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Written Statements

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Cabinet Office

Ministerial Responsibilities

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The new “List of Ministerial Responsibilities” has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be sent to each hon. Member’s office in this House.

The list can also be accessed on the Cabinet Office website at:


Communities and Local Government

Autumn Recess

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 Autumn Recess.

Increasing house building and supporting the housing market

Official statistics of housing supply released on 13 November showed that the numbers of new homes in England has risen by 10% over the past year the highest percentage increase in 12 years. Since 2010, the Government have delivered a net increase in housing supply of over 530,000 additional homes across England.

New figures also showed the numbers of repossessions are now at their lowest since records began in 2008, thanks to the Government’s long-term economic plan; our deficit reduction programme is keeping interest rates down and making mortgages more affordable. Figures published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders anticipate repossessions falling further in 2015 and 2016.

On 18 November, my Department published a consultation paper on the next step to zero- carbon homes. New homes built today are saving people around £200 on average on their energy bills compared to homes built before the 2010 general election and cutting carbon emissions. From 2016, we are going even further by making all new build homes zero- carbon, and we are now consulting on how to apply this to small house builders to ensure they continue to play their part in building much needed new homes, without them being priced out of the market.

Creating jobs through Enterprise zone

Enterprise Zones are playing a vital role in driving forward England’s growing economy. On 12 November 2014, we announced that that the 24 Enterprise Zones have created an estimated 12,530 jobs, attracted 434 new businesses and generated over £2 billion worth of private investment since opening for business.

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The Government-backed sites are providing top-class fiscal incentives and world-class infrastructure, promoting growth across a range of key industries, including the automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and renewable industry sectors––and also boosting the UK’s construction industry and wider supply chain.

Empowering local people with new community rights

On 11 November, we noted millions of people across England are now benefiting from the coalition Government’s community rights programme; local residents are coming together to protect pubs, libraries and leisure centres against sell off, creating neighbourhood plans to decide on new local development and deliver local jobs and improved local services. The total number of uses of the rights has now hit 3,000, with more than 1,500 much loved buildings, assets and green spaces listed and 1,200 neighbourhood plans well underway.

On 14 November, we announced grants to six schemes to help them reopen to the public or transform their existing use enabling them to provide leisure, cultural and care facilities, create local jobs, and help build a stronger economy. Each scheme will receive between £130,000 and £440,000 funding which will pay for repairs and refurbishment for the new community use, and will help provide practical case studies for other communities.

Promoting fire safety

On 17 November, we launched a number of measures to boost the safety of e-cigarettes in response to increasing concerns over the number of fires caused by faulty charging units.

This included new consumer guidance as part of the Fire Kills campaign and electrical fire safety week. In addition, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a number of local authority trading standards departments to investigate whether current e-cigarette safety information is sufficient and widely available enough to consumers.

Commemorating the Great War

My Department continues to support events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War to help promote united communities. Across the country, community groups including schools, libraries, museums and places of worship to community centres, football clubs and pubs are active participants in commemoration events researching their own local First World War heritage and holding musical recitals, such as the Last Post. Ministers supported a series of events to mark Armistice day, which has a particular resonance this year given the great war commemorations.

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

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Armoured Vehicles (OSCE Mission in Ukraine)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has today laid a departmental minute proposing a gift to Ukraine.

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The United Kingdom is committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Throughout the crisis that has unfolded during 2014, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has played a crucial role in monitoring events on the ground and facilitating dialogue between Ukrainian and separatist factions in the east of the country. The OSCE’s special monitoring mission has been operating in Ukraine since March 2014, and the UK has been a strong supporter of its role, providing nearly £2 million in funding and seconding a number of UK nationals into the mission.

The Minsk protocol, the peace plan and ceasefire agreed between Ukraine and Russia on 5 September has tasked the SMM with significant additional responsibilities, notably monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and monitoring the Ukraine-Russia border. The ceasefire is just about holding but with continued outbreaks of violence, and fatalities. It is therefore vital that the OSCE special monitoring mission receives the funding and equipment it needs to expand to its full capacity of 500 international monitors and be enabled to fulfil its mandate while operating within an often very challenging environment. As part of a package of enhanced support to the OSCE, the UK therefore intends to provide 10 armoured vehicles to the mission, which have been identified as being crucial to allow monitors to operate securely in the more volatile eastern parts of Ukraine.

