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Written Statements

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Cabinet Office

Veterans' Transition Review

The Minister for Government Policy and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr Oliver Letwin): I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses a response to Lord Ashcroft’s Veterans’ Transition Review which outlines our proposals to address the 42 distinct recommendations made in the report on how to improve the transition process.

I am grateful for the work of Lord Ashcroft and his team in delivering a thorough review of the transition provision for service personnel, not least as it confirmed that the majority of service leavers make a successful transition to civilian life, begin new careers, and enjoy good health. The report also highlighted that the media and public perception that the majority of veterans tend to have some kind of physical, emotional or mental health problem as a result of their service is not true and potentially damaging.

We have taken time to analyse the recommendations in detail; almost all have been accepted positively and, where possible and practical, are being implemented. The Government will continue to work with the service charities, local communities and industry to improve the experience of transition and to promote the skills and experience of service leavers in the civilian workplace.



The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Luxembourg on 14 October 2014. Ministers will discuss the following items:

Measures in support of investment

Ministers will discuss measures in support of investment, including the Commission-EIB proposal for a new taskforce to identify significant European investments which are not being realised for economic, regulatory or other business reason.

Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth

Council will discuss a Commission communication on research and innovation, inviting views from member states on how to prioritise growth-enhancing expenditure, particularly in this area.

Follow-up to the G20 Finance Ministers and governors’ meeting and annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group in Washington

There will be an update from the Commission following the G20 Finance Ministers and governors’ meeting on 9-10 October 2014 and annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group on 10-12 October 2014 in Washington.

Banking union: single resolution fund contributions

The Commission will update the Council on progress towards laying the delegated act on contributions to the resolution financing arrangements under the bank recovery and resolution directive (BRRD) and the single resolution mechanism (SRM).

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Business taxation

Following agreement at June ECOFIN, Ministers will be informed of progress on a joint statement between member states and Switzerland on business taxation.

Payment appropriations

The Commission will update Ministers on the state of play on payment appropriations, specifically the draft amending budget 3.

Mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation

The presidency will seek political agreement to the revised directive for administrative co-operation (DAC2), which will implement the OECD’s global standard for automatic exchange of taxpayer information (AEOI) in the EU.

Energy taxation

The presidency will present the energy tax directive, which sets minimum rates of tax for energy products used as heating fuel, motor fuel and electricity, to Council for an exchange of views.

Ministerial dialogue with EFTA countries

Ministers will meet with EEA EFTA states at this ECOFIN.

Tax Policy Consultation and Draft Legislation

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The Government’s approach to developing tax policy emphasises the benefits of policy consultation and legislative scrutiny.

Following Budget 2014, the Government have engaged with interested parties, seeking their views on more than 30 areas of tax policy. The next stage of consultation aims to ensure that the legislation works as intended.

Draft clauses to be included in the Finance Bill will be published on 10 December 2014, together with responses to policy consultation, explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes and other accompanying documents. The consultation on the draft legislation will be open until 4 February 2015.

Home Department

Undercover Policing

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The use of undercover police officers is an area of significant public and parliamentary interest in the light of the issues identified in the reports of Mark Ellison QC and of Operation Herne. While the issues identified in those reports are historic, the public must have confidence that the behaviour described in those reports is not happening now and cannot happen in the future.

That is why, in June 2013, I commissioned from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) a comprehensive thematic inspection of the undercover work of all police forces in England and Wales and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (as it then was).

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HMIC has today published the report of their inspection, which also covers the other law enforcement agencies with an undercover capability; the National Crime Agency (as the successor to the Serious Organised Crime Agency), HM Revenue and Customs, the Royal Military Police and the Immigration Enforcement Directorate of the Home Office. I am placing a copy of the report in the Library of the House and it is available online at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk.

The report finds that, in general, undercover officers carry out their roles professionally and undercover policing as a tactic is essential, but there are still important improvements to be made. In short, we must do more. The report makes a total of 49 recommendations, addressed to all chief constables and the heads of the other law enforcement agencies, as well as to National Policing Leads and the College of Policing. The recommendations focus on ways to improve the authorisation, guidance, training and oversight of undercover officers. In addition, some recommendations are made directly to undercover officers themselves, their cover officers and managers and to those in the National Crime Agency who manage the National Undercover Database.

