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Written Statements

Monday 20 July 2009

Coastal Erosion

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation on proposals for new Planning Policy on Development and Coastal Change, and I am placing copies of the consultation in the Library of the House.

Coastal communities have historically adapted to the changing coastline as sea levels have risen steadily since the end of the last ice-age. However, on the basis of the latest projections provided by UKCP091, climate change is likely to exacerbate erosion and coastal flooding with rising sea levels and a potential increase in the intensity, severity and frequency of coastal storms over the next 100 years

Government are committed to managing the impact of coastal erosion and flooding in a sustainable manner, and this includes ensuring that our spatial planning policies support communities that are resilient to the risks presented by climate change.

Strong planning policy to manage coastal flooding is already in place through Planning Policy Statement 25. However, currently planning decisions in relation to coastal erosion risks are made with reference to Planning Policy Guidance note 20, which adopts a strongly precautionary approach, restricting any development in areas at risk of coastal erosion. This means that even appropriate development that would support the economic and social viability of a coastal town or village is unable to go ahead.

To deal with this, the proposed Development and Coastal Change policy aims to strike a better balance between economic prosperity and the need for further defence of the coastline, alongside reducing the consequences of coastal change on communities.

The draft policy promotes a strategic risk-based approach to managing future physical changes to the coastline, so that long-term adaptation of communities can be planned while allowing necessary development that is appropriate and safe. It will also introduce a more co-ordinated approach to planning and investment at the coast, ensuring that spatial strategies to deliver regeneration and sustainable economic development take proper account of the impact of physical processes affecting the coastline and decisions regarding the planning and management of coastal defences.

This consultation forms part of a wider package of actions being taken forward to deliver the Government's sustainable flood and coastal risk management approach set out in the "Making Space for Water" strategy. The Coastal Change Policy framework, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defra

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announced for consultation on 15 June, provides a package of policy measures to help coastal communities and local authorities manage and adapt to the increasing risk of coastal flooding and erosion.

The proposed changes I am setting out today will play a part in assisting coastal communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change and facilitating economic activity in coastal areas. The consultation closes on 12 October 2009.

Compact Annual Review

Statement

The Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business (Baroness Vadera): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today placing in the Library of both Houses of Parliament copies of the report of the annual meeting held on 2 December 2008 and the action plan 2009-10.

The independent Commissioner for the Compact, Sir Bert Massie, spoke about the state of the relationship between government and the sector and the findings from the debate on the future of the Compact:

to keep a values-based and voluntary Compact;to update the Compact as a single document that takes account of changes over the 10 years since the Compact was first signed; andto look at changes to the structure of the Commission for the Compact and options to put it on a statutory footing.

We now have the opportunity to renew the Compact for the 21st century, to ensure it is stronger and capable of delivering for both the public and third sectors in a changing economic environment. Simon Blake, the Chair of Compact Voice, and I, as representatives of the two signatories to the Compact, have asked Sir Bert to begin work engaging both sectors on updating the Compact documents, and in making changes to the commission. This will build on work the commission has already achieved to ensure the Compact is better understood and accepted.

The refresh of the Compact is a major piece or work to be done as part of our joint action plan for the next year. The action plan has been developed by the Commission, Compact Voice, Office of the Third Sector and the Local Government Association-taking account of the discussion at the annual review. Along with the report of the annual review meeting I am also placing copies of the Joint Compact Action Plan 2009-10 in both Houses. The action plan is grouped around four themes:

raising the profile of the Compact;

building our knowledge;

embedding in structures, processes and policy; and

maintaining the relevance of the Compact.

At the annual review meeting my predecessor also announced the baseline for annual reporting on the commitment to three-year funding for the third sector

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by government departments. The percentage of the value of all government grants that have been reported to OTS that are for three years or more is 85.4 per cent. A baseline will also be set in 2009-10 for performance on contracts and performance by NDPBs and agencies.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill

Statement

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): I have made a Statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the Statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

"The Government have today published the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. The Bill includes the following reforms, to:

1) The Civil Service

Place the Civil Service and Civil Service Commissioners on a statutory footing, and enshrine the Civil Service's core values in statute.

2) Treaties

Enshrine in statute the procedure for pre-ratification scrutiny of treaties by Parliament, and give legal effect to a vote against ratification.

