23 Feb 2015 : Column 1WS

Written Statements

Monday 23 February 2015

Business, Innovation and Skills

Competitiveness Council (Pre-Council Statement)

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities (Greg Clark): My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Minister with responsibility for intellectual property (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) will today make the following statement:

The European Competitiveness Council will take place on Monday 2 March and Tuesday 3 March. I will represent the UK on day one (industry and internal market) and representation on day two (research, innovation and space) is to be confirmed.

The internal market and industry substantive agenda items are the EU single market and EU industrial competitiveness. Under the EU single market item the Commission will present on single market aspects of the “Annual Growth Survey 2015”, there will be a policy debate on the investment plan for Europe and the presidency is planning to present single market conclusions for adoption.

Under the EU industrial competitiveness item there will be a presentation from the Commission on the industrial policy aspects of the annual growth survey and a policy debate on industrial policy within future digital single market strategy.

There is one legislative proposal on the agenda presented for public deliberation—the trade mark package. This is an update on the proposal for amendment of the Regulation on the Community Trade Mark and a proposal to recast the directive approximating the laws of member states relating to trade marks.

Our objectives for the internal market and industry day are to:

Agree conclusions on the single market that reflect UK priorities;

Set out the UK’s position regarding industrial policy and the digital single market; and

Highlight our continued priorities for the trade mark dossier.

The research, innovation and space day has two substantial policy discussions. There will be a presentation by the Commission on the research and innovation aspects of the annual growth survey 2015 followed by a policy debate on fostering innovation and unlocking Europe’s potential for growth in the European research area.

The second discussion is on unlocking Europe’s digital potential, based on a communication from the Commission on “Towards a thriving data-driven economy”.

Our objectives for the research, innovation and space day are to:

Intervene to emphasise the importance of co-ordination of policies and investments to promote innovation and growth.

To emphasise the importance of issues such as open data and a dynamic and flexible digital single market to an innovative EU data-driven economy.


Communities and Local Government

Protecting Public Money

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I would like to update the House on steps that my Department is taking to protect taxpayers’ money.

23 Feb 2015 : Column 2WS

Government Lobbying Government

Under the last Administration, there was an endemic practice of Government bodies hiring lobbyists to lobby the Government and political parties, as illustrated in the answer of 10 October 2013, Official Report, column 395W. In 2010, I instructed all our arms length bodies to cancel such contracts.

Reflecting commitments made by the Conservative party in opposition, the Cabinet Office also subsequently published clear guidance to non-departmental public bodies to stop payments being made to lobby. This includes firms and consultants engaged in the enthusiasms of “political consultancy”, “stakeholder management”, “strategic communications”, “public affairs”, “policy tracking”, “advocacy”, “strategic counsel” and “engagement with public policy makers and opinion formers”.

In 2011, my Department issued a revised Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity making it clear that local authorities should not incur any expenditure in retaining the services of lobbyists for the purpose of the publication of any material designed to influence public officials, Members of Parliament, political parties or the Government to take a particular view on any issue.

There is nothing wrong with private organisations using their own money to hire commercial firms for advice, provided it is done in an open and transparent manner; and this Government have legislated to put such transparency on a statutory footing.

But “lobbying on the rates” is a wasteful, corrosive and zero sum game for the public sector. The public sector never lobbies for lower taxes and less state spending —and is a prime example of “public choice” theory in action—state bureaucracies using public funds to expand their state empires.

Lobbying by “Sock Puppets

However, the practice of Government lobbying Government is not just confined to quangos. The Institute of Economic Affairs has undertaken extensive research on so-called “sock puppets”; they have exposed the extensive practice of taxpayers’ money being given to pressure groups and supposed charities, in turn being used to lobby the Government and Parliament for more money and more regulation. This is an issue which needs to be addressed.

My Department has set an example to the rest of Whitehall by amending our standard grant agreements to impose a new anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet clause. The simple, short but effective clause says:

“The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure:- Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”.

We hope this can and will be rolled out more widely across the public sector.

Lobbying by Local Enterprise Partnerships

It has come to the Government’s attention that a small number of local enterprise partnerships have been hiring public affair consultancies to lobby the Government and Parliament.

