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Written Statements

Thursday 27 November 2014

Communities and Local Government

Flood Recovery

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): Last winter saw some of the most severe weather on record, and thousands of homes and businesses were flooded.

Extension of flood recovery schemes to all of 2013-14

The Government responded to these events by making relief available for those flooded, both from council tax and business rates, as well as by helping householders make their homes more resilient to future flooding. However, the Government are today recognising the hardship caused in other parts of England by flooding earlier in 2013-14 by announcing an extension of the following Government flood recovery support schemes: the Department for Communities and Local Government council tax and business rates relief schemes, the severe weather recovery fund (Communities Element); the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs repair and renew grant; and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' business support scheme.

This will make a real difference for those who suffered the appalling effects of flooding throughout the entirety of the 2013-14 financial year. My officials will be writing on behalf of the Government to all local authorities in England advising them of how to apply along with the terms and conditions of the various schemes.

Bellwin consultation

Last winter, to help local authorities deal with the immediate costs of the severe weather, the Government activated the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to local authorities, and in recognition of the unique scale of the flooding, made the terms of the scheme more generous. This included lowering the threshold above which the Government will compensate, and reimbursing 100% of local authorities’ costs above those lower thresholds.

We are today announcing a consultation on making those changes to the Bellwin Scheme permanent.


My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be making a full statement on winter preparedness. However, my Department has already done a great deal of work on this. We continue to engage with local government to consider how councils can build on and improve their emergency support outside normal business hours, including clearly publicising their emergency contact numbers; being a more visible part of the local response; and giving clear advice to residents and businesses on how to plan for emergencies. On 30 October DCLG published, jointly with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, the “local authorities preparedness for civil emergencies: a good practice guide” to help local authorities ensure they are well-prepared to respond to a civil emergency in their local area. Ministerial colleagues will be meeting with leaders from a number of local authorities over the coming weeks to discuss preparedness to respond to winter weather and flooding in particular.

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Recovery progress report

It is also right that I update the House on the recovery progress from last winter’s severe weather events.

The Government are today publishing a flood recovery progress report updating on Government support and local authority activity over the past 11 months, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House. My Department has talked to local responders, including volunteers, businesses and communities to understand how the local flood response and recovery process was delivered in local areas; exploring with them lessons that we can all learn about the effects of last winter’s severe weather; and working with them to reduce the risk of damaging floods in future.

Finally, once again I would like to thank all those from local authorities, the emergency services, the armed forces, community and voluntary groups, the staff of the Environment Agency and transport workers who worked so hard throughout last winter, often in appalling conditions, to support and help people during the severe weather.


Future Reserves 2020

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): As part of Future Reserves 2020 (FR20), the planned five-year growth of the reserve forces’ trained strength was set out in a statement to the House on 19 December 2013, Official Report, column 121WS. This included annual trained strength targets along with intake targets. I am announcing a public consultation on the reporting of performance against these targets to ensure a consistent approach is taken across all three single services.

Each service uses its reserve forces differently so, when the FR20 targets were set, each service proposed some small variations in the groups of volunteer reserves that should be counted. This has resulted in inconsistent reporting of the number of volunteers against the targets. The Army excludes volunteer reserve personnel serving temporarily on full time reserve service (FTRS), whereas the RAF excludes volunteer reserve personnel serving on either FTRS or additional duties commitments (ADC) from their FR20 trained strength numbers. For both the Army and RAF these personnel are included in the numbers once their FTRS or ADC service ends and they reassume part-time volunteer status. These complications do not exist in the maritime reserves, as the Royal Navy has always counted volunteer reserves serving on FTRS or ADC towards its FR20 targets.

In order to provide a consistent approach to reporting across all three services, the MOD proposes that all volunteer reserve personnel serving on FTRS and ADC should be counted towards the FR20 trained strength targets. The targets themselves will not change.

The targets also need to reflect the use of sponsored reserves as part of our overall reserve requirement.

