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The council will also be asked to agree a resolution for a set of non-binding guidelines on judicial training. The aim is to promote a better understanding among judges throughout the EU of European law and the legal systems of other member states. There is a perception

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that, in some countries, established EU mechanisms of judicial co-operation are not being used in cases where they would assist, simply because the judges concerned are not aware of them. These guidelines recognise that Governments are, in many countries, not themselves responsible for judicial training. They do not give rise to any obligations either on the Government or the judiciary.

The next JHA Council will take place on 27 and 28 November in Brussels.

NHS: Operating Framework

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The NHS management board met last week to discuss the operating framework and the NHS's priorities for the coming years.

The management board noted that as a result of successive generous spending settlements and the excellent financial management across the NHS that has been achieved over the past few years, the NHS is on a firm financial footing for the years ahead.

While the NHS’s current financial position is settled for this spending review period, good financial planning means that the board needs to plan on a longer-term basis. This means looking to at least a five-year timeframe rather than just the next two years.

At the same time, a new funding formula and tariff calculations are being introduced. These are complex changes that the board decided needed to be refined further to enable robust financial planning in the NHS.

The NHS management board has therefore decided to delay publishing the operating framework in order for these changes to be properly worked through and to allow the necessary time to reach a view around the longer-term financial assumptions towards the end of the year.

Pensions

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): On 25 April the Government published the consultation document, The Powers of the Pensions Regulator—Amendments to the Anti-Avoidance Measures in the Pensions Act 2004. The consultation was focused on proposals to amend the regulator’s powers to ensure that they remain adequate and appropriate to address new risks resulting from changes in the pensions market.

The Government’s main concern was the emergence of new business models, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current legislation and may reduce the security provided by the pension scheme’s sponsor

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employer. This may be detrimental to scheme members’ benefits, and have a cost consequence for the pension protection fund (PPF), and those responsible for paying its levy.

The consultation closed on 20 June and I am pleased to announce that I am today placing copies of the Government’s response to this consultation, along with an impact assessment, in the Libraries of both Houses.

We have listened carefully to the concerns raised during the consultation and at Committee stage of the Pensions Bill in the Lords; in particular that the substantive proposals should be on the face of the Bill, that they should not impact disproportionately on business and that transactions previously cleared by the regulator should not be unpicked. The Government’s policy objective is to support those employers who choose to run defined benefit schemes and to minimise undue costs: it therefore made a commitment to refine its proposed legislation to address these serious considerations.

The government response sets out our proposals to make proportionate changes to the regulator’s powers, without unduly inhibiting legitimate business activity. The Government have today tabled amendments to the clauses added to Pensions Bill in Committee in the Lords to give effect to these changes in primary legislation.



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The Government have undertaken further work with key stakeholders over the summer to improve the legislation and to ensure its application is appropriately circumscribed. The amendments are intended to strike the right balance between protecting scheme members under pensions legislation and ensuring that legitimate interests of employers and investors are not unduly inhibited. The Government are grateful for the wide range of input they have received.

The amendments we are tabling today provide greater certainty for the pensions industry, corporate organisations and other parties, with important controls and a requirement on the regulator to produce a statutory code of practice to target the use of the new material detriment test for contribution notices. The regulator has today published draft content for this code, which complements the legislation and provides a list of circumstances to further define the expected use of this new test.

The regulator is required to undertake a formal consultation on this code and anticipates that this will begin later in the year, subject to Parliament’s approval of the legislation.

The Government’s response will be available on the department’s internet site later today at www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2008/, and the Pensions Regulator draft content for the code of practice will be available on the regulator’s internet page at www.tpr.gov.uk.


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