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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans (Mr Robathan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today Ofsted publish its third report on welfare and duty of care in Armed Forces initial training, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. Following visits to 11 Armed Forces initial training establishments, Ofsted reports that recruits and trainees feel that their welfare needs are met and well supported.
The Armed Forces remain committed to ensuring that the training they provide is both efficient and effective, recognising the need to continuously evaluate what works well and areas that need improvement. Ofsted inspection suggests that review processes in training establishments are improving and in one location the overall effect is judged to be outstanding.
We need to continue to provide effective training in the face of resource and operational pressures, whilst providing a supportive training environment that enables instructors to bring out the best in young recruits and trainees without lessening the tough nature of Armed Forces training.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mark Hoban) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a report required under Section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 covering the period from 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2011. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The answer I gave on 7 September 2011 following Lord Rambotham's question about what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to speed up the ending of slopping out in prisons in England and Wales (Official Report, col. 280) contained two inaccuracies, which I would like to correct.
Only nine prisons in England and Wales have cells without integral sanitation facilities. This constitutes a total of 1,973 prison places or less than 3 per cent of the overall capacity.
Prisoners have access to wing recess facilities during the day, but during lock-up they can access the facilities only via an electronic unlock system. Those wishing to use the facilities can access them several times during the evening for a specific period. The number of times and the duration vary from prison to prison. By way of example, at HMP Albany during evening lock-up, prisoners are able to use the electronic unlock system to gain access to sanitation facilities on three occasions for a period of up to nine minutes on each visit (total up to 27 minutes).
A bucket with a lid is issued to each prisoner in case of an emergency, and I emphasise that it is very much an emergency measure and they are rarely used. Should the electronic unlock system break down, every effort is made to repair the system as quickly as possible and, where resources allow, alternative measures are put in place to enable prisoners to access the wing facilities. At Albany, when technical difficulties have arisen in the past, additional staff have been brought in to ensure prisoners could be manually unlocked to use the facilities.
Therefore prisoners do not have to use the bucket when there are technical difficulties with the unlock system. The bucket remains an emergency measure only.
Should prisoners use the bucket, they are required to empty it themselves either on their next visit to the facilities during evening lock-up or the following day.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Iain Duncan Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Following the spending review and development of this coalition Government's programme for welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions has reviewed from first principles its organisational structure and governance to ensure it is best placed for the future.
Subject to the Welfare Reform Bill achieving Royal Assent, universal credit (UC) will, for example, require DWP to deal not only with those out of work-where the existing Jobcentre Plus network and brand is strong and effective-but with those in employment, which will account for approximately half the UC case load in steady state. Starting from 2013, this approach requires a different organisational structure.
Furthermore, a consistent message that work will always pay can also be reinforced by managing claims for disability living allowance (and, in due course, subject to safe passage of legislation, the personal independence payment) for people of working age alongside those for universal credit. This reform will also mean that support for housing costs are incorporated with pension credit, once universal credit is established and local authorities no longer administer housing benefit.
These structural reforms illustrate the extent to which traditional boundaries, within and beyond the DWP, will change. The breadth of the reforms also puts a premium on the flexibility that comes from removing some of those boundaries, as we build a welfare system fit for the future.
At the same time, the department will deliver a 40 per cent reduction in the cost of the corporate centre, including the centres of Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service.
Reflecting all this, the department will:bring all its day to day operations under the leadership of a chief operating officer, within a smaller executive team led by the Permanent Secretary; make more transparent, and manage as a single entity, the portfolio of reform to which the Government are committed; andto facilitate this, remove the formal agency status of Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service from Monday 3 October.
By creating a single integrated, senior management structure, the department has been able to reduce the number of senior Civil Service roles by almost a third since May 2010.
With the departmental board, now chaired by the Secretary of State and with four non-executives all appointed since May 2011, the removal of formal agency status also enables the removal of separate management boards for each agency. The finances of each agency are already consolidated with the department's accounts, but the changes will also avoid two sets of subsidiary accounts, each separately prepared and audited.
I would like to put on record my appreciation for the ongoing efforts of DWP's front-line staff. They continue to deliver important services in local communities and will continue to do so with the introduction of universal credit under this new DWP organisational structure.
Current arrangements for parliamentary questions, correspondence and inquiries from Members will continue unaltered as we deepen our commitment to transparency and professional communications in DWP.
Taken together, this new structure will ensure DWP is well placed to deliver reform for a welfare system fit for the 21st century.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I attended an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (Gymnich), which was held on 2 and 3 September in Poland.
The informal format of the Gymnich allows EU Ministers to engage in a free and in-depth discussion on a number of issues. Ministers do not agree any
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The following issues were covered at the Gymnich:
Relations with Strategic Partners
Ministers had a broad discussion covering the EU's relationships with emerging powers. The discussion focused largely, although not exclusively, on relations with India, Brazil and South Africa. This continued a process set in train at last September's European Council. This is an area where we welcome the External Action Service's efforts to define clearer collective EU priorities, common objectives, and methods for using member states' collective weight to advance our security and prosperity objectives.
