. So far the scheme has already supported over 7,500 jobs and 1,400 training places up and down the

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country. The Government also announced £2 million of support to help Eastbourne’s tourist industry following the tragic blaze on the pier, which damaged around a third of the structure and an extra £3 million for the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund to encourage growth and create jobs in coastal towns.

As part of our wider consultation on technical changes to planning, we announced proposals to enable British high streets to adapt to meet the changing needs of today’s modern consumer, by freeing retailers to make changes to their premises so they can offer “click and collect” services without making a planning application. This will ensure the rise of internet shopping supports local shops, rather than competing with town centres.

On 30 August, as part of the implementation of our policies on reining in over-zealous parking enforcement, we announced details of the new community powers which will allow local residents and businesses to challenge the use of unfair yellow lines and parking changes. Should campaigners secure a minimum of 50 council taxpayers’ signatures, or 10% of local residents and businesses in an affected area, this will require the council to review their parking policy in a specific location, and elected councillors then to vote on the issue. We have invited representations on the proposed thresholds and associated technical details. This new community right combines direct democracy and representative democracy.

The technical consultation paper on planning also proposed further action to ensure more parking spaces are provided alongside new homes to end a “vicious cycle” where clogged up streets leave drivers to run a gauntlet of congestion, unfair fines and restrictions. This is a different approach from the last Labour Government who imposed Whitehall restrictions on new parking spaces, leading to more parking difficulties, higher parking charges and more parking fines. My Department is consulting on new planning guidance which seeks councils’ support to improve the quality and quantity of parking as part of our long-term economic plan.

On 6 August, we announced a £15 million Government grant to help the Humber become a world-class centre for offshore renewable energy industries that employs thousands of people. The money will support the Able Marine Energy Park based on the Humber Enterprise Zone, which will provide a facility for the manufacture, storage, assembly and deployment of the next generation of offshore wind turbines. This project will create more than 4,100 direct jobs and will let the Humber grow as a leading centre for renewable energy. Building work on the site will create around 350 full-time construction jobs.

Improving front-line public services

On 28 July, my Department teamed up with the Hollywood animation studio, DreamWorks, to launch an innovative partnership between the award-winning Fire Kills campaign and the new “How To Train Your Dragon 2” movie. The collaboration resulted in a powerful campaign using characters from the well known family film to encourage families to test their smoke alarm on the first of every month. This is an innovative example of collaborative marketing, and how the public sector can work with the private sector to support behavioural change at minimal cost. This is part of our wider, award-winning Fire Kills campaign.

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On 7 August, my Department launched an independent review to ensure the conditions of service that firefighters enjoy continue to support their frontline work of preventing fire and protecting the public for years to come. The review will be led by human resources expert Adrian Thomas who will consult with fire and rescue authorities, firefighters, representative bodies before reporting back in 2015. The Government are clear that the public rightly expects fire and rescue authorities to continue to strive for excellence and to demonstrate the best possible value for money without compromising the quality of front-line services.

On 19 August, we announced the expansion of the Government’s Troubled Families programme, to help vulnerable younger children from struggling homes to get a better chance in life. Work will begin this year in 51 of the best performing areas, ahead of a national five-year programme from 2015 to help more troubled families who cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds per year without intervention. Recent research shows that troubled families that have been worked with so far have an average of nine serious problems such as truancy, crime, anti-social behaviour, worklessness and domestic violence. As well as expanding from working with school-age children to those under five, the wider programme will also have a particular focus on improving poor health. The scheme builds on the success of the current programme run by councils, which new figures show is now helping over 110,000 of the most troubled families in England. Of these nearly 53,000 have had their lives turned around thanks to the intensive and practical approach, which works with the whole family on all of its problems.

A new law came into force on 6 August allowing the independent free press and local citizens to film and digitally report from all public meetings of local government bodies. The Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014 builds on Margaret Thatcher’s successful Private Members’ Bill from 1960 which allowed for the written reporting of council meetings by the press. The new “right to report” goes hand-in-hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers—together defending the independent free press.