This package will be funded by the Government’s conflict pool fund—FCO, MOD and DFID. It is in direct response to a request from Swiss Federal President and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Didier Burkhalter, who has written to OSCE Foreign Ministers requesting the provision of people, money and equipment.

The departmental minute sets out the proposal to gift 10 armoured vehicles and associated communications equipment worth £1,169,006 to the OSCE. The proposed gift will consist of the following UK sourced equipment:

10 armoured vehicles (8 x LC200, 2 x LC105)—£1,120,000

10 AV spares kits—£11,266

10 Motorola DM4601 VHF radio plus ancillaries—£4,740

10 Codan Envoy XI HR radio—£33,000

The proposed gift has been assessed against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. The proposed gift has been scrutinised and approved by a senior, cross-Whitehall conflict pool approval board, which has confirmed that it fits with the Government’s strategic and delivery objectives. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials also assessed the project for human rights risks, using the overseas security and justice assistance guidelines established by the Foreign Secretary in 2011. They concluded that the risk of human rights violations arising from the project’s delivery could be successfully mitigated.

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

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Home Department

Police Reform

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): On 22 July, I informed the House that I intended to reform elements of the police disciplinary system to improve transparency and justice and to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers. Today I am launching a six-week public consultation on these measures. Subject to the consultations I intend to implement these measures before the end of this Parliament.

The integrity of the men and women who work in the police service of England and Wales is critical to public trust in policing. Real or perceived misconduct or corruption dents that trust and makes policing by consent more difficult. The vast majority of police officers behave appropriately and conscientiously, which makes it even more important to root out misconduct and malpractice and hold those responsible to account.

I want to ensure that the systems and processes that deal with misconduct by police officers are robust, independent and transparent to the public. In July I commissioned Major-General Chip Chapman to review the police disciplinary system. His report has been completed and I will consult on his recommendations for wide-ranging reform shortly. That consultation will also include proposals to fundamentally reform the police complaints system and further protections for police whistleblowers.

The consultation I am launching today focuses on specific reforms that can be made in the short term that will have a significant impact in making the current system more robust, independent and transparent until such point when more fundamental reforms can be implemented.

To improve justice, I am consulting on a power for disciplinary hearing panels to remove or adjust the compensation payments due to chief officers on termination of their appointment where a disciplinary finding is made against them.

To introduce greater independence into the way police disciplinary hearings are conducted and ensure judgements are legally sound, I am consulting on the introduction of legally qualified chairs to conduct police disciplinary hearings.

To strengthen protections for police whistleblowers and ensure they can come forward with confidence, I am consulting on proposals to ensure whistleblowers will not be subject to disciplinary action for taking the necessary steps to report a concern and that any reprisals against them will be taken seriously.

Finally, to improve transparency and accountability to the public and ensure that the robust response that the police take to misconduct is both visible and open to public scrutiny, I am consulting on holding police disciplinary hearings and appeals in public.

I hope that all those with an interest in these matters will respond to the consultation.

A copy of the consultation document will be placed in the Library of the House.

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Prison Competition and Efficiency

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): In November 2012 the Government announced the start of a new programme of work to drive down costs across prisons in order to deliver value for money for the taxpayer, accelerate cost reductions, maximise savings and to improve outcomes without compromising public safety. The programme included applying a new public sector staffing benchmark that had been developed by the Prison Service in competition with private sector bidders during prison competition phase 2 and the competition of ancillary and through-the-gate resettlement services in public sector prisons.

This approach allows HM Prison Service to focus on core custodial functions, with private and third sector partners adding their expertise and experience by delivering efficient and innovative ancillary and resettlement services.

In June 2013 we announced a competition for the management of a range of works, maintenance and facilities management services in public sector prisons. The competition was formally launched in January 2014, and included: maintenance; works and building projects; management of prison stores; waste disposal and collection; energy and environmental management; cleaning; and escorting of contractors and their vehicles.