Ministers agreed on the importance of the EU's economic and trade relations with these strategic partners. They also discussed how to enhance our engagement on political and security issues, complementing our national diplomatic efforts. And there was general agreement on the need to use the EU's collective voice better to influence some of our strategic partners on areas such as human rights.
The discussion on the Middle East Peace Process focused on the EU handling of a possible Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations General Assembly. Ministers were joined for part of the session by the Norwegian Foreign Minister in his capacity as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.
There was continued broad support for the principles agreed at the FAC on 18 July: the need for a two state solution; for both sides to resume direct and substantive talks; and support to the high representative in her efforts through the quartet to create a credible perspective for the re-launching of the peace process.
The Gymnich discussion came a day after the Paris conference co-chaired by the Prime Minister and President Sarkozy. Baroness Ashton set out proposed priorities for the EU's post-conflict assistance. There was general agreement that any potential EU financial and post-conflict stabilisation assistance should respect the need for National Transition Council ownership and a UN lead.
The discussion on Syria took place in the presence of EU candidate countries (Iceland, Montenegro, FYROM, Croatia and Turkey) and focused on EU measures against the regime. On 2 September, the EU agreed a collective ban on imports of Syrian crude oil products. By doing so the EU made clear that it will continue to increase the pressure on President Assad until he steps aside and allows a transition to a different type of regime. The horrific scenes of brutality throughout Ramadan were unacceptable, and the ban on all EU imports of Syrian crude oil products will help constrict the regime's funding and reduce its ability to fund the repression of innocent civilians.
Following the Gymnich, I issued a further Statement on the issue of oil sanctions. This can be found at http:// www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id =650796182.
Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood
There was short exchange on the EU's relations with its Eastern European neighbours. On Ukraine, concern was expressed about the trial and subsequent detention of Yuliya Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders. On Belarus, Ministers stressed the need to maintain the EU's firm position on releasing and rehabilitating all political prisoners. I underlined the importance of progress on implementing the revised European neighbourhood policy. Baroness Ashton and Stefan Fule (Commissioner for Enlargement) reiterated their commitment to deliver results. Finally, Ministers were briefed on preparations for the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw on 29 and 30 September.
My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Europe (David Lidington) and I will continue to update Parliament on Foreign and General Affairs Councils as and when future meetings are held.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend the Minister of State (David Lidington) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The General Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 12 September. I will attend.
I will deposit the provisional records of the Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council in the Library of the House when they are issued by the Council Secretariat. I will issue a Written Ministerial Statement in slower time, with the Government's assessment of the debate at the council.
Next Multiannual Financial Framework
The presidency intends to present the outcome of the discussion held by the friends of presidency group. This is a committee of officials from the member states, with attendance from the Commission, to prepare and discuss aspects of the next Multiannual Financial Framework. The Commission proposals (linked here: http://ec.europa.eu/budget/reform/) were published in June 2011 and are unacceptable to the UK. The UK Government have been clear that, at a time of ongoing economic fragility in Europe and tight constraints on domestic public spending, the Commission's proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework is unrealistic. It is too large; it is not the restrained budget the Commission claims and it is incompatible with the tough decisions being taken in countries across Europe. The negotiations are at a very early stage and discussion is expected to be general.
Following the GAC, Ministers will have an orientation debate during lunch. This will be an opportunity to discuss general issues such as how the budget operates/functions. In particular the structure of the budget-this means how the budget headings are set out, for example what level of flexibility there should be to move funds between envelopes. The discussion will also touch on the macroeconomic assumptions upon which the Commission's figures are based, i.e. assumptions about
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I will place particular emphasis, during my interventions, on the principle that the budget should be transparent.
The presidency will update the council regarding the six pack of legislative proposals for economic governance proposed by the Commission to implement the recommendations of President Van Rompuy's Economic Taskforce (his report is linked here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/117236.pdf_).
The six recommendations from the Commission called for a strengthening of both the preventive and corrective arm of the existing Stability and Growth Pact, including new regulations to formalise sanctions for eurozone countries; provided for new regulation to improve macroeconomic surveillance across the EU27; and included a new directive, which sets out minimum standards for member states' domestic fiscal frameworks.
The Government have supported the proposed economic governance legislation in broad terms. The March Finance Ministers Council (ECOFIN) agreed a general approach to the six proposals (linked here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/ docs/press data/en/ecofin/119888.pdf) including a UK exemption from relevant articles of the Fiscal Frameworks Directive. Negotiations are currently under way with the European Parliament (EP).
European Council of 17 and 18 October 2011
Delegations will be presented with a draft agenda, submitted by the President of the European Council, to set out the main items that the European Council is expected to address on 17 and 18 October 2011. The agenda for the October European Council will include economic policy, and external aspects of the EU economic policy including trade; preparations for the G20 summit on 3 and 4 November; and the EU position ahead of the climate change discussions in Durban (28 November to 9 December). Additional agenda items may be added in the lead up to the council.
