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Written Statements

Monday 7 September 2015


Royal Navy Operations

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Penny Mordaunt): On 15 April 2015, while in the Irish Sea, the fishing vessel Karen sustained damage to her nets and deck equipment and, following repairs, resumed fishing shortly after.

On the information available at the time, the Royal Navy (RN) was confident that no UK submarine was involved in the incident, and I also informed the House in response to questions from the hon. Member for South Down (Ms Margaret Ritchie) on 10 June 2015 (question 1312) and during Defence oral questions on 13 July 2015, Official Report, column 579.

I now wish to inform the House that, on the basis of new information that has become available, the RN has now confirmed that a UK submarine was, in fact, responsible for snagging the Karen’S nets. The incident, the delay in identifying and addressing the events on that day, and their consequences, are deeply regretted.

It is standing Ministry of Defence policy not to comment in detail on submarine operations but, exceptionally, I can say that this incident occurred because the submarine did not correctly identify the Karen as a fishing vessel with nets in the water, and thus did not give her the berth she would otherwise have had. Moreover, had the submarine been aware of the incident at the time, which it was not, then the protocols in place under the Code Of Practice For Submarine Operations In The Vicinity Of Fishing Vessels would have required the submarine to surface and remain on scene while the matter was investigated.

Notwithstanding the enduring requirement to operate RN submarines in busy coastal waters to guarantee our national security, this is the first incident between an RN submarine and a fishing vessel since the code was introduced in 1993. Having identified the specific circumstances, the RN has already taken steps to further reduce the risk of such circumstances happening again: the instructions issued to submarine Commanding Officers (COs) have been updated to reflect the lessons learned, which will also inform the training given to future COs. The RN’s reporting procedures have been reviewed to enable it to confirm more quickly whether or not a UK submarine was involved. These new arrangements will enable the Ministry of Defence’s established claims procedures to be invoked with minimal delay and the matter fully investigated.

MOD officials have contacted the Karen’s owners and insurers to discuss appropriate compensation.

I can assure the House that we take the safety of fishing vessels, and of life at sea, very seriously. The RN is co-operating with the Marine Accident Investigation Board’s independent inquiry, and will continue to engage with the UK’s fishing communities to explain our position

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and how we are responding. We will continue to work closely with the Fishing Industry Safety Group and Trade Associations to ensure the continuing safety of fishing vessels and our ships and submarines.


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thames Tideway Tunnel

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rory Stewart): I wish to update the House on progress on the Thames Tideway Tunnel since the written ministerial statement— 5 June 2014, Official Report, column 11WS—made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Owen Paterson).

The Thames Tideway Tunnel is an example of world leading British engineering at its best. It will boost economic growth across the capital, generate thousands of jobs and bring significant benefits to the natural environment by protecting the Thames from sewage. In the 21st century, the most dynamic city in the world should not have a river that is polluted by sewage every time there is heavy rainfall.

In the previous statement the Government confirmed they had required Thames Water to put the project out to tender by running a competitive procurement for an infrastructure provider that would be separate from Thames Water and would be responsible for delivering the project, including its financing.

The procurement was carried out under the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006. The Government and Ofwat were consulted throughout this process. On 14 July 2015 Thames Water announced that the consortium forming Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd was its preferred bidder for the project’s infrastructure provider. The shareholders are a consortium of pension funds and long-term investors represented by Allianz, Amber Infrastructure (representing International Public Partnerships and Swiss Life), Dalmore Capital and DIF.

On 12 August the European Commission announced that it was content that the state aid contained in the Government support package was compatible with the European Union’s internal market. The adopted decision is expected to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union in due course.

On 14 August Ofwat announced that it had designated Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd as the infrastructure provider under the Water Industry (Specified Infrastructure Projects) (English Undertakers) Regulations 2013.

On 24 August Ofwat awarded Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd a Project Licence and commercial close was reached on the project. The Project Licence award followed two public consultations carried out by Ofwat in October 2014 and August 2015. Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd also signed the project documentation and the three main construction contracts with three consortia who will construct the tunnel.