The public consultation sets out the proposal in more detail. All responses to the consultation will be considered before any decision is taken to revise the population definitions. Performance against the FR20 targets is reported in the UK armed forces quarterly personnel report (QPR) National Statistics publication. This may be amended following the outcome of the public consultation.

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Senior Off-payroll Appointees

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): A key requirement introduced as a result of HM Treasury’s review of the tax arrangements of public sector appointees (Cmd 8350 published in May 2012) was that Departments must exercise governance over appointments where the appointees are not engaged directly on departmental payrolls. Each Department therefore has an obligation to ensure that such appointees are paying the appropriate amount of tax and national insurance.

On 9 March 2014, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced Departments’ compliance with the rules governing senior off-payroll appointments in central Government in the 2012-13 financial year, Official Report, columns 9 to 13WS. We have, however, subsequently established that the information provided for the Ministry of Defence was not correct, with the consequence that we did not fully conduct the necessary tax compliance checks in a timely fashion for 2012-13.

I apologise to the House for this error, which was due in part to a misinterpretation of the scope of the new requirements, and I provide a restatement of the position for the Ministry of Defence:

Annex 1: New off-payroll engagements between 23 August 2012 and 31 March 2013, for more than £220 per day and for more than six months, of which:

Department and ALBsNumber of new engagements whom assurance was sought of 31 March 2013Number for whom assurance was requested and receivedNumber for whom assurance was requested and not received

MOD (core)








To comply fully with the Treasury rules and guidance, we are seeking retrospective assurance directly and individually from all of our senior off-payroll appointees that they are complying with the tax legislation. We are verifying the evidence received and will terminate the contract of any current appointee who fails to provide satisfactory evidence of tax compliance and refer the appointee to HM Revenue and Customs for further action as appropriate.

While the vast majority of off-payroll appointments have been made for legitimate business-delivery reasons, the Ministry of Defence is committed to ensuring that it demonstrates the highest standards of governance in this area. We are therefore also enhancing our own departmental controls for all such appointments so that they are not normally made until a formal declaration of compliance with tax legislation has been received from the prospective appointee. Full assurance will subsequently be sought in accordance with HM Treasury guidelines.

In the interests of transparency, a restatement of the Ministry of Defence’s 2012-13 position will also be published in our 2013-14 annual report and accounts, which are being laid before the House today.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flooding(Winter Preparedness)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): This statement updates the House on Government action to prepare for potential flooding this winter.

Protecting the country from flooding is a core DEFRA priority. This Government are investing £3.2 billion in flood defences in this Parliament, compared to £2.7 billion in the previous five years. This represents a real- terms increase and is helping us better protect over 165,000 properties since 2010. In addition, for the first time we have committed to six years of future capital spending to protect a further 300,000 properties and provide long-term planning for flood resilience.

Winter 2013-14

Last winter saw the wettest weather on record. There were record river flows, sea levels, wave heights and groundwater levels across widespread areas of the country. Although flood defences protected 1.4 million homes, 8,342 homes were flooded and thousands of people were affected by disruption to businesses, infrastructure, transport and utilities.

Since then the Government have led a major flood recovery effort, including committing more than £560 million in recovery support funding. The result is that going into this winter every community is at least as well or better protected than it was last winter. In England, 844 flood defences owned by the Environment Agency, local authorities and others were damaged over the winter. All of the flood defences damaged last winter have been repaired, with either permanent or temporary repairs. DEFRA made an extra £270 million available to repair these defences. Permanent defences have been restored to over 200,000 properties. The Government have committed more than £20 million to help Somerset, which was particularly hard hit.


In Somerset, the dredging of the Rivers Tone and Parrett was completed on time and on budget at the end of October. Somerset has been awarded a further £13.1 million through the local growth fund for more dredging; developing options for a Bridgwater Barrier; and a project to increase capacity of the River Sowy. Work is under way to raise key roads at Beer Wall and Muchelney. The Government are working with Somerset county council and others to establish a new rivers authority that will give local people the power to manage their flood risk.

Military assistance

Last winter highlighted the valuable contribution our armed forces can make. The Government have simplified the process by which local responders can request military help in emergencies, and local authorities were informed of the new arrangements in October.