We announced a new fund on 29 August to help families recycle, without facing the threat of unfair bin fines or cuts to their bin collection services. The £5 million extra funding will help councils with weekly collections increase their recycling rates, by giving incentives—such as shopping vouchers and loyalty rewards—to households who recycle. This follows a commitment in the coalition agreement to help support such schemes. The scheme builds on the success of around 40 projects already backed by the weekly collections support scheme to trial and pilot reward programme. Again, this illustrates how behavioural insight can drive change by working with consumers, without a bullying, taxing or nanny state approach. The approach of this Government in supporting weekly collections is in contrast to the Welsh Government which are backing fortnightly and monthly bin collections.

Championing united communities and British values

Over the August bank holiday weekend (23 and 24 August), Ministers led tributes to the bravery of world war one heroes at the first ceremonies to mark the laying of commemorative Victoria Cross paving stones. This is a nationwide campaign to honour those who received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military

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honour, during the first world war. On the date corresponding to when they were awarded the Victoria Cross, commemorative a paving stone will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war. The stones will provide a lasting legacy to their gallantry in towns and cities across the United Kingdom and will enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how their area fitted into the history of the first world war.

The programme will also see 35 Victoria Cross recipients commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. All Victoria Cross recipients that were born overseas will be commemorated with a paving stone in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also place commemorative plaques in countries around the world for men from overseas who received the Victoria Cross for service in the first world war.

On 28 July, Ministers gave their best wishes to Muslims in the UK and across the world for Eid, which marks the end of the Ramadan a period of fast and peaceful prayer. Then on 13 August, Ministers met the Jewish organisation, Community Security Trust, to hear about the rise in anti-Semitism as a consequence of recent events in the middle east, and to listen to the concerns of the British Jewish community. The group recorded more than 200 incidents in July, the second highest monthly total since the organisation started recording incidents in 1984. Britain has a long standing reputation for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, within the law. Whatever one’s views about the politics of Israel and Gaza, there is absolutely no place in our country for anti-Semitic attacks. Those who commit hate crimes should expect to be punished with the full force of the law. Everyone who believes in British liberties should condemn anti-Semitism and stand up for the Jewish community’s right to practice their faith without fear or intimidation.

This Government are championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate traditional ties and community spirit, including flag-flying. On 23 July, my Department raised the flag of Cumberland to celebrate Historic County Flags day and on 1 August, my Department raised the flag of Yorkshire to celebrate Yorkshire day. My Department also flew the St Anne’s on the Sea flag (26 July), the North Riding flag (22 August) and the East Riding flag (24 August).

The St Anne’s flag is an example of our work with the Flag institute to help local communities to produce their own local flag where they do not have an historic flag. St Anne’s on the Sea town council worked with its local civic society and the Flag institute on the design of its flag which was first raised in the town last year. We are encouraging other areas across the country to come together and design their own flags to celebrate their local identity and community spirit.

Saving taxpayers' money and rolling back the state

On 4 August, my Department officially relocated from Eland house, Victoria to share offices with the Home Office in Marsham street, Westminster. The move will help reduce the size of the public estate, saving taxpayers an estimated £220 million over the lifetime of the expensive private finance initiative contract signed under the last Labour Government. Our move is a case study in how local authorities can save taxpayers’ money by sharing services and streamlining property assets.

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Marsham street was once the home of DCLG’s predecessor, the Department of the Environment, so in many senses, the Department is returning home. Eland house is being redeveloped into extensive shops and offices as part of the ongoing regeneration of the Victoria area of London. The pot plants purchased by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have been auctioned off, whilst the luxury, designer Parisian sofas bought by the Labour Government in 2009 as part of an “efficiency initiative” will be reused elsewhere in Government.

However, Members should rest assured that we have not off-loaded the entire Department of its fixtures and fittings: our portrait of Her Majesty the Queen is now proudly displayed in our shared reception in Marsham street.

I am placing in the Library of the House copies of the press notices and documents associated with these announcements.


