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Written Statements

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Treasury

Banking Act 2009

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom): The Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a report required under section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 covering the period from 1 April 2014 to 30 September 2014.

Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

ECOFIN

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 9 December 2014. Ministers discussed the following items:

Financial transactions tax

The presidency provided a state of play update on the financial transactions tax, outlining work which will be taken forward under the next presidency. The UK is not taking part.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency provided an update on the status of current legislative files.

Single resolution mechanism—single resolution fund contributions

The presidency presented ECOFIN with an amended proposal for an implementing act specifying how contributions to the single resolution fund should be calculated.

Measures in support of investment

Ministers discussed measures to support investment ahead of discussion at December European Council.

Review of the Europe 2020 strategy

The Council held a follow-up discussion on the Europe 2020 review ahead of General Affairs Council.

Economic governance

Ahead of discussion at December European Council, the Commission presented a suite of documents, including the annual growth survey 2015, the alert mechanism report 2015 and a communication on the six-pack and two-pack review. Ministers then held an exchange of views on these items.

Annual report of the Court of Auditors on budget implementation

The President of the European Court of Auditors presented the Court’s annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2013.

Code of conduct—business taxation

The Council endorsed the report on the progress of the code of conduct group during the Italian presidency.

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Letter by Finance Ministers Sapin, Schaeuble and Padoan to Commissioner Moscovici

Ministers received an update on a letter from France, Germany and Italy to Commissioner Moscovici outlining views on ways forward to tackle tax avoidance.

Counter-terrorist Asset Freezing Regime

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom): My noble friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) has today made the following written ministerial statement.

Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (“TAFA 2010”), the Treasury is required to report to Parliament, quarterly, on its operation of the UK’s asset-freezing regime mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

This is the 14th report under the Act and it covers the period from 1 July 2014 to 30 September 2014. This report also covers the UK implementation of the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime and the operation of the EU asset-freezing regime in the UK under EU regulation (EC) 2580/2001 which implements UNSCR 1373 against external terrorist threats to the EU. Under the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime, the UN has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under the Al-Qaeda (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2011. Under EU regulation 2580/2001, the EU has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under part 1 of TAFA 2010.

Annexes A and B to this statement provide a breakdown, by name, of all those designated by the UK and the EU in pursuance of UN Security Council Resolution 1373. The two individuals subject to restricted designations under section 3 of the Act are denoted by A and B.

The following table sets out the key asset-freezing activity in the UK during the quarter ending 30 September 2014:

 TAFA 2010EU Reg (EC) 2580/2001Al-Qaeda regime UNSCR1989

Assets frozen (as at 30/09/2014)

£50,000

£11,0001

£55,0002

Number of accounts frozen in UK (at 30/09/2014)

49

10

25

New accounts frozen (during Q3 2014)

5

0

2

Accounts unfrozen (during Q3 2014)

2

0

0

Total number of designations (at 30/09/2014)

33

353

287

Number of designations that were confidential

1

0

0

(i) New designations (during Q3 2014)

4

0

8

(ii) Delistings (during Q3 2014)

1

0

1

(iii) Individuals in custody in UK (at 30/09/2014)

4

0

0

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(iv) Individuals in UK, not in custody (at 30/09/2014)

3

0

3

(v) Individuals overseas (at 30/09/2014)

18

104

217

(vi) Groups

8 (0 in UK)

25 (1 in UK)

67

Individuals by nationality

(i) UK Nationals5

(ii) Non UK Nationals

11

14

n/a

n/a

Renewal of designation (during Q3 2014)

5

n/a

n/a

General Licences

(i) Issued in Q3

(ii) Amended

(iii) Revoked

(i) 0

(ii) 0

(iii) 0

Specific Licences:

(i) Issued in Q3

(ii) Amended

(iii) Expired

(iv) Refused

/Expired

6

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

1This does not duplicate funds frozen under TAFA.

2This figure reflects the most up-to-date account balances available and includes approximately $64,000 of funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 30/09/2014. Additionally the figures reflect an updating of balances of accounts for certain individuals during the quarter, depleted through licensed activity.

