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Written Statements

Monday 8 December 2014

Energy and Climate Change

EU Energy Council

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr Edward Davey): In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Brussels on 9 December, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.

Under the first item on the agenda the Italian presidency has suggested a policy debate on the main issues essential for the governance of the 2030 climate and energy framework to ensure that the EU meets its energy policy goals. The UK will be arguing for a flexible, light-touch approach and working to ensure that the system does three key things: ensure that credible national plans are in place; enable effective monitoring of our collective progress towards EU energy goals; and respect national flexibility over choice of measures.

The Council will then be asked to adopt conclusions on the completion of the internal energy market, reaffirming the need for effective and consistent implementation and application of the third energy package by all member states and the timely adoption of network codes and guidelines. The Council will agree on the need for more investment in strategic infrastructure and a follow-up review of progress by the Commission by 2016. The UK agrees that more needs to be done by member states to complete the single market and that particular priority needs to be given to the facilitation of new interconnection and investment projects.

As part of the mid-term assessment of the “Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” all relevant Council formations are being consulted. Ministers in the Energy Council will be asked to debate the contribution of the energy sector to the 2020 economic reform strategy.

The Commission and presidency will then report on developments in external energy relations, including agreement on the terms of winter gas supplies between Russia and Ukraine, facilitated by the EU.

Finally, the Latvian delegation will inform the Council of the priorities for their presidency in the first half of 2015. They intend to focus on competitiveness and growth, the digital agenda and the EU as a global player.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

CAP—Single Payment Scheme

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): The window for payments to farmers in England under the EU CAP Single Payment Scheme (SPS) for 2014 opened on 1 December 2014.

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The Rural Payments Agency paid more customers than ever before on the first day and had already, on the first banking day, exceeded the end of December targets for payments.

The agency paid out £1,370,328,624 to 96,669 SPS customers. This equates to 95% of all SPS customers and 91.4% of the total estimated fund value. The target was for 93% of customers and 86% of total estimated fund value to be paid out by 31 December.

Over the last four years the Rural Payments Agency has improved beyond recognition and I am delighted that once again almost all farmers received their CAP funding on the first day of the payment window. I congratulate everyone involved at the agency in achieving another record-breaking performance in the final year of the Single Payment Scheme.

Food and farming is an economic powerhouse of our economy, worth £100 billion and employing one in eight people. I am determined to do everything I can to help this vital industry to thrive.

That is why we are making the new CAP rules as simple and flexible as possible so that farmers can concentrate on continuing to provide-high quality British food.

I will keep the House updated on the agency’s progress against delivery to customers on 2014 payments.

Justice

Mesothelioma Claims

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): My noble friend the Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy, (Lord Faulks QC) has made the following written ministerial statement:

The Government have made a priority of addressing the high costs of civil litigation in England and Wales. To that end, part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 reforms the operation of no win, no fee conditional fee agreements (CFAs). Those reforms came into effect generally in April 2013, but were deferred for mesothelioma cases pending a review under section 48 of the Act. The Government undertook a review in 2013 with the issuing of the “Reforming Mesothelioma Claims” consultation paper on 24 July 2013. The Government announced their decision following that consultation on 4 December 2013 (column 56WS). In particular, it announced that, following the review, the Government have decided to implement the no win, no fee reforms for mesothelioma cases. Full reasons for that decision were given in the response paper published on 6 March 2014. However, that decision was challenged by judicial review and on 2 October the High Court quashed it. CFAs in mesothelioma cases therefore continue to operate on a pre-LASPO Act basis for the time being. The decision was also investigated by the Justice Committee which published its report on 1 August. The Government’s response to that report will be published shortly.

The Government intend to undertake a review under section 48 in due course; further details on the format and timing of that review will be set out at a later date. The Court’s judgment and the committee’s report will be considered as part of that process.

Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and the Government are determined to do what it can to help sufferers and their families. Changes in the law over recent years, including the Mesothelioma Act 2014, have made it easier for victims to obtain compensation. The Ministry of Justice is working closely with a wide range of stakeholders to take forward reforms where we can improve the mesothelioma claims process further:

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Provisions in the Deregulation Bill, currently before Parliament, will enable HM Revenue and Customs to restore its practice of disclosing the work records of deceased victims to their personal representatives or dependants for the purposes of claiming compensation without the need for a court order; and

We are working with the National Cancer Registration Service and others to secure resources for the implementation of expedited receipt of pathology records and imaging reports.”

Transport

Motoring Services Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): In a written statement to the House on 15 August 2013, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), announced that the Department for Transport would undertake market engagement and a procurement competition to find a commercial partner to form a joint venture to grow the work of the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

I now inform the House that the competition has not been successful in identifying a suitable joint venture that would achieve the objectives of both partners.

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The VCA will continue to provide vehicle testing and certification services, as it does at present. The Department will consult with a wide range of stakeholders before considering any alternative proposals.

Work and Pensions

Office for Nuclear Regulation

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is the independent regulator of nuclear safety, security and occupational health and safety at nuclear sites, created on 1 April 2014.

The ONR has prepared its strategy for carrying out its functions, including the general priorities it will apply and principal objectives it will observe when carrying out its functions. I welcome this strategy for efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry on behalf of the public.

I attach a copy of the Office for Nuclear Regulation strategy 2015-2020 to this statement.