Armed Forces Pay Review Body (Appointments)

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Professor Kenneth Mayhew and Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Jonathan Westbrook as members of the armed forces pay review body. The appointments will last until 28 February 2018 and the process has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Recruit Trainee Survey

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Julian Brazier): Today I am publishing the 2013 recruit trainee survey annual report. All recruits and trainees passing through phase 1 and 2 training are offered the opportunity to participate in the survey which is anonymous and administered independently on behalf of the services by an external provider.

The annual report contains the views of recruits and trainees about topics such as the preparation for joining, their treatment during phase 1 and 2 training, food, accommodation, access to instructional and welfare staff and complaints procedures. Overall the results are positive and importantly the findings are used by service training headquarters and units to monitor the training environment and make improvements.

A version of the full “Recruit Trainee Survey 2013 Annual Report” has been placed in the Library of the House.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tunisia and Lebanon (Participation in Union Programmes)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Tobias Ellwood): I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the following measures:

(i) Proposal for a Council decision on the signing and provisional application, on behalf of the Union, of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association

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between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Tunisia on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Tunisia in Union programmes.

(ii) Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Tunisia on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Tunisia in Union programmes.

(iii) Council decision on the signing and provisional application, on behalf of the Union, of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European Community and its member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Lebanon on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Lebanon in Union programmes.

(iv) Council decision on the conclusion of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European Community and its member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Lebanon on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Lebanon in Union programmes.

The UK welcomes allowing Lebanon and Tunisia to participate in Union programmes which will help familiarise them with EU policies and working methods, and allow for progressive integration into EU networks. There are also several programmes around modernising and developing their economy.

Tunisia is the region’s post-revolution success story and is establishing itself as a model for peaceful democratic transition. A new progressive constitution and electoral law have been approved in 2014, and plans are under way to hold elections this year, in accordance with the constitution. Tunisia’s involvement in Union programmes following signature of the protocol will further support its reform process and will help bring it into line with international standards. This ties in with our policy objectives and would be a positive next step in the maturing EU-Tunisia bilateral relationship.

Lebanon needs to become a stronger independent country less susceptible to the impact of regional events. Allowing Lebanon to become involved in European Union programmes will help it do this. The UK is strongly committed to supporting Lebanon’s stability, security and prosperity. Future involvement from Lebanon in Union programmes will help the UK meet these objectives. The country is currently facing many pressing challenges including the hosting of over 1 million Syrian refugees and security challenges. Lebanon would welcome additional EU support and closer ties.

These Council decisions relate in part to the Republic of Tunisia’s and Republic of Lebanon’s eligibility to participate in the Fiscalis 2020 Union action programme and the Customs 2020 Union action programme, thus triggering the UK justice and home affairs opt-in. I believe it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to these measures, as we have already opted in to the internal EU instruments establishing the Fiscalis and Customs 2020 Union action programmes.

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Home Department

UK Criminal Records (Interoperability)

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): Today we have completed work to connect Northern Ireland criminal records to those of the rest of the UK. For the first time, this will provide interoperability through an automated link between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and all other UK police forces. This will allow the searching of all criminal records and associated fingerprints via a national system.

This will improve public protection, enhance counter terrorism capability, assist crime solving (including previously unsolved cases) and further strengthen the protection of the UK borders.

This work delivers against key recommendations made on criminality information management by Lord Bichard, Sir Ian Magee and Mrs Sunita Mason, CBE.


“Contempt of Court: Juror Misconduct and Internet Publication”

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): My noble Friend the Minister for civil justice and legal policy, Lord Faulks QC, made the following written ministerial statement on 30 July 2014:

I wish to make the following statement to the House announcing the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report “Contempt of Court: Juror Misconduct and Internet Publication” which was published on 19 December 2013.

The Government broadly accept the Law Commission’s recommendations concerning juror misconduct and have introduced provisions in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that would implement recommendations to create new offences and provide powers for judges to require jurors to surrender electronic communications devices. The Government also accept that the Law Commission’s recommendations concerning strict liability contempt represent a balanced and measured proposal and two clauses were included in the Bill at introduction to implement the measure. However, as announced in the former Attorney-General’s written statement of 30 June to the House, the Government have decided not to pursue the measure and have introduced amendments to omit the clauses from the Bill.

