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Written Statements

Wednesday 3 September 2014


Office for Budget Responsibility (External Review)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): Today the first external review of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has been published and presented to Parliament. Formally reporting to the OBR non-executives, the review was led by Kevin Page, former Parliamentary Budget Officer in Canada. In commissioning this report, the OBR non-executives meet their legal requirement to ensure an external review is conducted at least every five years.

In its findings, this report overwhelmingly supports the high-quality work and independent analysis produced by the OBR. The review therefore attests to the Government’s creation of the OBR in 2010 which has placed the UK at the forefront of fiscal institutional reform internationally. In giving the OBR a duty to produce official economic and fiscal forecasts, this Government have ensured that for the first time we have a truly independent assessment of the state of the nation’s finances.

The Government welcome the review’s overall findings and recommendations. These aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation and include the recommendation that,

“caution be exercised in considering any expansion to the OBR’s mandate (e.g. costing certification of opposition manifestos)”.

Alongside the OBR, the Treasury will consider the full recommendations and conclusions of the report in more detail. Building on the analysis and conclusions of this independent report, the Government have already announced their intention to conduct their own review of the OBR at the start of the next Parliament.

The external review report was presented before Parliament earlier today and copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. Copies will also be made available to members of the public online.


Defence Procurement

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I am pleased to announce the successful contract award worth £3.5 billion (Ex VAT) to General Dynamics UK (GDUK) to deliver a minimum fleet of 589 Scout specialist vehicles (Scout SV) to the British Army. This will sustain a minimum of 1,300 jobs across the UK. Deliveries of the Scout SV are planned to commence in 2017. The training establishment and first squadron will be equipped by mid-2019 to allow conversion to begin with a brigade ready to deploy from the end of 2020.

Scout SV will transform the Army’s combat capabilities and will introduce new and very advanced intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance

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capabilities. These vehicles will be the eyes and ears of commanders on the battlefields of the future and will carry a revolutionary and highly effective cannon.

Vehicle development has drawn on the lessons of recent operations. Scout SV will be a modern, tough, well-protected, highly mobile and agile tracked vehicle, able to cope with the most difficult terrain anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day and able to hold its own against the threats we foresee. It will replace the Army’s existing force of combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked) vehicles which have given exemplary service for the past 40 years all over the world, most recently in Afghanistan.

Scout SV will fulfil nine different roles from six variants: a turreted variant mounting a 40 mm cannon fulfilling the Scout, ground-based surveillance and joint fire control roles, a protected mobility reconnaissance support (PMRS) variant providing an armoured personnel carrier and formation reconnaissance overwatch, command and control, engineer reconnaissance, recovery and repair variants.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Extraordinary Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): An extraordinary Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place in Brussels on 5 September. I will represent the UK. Richard Lochhead MSP, Michelle O’Neill MLA and Rebecca Evans AM will also attend.

The extraordinary Council has been called to discuss the Russian import ban on EU agricultural products.

There are currently no other confirmed items on the agenda.


Crime Reduction Policies

The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Mike Penning): I will today publish the response to the Justice Committee’s first report of Session 2014-15: “Crime Reduction Policies—a co-ordinated approach?”

The Government are proud of their strong record at reducing crime. The most recent figures from the crime survey for England and Wales show that overall crime has fallen by 62% since its peak in 1995, and is now at the lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

The Government have put robust measures in place to ensure that crime continues to fall; offenders receive robust punishments; and that the unacceptably high rates of reoffending are driven down. We are also placing high-quality education at the centre of youth custody to prevent future offending.

The public and victims deserve a fair and transparent justice system that effectively deters and punishes offenders, and tackles the stubbornly high rates of reoffending and this is the primary focus of our transforming rehabilitation reforms.

We are opening up the market to a diverse range of providers to ensure that we get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at the local as well as national level. Bids to run the community rehabilitation companies were received at the end of June and we look

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to have a healthy competition in all contract package areas, having received over 80 bids, with an average of four bidders per area. The new payment incentives we will introduce for market providers will also ensure a relentless focus on reforming offenders, giving providers flexibility to do what works but only paying them in full for real reductions in reoffending.

Under our reforms, for the first time in recent history virtually every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community, to finally address the glaring gap that sees 50,000 short-term prisoners released onto the streets each year with little or no support, free to go back to their criminal ways.

We are also putting in place an unprecedented nationwide “through the prison gate” resettlement service, meaning the majority of offenders will be given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community. We will support this by ensuring that most offenders are held in a prison designated to their area for at least three months prior to release.

Finally, we have created a new public sector National Probation Service, working to protect the public and building upon the expertise and professionalism which are already in place.

Copies of the paper will be available in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. The document will also be online at:


Home Department

Immigration Act 2014 (Implementation)

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): I am announcing today the location in which the measures relating to landlords as prescribed by sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014 will first be implemented.

The Immigration Act 2014 contains a range of measures to reform and streamline the immigration system and address illegal immigration. It introduces restrictions on illegal immigrants accessing rented housing. When these provisions come into force, landlords will be prohibited from letting residential accommodation to people who have been disqualified by virtue of their immigration status.

The Government have committed to a phased implementation of these provisions with the measures initially coming into force in one location, followed by an evaluation to inform decisions on further roll-out. I wish to inform the House that after careful consideration, the scheme is to be implemented first in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell. The new measures will commence in this area from 1 December.

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To assist and advise the implementation and evaluation of the measures, the Government are convening a consultative panel. The panel consists of bodies that represent landlords, letting agents, housing and homeless charities and others with an informed interest in the matter, and will also include representatives from the local authorities in these areas. This will ensure that the first phase can be thoroughly evaluated and considered as part of the decision-making process on further roll-out.


South West Trains

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): The Department has concluded negotiations with South West Trains for a deed of amendment to their franchise which will deliver the additional capacity set out in the Government’s rail investment strategy.

The project is being managed by Stagecoach South Western Trains. In accordance with usual procurement practice, there is a standstill period of 10 days before Stagecoach Southwest Trains will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to the successful tenderers and enter into a deed of amendment to the current franchise agreement. The process is expected to be finalised in the coming week but we have jointly announced our intention to enter into a deed of amendment to their franchise agreement to deliver the additional capacity set out in the rail investment strategy.

I am very aware of how crowded South West Trains’ suburban services are, particularly in the morning peak. The result of the Department’s successful negotiation is 150 new vehicles—Thameslink variants—which will be used on the Windsor lines, leading to an internal cascade which will deliver a full 10-car suburban network, making use of platforms 1 to 4 at Waterloo which Network Rail are extending. The Windsor line trains will use the platforms at Waterloo International, which are being brought back into full use in 2017. There are a number of additional works along the route and at stations which will deliver benefits for passengers.

In addition, this proposal will provide two more services on the mainline, which will be the focus of our strategic planning for the next control period, which begins in 2019. The two additional services are expected to commence in May 2018 and would start from Woking and from Basingstoke. There would be four additional peak trains from Hounslow, also commencing in May 2018, providing additional capacity on the suburban network.