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Written Statements

Thursday 15 September 2011

Armed Forces: Joint Forces Command


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Liam Fox) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The creation of a Joint Forces Command (JFC) was recommended by Lord Levene in his defence reform report as part of the radical reform of the department that I announced on 27 June 2011 (Official Report, cols. 634-36). I welcomed that recommendation and directed that it should be put in to effect as soon as possible.

The new organisation will bring together and deliver joint enabling capabilities to ensure their appropriate prioritisation and deliver synergies between them.

I am announcing today the appointment of Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, currently the Chief of Joint Operations and a previous Chief of Defence Intelligence, as the first Commander JFC. His exceptionally strong joint credentials make him the ideal selection for the post, which he will take up in December 2011 on promotion to Air Chief Marshal.

Air Marshal Peach's appointment is an important milestone in preparing JFC for initial operating capability in April 2012. It will achieve its full operating capability a year later.

Armed Forces: Nuclear Disarmament


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK has long been committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. As part of the coalition agreement the Government agreed that we would maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament. The Prime Minister announced a number of disarmament measures as a part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on 19 October 2010. On 29 June 2011 (Official Report, cols. 50WS- 51WS) the Secretary of State for Defence announced the early commencement of the programme for implementing the SDSR warhead reductions: At least one of the VANGUARD class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) now carries a maximum of 40 nuclear warheads.

As part of our efforts to make progress on multilateral disarmament, we undertook to build trust and confidence between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, and committed to take tangible steps towards a safer and more stable world where countries with nuclear weapons feel able to relinquish them. Over a decade ago the

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Ministry of Defence, together with the Atomic Weapons Establishment, established a disarmament and arms control verification research programme. This work is ongoing and since 2007 we have also been working with Norway to develop some of the techniques that may be required to ensure compliance with any future nuclear disarmament process. This is the first time a nuclear weapon state and a non-nuclear weapon state have worked together in this way. Our work with Norway has demonstrated that nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states alike are able to make an active contribution to disarmament through verification research, while still complying with their non-proliferation obligations. Furthermore, the co-operation of non-nuclear weapon states in nuclear disarmament verification research is necessary in order to achieve effective and mutually trusted verification solutions.

As announced at the P5 conference (30 June-1 July 2011), the UK will host a confidential expert-level meeting of the P5 in early 2012 to discuss lessons learnt from the UK's work with Norway on the verification of nuclear warhead dismantlement. I wish to inform the House that we now intend to share these important lessons with additional non-nuclear weapon states. To this end, the Ministry of Defence, in partnership with Norway, will host a workshop in London in early December 2011. This will enable us to share our progress with technical experts from non-nuclear weapon states that have expressed an interest in the research conducted so far.

This verification research advances progress towards our long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and further demonstrates the Government's commitment to fulfilling the UK's disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Government remain committed to maintaining the minimum credible deterrent necessary to achieve our deterrence objectives of guaranteeing national security.

Armed Forces: Nuclear Liabilities


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Liam Fox) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has today published the first issue of the MoD Nuclear Liabilities Management Strategy. A copy of the strategy has been placed in the Library of the House.

The MoD's nuclear liabilities have arisen from building and operating nuclear submarines, and from the manufacture and management of nuclear weapons. They include nuclear materials that are no longer required for defence purposes; the irradiated fuel that has fulfilled its purpose; the sites, facilities, and submarines that support the defence nuclear programme; and, the resultant radioactive wastes.

Although the MoD's liabilities are substantial they are significantly smaller than the civil nuclear liabilities: the MoD's radioactive wastes account for less than 1.5 per cent by volume of the UK total. We have, therefore, worked with the Department of Energy and

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Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and the Scottish Government to develop a strategy that will deliver the best value for money solutions for the UK.

Managing our nuclear liabilities is a long-term challenge, and the strategy will evolve over time, as specific solutions are developed for dealing with particular liabilities. As a consequence, it is our intention to publish a revised strategy every five years, to reflect the progress being made and to ensure it remains up to date. The strategy being published today sets out the high level approaches for managing our nuclear liabilities: it provides a common management, decommissioning and disposal framework to ensure a coherent approach across the defence nuclear programme.

The safe and secure management of the MoD's current and future nuclear liabilities is of paramount importance, and underpins all aspects of the strategy. Its publication reflects the MoD's commitment to being a responsible nuclear operator and to delivering safe and effective solutions for dealing with those liabilities.