The Government do not intend to take forward the recommendations concerning a specific defence for disclosure of juror deliberations to the Criminal Cases Review Commission or an exception to the disclosure offence allowing approved academic research. Decisions on whether to accept the recommendations concerning juror information and education will be deferred until after enactment of the Bill so that they can be considered alongside implementation of measures in the Bill.

EU: Criminal Proceedings

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): My noble friend the Minister for civil justice and legal policy, Lord Faulks QC, made the following written ministerial statement on 30 July 2014:

The Government on 18 March 2014 decided not to opt in to any of the three EU criminal procedural rights proposals—proposal for a directive on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at trial in

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criminal proceedings, proposal for a directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings, proposal for a directive on provisional legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant proceedings, which were all published by the European Commission (“the Commission”) at the same time. These decisions were debated in the other place on 18 March 2014. Explanatory memoranda for each proposal have previously been deposited in Parliament.

The Commission produced a legislative proposal on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at trial in criminal proceedings which aims to establish common rules in matters it has identified as relevant to “the presumption of innocence”. It is proposed under article 82(2)(b) of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Accordingly, the UK’s title V opt-in applies.

The Commission’s accompanying explanatory memorandum (EM) explains that it considers that the issue of the presumption of innocence may have a bearing on the mutual trust between member states and therefore on the effective application of mutual recognition measures. However, the Government do not believe that the case has been at all made to demonstrate the need for EU action in this area. Indeed the Commission’s own EM suggests that there is limited evidence to suggest there is a demonstrable problem with the current arrangements. This House, on the recommendation of the European Scrutiny Committee, had expressed similar misgiving about the need for the proposed legislative instrument and issued a reasoned opinion to the Commission indicating that it had failed to satisfy the subsidiarity principle.

The proposal would require some significant changes to UK laws and practice if it were accepted in its current form. For example the very limited circumstances in which adverse inferences can be drawn from a defendant’s silence or refusal to co-operate would likely have to be changed. Of course the presumption of innocence is a long-standing principle of the common law and UK laws that place exceptions upon this principle have been found to be compliant with the European convention on human rights.

The Government therefore consider the proposal to be unnecessary and unwelcome and have concluded that the UK should not opt in to the proposal. UK will therefore not be bound by the outcome.

The Commission’s also proposed a directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings. This aims to establish common rules regarding the treatment of children suspected or accused of a criminal offence or the subject of a European arrest warrant (EAW). It is proposed under article 82(2)(b) of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Accordingly, the UK’s title V opt-in applies.

The Commission’s EM accompanying this proposal explains that in the Commission’s view a lack of common rules at a European level leads to a lack of mutual trust and recognition across the Union. As children are regarded as vulnerable, it argues, they require elevated and specific safeguards.

Of course the Government support the principle that children that become engaged with the law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice systems are vulnerable and need special protection. UK laws and practice reflect this and there are a raft of protective measures in place to help and support these children. For example, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”) and associated PACE codes set out the rules for the treatment of children accused or suspected of a criminal offence. This framework provides actions to protect children being held by the police and other judicial authorities. However, the proposed directive would establish different rules. The Government are not convinced those rules would represent an improvement in the support and protection of young people in the UK from those that already exist here. Some aspects of the proposed rules would require some significant changes to UK arrangements to no obvious benefit. For example, UK laws are nuanced and recognise that children of different ages may require different levels of protection. By establishing the definition of a child at one level the proposal would change that. The laws of the UK also recognise that in certain limited circumstances it is necessary to detain children for a period of time, for example

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if it is necessary to secure or preserve evidence relating to an offence or to obtain evidence via questioning. The proposal would seem to seek to alter those arrangements. Further, the proposal suggests some new arrangements which the Government consider to be disproportionate if applied to all cases, for example the requirement to audio-visually record almost all interviews. This is not common practice in the UK; all interviews are audio recorded but there is very little routine use of audio-visual recordings.

