some default text...

Prepared: 14:15 on 8th September 2014

Go back to index

 

House of Lords

Summer Recess 2014

Written Answers and Statements

Children: Sexual Abuse 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my statement to the House on 7 July and my WMS of 9 July, I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Fiona Woolf CBE, JP to be the chairman of the independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection, to consider whether public bodies – and other, non-state, institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

Fiona Woolf has had a long and distinguished career holding high-profile and challenging positions, including President of the Law Society and Chairman of the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS), and is only the second woman since 1189 to hold the position of Lord Mayor of London. As a lawyer, and latterly partner, at CMS Cameron McKenna for over 20 years, Fiona Woolf has worked in over 40 jurisdictions. She has advised over 25 governments and multi-lateral agencies such as the World Bank. She has also served as a member of the Competition Commission for 8 years.

I am confident that Fiona Woolf has the skills and experience needed to set the strategic direction of the Inquiry, to lead the work of the Panel, and to challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour to get to the bottom of this issue, and stop it happening again.

To help her in this role, and to ensure that the Inquiry delivers the thorough, robust and independent review that I have promised, she will be supported by a panel of distinguished experts, and will be able to call upon expert advisers as required.

It is vital that the panel has access to independent expert legal advice and I am pleased to be able to announce that Counsel to the Inquiry will be Ben Emmerson QC, founder of Matrix Chambers and one of the UK’s most distinguished lawyers in the field of national and international human rights law. I can also confirm two panel members: Graham Wilmer MBE, founder of the Lantern Project, which was established in 2003 to provide help and support for survivors of sexual abuse and Barbara Hearn OBE, former deputy Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau. Each of them has a track record of giving a voice to vulnerable people and will bring important expertise and experience to the Inquiry.

I can also announce that Professor Alexis Jay has agreed to act as an expert adviser to the panel. Her recent report ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013)’ exposed a terrible example of child sexual abuse and exploitation; and her experience and insight will, I am sure, be of benefit to the Inquiry.

The other panel members will be announced in due course once they have been appointed by the chairman.

Fiona Woolf will agree the terms of reference with the full panel, once they are appointed, to ensure that they are sufficient to deliver the robust Inquiry which is required. I will report back to the House on this as soon as possible.

Crime Reduction 

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Mike Penning) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I will today publish the response to the Justice Committee’s First Report of Session 2014-15: Crime Reduction Policies – a co-ordinated approach?

The Government is proud of its strong record at reducing crime. The most recent figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show that overall crime has fallen by 62% since its peak in 1995, and is now at the lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

The Government has put robust measures in place to ensure that crime continues to fall; offenders receive robust punishments; and that the unacceptably high rates of reoffending are driven down. We are also placing high quality education at the centre of youth custody to prevent future offending.

The public and victims deserve a fair and transparent justice system that effectively deters and punishes offenders, and tackles the stubbornly high rates of reoffending and this is the primary focus of our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.

We are opening up the market to a diverse range of providers to ensure that we get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at the local as well as national level. Bids to run the Community Rehabilitation Companies were received at the end of June and we look to have a healthy competition in all Contract Package Areas, having received over 80 bids, with an average of four bidders per area. The new payment incentives we will introduce for market providers will also ensure a relentless focus on reforming offenders, giving providers flexibility to do what works but only paying them in full for real reductions in reoffending.

Under our reforms for the first time in recent history virtually every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community, to finally address the glaring gap that sees 50,000 short-term prisoners released onto the streets each year with little or no support, free to go back to their criminal ways.

We are also putting in place an unprecedented nationwide ‘through the prison gate’ resettlement service, meaning the majority of offenders will be given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community. We will support this by ensuring that most offenders are held in a prison designated to their area for at least three months prior to release.

Finally, we have created a new public sector National Probation Service, working to protect the public and building upon the expertise and professionalism which are already in place.

Copies of the paper will be available in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. The document will also be online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/crime-reduction-policies-a-coordinated-approach-the-governments-response.

Defence Procurement 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Michael Fallon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce the successful contract award worth £3.5 billion (Ex VAT) to General Dynamics UK (GDUK) to deliver a minimum fleet of 589 Scout Specialist Vehicles (Scout SV) to the British Army. This will sustain a minimum of 1,300 jobs across the UK. Deliveries of the Scout SV are planned to commence in 2017. The training establishment and first squadron will be equipped by mid-2019 to allow conversion to begin with a brigade ready to deploy from the end of 2020.

Scout SV will transform the Army’s combat capabilities and will introduce new and very advanced intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities. These vehicles will be the eyes and ears of commanders on the battlefields of the future and will carry a revolutionary and highly effective cannon.

Vehicle development has drawn on the lessons of recent operations. Scout SV will be a modern, tough, well-protected, highly mobile and agile tracked vehicle, able to cope with the most difficult terrain anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day and able to hold its own against the threats we foresee. It will replace the Army’s existing force of Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) vehicles which have given exemplary service for the past 40 years all over the world, most recently in Afghanistan.