Armed Forces: Pensions and Compensation


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 (Andrew Robathan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In accordance with the Cabinet Office's recent guidance on public bodies, which took effect from 1 April 2011, I have launched a review of the Central Advisory Committee on Pensions and Compensation (CAC). This review will examine the committee's functions, as well as its corporate governance procedures. The review is due to be completed later this year and I shall inform the House of its outcome.

Armed Forces: Unsolicited Mail


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.

I wish to inform the House about the annual unsolicited mail campaign the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be running in the lead-up to Christmas, which is 100 days from tomorrow.

This Government are dedicated to the care and welfare of the men and women of our Armed Forces, particularly those deployed on operations. This is reflected in the comprehensive deployed welfare package which is constantly reviewed to ensure we give appropriate support to our deployed service personnel. A key part of that package is ensuring the safe and timely delivery of free personal mail from family and friends. In the past this mechanism has also been used by the general public to show their support by sending unsolicited goodwill parcels through the mail system.

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Previously, this has resulted in huge volumes of unsolicited goodwill parcels which have overwhelmed the in-theatre postal and logistic capacity, resulting in a considerable delay to personal mail from family and friends. British Forces' Post Office (BFPO) estimates it will handle approximately 22,500 parcels per week over Christmas this year (the eight-week period between mid-October and mid-December) as opposed to 10,000 over a normal eight-week period. In 2009, unsolicited mail added 64 tonnes to BFPO's logistical effort. In addition to the impact on personal mail, which can be severely delayed as a result, delivering unsolicited packages over the final mile to forward operating bases and patrol bases puts increased pressure on essential in-theatre resources. Additional helicopter journeys and road convoys are required, both of which take essential transport assets away from their primary task and place our personnel at increased personal danger.

It is for these reasons that the MoD will, for the fourth consecutive year, be repeating its unsolicited mail campaign. The campaign was so successful last year, it reduced the volume of unsolicited mail by 90 per cent. Key to the success of the campaign is to encourage the British public to show their support through one of the recognised MoD Service charities rather then sending unsolicited goodwill parcels.

All service personnel on operations over Christmas will receive a seasonal gift box from the MoD endorsed charity, uk4u Thanks!. The charity continues to work closely with the MoD, using free space in the existing supply chain to deliver the boxes well before Christmas, without impacting on the normal mail system. Other charities which help to support deployed troops with welfare items include SSAFA, Afghan Heroes, Support our Soldiers and Thank the Forces.

I recognise that it might seem counter-intuitive to ask the British public not to send parcels to troops at Christmas, but due to the impact of unsolicited mail I ask for your full support in directing the public towards MoD recognised charities.

Care Services


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today, the Government launched Caring for Our Future: Shared Ambitions for Care and Support-an engagement with people who use care and support services, carers, local councils, care providers, and the voluntary sector about the priorities for improving care and support. The engagement will last until early December, and we are requesting written comments by 2 December to help inform discussions.

In recent months, two independent commissions have reported to Government on two different aspects of care and support. In May, the Law Commission published recommendations for modernising and simplifying the social care legal framework (available at social_care.pdf), and in July the Commission on Funding of Care and Support published recommendations for

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reforming the way that people pay for care and support (available at These recommendations will form the basis for our discussions.

We have also received a report from the Palliative Care Funding Review, which sets out how we could create a fair and transparent funding system which ensures integrated, responsive, high quality health and care services for those at the end of life. This report has been placed in the Library.

All these reports contain important and valuable proposals to help us decide our approach to changing the care and support system. However, the Government have a broad agenda for reform of care and support. These reports were never intended to look at all our priorities. For the White Paper on social care reform and the progress report on funding reform which we will publish next spring, we have an opportunity to get reform right so we want to have a wider discussion about every aspect of the system to inform Government decisions.

We have already said, in our Vision for Adult Social Care, that we want to see a care and support system where care is personalised, people have choice in how their needs and ambitions are met, and carers are supported. We want high quality care to be delivered by a diverse range of providers and a skilled workforce that can provide care and support with compassion and imagination. People must be confident that they are protected against poor standards and abuse.

Making changes to the care and support system is not simple. The challenges of an ageing society are being faced by most developed countries. There are no easy answers, and we cannot make all the changes at once. We know that, as a country, we will need to spend more on care and support as our society ages. In this challenging economic environment, we need to weigh up what the priorities for reform are and produce a realistic roadmap for change. So, over the next three months, we will be engaging with a range of people and organisations involved with care and support about their priorities for reform.