3This figure is based on ex-designations where the UK freeze forms the prior competent authority decision for the EU freeze.

4There was an EU delisting in Q2 (FAHAS) that was not reflected in the Q2 report. This is now corrected.

5Based on information held by the Treasury, some of these individuals hold dual nationality.

Legal Proceedings

1. The damages claim brought by Gulam MASTAFA against a number of Government Departments including the Treasury, remains stayed.

2. The damages claim brought by Zana RAHIM continues to progress towards completion.

3. An individual previously designated under TAFA 2010 has challenged the Treasury’s decision to renew their designation. This case is listed for hearing in December 2014.

4. In the quarter to 30 September 2014, no criminal proceedings were initiated in respect of breaches of asset freezes made under TAFA 2010 or under the Al-Qaeda (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2011.

Annex A—Designated persons under TAFA 2010 by name1

Individuals

Hamed ABDOLLAHI

Bilal Talal ABDULLAH

Imad Khalil AL-ALAMI

Abdelkarim Hussein AL-NASSER

Ibrahim Salih AL-YACOUB

Ruhul AMIN

Manssor ARBABSIAR

Moazzam BEGG

Usama HAMDAN

Nur Idiris HASSAN NUR

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Nabeel HUSSAIN

Hasan IZZ-AL-DIN

Mohammed KHALED

Parviz KHAN

Reyaad KHAN

Musa Abu MARZOUK

Khalid MISHAAL

Khalid Shaikh MOHAMMED

Sultan MUHAMMAD

Nasser MUTHANA

Abdul Reza SHAHLAI

Ali Gholam SHAKURI

Qasem SOLEIMANI

Entities

Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)

Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN)

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)

Hizballah Military Wing, including external security organisation

Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command

(PFLP-GC)

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Sendero Luminoso (SL)

Annex B: Persons designated by the EU under Council Regulation (EC)2580/20012

Persons

Hamed ABDOLLAHI*

Abdelkarim Hussein AL-NASSER*

Ibrahim Salih AL YACOUB*

Manssor ARBABSIAR*

Mohammed BOUYERI

Sofiane Yacine FAHAS

Hasan IZZ-AL-DIN*

Khalid Shaikh MOHAMMED*

Abdul Reza SHAHLAI*

Ali Gholam SHAKURI*

Qasem SOLEIMANI*

Groups and Entities

Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO)

Al-Aqsa E.V.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade

Al-Takfir and Al-Hijra

Babbar Khalsa

Communist Party of the Philippines, including New People’s Army (NPA),

Philippines

Devrimci Halk Kurtulu Partisi-Cephesi—DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front/Party)

Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army)*

Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)*

Gama’a al-lslamiyya (a.k.a. Al-Gama’a al-lslamiyya) (Islamic Group—IG)

Hamas, including Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem

Hizballah Military Wing, including external security organisation

Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)

Hofstadgroep

Holy Land Foundation For Relief And Development*

International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)

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Islami Büyük Dogu Akincilar Cephesi (IBDA-C) (Great Islamic Eastern

Warriors Front)

Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF)

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (a.k.a. KONGRA-GEL)

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command (PFLP-GC)*

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)*

Sendero Luminoso (SL) (Shining Path)*

Teyrbazen Azadiya Kurdistan (TAK)

1For full listing details please refer to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/current-list-of-designated-persons-terrorism-and-terrorist-financing

2For full listing details please refer to: www.gov.uk

*EU listing rests on UK designation under TAFA 2010.

Employment Intermediaries: Temporary Workers

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): At Autumn Statement 2014 the Government announced that they would review the increasing use of overarching contracts of employment by employment intermediaries such as “umbrella companies”. These arrangements enable workers to obtain tax relief for home to work travel that would not ordinarily be available.

The Government are today publishing a discussion paper inviting representations from interested parties to inform potential future action on this issue. The discussion document can be found on the gov.uk website.

Communities and Local Government

House Building

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis):

New homes bonus allocations

My Department is announcing today £1.2 billion of provisional new homes bonus funding for local authorities in England. The new homes bonus rewards the delivery of additional homes and is a powerful, simple and transparent incentive for housing growth.