The presidency is likely to use the opportunity to take stock of the work done so far in drafting the accession treaty with Croatia. Discussion is likely to be limited, although the date and venue for the formal signature of the accession treaty may be raised.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Jonathan Djanogly) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am today announcing the Government's intention to ban referral fees in personal injury cases. This complements our wider plans for civil litigation funding and costs, including fundamental reforms to no-win no-fee conditional fee agreements.
Referral fees are usually paid by solicitors to third parties, usually claims management companies or insurers, who refer business to them. But current arrangements have led to the growth of an industry that actively encourages individuals to bring cases, regardless of the merits of their claim.
The Government strongly believe that it is not in the public interest for potential claimants to be sought out and encouraged to make claims by people who profit from their claims being pursued. We believe that referral fees add to the high costs and volume of personal injury litigation, one of the factors underpinning increases in insurance premiums. As Lord Young recognised in his report, Common Sense, Common Safety, last year, referral fees also contribute to the risk of corrosive compensation culture.
Lord Justice Jackson, in his review of civil litigation funding and costs, which was published last year, recommended that referral fees should be banned or capped in personal injury cases.
Our aim is to reform the system to end the abuses that have occurred while ensuring that victims who have suffered a personal injury through someone else's negligence remain able to make a claim for damages where they have an appropriate case. Alongside the planned reforms to conditional fee agreements, the ban on referral fees will contribute to the Government's plans to tackle the compensation culture by discouraging unmeritorious claims and controlling the disproportionate costs of personal injury claims, without denying access to justice.
Earl Attlee: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce the publication today of the business plan 2011-15 for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The business plan sets out the services the agency will deliver over the course of this Parliament and the resources they will have available. Alongside the four-year business plan, the agency is also publishing a set of performance indicators for 2011-12, which describes a framework of measures by which the MCA's performance will be assessed.
Both the business plan and the performance indicators for 2011-12 will be available electronically on the MCA's website, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My honourable friend the Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries (Richard Benyon) has today made the following Statement.
On 14 October 2010, the Government announced their intention to move British Waterways in England and Wales from being a public corporation to a new waterways charity-subject to parliamentary approval.
On 30 March 2011, I launched a high-level consultation on this proposal. The consultation closed on 30 June 2011.
Today, I am announcing the publication of the Government's response to this consultation, alongside a further consultation on the legislation to transfer functions from British Waterways to the new charity, both of which are available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/.
The Government response confirms our commitment to the creation of a New Waterways Charity in England and Wales, subject to parliamentary approval. It details the main points raised by stakeholders during the consultation exercise, and the Government's proposals in the light of those comments. The response has been developed by working closely with the transition trustees of the new charity. Key points addressed in the response include:local partnerships will be named waterways partnerships to reflect their strategic role and size; each partnership will develop a localism strategy;fair representation of different groups on the council will be prioritised. Private boaters, boating businesses and NWC employees will directly elect their representatives from the outset. We will progress to 50 per cent of the council being directly elected over time;in addition to the waterways partnerships that cover the waterways in England, and those that cover the waterways straddling England and Wales, there will be a separate all-Wales partnership, with representation from associated bodies with a Welsh remit; we are publishing a revised and enhanced draft of the charitable purposes; andmore detail is available on how the Government will work with the charity to secure and safeguard public benefits, including free pedestrian access to the towpaths, through the charitable purposes, trust obligations, legislation and government funding agreement.
Government believe that the move to civil society will secure the long-term financial sustainability of the waterways. We have already announced plans to transfer all of British Waterways' property assets to the charity, as an endowment, and to commit to a long-term funding agreement. The length and terms of the agreement will be subject to negotiation and final agreement between Government and the transition trustees, this autumn.
The further consultation on legislation deals with the content of the proposed transfer order under the Public Bodies Bill, which will, subject to parliamentary approval, transfer the functions of British Waterways in England and Wales to the new charity. The document provides further information about the legislation that currently relates to British Waterways, the principles underpinning the functions to be transferred, and proposed amendments to legislation. It invites comments
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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 1 August HMRC published for consultation a technical note and draft legislation outlining a proposed approach to combating tax avoidance arrangements that exploit the provisions of double taxation agreements (DTAs). The responses so far received have made it clear that the proposed legislation, as drafted, could
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The Government are committed to providing certainty to taxpayers and acknowledge the concerns raised in the responses to the consultation. They have therefore decided not to proceed further with the consultation on the proposed legislation and will not include it in Finance Bill 2012.
The Government will continue to challenge specific arrangements that clearly seek to abuse provisions in a DTA.
This decision reaffirms the Government's commitment to open and transparent consultation and demonstrates the value of consultation. The Government's approach set out in their tax consultation framework has been widely welcomed by business and others as providing a much improved basis for developing new legislation. If the Government conclude in the future that alternative approaches for legislating against treaty abuse are necessary, they will consult on these alternatives in line with the tax consultation framework.
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