Scout SV will fulfil nine different roles from six variants: a turreted variant mounting a 40-mm cannon fulfilling the Scout, Ground Based Surveillance and Joint Fire Control roles, a Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS) variant providing an armoured personnel carrier and Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch, Command and Control, Engineer Reconnaissance, Recovery and Repair variants.

Immigration Act 2014: Landlords 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My honourable friend the Immigration and Security Minister (James Brokenshire) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the location in which the measures relating to landlords as prescribed by sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014 will first be implemented. The Immigration Act 2014 contains a range of measures to reform and streamline the immigration system and address illegal immigration. It introduces restrictions on illegal immigrants accessing rented housing. When these provisions come into force, landlords will be prohibited from letting residential accommodation to people who have been disqualified by virtue of their immigration status.

The Government has committed to a phased implementation of these provisions with the measures initially coming into force in one location, followed by an evaluation to inform decisions on further roll-out. I wish to inform the House that after careful consideration, the scheme is to be implemented first in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell. The new measures will commence in this area from 1 December.

To assist and advise the implementation and evaluation of the measures, the Government is convening a Consultative Panel. The Panel consists of bodies that represent landlords, letting agents, housing and homeless charities and others with an informed interest in the matter, and will also include representatives from the local authorities in these areas. This will ensure that the first phase can be thoroughly evaluated and considered as part of the decision making process on further roll-out.

Iraq 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Michael Fallon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to provide an update to the House on military activity in Iraq.

The ambition to create an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and Syria is a direct threat to our own security in the UK. The Government is committed to using its aid, diplomatic, political and military expertise to focus on three objectives: alleviating the humanitarian suffering; to promoting an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq; and working with the international community to tackle the broader threat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses to the region and countries around the world, including the UK.

As the House will be aware, following the advances of ISIL and the threat it posed to the civilian population, we received requests for assistance from the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Working with international partners and other departments in Government, the Ministry of Defence has assisted in alleviating the immediate humanitarian situation, and in providing help so the Iraqi authorities can contain and push back ISIL and protect the civilian population.

Between 9 and 14 August, the UK delivered a total of 75 tonnes of humanitarian aid (provided by the Department for International Development) (DfID) over Mount Sinjar through seven successful C-130 aircraft sorties. This aid was delivered to help thousands of Iraqis who had been displaced by ISIL. These flights were fully integrated with the US and included participation from the Royal Australian Air Force. UK operations ceased when the operation was concluded by US Central Command. RAF Akrotiri hosted the air transport used to drop humanitarian aid, as well as four CH-47 Chinook helicopters which prepared for a potential evacuation of displaced people from the mountain.

Overnight on 30/31 August, two UK C-130s dropped 13.8 tonnes of DfID aid to the town of Amerli, near Kirkuk, which had been under siege from ISIL for several weeks. This was part of a coalition effort of US, French and Australian aircraft which provided enough water for Amerli for two days and enough food for four days.

The RAF have also carried out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions to better understand the situation on the ground. Between 13 and 16 August, ten surveillance sorties were undertaken by UK Tornado GR4 aircraft. On 30/31 August, a further Tornado sortie flew a surveillance mission in support of the aid drops to Amerli. A UK Rivet Joint aircraft has also been deployed to improve our understanding. A Voyager aircraft has provided support to these operations through air-to-air refuelling.

In response to requests from the Iraqi government and the KRG we have also taken part in international efforts to help the Iraqi authorities contain and push back ISIL. UK C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft have delivered to the KRG ammunition and equipment from other nations, including small arms and rocket-propelled grenades with which the Kurdish security forces are already familiar. We are also gifting UK non-lethal equipment, including helmets and body armour, to the KRG. These flights transited through Baghdad for inspection and approval by the Iraqi government and the deliveries have been supported by a small Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team deployed to Erbil to support the move and transfer of the equipment. We have been joined in these supply flights by other countries, including the Canadians. The US is coordinating delivery of these supplies through military and State Department personnel in Iraq, and we will continue to liaise with them and the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga through our own military and Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives in Erbil. Our support has not involved troops in a combat role on the ground.

Lt General Sir Simon Mayall, currently the Defence Senior Advisor for the Middle East, has also been appointed as the Government’s Security Envoy to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. His role will be to assess what other needs the Kurds have and where the UK can assist. He has spent the last week in Iraq, and has been coordinating closely with Iraqi authorities, holding meetings in Baghdad as well as Erbil.

As the situation develops I will continue to keep the House informed of Defence activities.

Office for Budget Responsibility: External Review 

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osborne) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the first external review of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has been published and presented to Parliament. Formally reporting to the OBR non-executives, the review was led by Kevin Page, former Parliamentary Budget Officer in Canada. In commissioning this report, the OBR non-executives meet their legal requirement to ensure an external review is conducted at least every five years.

In its findings, this report overwhelmingly supports the high quality work and independent analysis produced by the OBR. The review therefore attests to the government’s creation of the OBR in 2010 which has placed the UK at the forefront of fiscal institutional reform internationally. In giving the OBR a duty to produce official economic and fiscal forecasts, this government has ensured that for the first time we have a truly independent assessment of the state of the nation’s finances.

