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Written Statements

Wednesday 15 July 2015


Military Inquests

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Penny Mordaunt): On 13 July 2013, Army Reservists Corporal James Dunsby, Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Lance Corporal Edward Maher were among 37 reserve soldiers taking part in an individual navigation exercise on the Brecon Beacons. Tragically, Lance Corporal Maher and Lance Corporal Roberts died while taking part in the exercise and Corporal James Dunsby was evacuated and died in hospital on 30 July 2013. An inquest into the circumstances of these tragic deaths heard evidence from 1 to 26 June 2015, and HM Senior Coroner for the City of Birmingham and the Borough of Solihull yesterday returned a narrative conclusion. The coroner has identified failings in the running of the exercise and has indicated that she will make a number of recommendations to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in order to prevent future deaths.

I would like to apologise on behalf of the MOD and the armed forces for the deaths of Corporal Dunsby, Lance Corporal Roberts and Lance Corporal Maher. We would also like to offer our sincere condolences to their families and friends who have shown great dignity during what has been a very difficult period.

We accept the failings identified by the coroner and are truly sorry. In response to our own and the Health and Safety Executive’s investigations we have made a number of changes to the way this exercise and similar exercises are conducted. These changes include improvements to the preparatory training that reserves undertake and a thorough review of the risk assessment process to ensure that all those involved have been trained in the effective management of risks. A new tracker system has been implemented to improve monitoring of individual candidates and to enable two-way communications between directing staff and candidates. We are looking at how this can be further improved. We continually review our code of practice for the prevention and initial medical treatment of climatic injuries in the armed forces in order to minimise the risk of such tragic events. We will continue to work hard to ensure the code of practice is understood and followed.

Over the next few days the coroner will issue her report to prevent future deaths to the MOD. We will treat her recommendations with the utmost seriousness. We will ensure everything possible is being done to reduce the risk to personnel who undertake these types of exercise and to try to prevent a reoccurrence of these terrible events. The MOD will have 56 days to provide our formal response, a copy of which I will place in the Library of the House. As soon as civil investigations are complete we will initiate our own service inquiry to see where further lessons can be identified and improvements made. The Royal Military Police will also consider whether any non-criminal service offences appear to have been committed.

The reserves continue to form an important part of military capability, whether on operations or at home. We will continue to ensure that the reserves have the

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necessary training, skills and fitness levels to do the tasks required of them. It will always be necessary to train and test our military personnel to the highest possible level so that they can meet the challenges to national security that we face both in the UK and overseas.

Achieving this end does involve individuals having to push themselves and take some risk. However, as an organisation we must ensure that this is balanced with the need to ensure these risks are effectively mitigated. In this case, we did not do this and we accept full responsibility for these tragic deaths. We are determined to learn the lessons. I am the Minister who will be responsible for taking any corrective action forward. I will be writing to the families personally and will make myself available to meet them if they wish, and to facilitate any requests they might have.


Submarine Dismantling Project

The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne): On 16 October 2014 I announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP) public consultation process would take place between 14 November 2014 and 20 February 2015. Today I can announce, with the conclusion of that process, an initial report from the public consultation is being published online.

Five sites were shortlisted to house an interim store for intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) removed from 27 nuclear submarines that have been, or will be, decommissioned. The interim store will have the capacity to hold all this ILW until it is transferred to a geological disposal facility (GDF) some time after 2040.

The public consultation sought views about the sites that had been shortlisted and how people felt about the site near them being chosen. The report draws together all the views and collates them under themes to provide a clear and accurate consensus of the opinions raised by site and subject.

This initial report contains only views from the public and no response from MOD as yet, this will come in a later report. It has been published today on the Government website at:


Moving forward, assessment continues, taking into account the public consultation findings and information that has been requested and gathered from the sites themselves. The five shortlisted sites are: AWE Aldermaston in Berkshire; AWE Burghfield in Berkshire; Capenhurst in Cheshire; Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire and Sellafield in Cumbria.

A final decision about which site will house the interim store will be made in 2016.

A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House.


House of Commons Commission

House of Commons (Governance)

Tom Brake (Representing the House of Commons Commission): Following the House’s agreement on 9 July to a motion appointing Sir Paul Beresford, Tom Brake, Nicholas Brown and Stewart Hosie to the House of Commons Commission, the Commission met on 13 July

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for the first time since the House of Commons Commission Act 2015 took effect. The majority of the meeting focused on progress with implementation of the recommendations of the Select Committee on House of Commons Governance.

The Commission noted that the final interviews for the new post of director general of the House of Commons had been held on 2 July, and hoped that it would be possible to announce an appointment shortly.