While this Government have already taken a number of steps to increase oversight and transparency in undercover work, including raising the authorisation level for undercover officers and strengthening the role of the independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners, it is important that HMIC’s recommendations are implemented thoroughly and quickly in order to give the public the necessary confidence in this work. I have therefore written to the Chief Executive of the College of Policing and to the responsible National Policing Leads, Sir Jon Murphy and Mr. Mick Creedon, asking them to set out an action plan and timetable for the police to respond to the recommendations of this report. I will place their responses in the Library of the House when I receive them.

Northern Ireland

Security Situation

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): This is the sixth statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Twenty years have now passed since the 1994 ceasefires in Northern Ireland. There can be no doubt that the security situation has been transformed over the last two decades; the vast majority of people are able to lead their lives unaffected by the current security threat. Throughout the year, Northern Ireland has shown once again that it is moving ahead, successfully hosting high-profile events including the Giro d’Italia and the Queen’s baton relay, all of which passed off successfully and without security incident. The announcement earlier this year that the Open golf championship is returning to Royal Portrush in 2019 for the first time since 1951 is further testament to this.

While so much has been achieved, Northern Ireland continues to face a terrorist threat from a small minority of groups who hold democracy in contempt. They are violent and reckless and offer nothing positive to their communities. Not surprisingly, they have almost no popular support. They do, however, retain both lethal intent and capability.

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Nature and extent of the threat

The threat level in Northern Ireland and Great Britain from Northern Ireland-related terrorism remains unchanged since my last statement to Parliament on 29 January 2014, Official Report, column 33WS. The threat to Northern Ireland is currently “Severe” (an attack is highly likely) while the threat to Great Britain is “Moderate” (an attack is possible but not likely). There have been 18 national security attacks in 2014.

Police and prison officers remain the principal targets for violent dissident republicans; attacks upon them continue to vary considerably in terms of sophistication. Since my last statement, the sterling work of the PSNI and MI5, who co-operate closely with An Garda Siochana and others, has undoubtedly saved lives and helped to tackle the threat. I wish to pay tribute to all that they do to make Northern Ireland a safer place and to acknowledge the ongoing and significant personal risk they bear both on and off duty. As a direct result of their efforts there have been major disruptions, arrests and convictions in recent months as well as seizures of arms and IED components, both north and south of the border, that have impeded violent dissident republican activity.

Since my last statement, law enforcement activity on both sides of the border has impeded the activities of the so-called new IRA. Following the arrest and charge of alleged members of the leadership at the end of 2013, the group’s activities were hampered. For some months it resorted to sending letter bombs to Army recruiting offices in Great Britain and to prison officers in Northern Ireland. These crude devices have swollen the number of national security incidents but were designed to do nothing more than garner media attention and intimidate the recipients. However, in March the group demonstrated its continued lethal intent when it used an explosive projectile against a police patrol in a residential area of west Belfast. This reckless attack was designed to kill police officers, but it came perilously close to injuring or killing an innocent family passing at the time.

The PSNI subsequently seized 2.5 kg of Semtex from this group which was undoubtedly intended for use in further lethal explosive devices. In the Republic of Ireland, An Garda Siochana (AGS) arrested and charged a suspected new IRA bomb maker. Despite these successes, the group continues to mount attacks and in late May it conducted a firebomb attack on a hotel; a month later armed men fired upon an unoccupied vehicle used by G4S staff in Belfast. However, since then the PSNI have had further successes, including the arrest and charge of another individual alleged to hold a leadership role in the group.

Security partners have also had significant success in curtailing the activities of Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH). In March, the PSNI arrested an individual in Belfast in possession of an explosive device which was ready to be deployed. In May, the AGS arrested a number of individuals in possession of an even larger device, almost certainly destined to be deployed in Northern Ireland.

