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Written Statements

Friday 12 September 2014



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): An informal meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will take place in Milan on 12 and 13 September 2014. This follows immediately after the eleventh Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) of Finance Ministers, which will prepare input into the ASEM summit in mid-October.

At ECOFIN the following working sessions will take place:

Working Session 1

Ministers will discuss a strategy for the Finance for Growth agenda. The Government look forward to an exchange of views on measures to improve the financing of the real economy.

Working Session 2

There will be the usual discussion on the economic outlook and financial stability issue, which will likely consider the euro area’s outlook, developments on inflation and growth and potentially issues relating to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

In preparation of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meetings, Council will be asked to endorse terms of reference.

The Commission will present to Council a note for discussion on international co-operation in financial services.

Working Session 3

There will be an update on the asset quality review and stress tests as part of the European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) comprehensive assessment prior to its assumption of responsibility for banking supervision under the single supervisory mechanism (SSM) in November 2014.

In addition, the Commission will update on national arrangements and communication issues on backstops flowing from the comprehensive assessment.

Subsequently, a discussion will take place on the appointment, by Countries signed up the SSM, of members of the mediation panel of the ECB.

Finally, Council will be updated on work on the implementing legislation that will determine the contributions to be paid by banks to resolution funds established under the directive on bank recovery and resolution and the regulation on the single resolution mechanism.

Working Lunch

Following discussions by Employment Ministers in July, Finance Ministers will hold an exchange of views on measures to enhance the resilience of the EU and stabilise the euro area economy, including the potential for a common unemployment insurance scheme.

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Business, Innovation and Skills

Student Support

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities (Greg Clark): In a written ministerial statement on 7 April 2014, Official Report, column 1WS, the then Minister for Universities and Science announced proposed changes to disabled students’ allowances which are available to higher education students from England.

Disabled students’ allowances are non-repayable grants that assist with the additional costs incurred by disabled students in relation to their study in higher education. Disabled students’ allowances finance a range of support, including the purchase of computers and specialised equipment, assistance with travel costs and the provision of support workers where necessary. In 2011-12 disabled students’ allowances provided support of over £144 million to 61,000 students, funded from the higher education budget. Disabled students’ allowance continues to be available to support disabled students studying in higher education.

During the summer, I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), who is responsible for disabled people, have listened carefully to suggestions from representatives of disabled students. I have also listened to the views and concerns of representatives across the higher education and disability sectors, as well as receiving representations from hon. Members.

We are determined to ensure that disabled students should be able to make use of and develop their talents through higher education and that there should be no cap on their aspirations.

There was widespread agreement that universities should discharge their duties under the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled students, as other organisations do. However, concern was conveyed that some universities may not be able to meet their obligations in full by the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, given their need to invest in additional support for their students.

With students applying now for places at the beginning of that year it is important that any disabled student should be confident that an institution to which they are considering applying will be able to meet their needs satisfactorily.

Accordingly, we have agreed to give higher education institutions until the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year to develop appropriate mechanisms to fully deliver their statutory duty to provide reasonable adjustments, in particular non-medical help, and to improve the processes by which disabled students can appeal against a higher education institution’s decision that an adjustment would not be reasonable. We will explore how this might be supported in institutions’ access agreements with the Office for Fair Access for 2016-17.

For the academic year 2015-16, we will continue to provide disabled students’ allowance funding to help with the additional cost of a computer and assistive software if needed solely because of the student’s impairment. This will be subject to the student contributing the first £200 of the computer’s cost—broadly equivalent

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to the cost of a basic computer. For future academic years we will explore a bulk purchasing scheme for such computers to keep costs down.

Additional items such as printers and consumables will not be automatically provided, with alternative provision in the form of university provided services such as printing services and books and journals in electronic format to be considered as alternatives.

Funding will remain available towards the additional costs of specialised accommodation for disabled students, other than where the accommodation is provided by the institution or an agent of the institution.

A number of commentators made proposals to streamline the assessment process for disabled students' allowance to reduce the burden for students, universities and the taxpayer. My hon. Friend the Member for Forest Dean (Mr Harper) and I will invite representatives to consider how that might be achieved.

The changes summarised in this statement other than non-medical help changes will apply to all full-time, full-time distance learning, part-time and postgraduate students applying for disabled students’ allowances for the first time in respect of an academic year beginning on or after 1 September 2015. This provides sufficient time for us to work with institutions and stakeholders to ensure the changes are introduced effectively. All changes are subject to the ongoing equality analysis.

Continuing students already claiming disabled students’ allowances and students claiming for 2014-15 entry will remain on the current system of support for 2015-16.

We are grateful to universities, students and their representative bodies for their assistance in informing these changes.