3) House of Lords

Phase out the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, by ending by-elections for hereditary Peers; provide for the disqualification from the House of Lords of Peers convicted of a serious crime or subject to a bankruptcy restrictions order; enable the House of Lords to expel or suspend its Members in certain circumstances; and provide for Peers to resign and disclaim their peerages.

4) Demonstrations around Parliament

Repeal Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, removing the requirement to give notice of demonstrations around Parliament, as well as the offence of holding a demonstration without the authorisation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. The Bill will instead enable the police to be given proportionate, alternative powers to maintain access to Parliament.

5) Human Rights-"Somerville"

Reconcile the time limit for human rights claims under the Northern Ireland Act 1988 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 with that in the Human Rights Act 1998. Due to the interface between this Bill and parallel provision for Scotland in an Act of the Scottish Parliament which has yet to receive Royal Assent, the same provision for Scotland will be introduced by amendment at the appropriate time.



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6) Judicial Appointments

Remove the Prime Minister from the process of making appointments to the new Supreme Court. This complements non-legislative measures ending his involvement in the appointment of other members of the senior judiciary of England and Wales; and remove the provision enabling the Judicial Appointments Commission to assume responsibility for magistrates' appointments.

7) National Audit Office

Provide a modern governance arrangement for the National Audit Office, and change the tenure of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

8) Transparency in accounting for NDPBs

Align the spending mechanisms of non-departmental public bodies with the existing budgetary treatment.

The Bill follows the proposals in the Governance of Britain Green Paper of July 2007 (CM 7170) and the publication of a draft Bill (published in March 2008, Cm 7342-11).

The issues covered in the draft Bill were the subject of examination by three Select Committees:

the Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (report of 31 July 2008, HL Paper 166-I, HC Paper 551-I);the Justice Committee (report on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (provisions relating to the Attorney-General), HC 698); and the Public Administration Select Committee (report on Constitutional Renewal: draft Bill and White Paper, HC 499).

The Government are very grateful indeed for the work of these committees, and are publishing, today, their response to these reports.

On 3 July 2007, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made a major Statement on the case for constitutional reform. Alongside this, more detail was given in the Governance of Britain Green Paper. A number of subsequent separate consultation papers were published, including on the role of the Attorney-General (CM 7192), judicial appointments (CM 7210), war powers and treaties (CM 7239) and protest around Parliament (CM 7235). The draft Constitutional Renewal Bill was published on 25 March 2008 (CM 73423-2) and a Joint Committee of both Houses set up to consider the draft Bill.

The Government have taken full account of the responses to the consultation and the reports of the Select Committees in finalising the proposals in the Bill.

A fundamental aim of the governance of Britain agenda has been to reduce the power of the Executive, including by ending the use of relevant royal prerogative powers, and to enhance the role of Parliament. The provisions in respect of the Civil Service and treaties mark a major move in that direction. The Government have already announced that they would ensure that the Commons will have a pivotal position in determining whether the United Kingdom goes to war by means of a war powers resolution. Drafts of this have already been published and will go before Parliament in the autumn.



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House of Lords

Detailed work on the reform of the Lords had been undertaken in parallel with the governance of Britain agenda. A White Paper was published last July (2008. CM) building on the decisions of the Commons in February 2007 in favour of an 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected House of Lords. No proposals in respect of the Lords were therefore included in the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill.

However, in view of recent events and increased interest in the Lords' reform agenda, the Government have decided to include in the Bill reforms to:

c) end the hereditary Peers by-elections, thus phasing out the hereditary principle, andd) provide for the resignation of Peers and powers for their expulsion, suspension and disqualification in certain circumstances.

The Government are fully committed to comprehensive reform of the Lords, based on four principles, all of which were endorsed by the cross-party group-see White Paper, An Elected Second Chamber, July 2008, Cm 7438:

the primacy of the House of Commons, enshrined in the Parliament Acts, and in rules and convention;independence of Members, supported by their serving a single, non-renewable term of three normal-length Parliaments, and, as set out originally in the 2007 White Paper, The House of Lords. Reform, Cm 7027, by a system of election which prevents a single party gaining an overall majority,direct election, such that the second Chamber has a democratic mandate underpinning its revising role, but one that is never as a whole more up to date than that of the Commons, andsensible transitional arrangements in respect of existing Peers.