The bonus ensures that local authorities who promote and welcome growth can share in its economic benefits, and build the communities in which people want to live and work. Councils are free to spend the bonus as they choose, including on front-line services and keeping council tax low.

The bonus is based on the council tax of additional homes—net of demolitions—and long-term empty homes brought back into use in the 12-month qualifying period, with an additional premium for affordable homes.

These allocations bring the total amount of funding awarded under the new homes bonus since it began in April 2011 to almost £3.4 billion. This total recognises delivery of over 700,000 homes, plus over 100,000 long-term empty properties brought back into use. The increase for 2015-16 relates to 154,000 homes and 10,000 long-term

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empty properties brought back into use. The affordable homes premium is £15 million in respect of 42,790 affordable homes.

In keeping with our determination to protect those authorities who suffered from flooding last winter, we have ensured that any properties which have become long-term empty as a result of those floods will not be penalised by the bonus.

In London, boroughs will pool a proportion of their 2015-16 bonus allocation to the London Enterprise Panel, the local enterprise partnership for London. Pooled funds will be spent in borough areas in support of London growth deal priorities.

There are many good examples of local authorities using the bonus in a variety of ways. For example, Braintree council has allocated £750,000 of its bonus to affordable housing, and is investing £5 million in major infrastructure projects and projects which could stimulate housing growth, such as improvements to the A120. South Gloucestershire council gives grants to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations and town and parish councils to support them with their projects. And Sheffield city council has used part of its new homes bonus to give a £1.6 million loan, allowing the development of six housing sites totalling 500 homes to be brought forward sooner than originally planned. Many other councils are simply using the funding to support front-line services and keep council tax down—there is no prescriptive approach set by Whitehall.

Local authorities will have until 14 January 2015 to make representations on their provisional allocations. The Department has written to local authorities with details for making representations on their authority’s provisional allocations. Final allocations are due later in the new year.

The incentive of the new homes bonus is complemented by the local retention of business rates and the community infrastructure levy, to ensure that local communities can share the benefits of new development.

New homes bonus evaluation

Alongside the allocations, my Department is also publishing today an evaluation report on the new homes bonus to date. It considers the effect of the bonus on the attitudes and behaviours of key figures, the financial impact of the bonus on local authorities, how bonus receipts are being used and other issues. The evaluation finds that

Almost 50% of planning officers agreed the bonus was a powerful incentive for supporting housing growth.

The bonus is seen to be delivering to its stated principles of being simple, transparent and flexible.

In 2014-15, 75% of local authorities are net gainers from the new homes bonus policy.

The new homes bonus is largely matching the distribution of housing need.

The policy is particularly helping to reduce the number of empty homes.

It has strengthened the links between housing, planning and finance for councils.

The bonus is contributing to a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to housing provision within authorities and is one of a number of factors encouraging and supporting a more proactive approach to house building.

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The policy was supporting more positive attitudes towards new homes. The financial incentive and positive impact on attitudes is expected to further rise in time as the policy works it way through local plan-making.

Notwithstanding, the evaluation also found evidence that many local authorities could go further in raising awareness of the bonus within their communities, and communicating what activities the bonus is being spent on. In response to this we will set out proposals for improving the transparency of new homes bonus payments and usage early in the new year. I would like to place on record my thanks to the external technical advisory group set up to help inform the work of the review.

In addition to the evaluation we are publishing today, there have been several other expressions of support for the bonus from the local government sector itself. The District Councils’ Network has said that, “New Homes Bonus has been effective at incentivising growth and housing delivery” and “Districts have used this to support communities, invest in regeneration and keep council tax low”. The annual PwC survey of local authority chief executives and leaders found the bonus was the most popular government initiative with 59% of respondents saying it had had a positive impact.

According to our latest analysis of Glenigan data, the number of planning permissions for new homes in England has now risen to 240,000 in the 12 months to September 2014—showing that our locally-led planning system and incentives like the new homes bonus are working well.