These arrests and disruptions demonstrate the productive working relationship between security forces north and south of the border and have ensured that ONH has been unable to carry out any significant terrorist attacks since Christmas 2013. Unfortunately, despite this pressure, members of ONH in Belfast persist in resorting to savage vigilante attacks against members of their own community in an attempt to exercise control.

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Localised Continuity IRA (CIRA) members continue to plan attacks against police officers. These occasionally materialise but CIRA remains factional and riven by in-fighting. In March, PSNI recovered a crude under vehicle explosive device from a roadside in Belfast. It was either abandoned by CIRA members or had fallen off a vehicle. In either case, it had not functioned as intended and was instead left to be found by members of the public. This kind of dangerous, wholly misguided activity is typical of this disparate group which, along with many dissident republicans, continues to use republicanism as a cover for criminality and self-gain. Not only do dissident republicans exploit and intimidate their local communities, they are also engaged in drug dealing, robbery, extortion and punishment attacks.

These people must be held to account. In May the Court of Appeal in Belfast upheld the judgment against two CIRA members, John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, responsible for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009. The road to justice has been a long one for Constable Carroll’s family and I pay tribute to their fortitude. More recently, in September, four dissident republicans were convicted of a range of terrorism offences including the use of a terrorist training camp, an excellent result which highlights the sustained pressure that is being brought to bear against violent dissident republicans.

Loyalist paramilitary organisations

The two principal loyalist paramilitary organisations, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) continue to exist. Tensions and in-fighting within both the UDA and UVF also persist and remain a cause for concern.

Overall, we continue to assess that the collective leaderships of the UDA and UVF remain committed to the peace process and, in some cases, have played a positive role in preventing public disorder, particularly around parading. However, I remain concerned that there are areas where militant and criminally focused individuals are seeking to use their paramilitary connections to exploit the discontent which exists in parts of the loyalist community.

This exploitation is mainly for personal gain and can take many different forms including attacks on property belonging to elected representatives, drug dealing, extortion, intimidation and brutal punishment attacks within their own communities. This must be, and is, being tackled robustly. I fully support the action being taken by the PSNI to apprehend those responsible. This is not an easy task and it takes time to build an evidential case but the full force of the law needs to be brought to bear upon these thugs.

While the parading season in Northern Ireland passed off largely peacefully this year thanks to the strong, co-operative approach of all of those involved, efforts must continue to ensure that public disorder of the type witnessed in previous years does not recur in the future.

The Government’s strategic approach

This Government are clear that terrorism will never prevail in Northern Ireland. The 2010 national security strategy made tackling Northern Ireland-related terrorism a tier one priority—the highest priority for Government. As Secretary of State I provide regular updates to the Prime Minister and colleagues on the progress being made on tackling the terrorist threat.

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This Government have provided additional security funding to PSNI totalling £231 million between 2011 and 2015 to support them in tackling the threat. This is significant extra funding at a time when overall budgets are falling and when we also face a very significant threat from international terrorism. It is a matter of great concern that this additional funding will now have less of an impact because of the decision to severely reduce the overall funding provided by the Executive to the PSNI, caused partly by failure to implement welfare reform. There is no doubt that this will have a negative effect on the PSNI’s operational capability in some areas, notwithstanding the additional support provided by the Government.

Our strategic approach also involves working closely with our partners in the Republic of Ireland on a range of issues. Co-operation has never been better, both politically and in security terms, and we want to build on this, removing practical barriers to co-operation and maximising our ability to act against the threat on both sides of the border.

It is worth noting that the inability of the National Crime Agency (NCA) to operate to its full extent in Northern Ireland means there will be proceeds of crime that are not seized and criminals who are not apprehended. The choice on whether to allow the NCA to operate in relation to devolved matters rightly rests with the Northern Ireland Executive. But that choice has consequences. Early resolution of this issue is essential to avoid serious law enforcement gaps emerging in Northern Ireland in response to issues of deep public concern, such as drug enforcement, human trafficking and other forms of serious criminality.

While the limit on the NCA’s powers in Northern Ireland does not have a significant direct impact on the terrorist threat, it does make it harder to seize assets from individuals involved in criminality with connections to paramilitary groupings. Depriving Northern Ireland of the full support and operational capacity of the NCA also places further pressure on the PSNI’s already limited budgets and resources.