Improving resilience

The Government are also taking action to improve the resilience of our transport, energy and water supply networks. For example, a review into resilience of transport networks was published in July and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin)

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will today publish the Government’s response. DEFRA has also been working with water companies as they review their emergency plans to ensure water supplies are not affected by flooding.

Working with communities

Locally, we are improving the way we work with communities to give them clarity on what works are being undertaken and the outcomes they will deliver. The Environment Agency has held local meetings across the country to explain its current maintenance programme, giving people the opportunity to contribute to and influence these programmes. We are also removing barriers for individuals and local groups to undertake work such as dredging watercourses through the river maintenance pilots scheme.

Working with local authorities

We are working with local authorities to plan for flood risk through the development of local flood risk management strategies. We have identified those authorities where we feel work is most urgent, and we are strongly encouraging them to get strategies in place as soon as possible. We have also started work on a review of the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act, to check that flood risk is being properly managed at a local level.

National level preparedness

We have improved our ability to respond to emergencies at a national level. For example, we will hold precautionary COBRA meetings if significant flooding is likely in advance of public holidays. This will help us ensure all organisations are fully prepared and ready to respond. The arrangements for making use of temporary flood defences and pumps have also been improved. On the recovery effort, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities (Eric Pickles) is updating the House today.

Flood insurance

We are taking action to ensure people at risk of flooding can protect themselves by securing affordable home insurance. The new Flood Re scheme will limit the amount that people pay for floods cover when it is introduced next year.

Raising awareness

In October, we launched the national “Get Ready for Winter” campaign with the Met Office to encourage people and communities to think about preparing for winter. This month is the Environment Agency’s “flood awareness month”, and it has been explaining how to prepare and encouraging more people to join the 1 million who are already signed up to the flood warning service.


Comparing this Parliament—2010-11 to 2014-15—to the previous five years, investment in flood risk management has increased in real terms by 5%. Over the coming six-year period, we will be making record levels of investment (£2.3 billion) in capital flood defence projects. This will begin with £370 million in 2015-16 and then the same in real terms each year, rising to over £400 million in 2020-21. This is the first time that such a long-term settlement has been set out demonstrating our commitment to managing flood risk and providing communities with increased security.

This investment will deliver long-term value for money and reduce the risk of flooding to a further 300,000 households between April 2015 and March 2021,

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on top of the 165,000 protected during the current spending period. By the end of the decade, we will have provided a better level of protection to at least 465,000 households.


Despite the exceptional weather conditions experienced last winter, in the large majority of cases our defences stood up well. They protected around 1.4 million properties and more than 600,000 acres of farmland from flooding. This underlines the importance of continuing our investment in flood defences. We have one of the best forecasting and warning systems in the world. We are determined to reduce the risk further and provide better protection for people’s homes, farms and businesses across the country. We have acted on the lessons from last winter and together with our local partners we are better prepared than ever before.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the forty second progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

On 27 October the final UK personnel were flown from Camp Bastion to Kandahar airfield. This followed the formal handover of responsibility for Camp Bastion to the Afghan military the previous day.

The Independent Election Commission announced the final, certified results of the provincial council elections on 25 October. 458 candidates were elected to the provincial councils, with 21 % of seats going to women.

In response to the serious fiscal crisis faced by the new Afghan Government, the UK agreed to make £15.6 million of previously committed funding available more quickly to the Government of Afghanistan. This is not new money. It will be delivered through the World Bank managed Afghanistan reconstruction trust fund and will allow basic services to continue to be delivered to the people of Afghanistan.

The UK and the Afghan Government agreed the London conference on Afghanistan will take place on 3-4 December. This is a key opportunity for the international community to signal its continued support for the Government of Afghanistan and their vision for reform, underpinned by the principle of mutual accountability and aid effectiveness.