Communities and Local Government

Housing Standards

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Stephen Williams): For the last two years the Government have been undertaking a major programme to rationalise the complex range of technical standards that can currently apply to new housing. We want to both save money and time for industry and authorities, and consolidate essential requirements into a national framework centred on the Building Regulations. These changes should make it easier to bring forward much needed new homes, while improving quality, safeguarding environmental protections, and protections for disabled people. This exercise has received wide support from all sectors.

In March we announced the main outcome of the review. We also set out a roadmap for delivering a radically simplified system for setting standards in the design and construction of new homes by the end of this Parliament. Once all the changes have been fully implemented the predicted savings for industry are significantly greater than those estimated last summer. The impact assessment published alongside the consultation provides a central estimate of around £114 million savings per annum.

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The standards which we are bringing forward replace a range of different standards which have been applied hitherto, each with different arrangements for checking which adds significant cost. They are simpler and clearer than those they replace and focus on essential quality, sustainability and accessibility matters. They are being brought within the Building Regulations’ system so there will be a simple, single compliance process so reducing bureaucracy and achieving significant savings in process costs.

I am announcing today the publication, for comment, drafts of our proposed standards on access, water, and security and internal space. We are also publishing clarified guidance on external waste storage and external waste standards (Part H of the Building Regulations).

These new standards will underpin the delivery of high quality housing while ensuring that the overall cost of development is reduced. This includes for the first time the introduction of Building Regulations for security standards to ensure homes are better protected from crime; and optional Building Regulation requirements, which can be introduced where justified by need and viability for age friendly and wheelchair user housing standards to meet the needs of older and disabled people, and for higher water efficiency to ensure that new development is sustainable. We will also publish a national space standard for new dwellings to enable local authorities, communities and neighbourhoods to influence the size of development in their local area.

We are setting out how the new system will be implemented and the transitional arrangements. This includes the steps to ensure a seamless transition in delivering zero carbon homes policy through the Building Regulations to ensure that the energy efficiency of new homes is further improved, building on the significant improvements that have already been delivered during this Parliament.

It is crucial that the new system beds in quickly, and that practitioners, from authorities to developers, recognise the weight that Government give to the approach we are setting out. We are confident that the benefits of this new simplified system will be recognised widely—especially given the flexibility this new approach provides to support the delivery of high quality housing. Nevertheless, if in the light of experience of applying the system the Government consider that it is not being applied as intended by planning authorities, then legislation will be considered.

Finally, we are also publishing an updated impact assessment for comment. The impact assessment indicates the scale of savings that could be achieved, based on more comprehensive evidence and survey information received since last year’s initial impact assessment. The potential scale of savings is very substantial.

These changes will be implemented during the course of 2015 once, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Deregulation Bill receives Royal Assent, other than changes relating to energy standards, which will be implemented when the zero carbon policy is brought into force in 2016.

I am arranging for copies of the consultation document and associated documents to be placed in the Library of the House.

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Culture, Media and Sport

British Film Institute (Triennial Review)

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): On 26 March 2014, I announced in a written ministerial statement, the commencement of the triennial review of the British Film Institute (BFI). I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.

The review concluded that the BFI should remain an executive non-departmental public body, and that it should maintain its core functions based on the five objectives set out in its Royal Charter. The review considered that the creation of a single lead body for film that brought together cultural and commercial expertise in one organisation had delivered efficiencies, which have been recognised by its key partners.

The review has made some recommendations for improvements in certain areas. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will now discuss how these recommendations can be implemented with the BFI.

The triennial review has been carried out with the full participation of the BFI, as well as a wide range of stakeholders from across the creative community. I am grateful to all those who contributed to the review. The final review report is available at:


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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Sustainable Drainage Systems

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): As part of the Government’s commitment to reducing flood risk, which will see us spend £3.2 billion over the course of this Parliament, we are determined to deliver the outstanding recommendations made by Sir Michael Pitt in his 2008 Review. His recommendations included encouraging sustainable drainage systems to reduce flood risk from new developments. A key element of this is providing certainty on who will own and maintain the drainage systems in the long term.

My Department has worked closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to explore options to use the existing planning system to deliver effective and well-maintained sustainable drainage systems. We have sought an approach which meets Sir Michael’s recommendations, enables a rapid roll-out of sustainable drainage solutions at a local level and allows local planning authorities to best address site-specific local surface water run-off management concerns.

The next step is to consult on this approach. My Department, along with the Department for Communities and Local Government, is launching a joint consultation document today, setting out a possible approach for implementing sustainable drainage systems and mechanisms for ensuring their long term maintenance. A copy of this consultation document will be placed in the House Library.

Alongside this consultation, officials will continue to work with key partners to address outstanding issues.

Once we have the results of this work, the Government will reach final decisions on implementation.