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Written Statements

Monday 9 November 2009

Armed Forces: Detention


The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

UK forces in Afghanistan form part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and contribute to the efforts of the international community to assist the Government of Afghanistan to expand security and build the rule of law.

The Taliban insurgents are ruthless and indiscriminate in their attempts to kill and maim our troops and the Afghan people.

In his Statement on 26 February 2009 (Official Report, col. 394) on the detention and transfer of persons captured by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Defence set out the value of detention operations to our campaign in Afghanistan. Detention operations by UK forces are conducted in accordance with, and the holding of detainees in UK facilities meets the standards required by, the relevant provisions of international law.

In the light of the evolving threat to our forces, we have continued to keep our approach to these operations under review. Under NATO guidelines individuals detained by ISAF are either transferred to the Afghan authorities within 96 hours for further action through the Afghan judicial process or released. And in the majority of cases, the UK forces will operate in this manner. However, in exceptional circumstances, detaining individuals beyond 96 hours can yield vital intelligence that would help protect our forces and the local population-potentially saving lives, particularly when detainees are suspected of holding information on the placement of improvised explosive devices.

Given the ongoing threat faced by our forces and the local Afghan population, this information is critical, and in some cases 96 hours will not be long enough to gain that information from the detainee. Indeed, many insurgents are aware of the 96 hours policy and simply say nothing for that entire period. In these circumstances, the Government have concluded that Ministers should be able to authorise detention beyond 96 hours, in British detention facilities to which the ICRC has access. Each case will be thoroughly scrutinised against the relevant legal and policy considerations; we will do this only where it is legal to do so and when it is necessary to support the operation and protect our troops.

Following a Ministerial decision to authorise extended detention, each case will be thoroughly and regularly monitored by in-theatre military commanders and civilian advisers. Individuals will not remain in UK detention if there is no further intelligence to be

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gained. We will then either release the detainee or transfer the detainee to the Afghan authorities. We have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Afghanistan, requiring that individuals detained by UK forces and transferred to the Afghan authorities are treated properly. Following transfer, we continue to work with the Afghans in support of their judicial processes, maintaining close links and monitoring the application of the MoU, including through regular visits by Royal Military Police and British embassy staff to transferred detainees. The ICRC also has access to the Afghan system.

We ask our Armed Forces to operate in highly dangerous environments. In Afghanistan the capacity of the local agencies to enforce security and the rule of law is growing by the day, but it is vital that our forces have the authority and the capability to deal effectively with the serious threat to troops and those they are there to protect. I recognise the sensitivity of detention operations, but they are fundamental to the success of our military operations in Afghanistan, as has been proven in other operational areas.

UK forces in Afghanistan operate, and will continue to operate, in accordance with international law and with the highest standards of conduct that we rightly expect of them.

Bank of England: Monetary Policy Committee


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

A Treasury minute on the contingent liabilities arising from the extension of the asset purchase facility is being published today. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

Communications Data


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (David Hanson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 27 April the Home Office published a consultation, Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment, which set out the importance of communications data in helping to protect and safeguard the public; how the rapidly changing communications environment means the existing capability of the police, the security and intelligence agencies and other public authorities is declining and why change is necessary. Today I am publishing the summary of responses submitted as part of this consultation exercise.

Communications data are information about a communication but do not include the content of a communication.

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Used in the right way, and subject to important safeguards to protect individuals' right to privacy, communications data can play a critical role in keeping all of us safe. They enabless investigators to identify suspects and their associates; provide vital clues in solving life-threatening situations such as kidnaps, and evidence supporting alibis and prosecutions; support lawful interception of communications; and assist the emergency services to help or locate vulnerable people. They are also critical to safeguarding our national security, and in particular to countering the terrorist threat.

The consultation paper sought views on options for maintaining our vital communications data capabilities to protect the public against a background of rapid technological change. It rejected options for both a single database holding all communications data and a "do nothing" option. Instead it proposed a "middle way" approach involving two main elements for which new legislation would be required. These elements were:

provisions to impose obligations on CSPs relating to the collection and retention of specified communications data which cross their networks (including third party and other data which are not currently retained for business purposes or under existing legislation); and provisions to impose obligations on CSPs to organise the communications data they retain in a specified way enabling specific lawful requests for data by public authorities to be processed efficiently and effectively.