I am placing the report in the Libraries of both Houses. It will also be published on the gov.uk website at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghanistan-progress-reports

British Indian Ocean Territory

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (James Duddridge): On 19 November 2013 my predecessor, the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) updated the House on the start of an independent feasibility

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study on resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) by its former inhabitants. KPMG were appointed as independent consultants commissioned to carry out this study. Today KPMG will publish its draft final report in full. It is available via the Overseas Territories website at: www.gov.uk. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

In line with its terms of reference, the feasibility study has examined the full range of options for resettlement on each of the islands of the territory, including Diego Garcia with its vital military base. Final views are now sought from the Chagossian community and all those with an interest.

The study will conclude and issue its final report to Ministers in January 2015.

Home Department

Pre-Council Statement

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is due to be held on 4 and 5 December in Brussels. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.

Justice day on 4 December will begin with the Italian presidency seeking a partial general approach on chapter IX of the proposal for a general data protection regulation. This deals with personal data processing for statistical, scientific and medical research purposes as well as provisions dealing with freedom of expression, employment and social protection. The presidency is also looking to secure a partial general approach on the issue of public sector flexibility within the instrument. Although progress has been made in improving some aspects of the text, the Government are against the use of partial general approaches with regard to this dossier, given the amount of technical detail on which disagreement remains.

Separately, they will hold an orientation debate on the regulatory one-stop shop which is intended to clarify in which member state regulatory decision-making should take place where there is a cross-border element to the processing of personal data.

The presidency will also provide a state of play update on the proposal for a data protection directive, covering the processing of personal data in the investigation and detection of crime. At this stage, it is not looking to secure any agreement as there has been more limited progress than is the case on the proposed general data protection regulation.

There will be an orientation debate on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) proposal. The UK does not and will not participate in the EPPO. Debate will centre on the EPPO’s nomination and appointment procedures and how best to deliver independence within the “college” structure. While the UK plays an active role in the negotiations as a non-participating member state, to shape and protect our position, we do not anticipate a need to intervene on these internal matters.

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The presidency will present a partial general approach in relation to the Commission’s proposal to reform Eurojust, covering Chapters I-III and V-IX—omitting the chapter on data protection—of the proposal with all references to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) removed. Given that Eurojust’s relationship with the EPPO is not covered in the revised text, it is impossible to take a definitive view on items such as governance arrangements. However, the presidency text provided is broadly positive from a UK perspective. One of our key concerns was to ensure that member states are not obliged to give additional powers to their national members. The presidency text is much improved in this regard.

The presidency will be aiming for a general approach on the directive on presumption of innocence. The UK has not opted in to this proposal though monitors negotiations.

This will be followed by a state of play debate on the directive on legal aid; again the UK has not opted in to this proposal. The Council also seeks an update on the state of play for the draft directive on the fight against fraud by means of criminal law following the European Parliament’s first reading position of April 2014; the Council continues to discuss the content of the directive ahead of trilogues.

Next, there will be a political agreement on the proposal for a revised regulation on insolvency proceedings. This represents the end of negotiations which began in January 2013 following a proposal from the Commission to modernise the existing regulation, particularly to expand its scope to ensure businesses in the EU are rescued where possible and jobs preserved. The Council is being asked to reach political agreement on the text with a view to adoption in 2015. The UK Government support this revision.

There will be orientation guidelines on the regulation on promoting the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents in the EU. This measure aims to abolish the process of “legalisation” of certain public documents. Legalisation is the formality to confirm the authenticity of an official signature or seal. The regulation also proposes establishing EU multilingual forms. The Government support the principle of reducing red tape and costs and welcome recent amendments to both parts of the proposal which have limited the list of documents in scope to core civil status documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates. They also welcome ongoing discussions to replace the proposed multilingual forms with simple translations of the original national documents rather than creating translated standalone forms with their own evidential value.

The presidency hopes to obtain a general approach to amend the European small claims regulation. From a UK perspective the negotiations have been successful in achieving our main objectives, including returning to the current definition of what constitutes a cross-border case and ensuring that no arbitrary cap on court fees is imposed on member states. The Government would have preferred a higher threshold for a small claim than €4,000 but understand that a compromise had to be found between the different positions of the member states.