BBC “Look East” has recently investigated how Hertfordshire local enterprise partnership used the lobbyists to bid for Government cash and set up meetings with

23 Feb 2015 : Column 3WS

MPs, MEPs and civil servants. I am aware of at least another five local enterprise partnerships which have been paying for lobbyists.

Using taxpayers’ funds to lobby Government wastes public money and undermines transparency. Such lobbying will not expand the quantum of public funding available to local enterprise partnerships. Unless action is taken, more local enterprise partnerships may feel pressured to follow suit, diverting taxpayers’ money away from enterprise and regeneration.

It is the firm view of the Government that the same principles should apply to local enterprise partnerships, as councils and quangos. Local enterprise partnerships should not be hiring lobbyists to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or to attempt to influence legislative or regulatory action. This covers lobbying in the broadest sense, as defined in the Cabinet Office guidance. Any local enterprise partnerships which currently have hired lobbyists should terminate their contracts. They should pick up the phone instead.

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) will be writing to local enterprise partnerships shortly.

Lobbying by Local Authorities

Thanks to the transparency agenda which this Government have championed, it has also come to my attention that a number of local authorities may be paying for lobbyists in potential non-compliance with the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Ministers are prepared to use our powers under the Local Government Act 1986, as amended by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, to stop such practices.

I hope this sends a clear signal on how this Government will stand up and protect the interests of taxpayers, and rein in the spendthrift practices of state bureaucracy.



Type 26 Global Combat Ship

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): Today I am providing an update on our plans for taking forward the Type 26 Global Combat Ship programme.

Good progress has been made during the assessment phase on all aspects of the programme, and this work is now sufficiently mature to conclude this phase and move forward into the demonstration phase with effect from 1 April 2015.

In the demonstration phase, under a contract worth £859 million, we will continue detailed design work and invest in shore-based testing facilities. We will also provide certainty to suppliers by purchasing key initial equipment for three Type 26 GCS vessels. Careful negotiations have secured the best possible deal for this equipment, ensuring that it represents a good investment for the taxpayer.

In parallel, we will continue to work better to understand programme schedule, cost and risk. This approach draws on key lessons from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier programme by ensuring that the ship design is sufficiently mature, the supply chain is fully mobilised

23 Feb 2015 : Column 4WS

early in the programme to de-risk material supply, and a full joint analysis of programme risk is completed before awarding a build contract.

On current planning, and subject to a main gate decision, this will allow the manufacture phase to commence in 2016 and maintain scheduled delivery of this new capability to the Royal Navy in 2022.


Logistics Commodities and Services Transformation Programme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Dunne): In July 2012, my predecessor, the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff), informed the House about a transformation programme within Logistic Commodities and Services (LCS), part of Defence Equipment and Support.

The primary role for LCS is to provide support to military operations by undertaking procurement and inventory management of commodity items (including food, clothing, packed fuel, general supplies and medical supplies), and the storage and distribution of these commodity items, together with other non-explosive stock across Defence.

LCS(T) will provide significant operational effectiveness by delivering improved responsiveness and agility. It will also improve efficiency in storage infrastructure; commodity procurement and logistic processes and rationalise inventory management and stock control for commodity products. It is also expected to deliver financial savings of around £0.5 billion over the next 13 years ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of the Armed Forces of the future.

The programme has now completed a very comprehensive and detailed assessment phase and following a strong and rigorous competition I was pleased to announce last week that Leidos has been selected as the preferred bidder. While I would ordinarily have made such an announcement to the House first, in order to avoid delaying the commercial process it was necessary to do so during recess. I will make a further statement to the House with final details of the transaction next month once contract negotiations have concluded.



Double Taxation Convention : United Kingdom-Algeria

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A Double Taxation Convention with Algeria was signed on 18 February 2015. The text of the Convention has been deposited in the Library of both Houses and made available on the GOV.UK website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

It is also available online at http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements.


23 Feb 2015 : Column 5WS


Chief Inspector Probation

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): I wish to inform the House that an interim Chief Inspector of Probation started on 19 February 2015.

23 Feb 2015 : Column 6WS

Paul Wilson has been appointed for an initial six months while we are recruiting for the permanent Chief Inspector.

Mr Wilson has a track record of senior management within the probation field. He was previously Chief Executive of London Probation Trust.

The Justice Select Committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor in the usual way.