In addition, Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with other project parties, have entered into contracts constituting the Government’s contingent financial support for the project the “Government support package” and other

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associated documents. The Government support package has enabled the project to attract private sector finance at an acceptable cost for customers and will only be called upon if certain low-probability but high-impact risks arise during construction. If they do not materialise there will be no exposure for the taxpayer.

The Secretary of State, Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd and Thames Water also signed the liaison agreement. This enables Government to monitor progress on the project and will assist with managing any likely calls on the Government support package.

I am placing the core contracts today in the Library of both Houses, subject to some commercial redactions. I understand that other contracts relating to the project will be made available in due course by the parties involved.

The competitions for both the infrastructure provider and the construction contracts were highly competitive. The winning bid for the infrastructure provider offered a weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 2.497%, which is fixed, subject to the terms of the project licence, until the first price review following construction. The construction procurements delivered a target build cost which is unchanged from that estimated in 2011. As a result, Thames Water now estimates the project will lead to an average household customer bill impact which will peak at £20 to £25 by the mid-2020s (in 2015 prices), of which £7 is already included within customer bills. They also expect that their current average household bill for water and wastewater services will remain at the same level, before inflation, until at least 2020. This impact is considerably lower than the maximum estimate of £70 to £80 given in the written ministerial statement— 3 November 2011, Official Report, column 41WS—made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon). This is a significant and welcome reduction in the estimated bill impacts of the project.

From the first periodic price review following construction of the tunnel prices will be regulated by Ofwat as they are for the remainder of the industry.

Construction on the main drive sites is anticipated to start in late summer 2016 with physical completion scheduled for 2023.

Many parties have invested a great deal of time and effort to reach this significant milestone. Government look forward to continuing to work closely with Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd, Thames Water and Ofwat so that it can manage the taxpayer risks that arise from the Government support package during the construction period and help ensure a successful outcome for customers, taxpayers and the environment.



HM Courts & Tribunal Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): My noble Friend the Minister of State for Civil Justice (Lord Faulks QC) made the following written statement on 22 July 2015.

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“I am today announcing the Government’s response to the consultation on proposals for increases to court fees, which was published on 16 January 2015, and also launching a new consultation on further proposals.

The courts fulfil a vital role in an effective and functioning democracy. They provide access to justice for those who need it, upholding the principle of the rule of law. That is why we need to make sure that the courts and tribunals are properly funded.

The Secretary of State and the Courts Minister have set out separately plans for reform to the courts and tribunals where we will be investing in reforms that will deliver a modernised, leaner, and more efficient system.

To deliver this vision, we need a strong, secure and effective economy. This Government were elected to continue our work to fix the economy, by reducing public spending, eliminating the deficit and reducing the national debt. The courts and tribunals must continue to play their part in this national effort as much as any other public service.

There is, however, only so much that can be delivered through efficiency measures alone. If we are to secure sustainable funding of the courts and tribunals, we must also look to those who use the system to contribute more where they can afford to do so.

That is why we have to look again at court fees. Despite the fees already introduced, HMCTS still costs £1 billion a year more to run than it receives in income. In considering the changes outlined below, we have been determined to:

deliver faster and fairer justice for all;

protect the weak and vulnerable;

promote equality of all before the law.

Following a consultation launched by the coalition Government in January 2015, today’s Government response confirms that we will:

increase the fees for issuing a possession claim in the county court by £75, from £280 to £355. Our analysis of the available evidence suggests that this increase will not deter anyone who would otherwise have taken their claim to court;

increase the fees for general applications in civil proceedings by £50, from £50 to £100, for an application by consent and by £100, from £155 to £255, for a contested application. In order to ensure the most vulnerable are not affected, we are excluding from this fee rise applications such as those to vary or extend an injunction for protection from harassment or violence.

In December 2013, the coalition Government also consulted on increasing the fee payable to issue divorce proceedings from £410 to £750. Today we are announcing that we will: increase the fees for issuing divorce proceedings to £550. We have carefully considered the concerns raised during the consultation and decided not to increase fees by 80% as originally proposed. Instead we will press ahead with a more affordable increase of about a third. We are also protecting the most vulnerable by ensuring that fee remission is available for those who need it, such as women in low wage households.