Fundamentally, the new homes bonus reverses the perverse situation under the last Labour Government, where councils were effectively penalised for building new homes; councils with a larger council tax base from house building found that the amount of formula grant they received from central Government was reduced during the equalisation process. Indeed, the evaluation report notes that our broad local government finance reforms from the local retention of business rates have further enhanced the financial benefit from building new homes, on top of the new homes bonus. By contrast, by opposing the new homes bonus, I observe that HM Opposition are still wedded to a policy position where councils which build homes would be penalised.

Starter homes

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced a new starter homes scheme which will free up the planning system to deliver more low-cost, high-quality homes for first time buyers without burdening the taxpayer.

The new starter homes exception site planning policy will enable starter homes to be built on underused or unviable brownfield sites that would not otherwise be released for housing, on both public and private sector land. Starter homes will be available to first time buyers under 40 years old at a minimum 20% below open market value.

My Department has now launched a consultation document to support the announcement, and take forward this new policy which will deliver more homes for first-time buyers, as part of our broader package of programmes to support local house building.

Details of the associated documents with these publications, including a breakdown of local allocations, have been placed in the Library of the House.

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Defence

Armed Forces Covenant

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The armed forces covenant was launched in recognition of the obligation and debt that the Government and the nation owe to those who serve, or have served, and to their families. Its two key principles are that members of the armed forces community should not face disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services; and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most, such as the injured and the bereaved.

It is entirely right that we should do this for those who give so much in support of their country. The Armed Forces Act 2011 enshrined the armed forces covenant into law, placing an obligation on the Defence Secretary to report to Parliament annually, on the effects of membership of the armed forces on serving personnel, veterans and their families. Today the Government have published their third annual report on the armed forces covenant and I am laying it in the House today.

The report sets out the action that has been taken to meet the commitments of the covenant, not only in the key legislative areas of healthcare, education, accommodation and the operation of inquests, but in all the other areas where we have an obligation to support our people.

Over the last 12 months we have:

changed our policy so that, from April next year, service widows, widowers and surviving civil partners will be able to retain their pensions for life, including if they subsequently remarry;

completed the £138 million Midlands medical accommodation project, a world class centre for excellence for the training and delivery of Defence Medical Services;

provided a further £20 million from LIBOR fines to improve the infrastructure in support of childcare provision for service families;

allocated £17.4 million, through the Department of Education to support the needs of some 58,000 pupils from service families;

increased the MOD education support fund to £6 million per year and extended the fund’s timeline to 2017-18 to help schools who support children from service families as personnel drawdown from Germany and rebasing takes place in the UK;

introduced the forces help to buy scheme to make it easier for armed forces personnel to get on to or stay on the property ladder. The scheme has already allocated around £29 million to help over 1,900 service personnel;

committed £40 million to support 16 new accommodation projects that will help veterans across Great Britain;

achieved a 100% sign up to the community covenant by all 407 mainland Great Britain local authorities, who have pledged to work to bring the civilian and armed forces communities closer together;

continued to grow the corporate covenant to over 370 organisations, including major names such as Tesco, Virgin Media and Liverpool FC, who have declared their support for members of the armed forces community who work for and use their services;

sponsored career assistance programmes designed for service partners which have already supported over 250 spouses;

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implemented, with other Government Departments, the majority of the recommendations of Lord Ashcroft’s review of the armed forces transition process, and continued to strengthen the veterans support network, including: the development of a shared vision for veterans; and the setting up of a 24-hour veterans helpline;

for reserve personnel, we now provide better protection in civilian employment; we have also made changes to their terms and conditions of service including: granting an entitlement to paid annual leave, and enhanced occupational health care; and including them in the defence medical rehabilitation programme when they are mobilised and if they are injured during training;

£21 million from re-directed LIBOR fines the Chancellor announced recently in his autumn statement.