The Home Office received 221 responses to the consultation exercise. As explained in the summary of responses, the Government's rejection of a central database for all communications data was welcomed. There was also recognition of the importance of communications data and agreement that the capability of communications data to protect the public should be maintained.

As we develop the approach proposed in the consultation in the light of the responses received, we will continue to work closely with communications service providers in order to minimise as far as possible any impact on them. We will also ensure that any new proposals will include strong safeguards to minimise the potential for abuse and to ensure the security and integrity of the data.

A copy of the summary of responses will be placed in the House Library.

Data Protection


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

I am today publishing a consultation paper entitled Civil Monetary Penalties, Setting the Maximum Penalty. The paper explains the Government's proposal to set the maximum penalty for civil monetary penalties at £500,000. Civil monetary penalties, as set out under Sections 55A to 55E of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) would be imposed by the Information Commissioner for serious breaches of the data protection principles.

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The Government are particularly seeking views from data controllers on the level of the proposed penalty, but responses to the consultation are welcome from anyone with an interest. The Government's proposal to introduce civil monetary penalties reflects the importance that Government place on safeguarding personal data effectively and processing them responsibly and lawfully. The proposals will potentially affect data controllers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so this consultation is UK wide.

Before imposing any civil monetary penalties the Information Commissioner has a statutory obligation to publish detailed guidance setting out the criteria it will use when imposing a civil monetary penalty and circumstances it will take into consideration.

The Information Commissioner's Office has published on its website the latest draft of its guidance on civil monetary penalties and would welcome comments on it.

The introduction of civil monetary penalties should contribute to increased compliance with the data protection principles and greater confidence for data subjects that their information is being handled correctly.

Copies of the consultation paper and associated impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the department's website at



The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 10 November 2009. The following items are on the agenda:

Follow-up to the October European Council

The presidency will provide a debrief following the meeting of the European Council in Brussels at the end of October. This should focus on work to be taken forward by ECOFIN on financial supervision, fiscal and financial exit strategies, crisis management and the successor to the Lisbon strategy.

Follow-up to the G20 meeting on 6 and 7 November

The presidency and the UK will provide a debrief on the meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors in St Andrews.

Sustainability of public finances

Ministers will discuss next steps following the publication of the Commission's sustainability report. The Government recognise the importance of sustainable public finances and are committed to the consolidation path set out in Budget 2009.

Better regulation-Reduction of administrative burdens

Ministers will discuss and agree conclusions on a Commission action programme, calling for more work to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent by 2012. The Government support progress in this area and have pledged their own commitment to meet the 25 per cent reduction target by 2010.

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Proposal for aCouncil Directive on administrative co-operation in the field of taxation

The council will be asked to agree a general approach on the directive, which improves exchange of information and brings the EU into line with OECD standards by removing the right to refuse information on grounds of bank secrecy. The UK supports the proposal and further work in this area, which links to the wider G20 agenda on good governance in taxation.

VAT treatment of postal services

ECOFIN will be asked to provide political guidelines on how to take further the issue of the VAT treatment of postal services.

Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 92/79/EEC, 92/80/EEC and 95/59/EC on the structure and rates of excise duty applied on manufactured tobacco

The council will be asked to reach a political agreement on the tobacco directive, which will set out the structure and rates of excise duties applied on manufactured tobacco products as well as implementation dates. The UK supports work in this area, which has the potential to reduce revenue lost from cross-border shopping and smuggling of tobacco products into the UK from low tax EU member states.

EU: Environment Council


The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and Andy Lebrecht, UKRep, represented the UK at the Environment Council on 21 October in Luxembourg.

Member states reached agreement on the council conclusions concerning the EU position for the forthcoming Copenhagen climate conference. Dinner discussions on 20 October saw early positioning of member states for the following day's debate and the UK was among those arguing for ambitious conclusions to send a clear signal of intent prior to the international negotiations in December. The council agreed on a text containing three compromises relating to the long-term EU emissions-reduction target, bunker fuels and assigned amount units (AAUs). At lunch, the discussion centred on the need to engage with business and expertise as well as co-ordinating EU messaging and maintaining contact in the run-up to Copenhagen.