The Government have therefore decided that the UK will not be opting in to this directive and the UK will not be bound by the outcome. That position can of course be reconsidered at the conclusion of the instrument if there have been changes which address the above concerns.

The Commission also published a proposal for a directive on provisional legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant (EAW) proceedings. This aims to establish common rules about access to provisional legal aid for suspected or accused persons in certain circumstances and in relation to or persons subject to an EAW. The directive is proposed under article 82(2)(b) of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Accordingly, the UK’s title V opt-in applies.

The Commission’s accompanying EM suggests that a lack of common rules at a European level leads at present leads to a deficit of mutual trust and recognition across the Union. It suggests that common minimum standards on provision of criminal legal aid are necessary to improve mutual trust between judicial authorities.

The Government consider the proposal to be unnecessary and unwelcome. It considers that the UK’s current system for the provision of criminal legal aid is one of which we can be proud. Access to criminal legal aid in the UK is already of a high standard. The right to criminal legal aid is already guaranteed by article 6 of the European convention on human rights, and of course UK laws and practice are compliant with that. The UK criminal legal aid regime delivers legal aid to those that need it when they need it. The Government consider that the rules on legal aid are most appropriately determined by member states themselves rather than at the EU level. The Government have therefore concluded that the UK will not opt in to this proposal and the UK will therefore not be bound by the final directive.

Guardianship of Property and Affairs of Missing Persons

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): On 8 April 2014, I made a written ministerial statement reporting the statement of the same date made by my noble Friend, the Minister for civil justice and legal policy, Lord Faulks QC, announcing that the Ministry of Justice was continuing to prepare a consultation paper on the possible creation of a status of guardian of the property and affairs of missing persons and that it intended to publish the paper as soon as possible and in any event by the end of August—Official Report, 8 April 2014, column WS126.

I am pleased to announce that the consultation paper “Guardianship of the Property and Affairs of Missing Persons” was published on 27 August and that the consultation period will close on 18 November. The consultation paper is aimed at anyone with an interest in the property and affairs of those who go missing and I should like to encourage anyone with such an interest to respond.

The Government will decide whether to create a status of guardian of the property and affairs of missing persons once they have considered the responses to the consultation. My noble Friend, Lord Faulks QC, will make a further statement at that time.

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Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 (Commencement)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Simon Hughes): My noble friend the Minister for civil justice and legal policy, Lord Faulks QC, made the following written ministerial statement on 30 July 2014:

I am pleased to announce that I have made a commencement order, the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 (Commencement) Order 2014, bringing the provisions of the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 into force on 1 October 2014.


Parliamentary Written Answer (Correction)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in the answer given by the then Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) to parliamentary question 195584 on 10 April 2014, Official Report, column 338W, about spend on consultancy services by the Department for Transport. Unfortunately there were coding errors in the classification of the spend data used to identify consultancy services, resulting in Thompsons Solicitors being named as a consultant. They do not provide consultancy services to the Department. Corrections have been made to the coding and the table supplied should now read:

Company NameSpend for Financial Year 2013-14

Eversheds LLP


Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Capita Property & Infrastructure Ltd


Systems Up Ltd




PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


Ove Arup & Partners Ltd




Rowsell Wright Ltd


Emergn Ltd


Heavy Goods Vehicles (National Speed Limits)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): My noble Friend, the Minister for Transport, Baroness Kramer, made the following ministerial statement on Thursday 24 July:

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), has today announced that the Government are proposing, following a public consultation, to increase the national speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5t on single carriageways from 40 mph to 50 mph.

This change will be implemented via a change in the law to be put to Parliament during the next few months, with implementation scheduled for early 2015. The existing 40 mph limit continues to apply until the change has been put into effect. The amended speed limit will cover single carriageway roads outside built-up areas in England and Wales, unless specific lower local speed limits are in effect.

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The Government are also announcing:

the start of a six-week consultation closing 5 September to seek views and evidence about increasing the national speed limit for HGVs on all purpose (non-motorway) dual carriageways from 50 mph to 60 mph. The intention would be to implement this at the same time;

encouragement to English local authorities to take up the flexibility and policies contained in the speed limit circular issued last year related to local 40 mph speed limits in particular;

our intention to encourage and increase the greater use of vocational driver conduct hearings, with new guidance from the senior traffic commissioner likely for consultation later this year; and

our intention to specify and then procure a major study about rural road safety.