Looking ahead to next year, the report makes a number of commitments. We will:

launch a new £10 million consolidated armed forces covenant grant scheme;

make further announcements on the award of funding for veterans accommodation projects;

implement the majority of the healthcare infrastructure improvements recommended by the Care Quality Commission;

develop a system to transfer medical records between Defence Medical Services and the UK health services;

report on how LIBOR money has been distributed to support childcare provision for service families;

work with the National Foundation For Educational Research to produce some quantitative and qualitative data on service pupil premium use and improve understanding on its impact;

introduce a new, improved charging system for service family accommodation, coupled with a commitment only to allocate properties that meet decent homes standards on introduction;

improve MOD governance and work closely with the organisations who have signed the corporate covenant to ensure they deliver on the pledges they have made;

work with the financial services sector to address potential disadvantage associated with service overseas;

continue working to improve healthcare for reservists when not mobilised;

and provide a defined contribution to the future armed forces pension scheme for all paid service in the reserve forces.

The report has been compiled in consultation with the Covenant Reference Group, which brings together representatives from Government Departments, the devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales, and from external members, including the three Families Federations, the Confederation of Service Charities, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, the War Widows Association and Professor Hew Strachan of Oxford University. As in previous years, observations by the external members of the Covenant Reference Group are published as part of the report itself. I am most grateful to all external members for their continued involvement and assistance.

Energy and Climate Change

EU Energy Council

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Matthew Hancock): I am writing to report discussions at the Energy Council in Brussels on 9 December. The UK was represented by the Deputy Permanent Representative, UKREP.

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The Council discussed the governance of the 2030 climate and energy framework. The Commission emphasised the importance of regional co-operation as well as a streamlined reporting process and noted that it will bring forward proposals on governance during the course of 2015. A number of member states emphasised specifically the importance of reaching the EU-wide renewable energy target. The UK and others argued that the governance framework should allow member states the flexibility in meeting their climate targets consistent with the agreement on the 2030 climate and energy framework as reached at the October European Council. In particular, they argued that there was no need for a new renewable energy directive. The UK also noted that it would be helpful for the governance framework to ensure that all member states developed long-term plans for greenhouse gas reductions. All member states emphasised the need to streamline reporting requirements.

The Council then adopted conclusions on the completion of the internal energy market. The Commission reaffirmed the need to adopt network codes and guidelines quickly and to tackle continued market fragmentation. The Commission also noted that it would be issuing a communication on retail markets in the light of the need to give consumers real and transparent choices.

The presidency reported on progress in reaching 2020 energy and climate targets as part of the mid-term assessment of the “Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth” and noted the importance of energy and climate measures for growth and jobs. The Commission and some member states emphasised the importance of concrete targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency set at national level. The UK emphasised that the economic reform strategy should remain focused on growth and employment and that climate and energy should be kept on a separate track for 2030 to avoid duplication.

The presidency then reported on developments in external energy relations over the last six months, including the US-EU Energy Council, the Euro-Mediterranean energy dialogue, and agreement on the terms of winter gas supplies between Russia and Ukraine, facilitated by the EU. The Commission noted the cancellation of the South Stream project and emphasised that European laws had to be respected. Alternative options for diversifying supply routes to central and eastern European countries had to be explored.

Under Any Other Business, Slovakia highlighted a letter to the Commission on behalf of the Visegrad four countries—Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland—requesting that the European nuclear energy forum (ENEF) should be maintained and not subsumed into another wider forum. The UK and a number of other member states supported the letter and the role of nuclear energy as part of a low-carbon mix. The Commission replied that its focus was on improving rather than ending ENEF.

Finally, the Latvian delegation presented its energy priorities for its presidency in the first half of 2015: developing the Energy Union concept; supporting the development of the 2030 governance process; and continuing discussions of energy security.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (James Duddridge): I chaired the third meeting of the overseas territories joint ministerial council in London on 2 and 3 December. The key theme of this year’s council was building the prosperity and economic development of the territories. The council was attended by political leaders and representatives from Anguilla; Ascension Island; Bermuda; the British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn; St Helena; Tristan da Cunha and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In addition to prosperity and economic development, UK Ministers and overseas territory leaders also discussed financial services, defence and security, policing and criminal justice, the role of the environment in delivering prosperity, migration, passports and border security, health, and pensions. The council agreed a communiqué which identified priorities and set out a clear road map for joint work in the year ahead. A copy of this communiqué has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The communiqué reflects the commitment of the Governments of the overseas territories and the UK to continue to work together in partnership to achieve the vision set out in the June 2012 White Paper “The Overseas Territories: Security Success and Sustainability”.