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The presidency is to provide a state of play report on the negotiations of the proposals on matrimonial property and the property consequences of registered partnerships. This is likely to state that while most technical issues have been finalised agreement on the proposals has not yet proved possible because of political concerns from some member states regarding the status of same-sex relationships. As these proposals will be decided under the special legislative procedure for family measures, agreement must be obtained by unanimity. The UK has not opted in to either proposal.

Under AOB, there will be an update from the presidency on the outcome of proceedings of the EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial meeting which took place in Washington DC on 12-13 November 2014. Finally the Latvian delegation will give a presentation on their incoming presidency programme.

The interior session on 5 December will begin in mixed committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland—non-EU Schengen states. We expect the Council to focus on the implementation of October’s JHA Council conclusions on the response to migratory pressures, in particular those from the Mediterranean. The UK will press for full implementation of the conclusions, in particular supporting further action in key countries of origin and transit, offering further support for the new Frontex operation in the Mediterranean, and pressing for further efforts to ensure member states are meeting their responsibilities in the area of asylum and illegal migration.

The Commission will present the latest biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area, and Council will be given the opportunity to discuss its content. Although the UK does not participate in the border and visa elements of the Schengen acquis, the Government maintain a strong interest given the effect of illegal migration transiting the Schengen area on UK borders. We will call for the EU to consider the role that Schengen visa liberalisation with non-EU member states can play in creating opportunities for immigration abuse, including the abuse of free movement rights by non-EU nationals.

Ministers will be invited to note a report highlighting the achievements of 15 years of Schengen evaluations under the Council’s management. Council conclusions will then be discussed, to allow the continuation of the relevant evaluation working group beyond 27 November. This will retain Schengen evaluation expertise within the Council structure and assist Ministers in effective delivery of the new Schengen evaluation mechanism. The UK supports this move.

The presidency currently plans a debate on Bulgarian and Romanian accession to Schengen, at the request of Romania and Bulgaria, who are seeking to finalise their accession to the border aspects of the Schengen acquis and then lower border controls with their EU neighbours. While the Italian presidency would like to see this issue resolved at Council, accession remains blocked by a minority of member states. The presidency may well withdraw it from the agenda—as it did in October. If the debate goes ahead, Bulgaria and Romania are likely to express their frustration. As this currently concerns only borders elements of Schengen, the UK does not have a vote.

Over lunch on the interior day there will be an update on passenger name records (PNR). The Council will consider how to proceed on PNR given the recent decision

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by the European Parliament to refer the EU Canada PNR agreement to the European Court of Justice. It is possible the LIBE Committee will use the referral to further delay progress on the draft PNR directive. The UK supports speedy adoption of the PNR directive, but we are clear that it should provide for intra-EEA PNR.

The Council will return to the issue of foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq. Member states will be invited to discuss a number of issues based on a presidency paper, as called for at the June European Council. The Council will also be asked to adopt the guidelines which accompany the EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, following the adoption of the updated strategy earlier this year. The UK supports the guidelines and has taken an active role in negotiations at working level, drawing on the UK’s experience of Prevent.

Under AOB, there will be an update from the presidency on the outcome of proceedings of the EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial meeting which took place in Washington DC on 12-13 November 2014. The Latvian delegation will give a presentation on their incoming presidency programme.

Powers of Entry

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State (Lord Bates) has today made the following written ministerial statement:

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 required Ministers across Government to undertake a review of powers of entry. The Act required Ministers who are members of the Cabinet with responsibility for powers of entry to examine their powers and to consider whether they are still necessary, proportionate and contain sufficient safeguards.

Ministers of each Department have now concluded their reviews and prepared reports which will be laid before Parliament today.

These reports show that a total of 1,237 powers of entry have been subject to review. The Government are proposing a significant reduction in the overall number of powers which will leave a total of 912. The Government have also ensured that, where necessary, remaining powers will have additional safeguards added via legislation to ensure appropriate use of the powers. The number of powers for which it is proposed to add safeguards is 231.

Policing in England and Wales (Annual Assessment)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has today laid before Parliament his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales in accordance with section 54 of the Police Act 1996. Copies are available at: www.hmic.gov.uk and in the Vote Office.