The government welcomes the review’s overall findings and recommendations. These aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation and include the recommendation that ‘caution be exercised in considering any expansion to the OBR’s mandate (e.g. costing certification of opposition manifestos).’

Alongside the OBR, the Treasury will consider the full recommendations and conclusions of the report in more detail. Building on the analysis and conclusions of this independent report, the government has already announced its intention to conduct its own review of the OBR at the start of the next Parliament.

The external review report was presented before Parliament earlier today and copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. Copies will also be made available to members of the public online.

Office of the Public Guardian 

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties (Simon Hughes):

On 21 August, the Government published the response to the consultation paper Transforming the Services of the Office of the Public Guardian: Enabling Digital by Default which sought the views on the next phase of our proposals to transform the services provided by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). This reinforces our commitment to implementing the ‘digital by default’ approach in public services.

The response announced:

• The introduction of new simplified forms for Lasting Powers of Attorney which will make it easier for those customers wishing to use the paper- based service;

• An expansion of the range of resubmitted LPA cases where a reduced application fee applies, to include those whose current LPA could only be registered after an application has been made to the Court of Protection;

• Our thinking for the future supervision of deputies.

I would urge anyone with an interest in the Office of the Public Guardian to read the response.

I have deposited copies of the response paper in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. Copies are available on the internet at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transforming-the-services-of-the-office-of-the-public-guardian-enabling-digital-by-default.

Pensions 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): My right honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb MP) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce the Government intends to remove the annual contribution limit and transfer restrictions on NEST, to ensure all businesses can be confident that this low cost and easy to use scheme is among the options they can choose to enrol their workforce.

NEST was set up to support automatic enrolment. It was designed to provide a quality, low-cost pension scheme focused on a target market of low to moderate earners and smaller employers.

NEST currently has over 1.5 million scheme members and is working with over 8,900 employers. The scheme has a public service obligation to accept any worker automatically enrolled by their employer and in recognition of this, NEST receives State aid. To balance any competitive advantage there are a number of constraints including an annual contribution limit and restrictions on transfers.

In its response to the call for evidence on the impact of the annual contribution limit and the transfer restrictions on NEST, (Cm 8668) published in July 2013, the Government confirmed its intention to lift these two constraints in April 2017. Since then, the European Commission has considered and approved the modifications to the State aid case for NEST. Full details of the Commission’s decision are available here: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/251386/251386_1567249_105_2.pdf

Accordingly, we will commence a short technical consultation on draft legislation, this autumn, to remove the annual contribution limit and the bulk transfer restrictions on 1 April 2017. We also retain the option to remove the individual transfer restrictions, from 1 October 2015.

Publication of the Annual Tri-Service Recruit Trainee Survey 2013 

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My honourable friend the Minister for Reserves (Mr Julian Brazier) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am publishing the 2013 Recruit Trainee Survey Annual Report. All recruits and trainees passing through Phase 1 and 2 training are offered the opportunity to participate in the survey which is anonymous and administered independently on behalf of the Services by an external provider.

The Annual Report contains the views of recruits and trainees about topics such as the preparation for joining, their treatment during Phase 1 and 2 training, food, accommodation, access to instructional and welfare staff and complaints procedures. Overall the results are positive and importantly the findings are used by Service training headquarters and units to monitor the training environment and make improvements.

A version of the full Recruit Trainee Survey 2013 Annual Report has been placed in the Library of the House.

Railways: Franchises 

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry), has made the following Ministerial Statement:

The Department has concluded negotiations with South West Trains for a Deed of Amendment to their franchise which will deliver the additional capacity set out in the Government’s Rail Investment Strategy.

The project is being managed by Stagecoach South Western Trains. In accordance with usual procurement practice, there is a standstill period of 10 days before Stagecoach Southwest Trains will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to the successful tenderers and enter into a Deed of Amendment to the current Franchise Agreement. The process is expected to be finalised in the coming week but we have jointly announced our intention to enter into a Deed of Amendment to their Franchise Agreement to deliver the additional capacity set out in the Rail Investment Strategy.

I am very aware of how crowded South West Trains’ Suburban services are, particularly in the morning peak. The result of the Department’s successful negotiation is 150 new vehicles – Thameslink variants – which will be used on the Windsor Lines, leading to an internal cascade which will deliver a full ten car suburban network, making use of platforms 1 to 4 at Waterloo which Network Rail are extending. The Windsor Line trains will use the platforms at Waterloo International, which are being brought back into full use in 2017. There are a number of additional works along the route and at stations which will deliver benefits for passengers.

In addition, this proposal will provide two more services on the Mainline, which will be the focus of our strategic planning for the next Control Period, which begins in 2019. The two additional services are expected to commence in May 2018 and would start from Woking and from Basingstoke. There would be four additional peak trains from Hounslow, also commencing in May 2018, providing additional capacity on the Suburban network.


Go to index