We continue to suppress the threat from terrorism and remain fully committed to tackling it in the future, keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe and secure. This takes considerable effort and we must remain vigilant—there can be no let-up in our efforts. We are totally focused on supporting the vital work that continues on a daily basis in Northern Ireland to combat terrorism.


General Aviation Challenge Panel

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): Together with the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), I wish to inform the House of the publication of the Government’s response to the recommendations made by the general aviation (GA) challenge panel in its final report to Ministers which was published in May.

We recognise the singular role that the GA sector plays as a driver within the UK’s aviation industry. Many of our pilots and engineers are trained within the GA community, and the vast majority of the aircraft in

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this country operate within it. Its value has been estimated at some £1.4 billion to our economy, and it possesses the potential to support even more skilled jobs than at present and make an even greater contribution to economic growth.

The Government welcome the rigour with which the challenge panel has worked to produce its report and recommendations. The Government have considered the recommendations, have responded to these and made a number of announcements about the work being taken forward within their response.

These include;

Establishing a new cross-Department star chamber chaired by the Minister without Portfolio and including senior representation from all Government Departments with influence on GA matters;

Commissioning economic research to inform views of where Government policy could go further to support a vibrant GA sector, including a commitment to look again at planning issues relating to airfields in light of the planned economic research;

Committing to challenge and support the delivery of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) general aviation road map, including consideration of amendments to the EASA basic regulation where appropriate;

Considering how to make the legislative requirements for GA users crossing the border easier to understand, and undertaking a consultation on pre-notification periods for GA flights to reduce the time scale for advance notification at designated customs ports;

Undertaking a joint review of the air navigation order with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to assess where this has disproportionate impacts on the GA sector.

Much of this work will contribute to a Government strategy for GA which we plan to publish in the spring of 2015.

General aviation can and should contribute to the UK’s economic success, while providing a safe environment for participants and the public. The Government’s aim is therefore to make the UK the best country in the world for general aviation.

I will place copies of the documents in the Libraries of both Houses.

Rail Passengers' Rights and Obligations Regulation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): I am today announcing a consultation to consider the future of exemptions from the EC Regulation 1371/2007 on Rail Passengers’ Rights and Obligations Regulations.

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The regulation sets out a number of obligations which the rail sector must comply with in full by 2024, including on transferability of tickets, assistance for disabled people, complaints processes, industry IT systems and information for all passengers. The aim of this consultation is to gather evidence to enable us to gain a better understanding of where the rail industry is already meeting, or exceeding, the EU standards, and to help us identify where we may be able to bring certain provisions into force earlier than the 2024 deadline required by the EU regulation.

The Government are committed to raise standards for rail passengers across the country. The Government seek to do this in a way that secures the maximum benefit to fare payers and taxpayers. Currently the Government are seeking to use the franchising programme to drive up standards for rail passengers, while at the same time securing cost efficiency savings that can then be passed onto fare payers and taxpayers.

When deciding on which exemptions to remove, we therefore want to ensure the right balance is struck between the benefits this would give passengers, the cost impact on taxpayers and the rail industry, the industry’s ability to meet the requirements, and Government’s wider commitments to the principles of better regulation for an industry.

No final decisions have been taken on the issues covered in the consultation and the important evidence we gather during this process will help us take robust decisions on the removal of exemptions. At this stage, the indications are positive and we are proposing the removal of close to two thirds of the exemptions.

Nevertheless, it is important that we take the time to consider the benefits of removing exemptions, as well as any regulatory or cost burdens. The current exemptions in place expire shortly, and in order to allow further consideration of these important issues, we are first taking the step of renewing all exemptions in December, to provide a holding position to allow the additional time for that detailed consideration.

The consultation will run for 10 weeks from today and all relevant documents are available here: https://www.gov.uk/dft#consultations. The consultation document and associated consultation stage impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, as in due course will copies of the statutory instrument, explanatory memorandum, and impact assessment related to the renewal of the exemptions.