In line with our commitment in the White Paper we will continue to report to Parliament on progress in implementing the commitments in the communiqué by territory Governments and UK Government Departments. We have also deposited in the Libraries of both Houses a report on progress made in meeting the commitments in the communiqué from the Joint Ministerial Council in 2013. The communiqué, UK progress report and reports by the territories are available for viewing on the website: www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/overseas-territories-joint-ministerial-council

Home Department

Annual Reports (Home Office)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) has today made the following written ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce that today I am publishing the annual reports of the Biometrics Commissioner, National DNA Database Strategy Board and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

Mr Alastair MacGregor, the Biometrics Commissioner appointed under Section 20 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 on 4 March 2013 has presented his first annual report to the Home Secretary. The report of the Biometrics Commissioner is a statutory requirement of section 21 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Chief Constable Chris Simms, current chair of the National DNA Strategy Board has presented the annual report of the National DNA Strategy Board to the Home Secretary. This report has been made a statutory requirement of section 24 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

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Mr Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner appointed under Section 34 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 on 10 March 2014 has presented his first annual report to the Home Secretary. The report of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner is a statutory requirement of section 35 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Together, these reports provide evidence of progress made in the implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. We are grateful to the Commissioners and to the National DNA Strategy Board for their commitment to fulfilling their statutory functions and are considering their reports.

Copies of the reports will be available from the Vote Office.

House of Commons Commission

Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): Following their consideration of the pre-feasibility study on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster in October 2012, the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee agreed that a more detailed study should be carried out by an independent third party and that it should focus on the costs and technical issues associated with the range of options for carrying out the work.

In December 2013, the contract for an independent options appraisal (IOA) was awarded to a consortium led by Deloitte Real Estate and including AECOM and HOK. This followed a rigorous evaluation and selection process. The contract value was £2.02 million.

The full report containing the findings will be published in June/July 2015. It will form the basis for consultation and engagement in the next Parliament, with a decision on a preferred way forward expected by spring 2016.

Other major public projects consistently demonstrate that effort put into early planning is rewarded later with financial savings. While the IOA will provide detailed information to help the two Houses make a broad decision in principle, further studies are also required to support the more detailed planning and design process that must follow that decision.

The additional studies include a re-assessment of the risk of plant failure—on completion of the mechanical and electrical medium-term programme which has been addressing areas at greatest immediate risk—planning how the service infrastructure of the Palace will relate to the rest of the parliamentary estate, and further developing Parliament’s requirements in areas such as security and visitor management. These studies are being commenced now to ensure that Parliament is ready to commission design work once a decision has been made, which in turn will keep the programme on track for a potential 2020-21 start date without anticipating the selection of a particular scenario.

The next phase of studies and reports is expected to cost £5.8 million, shared between the two Houses and spread over financial years 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The work is being carried out by Deloitte Real Estate, HOK and AECOM following agreement to extend the contract under which the consortium prepared the IOA.

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As additional services were envisaged under this contract, which was procured in accordance with public procurement rules, retendering is not required.

Justice

Prison (Interception of Communications)

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): On 11 November 2014, I announced that HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP) would undertake an independent investigation, which will, by early 2015, report in full on the facts and make recommendations. On 30 November, HMCIP provided me with his interim report, which provides an initial assessment of the initial measures put in place and makes a small number of recommendations, which the National Offender Management Service have begun to address.

I am pleased to report that HMCIP has indicated that the interim measures that were taken have, to a large degree, addressed the immediate concern of confidential communication being inadvertently monitored.

The report is available online at:

http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections

I will also place a copy in the Library of the House.

Electoral Commission Committee

Scottish Independence Referendum

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con): (Representing the Speakers Committee on the Electoral Commission): The Electoral Commission has today published its report on the Scottish independence referendum, held on 18 September 2014. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the issues relating to the referendum, from the passage of the legislation through to the conduct of the poll. It looks at the key issues that arose on the way to polling day, including the conduct of campaigners and the Electoral Commission’s regulation of them, and provides data on the views of voters and the experience they had throughout this period.