"Caring for Our Future" will consist of six themes. These are:

quality: what are the priorities for improving quality and developing the future workforce?;personalisation: what are the priorities for promoting increased personalisation and choice?;shaping local care services: what are the priorities for creating a more diverse and responsive care market?;prevention: what are the priorities for supporting greater prevention and early intervention?;integration (in partnership with the NHS Future Forum): how can we take advantage of the health and social care modernisation programme to ensure services are better integrated around people's needs?; andthe role of financial services: what role could the financial services sector play in supporting care users, carers and their families?

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Making changes to the funding system for care and support, as discussed in the Commission on Funding of Care and Support's report, would impact on all aspects of the care and support system. So we also want to consider the implications of the commission's recommendations as part of these discussions.

We have asked a key leader from the care and support community to help the Government to lead the discussions for each of these six areas. We want to work collaboratively, drawing upon the networks of expertise and experience that have developed over many years. So, together, we will be attending events, holding meetings, listening to the views of user organisations, carers' representatives, care providers, and local councils on what the priorities for improving care and support should be. The leaders for each of the discussion strands are:

quality: Imelda Redmond (Chief Executive, Carers UK); personalisation: Jeremy Hughes (Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society);shaping local care services: Peter Hay (President, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services);prevention: Alex Fox (Chief Executive, NAAPS);integration (in partnership with the NHS Future Forum): Geoff Alltimes (Chief Executive, Hammersmith and Fulham Council) and Dr Robert Varnam (Practising GP, Manchester); andthe role of financial services: Nick Kirwan (Assistant Director of Health and Protection, Association of British Insurers)

As part of Caring for Our Future, we also want to hear people's views on the recommendations made by the Commission on Funding of Care and Support and how we should assess these proposals, including in relation to other potential priorities for improvement. The commission's recommendations present a range of options, including on the level of a cap and the contribution that people make to living costs in residential care, which could help us to manage the system and its costs. We want to hear people's views on these different options, and the trade-offs involved. Later in the autumn, as part of the engagement process, we will ask the six discussion leaders to bring together the views they have gathered on support for the commission's proposals, and the wider priorities for change.

As we said in our response to the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, we face difficult economic times. Given this, the Government will have to weigh up different funding priorities and calls on their constrained resources carefully before deciding how to act. A copy of the public discussion document has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. This contains more details on how people can feed their views into the discussion.

The Government have said that they will engage with the Official Opposition, as part of this process.

"Caring for Our Future" will run until early December. At the end of the engagement, the discussion leaders will bring together views about the priorities for change, and will discuss these with the Government. We have

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committed to publishing a White Paper in spring 2012, alongside a progress report on funding reform, and to legislating at the earliest opportunity. The White Paper and progress report will include a response to the Law Commission and Commission on Funding of Care and Support and will set out our approach to reform, to start the process of transforming our care and support system.

Correction to Commons Written Answer


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.

Further to Parliamentary Question 68626 (Official Report, 7 September 2011, Vol.532, c 449W] of the 7 September 2011, regarding the costs of the Council of Europe, part of my Written Answer to the honourable Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) was not published. The correct answer is as follows:

Mr Lidington: The following table shows the totals of the Council of Europe (CoE) Ordinary Budget between 2003 and 2010, the contribution made by the UK, and the proportion of the total paid by the UK.

YearCoE total budget (Euros)UK contribution (Euros)Proportion paid by UK

































The office of the UK Delegation to the CoE is responsible for, among other things, representing the UK at regular meetings of the Committee of Ministers. Its running costs by financial year are shown in the table. Figures before 2004 are not available.

Cost of UK Delegation to the Council of Europe
Financial year£ Sterling















National delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) are politically independent and do not represent national governments. PACE activities and running costs are funded from the Council of Europe's Ordinary Budget, and Parliament pays for the expenses of the UK delegation to PACE. The following table shows the UK's contribution to the PACE allocation from the Ordinary Budget.

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UK contribution to PACE's allocation from the Ordinary Budge

















EU: Financial Regulation


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mark Hoban) has today issued the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK Government strongly support international efforts to reform derivatives markets, including increased clearing of derivatives through central counterparties. G20 leaders, finance ministers and central bank governors have agreed that reforms to derivatives markets should be implemented in an "internationally consistent and non-discriminatory" way.

On 5 July 2011, the European Central Bank (ECB) published a Eurosystem Oversight Framework1. This includes a policy that central counterparties that clear euro-denominated credit derivatives above certain thresholds (€5 billion average daily net credit exposure or 5 per cent of certain product categories) must "be legally incorporated in the euro area with full managerial and operational control and responsibility over all core functions, exercised from within the euro area".

The UK considers that this policy is contrary to fundamental single market principles and fundamental principles of EU law. It is also discriminatory on the grounds of nationality and runs counter to the EU general principle of equality.