Ministers also adopted council conclusions relating to the role of a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy in the post-2010 Lisbon strategy. The UK welcomed the aims of the conclusions.

On the subject of ship dismantling, the council also approved conclusions calling for the early ratification and implementation of the Hong Kong international convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships and inviting the Commission to consider EU legislation in this area.

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A policy debate reviewing the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directives highlighted different views among member states regarding the scope of the directives. The UK raised concerns about moving to an open scope for both directives without proper assessment of the impacts of such a move and this was supported by several other member states. The presidency concluded that most delegations were open to separate scopes for RoHS but that the scope of WEEE needs further reflection.

Ministers also discussed several AOB items: A number of member states highlighted the problem of forest fires. In response to concerns about the cocktail effect of mixtures of chemicals, the presidency confirmed that it would present conclusions to the December Environment Council. Several delegations shared their concern about plastic soup-plastic marine debris floating in the oceans-and this was shared by several other delegations.

Higher Education: Funding


The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (Lord Mandelson): Today I have appointed Lord Browne of Madingley to chair an independent review of higher education funding and student finance. In addition to Lord Browne, the review will have six other members chosen for the breadth and depth of their experience and expertise. These are Michael Barber, Diane Coyle, David Eastwood, Julia King, Rajay Naik and Peter Sands. I have discussed these appointments and the terms of reference for the review, set out below, with the honourable Member for Havant. We are both committed to ensuring the independent nature of this important piece of work. The review fulfils the commitment made by the Government during the Commons stages of the Higher Education Act 2004 to review the operation of variable tuition fees after these had been in force for three years.

Variable tuition fees have provided institutions with a secure income stream worth £1.3 billion per year, which has helped to sustain the long-term financial health and viability of this crucially important sector. Over this time, the number of students attending university has continued to rise, as has the number coming from lower-income backgrounds.

To continue to thrive in the coming decade, institutions will need to respond to the changing needs of students, businesses and the wider community as well as adapt to demographic changes and growing international competition.

The independent review will consider the balance of contributions from all those who benefit from the higher education system. It will consult all those with an interest in higher education in this country, including current and potential students. The review will also convene an advisory forum to draw on the views and expertise of a range of representatives with interests in higher education.

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The review will report to Government with recommendations next year. Any changes implemented following the review would come into effect in the academic year 2011-12 at the earliest.

Terms of Reference

"The review will analyse the challenges and opportunities facing higher education and their implications for student financing and support. It will examine the balance of contributions to higher education funding by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers. Its primary task is to make recommendations to Government on the future of fees policy and financial support for full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students".


1. In assessing options the review will be expected to take into account:

The goal of widening participation to ensure that the benefits of higher education are open to all who have the talent and motivation to succeed; the avoidance of the creation of barriers to wider access; the impact of the system of bursary payments; promoting fair access to all institutions; facilitating choice and a diversity of access routes to higher education, including through links with further education colleges; and the scope for a greater diversity of models of learning, such as modular and part-time study and the availability of student support for such courses.

Affordability for students and their families during their studies and afterwards; impact on public finances including affordability, sustainability and value for money for the taxpayer.

The desirability of simplification of the system of support.

2. The review will take evidence from within higher education and among those with an interest in its success, including an advisory forum to be convened by the chair.

3. The review will work with the Office for Fair Access and HEFCE and collaborate with Professor Adrian Smith's review of postgraduate study. Its work will also take into account the conclusions of Professor Sir Martin Harris's review on promoting access to higher education.

4. The review is expected to report by the autumn of 2010.



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 Minister of State for Pensions and the Ageing Society (Angela Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As honourable Members are aware, some of the administrative resource costs of the Pensions Regulator (tPR), the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and the Pensions Ombudsman (PO) are recovered through levies raised on pension schemes. The rates for these levies are set in regulations.

The PPF administration levy recovers the administration costs of the board of the PPF only in relation to its PPF activities. Any administration costs in relation to PPF's financial assistance scheme responsibilities are funded separately and there is no cross subsidy from the PPF levy.

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