The change to the national speed limit on single carriageway roads will modernise an antiquated restriction, which is not matched in most other European countries, including some of the other leaders alongside the UK for road safety (e.g. the Netherlands and Norway). The current speed limit just does not work—it is broken by about three quarters of HGV drivers at any particular time when they are not constrained by other traffic or the road layout. It is implausible that it could readily be made to work without a disproportionate effort.

This package allows our roads to be used better and more effectively. It will reduce delays and congestion, particularly on busy single carriageway A roads. It will remove a 20 mph differential between the lorry and car speed limits on single carriageway roads, cutting dangerous overtaking and bringing permitted lorry speeds into line with other large vehicles like coaches and caravans. Assessed benefits to business are £11.8 million per year.

The Government are determined that any potential risks higher speeds bring will be managed effectively. This change will reduce speed differences between different types of traffic which is likely to reduce risks. The Government are also bringing forward associated measures so we continue to improve safety.

For example the change to the HGV speed limit will allow us to set up tougher procedures and sanctions for lorry drivers caught exceeding the new speed limits. It will also reinforce the credibility and importance of other safety-critical laws with similar sanctions, including the prohibition on hand held mobile phones and the 30 mph limit in towns and cities.

This change is founded on a long-standing trend of improving road safety, which we have committed to build on. So we will be introducing a new offence of driving with a drug in the body over specified limits and tightening up drink-drive enforcement early next year. Last year we increased by two thirds the fixed penalties for many traffic offences and we are consulting on changes to improve enforcement against tired HGV drivers, including those based abroad.

We will be supporting the speed limit increase by promoting the advice we updated last year to highway authorities about local speed limits. Local authorities can restrict all traffic to 30, 40 or 50 mph where this is needed because of the use of roads by pedestrians and cyclists, settlements on roads, high-air pollution or safety risks. Finally all drivers, but particularly the professional drivers of HGVs, need to be aware that the speed limit is a maximum not a guideline.

The Department for Transport is publishing the summary of single carriageway HGV speed limit consultation responses, the consultation document for dual carriageways and impact assessments for both measures.

Copies of these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

1 Sep 2014 : Column 14WS

Transport Infrastructure (Network Rail)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): In December 2013, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that, due to a change in European reporting rules, Network Rail Ltd with all of its subsidiaries would be reclassified as a central Government body. 1That decision takes effect today, and Network Rail is now a public sector arm’s length body of the Department for Transport.

The Government have approached their response to the ONS decision in partnership with Network Rail, with an emphasis firmly on the preservation of Network Rail’s ability to continue to manage its business with appropriate commercial freedom, within effective regulatory and control frameworks appropriate for a company in the public sector.

Today, I am publishing a framework agreement between the Department for Transport and Network Rail which sets out how both bodies will interact in terms of corporate governance and financial management. By working closely with Network Rail, my Department has delivered a framework that provides appropriate accountability to Parliament and the taxpayer while preserving Network Rail’s operational independence. This both keeps clear Network Rail’s accountability for its performance and maintains the regulatory process managed by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to give industry the confidence to plan for the long term.

Given that Network Rail is now part of the public sector and Government’s accounts, I will fulfil an enhanced role in overseeing the company. The framework agreement sets out how I and my officials will take on new responsibilities:

I will appoint future chairs of Network Rail and approve or be consulted on other key governance changes.

I will approve Network Rail’s remuneration policy and pay for executive directors.

These changes have been reflected in Network Rail’s articles of association and agreed by Network Rail members on 29 August 2014.

My Department will also ensure that Network Rail complies with parliamentary reporting requirements, managing public money and other relevant public sector-wide rules.

I am also publishing a memorandum of understanding between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Ministers, setting out how they will be involved in future decisions on Network Rail’s governance and financial management, and a loan facility agreement entered into between me and Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd.

Copies of both documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.