The evidence gathered by the Electoral Commission to inform its report shows that the referendum was well run, with high levels of voter satisfaction. Research found that 94% of voters who cast their vote at a polling station and 98% of voters who cast a vote by post were satisfied with the process. The research also found that 10% of those who reported having voted also claimed to have voted for the first time.

Of the 4,285,323 people who were registered to vote in the referendum, 109,499 of them were aged 16 or 17 on the day of the poll. The Electoral Commission’s research with these young voters found that 75% of them claimed to have voted and, of these, 97% said they intended to vote again in future elections and referendums.

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The Commission’s report notes that an important lesson from the experience in Scotland that others looking to extend the franchise should consider carefully, is that to do this well it is important that time is given both for administrators to do targeted activity to register young people and for campaigners to engage with them.

The Electoral Commission’s report also acknowledges the hard work and professionalism of those responsible for administering the referendum, from the Chief Counting Officer, Mary Pitcaithly, to all of the counting officers and electoral registration officers across Scotland. Their commitment and hard work led to the registration of almost 150,000 voters in the last month before the deadline and orderly management of the record number of votes cast on polling day, which ensured that voters across Scotland took part in an effective and efficient poll. The Electoral Management Board for Scotland provided a crucial role in advising, supporting and guiding the work of all those administering the referendum. The Commission has previously recommended that the EMB’s role should be placed on a statutory footing for all parliamentary elections in Scotland and it continues to believe that this is the case. The Commission would welcome this change being considered as part of the wider electoral changes proposed by the recent publication of the Smith Commission’s proposals.

The Commission itself had a number of roles at the referendum. As well as supporting the Chief Counting Officer and administrators across Scotland throughout the referendum period, it was also responsible for registering campaigners and regulating the campaign spending and reporting rules they operated under. In total it registered 42 campaigners, with 21 registering in support of a “Yes” outcome and 21 in support of a “No” outcome at the referendum. For the first time at any referendum, campaigners had to report their donations to the Commission before the poll. This meant that the Commission was able to publish the details of campaign donations totalling £4.5 million, giving voters access to that information before they went to vote. This level of transparency for voters and the overall level of compliance from campaigners in meeting this new requirement were welcomed by the Commission.

The report also acknowledges the crucial role played by the UK and Scottish Governments, in making an order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, which enabled the Scottish Parliament to legislate for the main referendum legislation nine months ahead of the poll. These actions ensured that there was sufficient time for those administering the poll to prepare for delivering their respective roles at the referendum. It also allowed campaigners to familiarise themselves with the campaign rules and ensure they had adequate processes in place to comply with them. The experience at the Scottish referendum was in sharp contrast to the referendums in 2011 where the rules were confirmed only three months ahead of polling day. Therefore, the Commission continues to recommend that for all future referendums whether held across or in particular parts of the UK, the legislation—including any secondary legislation—should be clear at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with by campaigners, electoral registration officers or counting officers.

Finally, the Electoral Commission’s report on the referendum has also found that holding a poll on such an important constitutional issue on a separate day

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from other elections, helped both administrators and campaigners plan their activity more effectively and gave voters space to understand the issues. The Commission has previously recommended that combining a referendum with other polls should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Commission believes that this remains the case, but that for issues of a similar scale, including for example the UK’s membership of the European Union, the example set in Scotland should be considered carefully to ensure that campaigners and voters are not in a position where the same parties may be working together in one contest, while campaigning against each other in another, thus causing voter confusion.

The Electoral Commission’s report contains a number of other recommendations for the conduct of any future referendum legislated for by the Scottish Parliament on any issue. But the lessons learnt from this event are

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equally relevant to the UK Government and Parliament and will need to be acted upon should the UK Parliament decide to legislate for a referendum in the future.

Copies of the Commission’s report have been placed in the Library of the House and it is also available on the Commission’s website: www.electoralcommission.org.uk

Work and Pensions

Post Office Card Account

The Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb): I shall be making a statement to the House, about a new contract for the Post Office card account, later today.