This report forms a part of HMIC’s first police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL) assessment. The PEEL assessment represents a radical shift in how police forces are held to account by enabling the public to see for the first time how well their force is performing when it comes to cutting crime, providing a service that is fair and providing value for money. The individual force assessments are also available today at: www.hmic. gov.uk

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Boundary Commission for England (Deputy Chair)

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): I should like to inform the House that I have made the following appointment under schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986:

The hon. Mrs Justice Patterson has been appointed as Deputy Chair of the Boundary Commission for England, effective until 9 November 2019.

Legal Aid

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): I am today publishing the Government response to the “Transforming Legal Aid: Crime Duty Contracts” consultation published on 24 September. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This consultation was specifically about the reports produced by KPMG LLP and Otterburn Legal Consulting regarding the legal aid litigator market, which helped inform decisions on the number of criminal legal aid duty contracts to be offered across England and Wales in 2015. We have thoroughly reviewed all the responses received.

As a result, the Legal Aid Agency will let 527 crime duty contracts. This has been revised from 525. The LAA is also today issuing an invitation to tender for those organisations eligible to apply for a 2015 duty provider crime contract. Contracts have already been awarded for own client work, the other type of criminal legal aid contract we announced in February.

To provide further help to firms in rural areas, we have decided to introduce payments for travelling times in excess of 90 minutes. We will also relax the office requirements in the split procurement areas and London to give greater flexibility. This builds on the support measures introduced earlier, such as introducing interim payments for lawyers involved in lengthy Crown court cases and establishing a business partnering network to help practitioners with organisational and financial advice, if they need it. We have also worked with the British Business Bank to develop guidance and advice specifically for the legal aid market.

I have previously informed the House that a second fee reduction for litigators is forecast for mid-2015. The Legal Aid Agency are inviting bidders to bid on the basis that the fee reduction will take place in July, subject to the further considerations we have already said we will undertake.

Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Simon Hughes): Further to my statement on 28 October, Official Report, column 16WS, I hereby exercise powers under section 21 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to extend the period for protocol 15 to the European convention on human rights to be laid before

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Parliament, it having been laid initially by the Foreign Secretary on 28 October as Command Paper No. 8951. The scrutiny period will be extended by eight sitting days and will expire when the House of Lords rises for recess on 17 December.

Prime Minister

Intelligence Services Commissioner

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I have today deposited in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of a direction I have given to the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Mark Waller, under section 59A of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This direction puts on a statutory footing the Commissioner’s role overseeing compliance with the consolidated guidance to intelligence officers and service personnel on the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas, and on the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees.

The Commissioner’s oversight of the consolidated guidance began when it was published for the first time by this Government on 6 July 2010. His annual reports since then, which are published and available on the Commissioner’s website, detail his work overseeing compliance with those aspects of the guidance for which he has responsibility. In his 2013 annual report he asked me to issue this direction and put his work in this regard on a statutory footing. I said I would issue this direction in my statement to the House on 25 November 2014, following the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

In their report, the Intelligence and Security Committee were critical of the Secret Intelligence Service for the handling of allegations of Michael Adebolajo’s mistreatment in Kenya, made during his interview by the police under the Terrorism Act 2000 on his return to the UK. I have therefore asked Sir Mark to examine the concerns raised by the Committee on the Government’s responsibilities in relation to partner counter-terrorism units overseas. He will have full access to all the material referred to in the Committee’s report.

The Intelligence Services Commissioner plays a crucial role as part of the oversight regime for the work of the security and intelligence agencies. His 2013 annual report, published on 26 June 2014, sets out in detail his work over the past year. I am grateful to Sir Mark Waller for his continuing scrutiny of the agencies and their activities, including compliance with the consolidated guidance. This Government have been determined from the outset to have greater clarity about what is and what is not acceptable when dealing with detainees held overseas by other countries. That is why we published the guidance at the earliest opportunity. It makes clear that our services must never take any action where they know or believe that torture will occur, that if they become aware of abuse they should report it to the Government so we can try to stop it and if there is a risk of serious mistreatment, it is for Ministers—rightly—to determine what action, if any, should be taken.