There remain outstanding questions, which the Government will seek to answer in final proposals after the summer, with draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny as soon as possible. The two key issues are the electoral system and the size of the elected element-80 per cent or 100 per cent. The Government are giving careful and active consideration to resolving these questions in such a way as to make best use of a transitional period.

Attorney-General

The draft Constitutional Renewal Bill contained provisions in respect of the office of Attorney-General, following the Governance of Britain Green Paper, which set out the Government's commitment to enhancing public confidence and trust in the office, and the Government said that they would listen to the views of all those with an interest. A consultation paper was subsequently published on 25 July 2007. Of all the matters covered in the draft Bill, this was been the subject of most extensive comment, with bespoke reports from the Justice Committee and the Select Committee on the Constitution and extensive treatment-including minority views, with support from across all three main political parties-from the Joint Committee on the draft Bill.



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Those reports disclosed a wide range of views on the direction that reform of the office might take. For example, the Justice Committee favoured separating the Attorney's legal and political functions; a majority of the Joint Committee disagreed; and the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution noted that "there are a number of different ways in which the post of Attorney might evolve", providing an overview of the different options and arguments.

In the event, the significant, necessary reforms to the role of Attorney-General are being achieved without the need for legislation. For example, the Attorney has reached a new settlement with the Directors of Public Prosecutions, the Serious Fraud Office and Revenue and Customs Prosecutions to improve relationships, guarantee prosecutorial independence while ensuring an appropriate degree of accountability and to improve transparency about the relationship, as reflected in the new protocol setting out the respective responsibilities of the Attorney and the directors. This builds on the Prime Minister's Statement in July 2007, that the Attorney-General has herself decided, except if the law or national security requires it, not to make key prosecution decisions in individual criminal cases. Furthermore, the new protocol makes it clear that the Attorney-General will not be consulted in any case which concerns an MP or Peer or where there is a personal or professional conflict of interest, other than where her decision is required by law. This protocol will be published by the Attorney very shortly. Furthermore, the Attorney-General now only attends Cabinet when matters affecting her responsibilities are on the agenda.

Given that it has been possible to make these reforms to the office of Attorney-General without legislation, the Government have concluded that it is not necessary to include legislative changes in respect of the Attorney-General."

Counterterrorism

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today, 20 July, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) changed the UK threat level from international terrorism from severe to substantial. This means that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility.

The change in the threat level to substantial does not mean the overall threat has gone away-there remains a real and serious threat against the United Kingdom and I would ask that the public remain vigilant.

The decision to change the threat level is taken by JTAC independently of Ministers and is based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as capability, intent and timescale. Substantial continues to indicate a high level of threat; and that an attack might well occur without further warning. The threat level is kept under constant review.



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Discretionary Social Fund

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Helen Goodman) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State's changes to the discretionary Social Fund, which took effect in the South West region from 27 April 2009 and the East Midlands region from 8 June 2009, will be partially extended to Glasgow from 27 July 2009.

The changes introduce a requirement for most customers to be interviewed at a local Jobcentre Plus office when they make a third or subsequent application for a crisis loan to cover living expenses.

During such an interview customers will be provided with a leaflet that contains details of local and national organisations that can provide money management advice. The leaflet has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and copies are also available in the Vote Office.

EU: Budget

Statement

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ian Pearson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today laying before Parliament, the annual European Community Finances White Paper Statement on the 2009 EC Budget and Measures to Combat Fraud and Financial Mismanagement (Cm 7640). This White Paper is the twenty-ninth in the series. It gives details of revenue and expenditure in the 2009 EC Budget and covers recent developments in EC financial management and measures to counter fraud against the EC Budget. It also includes updated details on the own resources decision, the UK consolidated statement on the use of EU funds in the UK, and new text on the European economic recovery plan.

Fishing: Trawlermen Scheme

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): I am pleased to announce that the Government will shortly be launching the new compensation scheme for former trawlermen who fished in Icelandic waters.

Under this scheme, we will calculate the aggregate time served by each trawlerman during the last twenty years of their career on vessels that fished in Icelandic waters, and make additional payments whenever the payment due under this calculation exceeds the total already paid to them under the two previous compensation schemes. Claimants will only be eligible for payments where they can meet a qualifying test which requires two years aggregate service on vessels that fished in

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Icelandic waters during the four years of the Cod Wars, or the last four years of a trawlerman's career if he left the industry before 31 December 1976.


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