These three measures are estimated to deliver over £60 million in additional income each year but the drive to reduce costs is ongoing. We are therefore also announcing today a consultation on further proposals:

an increase in the maximum fee for money claims from £10,000 to at least £20,000. Fees are currently payable on 5% of the value of a claim up to a maximum fee of £10,000. This change will only affect the highest value claims, worth £200,000 or more. There are 1.2 million money claims each year, of which 5,000 will be affected. That is just 0.4% of the total, or one in every 240 money claims. Many of the claims brought for higher values will involve large multi-national organisations or wealthy individuals, and we believe it is right to ask them to contribute more. In order to protect the most vulnerable, personal injury and clinical negligence claims will be excluded from this higher cap and fee remissions for those of limited means will continue to apply;

introducing or increasing fees for certain tribunals. We are proposing to double fees in the immigration and asylum chamber, while applying exemptions to protect the most

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vulnerable. We will not be applying any fees to the social entitlement chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, where most applicants do not have the means to pay, or to the Mental Health Tribunal, which deals with especially vulnerable individuals. We will, however, introduce fees to the property, tax and general regulatory chambers. In the property tribunal, we are proposing fees at low levels for the majority of applications, while setting higher fees for leasehold enfranchisement cases where there are often large sums of money at stake. In each of the tribunals being consulted on, we aim to recover 25% of the total cost of the service through fees with taxpayers footing the rest of the bill;

a general uplift of 10% to a wide range of fees in civil proceedings. These are small increases and only apply to fees which are not already above full cost.

These further proposals are estimated to generate around £48 million a year in additional income.

We are committed to protecting access to justice for all and so we will: make the remissions scheme more generous. We will increase the amount of disposable capital those who need to pay a larger court fee are allowed to have in order to qualify for remission. We are also considering whether other forms of payment or benefit should be excluded from the disposable capital test. The HMCTS remission scheme will apply across all the courts and tribunals on which we are consulting, with the exception of the immigration and asylum chamber where separate arrangements are in place.

Full details are set out in the consultation paper which is available on the MoJ website. The consultation will close on 15 September.”

We recognise that fee increases are not popular but they are necessary if we are to deliver our promises to fix the economy and bring the nation into surplus. At every stage we have sought to protect the most vulnerable by ensuring they will not have to pay new and higher fees and by making the remissions scheme more generous. We have also sought to ensure that those who can afford to—such as wealthy individuals or large corporations making very high money claims—will make a bigger contribution. Every pound we collect from these fee increases will be spent on providing an efficient and effective system of courts and tribunals.


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Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Competition

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones): The Department for Transport launched the £25 million advanced biofuels demonstration competition to support the development of a domestic advanced biofuel industry in December 2014. Following a strong competition, I am pleased to announce that three projects have been selected for investment totalling £25 million over three years.

Grants are to be awarded to three winning projects:

Celtic Renewables Limited £10,925,000

Advanced Plasma Power Limited £10,958,194

Nova Pangaea Limited £ 3,000,000

The projects will use the capital grants awarded, supported by significant private sector investment, to construct three demonstration-scale advanced biofuel plants in Swindon, Tees Valley and Grangemouth.

Relative to first-generation biofuels—those made from traditional crops, starch, sugars or vegetable oil—advanced fuels have the potential to deliver greater carbon savings without the same concerns around food security and land use change. The advanced fuel technologies, the winning projects will demonstrate, could reduce our reliance on imported energy, by turning unwanted waste products into valuable transport fuel, adding value to the UK economy and creating jobs. According to an independent feasibility study, gains from the domestic supply as a result of converting low value waste to high value transport fuel could be worth up to £130 million Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK by 2030, and potentially up to £500 million per year including exports.

This is a major step forward for the UK and supports the work the Department for Transport is doing to set the UK’s long term strategy for biofuels in order to meet EU targets, which includes considering a sub target for advanced biofuels.