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Heads of Agreement

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): Lord Smith of Kelvin has today published the Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.

In order to assist Members, I am depositing a copy of the Heads of Agreement in the Libraries of both Houses. I have also arranged for paper copies to be made available in the Vote Office in the House of Commons and the Printed Paper Office in the House of Lords.

I will make a further statement to the House of Commons later today.


Rail Franchising

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I am pleased to inform the House that following a rigorous competition I intend to award the Intercity East Coast franchise to Inter City Railways Ltd, a joint venture between Stagecoach Transport Holdings Ltd and Virgin Holdings Ltd, pending the successful completion of a standstill period of at least 10 days.

This new franchise will run for eight years from 1 March 2015 to 31 March 2023 with a further extension of one year callable at my discretion.

This is a significant step forward not just for this vital and historic route but for our whole transport system. Traffic on our railways has more than doubled since privatisation from 750 million to 1.6 billion journeys a year. With Network Rail we are investing £38 billion in maintaining and improving the system. The new franchise will realise the benefits of this investment. It will be good for towns and cities up and down the east coast of England and Scotland, and good for our economy and jobs.

This franchise will provide over £140 million in investment for passengers: faster journey times; new trains; more services; 50% more capacity; lower headline fares; free wi-fi and connects five towns that have never been connected to this franchise before. It provides strengthened services to the north of England, Scotland and Lincolnshire. We asked for transformation; our new partner will achieve this with what will be a renewed railway.

Stagecoach and Virgin have long-term plans to build on the work done by the public sector operator and improve the franchise for passengers. Stagecoach and Virgin will also deliver for taxpayers by providing an improved premium of £3.3 billion—nominal—to Government over the next eight years.

The flexibility in our specification has allowed Stagecoach and Virgin to use its experience and put together a new timetable that not only continues service levels to every current mainline station but significantly enhances the levels of service.

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Stagecoach and Virgin will strengthen the vital links from London to Scotland; all the way along the route as far as Aberdeen and Inverness. Passengers will benefit from regular, faster, more frequent cross-border services to Falkirk, Stirling and Edinburgh, with journeys between London and Edinburgh regularly taking just four hours by May 2020.

England will also receive greatly improved services. By May 2020, Leeds will see regular journey times of two hours while Leeds, Bradford, Shipley, Harrogate and Horsforth will see more services each day when compared to the current timetable.

Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Thornaby, Huddersfield and Dewsbury, will all get services on InterCity East Coast for the first time as a result of this competition and Lincoln, which gets just one train a day to London, under the current operator will get one every two hours by May 2019 with the new one.

All of these destinations will be served by the new Intercity Express trains by May 2020. They will be built in the heart of the north-east at the new plant in Newton Aycliffe. These trains will provide more reliable services, more seats and more leg and luggage space. The new operator will provide 50% more capacity across the InterCity East Coast and a 40% increase in morning peak seats to and from Kings Cross. Stagecoach and Virgin plan better catering with more staff on board trains to help passengers. They will not make passengers wait for the new trains to bring improvements. Stagecoach and Virgin will perform a major refurbishment of the existing fleet. This will bring them up to a high standard.

Stagecoach and Virgin plans to reduce some of the most expensive standard class fares on the franchise by up to 10% from May next year. Passengers will also have the chance to register to get automatic delay-repay payments at times of disruption and benefit from a loyalty and rewards scheme. Stations will see investment too with more car parking spaces, additional secure cycling facilities and electric vehicle charging points.

A benefits package worth £5 million will be available to all of its employees. Stagecoach and Virgin will invest heavily in skills, not just for their staff but for the railway as a whole. There will be a graduate programme and new apprenticeships, and the operator will create the national academy for rail professional education with bases in London, York and Derby. This will provide good training at a reduced cost; helping the whole of the industry by reducing the barriers to employment in it.

This award is further proof that private competition is good for passengers, local communities and taxpayers.