The Commission agreed a delegation under the terms of paragraph 5 of schedule 1 of the House of Commons Administration Act 1978 to establish an Executive Committee to replace the Management Board and to set out the authority for senior appointments. This delegation is appended to the “decisions” of the meeting, which are published on the Parliament website at:


The new Executive Committee’s main delegated responsibilities will be delivery of the strategy to be agreed by the Commission and ensuring that the terms and conditions of staff are consistent with the Commission’s statutory duties. Pending the outcome of a senior management review, the Executive Committee will comprise the director general of the House of Commons (once appointed) as chair, the Clerk of the House of Commons, the head of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services, the head of the Department of Facilities, the Director of Finance, the head of the Department of Human Resources and Change and the head of the Department of Information Services. In addition the Executive Committee may co-opt the director of the parliamentary digital service and/or the parliamentary security director into its membership.

The Commission agreed that Tom Brake would act as its spokesperson, and that he would answer all questions tabled to the Commission and the Members Estimate Committee.

The Commission agreed that to improve transparency, it would publish its agendas on the Parliament website prior to its meetings.

The Commission agreed to begin the process of recruiting its external members in September. In the meantime, the former external members of the Management Board will continue to attend by invitation.

The Commission also up-dated its statement of membership, functions and practice to reflect the changes that have occurred as a result of the Governance Committee’s report. In particular, it agreed that its quorum should increase from three to five, to include four members and one official.


Electoral Commission Committee

Election Administration 2015

Mr Gary Streeter (Representing The Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission): The Electoral Commission has today published its statutory report on the administration of the 7 May 2015 elections, including the UK parliamentary general election. The commission’s report indicates that, overall, the elections were well run.

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The commission’s research with the public demonstrates that the UK continues to enjoy well-run elections with high levels of voter satisfaction and confidence. Nine in 10 (91%) people surveyed said the elections were well-run. Within this, nearly all (94%) of those who voted in person at a polling station were satisfied with the process, and nearly all (97%) of those who voted by post were satisfied with voting this way.

The commission notes that this success is due to the dedication of all those who had a role in these elections: the returning officers (ROs) and their staff in election offices, polling stations and count centres across the UK; the candidates, political party volunteers and campaigners; and the millions of voters who participated. Any problems that did occur were confined to a small number of local areas and the commission has also today published a paper alongside its statutory report which addresses in more detail the performance of returning officers at the May 2015 polls and where there were failures against the commission’s performance standards.

The commission’s view at present is that there were high levels of compliance with the rules by parties and candidates. Later this year, the commission will publish campaigners’ spending returns which will give voters transparency in how they financed their election campaigns.

The May 2015 elections involved several important new changes for voters, campaigners and electoral administrators: there was a new individual electoral registration system for England, Scotland and Wales, which also allowed people to apply to register to vote online for the first time; and there were additional transparency rules for non-party campaigners in place for the first time at a UK parliamentary general election. The 2015 UK parliamentary general election was also the first held under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which meant that the date of the elections was known since autumn 2011.

The general election alone was contested by 134 political parties and 3,971 candidates. In addition, in several hundred local authority areas in England, the poll for the UK parliamentary election was combined with other polls including parish council elections, elections for local mayors and local referendums.

A total of 2.6 million applications to register to vote were submitted during the Electoral Commission’s public awareness campaign, and contributed to over 1.5 million new additions to the electoral registers. The elections staff adapted to the level of demand and on the whole coped well, and 85% of voters surveyed were satisfied with the procedure for registering to vote. The May parliamentary electoral registers contained 46.4 million entries, an increase of 1% since February/March 2014, when the last registers were published under the household registration system.

The commission makes a number of recommendations to further improve voters’ experience and sustain trust in our democracy at future polls, based on lessons from the experiences of these most recent elections and long-standing policy recommendations.

Key recommendations include: the new online electoral registration service should now be extended to electors in Northern Ireland; people should be able to check whether they are already correctly registered to vote, using an additional online system, before submitting a new application to register to vote; all returning officers

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should include the correct postage on postal ballot packs for overseas electors so that they can be delivered to voters and returned as quickly as possible before polling day, with funding made available by the UK Government for ROs to deliver this.

The commission has also reiterated its 2014 recommendation that voters at polling stations in England, Scotland and Wales should be required to provide proof of their identity before being issued with a ballot paper. The commission will publish further information on proposals for a proportionate and accessible scheme for verifying the identity of electors at polling stations by the end of 2015, and recommends that the UK Government should legislate to introduce this requirement in time for elections in 2019.

The commission also recommends in its report that all UK Governments should ensure that any legislation relating to elections for which they are responsible is clear at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with by campaigners or electoral administrators, and suggests that if this cannot be achieved, statements should be tabled in the relevant legislature to explain the reasons.

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Copies of the commission’s reports have been placed in the Library and it is also available on its website at:www.electoralcommission.org.uk


Work and Pensions

Office for Nuclear Regulation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Justin Tomlinson): Later today I will lay copies of the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s annual plan for 2015-16 and the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s strategy 2015-20 before this House, both are un-numbered Act papers.

Having consulted the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who is accountable for civil nuclear security and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, I can confirm, in accordance with schedule 7, section 25(3) of the Energy Act 2013, that there have been no exclusions to either of the published documents on the grounds of national security.