I can today announce the outcome of the competition. After a rigorous evaluation of bids, Amey and Carillion have been selected to run the services across four geographical areas. These are:

Lot 1. Amey—North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside

Lot 2. Amey—East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales

Lot 3. Carillion—East of England, London

Lot 4. Carillion—South West, South Central, Kent and Sussex

We intend to award five year contracts, with expected savings from these contracts in the region of £115 million over that period. This represents an impressive saving for the taxpayer. We expect the new providers to start delivering these services on 1 June 2015, following a period of mobilisation. Robust arrangements will be in place to manage the new contracts.

Work and Pensions

Social Justice: Transforming Lives--Progress Report

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): In 2012, we published “Social Justice: transforming lives”, a landmark document setting out a new vision for supporting the most disadvantaged families and individuals across the UK. The strategy outlined how family breakdown, low educational attainment, worklessness, problem debt, and addiction combine to cause the entrenched poverty affecting many of our communities, highlighting the complexity of the issues that many people face.

To meet this challenge, the strategy signalled that a new approach was needed— putting early intervention first, while tackling the root causes of poverty to give those experiencing disadvantage a meaningful second chance.

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Today, I wish to inform the House that later today I am laying the Command Paper “Social Justice: transforming lives—progress report”, which shows what this Government have achieved in turning that vision into a reality, but also renews our commitment to this important agenda.

Over the last 12 months, we have continued the cultural change needed in order to achieve our aims, spanning not only families and individuals, but also public services and the way the Government fund them.

As today’s progress report sets out, delivering this aim has required a complete shift in how the Government tackle social problems: an unrelenting focus on preventing problems arising in the first place; giving people the support they need to make transformational changes to their own lives when problems arise; and spearheading new multi-agency, outcome focused approaches in order to address problems in the round.

The achievements set out in this report show how much can change in two years, and what this change means to individuals. We have made substantial progress against the commitments set out in the original “Social Justice: transforming lives” document, but we have not stopped there, and this report outlines what further action is required and how we should keep up the pressure on what we have created, which carries the profound theme of making meaningful life changes to the most vulnerable in our society.

By restating our commitment to transforming lives, and continuing to drive change in Government, at a local level and across the voluntary sector, in how we help families and individuals in need, we will make social justice a reality for everyone in the United Kingdom.

Let us continue to work together to build on this promising work. Our aim is not just about social justice in this Parliament; it is about social justice for years to come.

Social Security Advisory Committee

The Minister for Employment (Esther McVey): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) has made the following written ministerial statement.

Today I am launching a review of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC). As part of the Government’s continuing drive for efficiency and effectiveness, all Departments are required to review their arms length bodies at least once in every three year review cycle to challenge whether the functions they perform are still necessary and if so whether it is still appropriate for them to be delivered in the same way. The review of the Social Security Advisory Committee will look at the Committee’s functions and whether it needs to continue to exist. If the review determines that the Committee should continue, it will go on to examine the potential for delivering more effectively and efficiently and the corporate governance mechanisms. I will inform the House of the outcome of the review and place a copy of it in the Libraries of both Houses when it is completed.

Pensions: National Employment Savings Trust Corporation

The Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb): I am pleased to announce that Mr Otto Thoresen has been appointed as the next Chair of NEST Corporation, the body that

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runs the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST). Mr Thoresen will take up the appointment from 1 February 2015.

NEST was established as a low-cost, occupational pension scheme to support automatic enrolment. It is focused on a target market of low to moderate earners and smaller employers who the market served inefficiently. Through delivery of its public service obligation, NEST ensures that all employers have a suitable pension arrangement through which to fulfil their automatic enrolment duties.

NEST already has around 1.6 million members and is working with over 9,000 employers. From June 2015, 1.2 million small employers—those with fewer than 50 workers—will start to engage with automatic enrolment.

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NEST will be critical in ensuring that these small employers are able to access low-cost pension provision for their workers.

Mr Thoresen brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience of pensions to this challenging role and has a distinguished career of operating at the highest level in large and complex organisations. He is currently director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and has held senior posts at Aegon, Abbey Life, Royal Life Holdings and Scottish Equitable. He is a trustee of Young Enterprise; an adviser to the Citizens Advice Board Edinburgh; a governor of the Pensions Policy Institute; and a trustee of Step Change, a debt charity. His appointment as Chair demonstrates our commitment to recruiting people with a proven track record and the expertise to get the job done.