Transport Resilience

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): Following the 2013-14 winter of sustained wet and windy weather, I invited Richard Brown OBE to chair a review of the resilience of our transport networks to extreme weather events. The review was published in July and today I am publishing the Government’s response.

Richard Brown’s review examined the resilience of our major transport modes, assessed lessons learned and put forward more than 60 recommendations to

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improve resilience both in the short term and long term. The majority of recommendations quite rightly addressed the impacts of last winter’s weather which resulted in flooding, damage to transport assets and disruption to passenger services. The review did not look at the impacts of snow and ice as these were covered in the Quarmby review of 2010.

We accept the recommendations made in the review, and the response published today sets out in detail the actions being taken forward by Government and transport owners and operators to improve the resilience of our transport infrastructure and its operations. Good progress has been made since the review’s publication. Wherever possible actions have been put in place in advance of this winter, while other resilience activities have been planned for delivery as soon as practicable. Areas covered include asset management; communications; economics and funding; flooding; geotechnics; maintenance; supporting infrastructure; user behaviour; vegetation management and weather forecasting.

While there will always be vulnerabilities to our transport networks from extreme weather, the review has served to join up a lot of the existing work on resilience across transport modes and has prompted transport operators to take immediate action which should put them in an enhanced state of readiness to respond and recover from future severe weather events.

My Department will monitor the progress of the resilience activities set out in the Government response, and will provide a supplementary report next year to provide an update on the delivery of the actions highlighted in the response.

Copies of the Government response can be found in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/review-of-the-resilience-of-the-transport-network-to-extreme-weather-events-expert-panel

Work and Pensions

Employment and Support Allowance

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): Later today, I will publish Command Paper Cm 8967, the Government response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee report on employment and support allowance (ESA) and work capability assessment (WCA). I would like to thank the Committee for its report.

The Government are committed to reviewing and improving the service they offer disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. We have made a number of improvements to these provisions over the course of this Parliament, and recently appointed Maximus as the new provider of the WCA from March 2015.

The number of disabled people in employment has increased by 259,000 in the last year to 3.07 million. However, we are not complacent and recognise that more support is needed for people in receipt of incapacity

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benefits. Every one of these people has something to contribute to society and we are determined to support them in realising their full potential.

Today I am announcing a series of measures to further improve the support we offer disabled people and those with health conditions. From early 2015 we will run a range of pilots to test additional approaches to supporting ESA claimants. This will include testing more intensive support during the first six months following the completion of the Work programme; voluntary employment-related interventions and occupational health advice for those awaiting a WCA; and testing the impact of the claimant commitment for ESA claimants.

In April 2015 we plan to introduce a measure allowing individuals to remain on JSA for up to 13 weeks during a period of sickness. This will ensure claimants with short-term conditions remain closer to the labour market. In addition by next spring we plan to introduce a measure preventing claimants being paid the ESA assessment rate if they have already been found fit for work but have then made a repeat claim for benefit without developing a new health condition or having seen a deterioration in their current condition.

There will inevitably be some individuals whose condition affects them so severely that they may not be able to return to full-time employment. We will of course continue to provide comprehensive support for this group as well as look at ways of improving the service we already deliver.

Work Capability Assessment (Year Five)

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): The Government are pleased to announce that the fifth independent review of the work capability assessment, carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield, will be published later today. This is the fifth and final annual independent review, as required by the Welfare Reform Act 2007.

Dr Litchfield has reported on the evolution of the work capability assessment since 2008, as well as progress made in implementing recommendations made in the previous independent reviews. He has explored how these changes have had an impact on the operation of the work capability assessment and the way in which it is perceived. He has recommended further minor changes to the assessment and recognised the need for a period of stability for the current WCA.

The work capability assessment is integral to the Government’s commitment to ensuring that as many people as are able to do so engage in employment and those who genuinely cannot work receive the appropriate support.

The Government welcome Dr Litchfield’s report as a key step in making sure the assessment is as effective as possible and will carefully consider his report and recommendations. The Government’s response to Dr Litchfield’s report will be published during this Parliament.