The policy, if implemented, would affect a number of central counterparties that have located their businesses in the UK to provide services in a range of currencies, EU and non-EU, and would lead to a fragmentation of financial markets by currency zone with profoundly negative consequences for the single market, international capital flows and significant costs for the European and global economies.

Accordingly, the UK Government have chosen to challenge the ECB's Eurosystem Oversight Framework policy, which they consider to have legal effect and therefore can be challenged under the treaty.

EU: General Affairs Council


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.

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The General Affairs Council was held on 12 September in Brussels. I represented the UK.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs Council (GAC)

The GAC was chaired by the Polish EU presidency (Mr Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, State Secretary for European Affairs of Poland). A draft record of the meeting can be found at:

Multiannual Financial Framework

Before the General Affairs Council I met with a group of member states that, like the UK, believe in a budget disciplined approach to the Multiannual Financial Framework, hosted by Sweden. Together we agreed a joint statement calling for budgetary restraint; this was reflected in a press statement released following the council meeting, this can be found at the following internet address:;id=654555082.

Ministers were informed of the progress of discussions at 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: were published in June 2011 and are unacceptable to the UK. Discussion was guided by the document linked below, which set the framework for the discussion.

During the formal, public, session of the General Affairs Council and the informal lunch following the council meeting I took the opportunity, along with partners, to reiterate the UK demand for a smaller EU budget in the next financial framework. I also argued for greater transparency. This means bringing the budget items that the Commission has sought to move off budget back on to the balance sheet (an estimated €18 billion worth of measures). On flexibility (moving money between budget envelopes after they had been agreed) I argued that this would only make sense in the context of a smaller, more tightly focused, overall budget.

October European Council

The presidency presented the draft annotated agenda of the October European Council on behalf of the president of the EU. The conclusions would cover economic policy and preparation of the EU's position for the G20 summit and for the Durban conference on climate change. The main focus would be on economic policy and in particular external aspects of the Union's economic policy and internal initiatives on growth and the single market.

All Ministers welcomed the draft annotated agenda and recognised that it may need to evolve in the lead-up to the European Council in the middle of October. I welcomed the emphasis on economic policy but stressed the need for substantive discussion on promoting growth and jobs. I also pressed for the European Council to discuss the events in North Africa and the Middle East and to discuss the evolving European Neighbourhood Policy. Heads of state must discuss the pressing international issues of the day.

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I will deposit copies of this note in the Libraries of both Houses. And I will continue to update Parliament on the General Affairs Councils as and when future meetings are held.

EU: Protection Measures


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have decided to opt in to the regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters. The regulation meets the criteria set out in the coalition agreement with regard to EU Justice and Home Affairs measures.

In accordance with the coalition agreement, the Government have said they will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.

The draft regulation will benefit vulnerable people in Britain who may now feel more confident to travel within the EU due to greater protection. The draft regulation provides a quick and efficient mechanism. It aims to avoid those needing protection having to go through time-consuming court procedures and giving evidence on the same matters in another member state in order to get the protection they need.

The draft regulation covers civil matters and follows on from the draft directive on the European Protection Order which covers criminal matters which the UK has also opted into. The two separate instruments are intended to complement each other so that as many protection orders as possible are covered despite the differences in member states' systems.

EU: Transport Council


Earl Attlee: My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Theresa Villiers) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Polish presidency of the EU held an informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers in Gdansk and Sopot on 5 and 6 September. The UK was represented by officials. The theme was: mobilising private financing for transport infrastructure. The debate was based on a number of questions put by the presidency, which were principally about the use of public-private partnerships.

The key points conveyed by the UK are as follows:

For the UK, the primary factor determining PPP use is whether it offers the best value for money compared to alternative delivery options. The features that impact on the value for money decision include: public sector access to private sector capital and expertise and the transfer of financial risk from the public to the private sector.

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A key feature of the UK public sector comparator process is that it is not entirely based on a quantitative calculation of the respective delivery outcomes. The calculation is supported by a qualitative assessment of the respective delivery routes in terms of their viability, desirability and achievability.

The UK set out several examples of the use of PPP in the transport sector, which included contracts for street lighting, highway maintenance and London Underground. We reported that that the experience of PPP in this sector has been mixed. While PPP programmes have helped secure significant infrastructure investment and, in a number of cases, achieved an improved record on the delivery of projects to time and budget, this has only been achieved by repeated interventions.

Work has recently been undertaken to achieve a stronger focus on flexibility. Project reviews are being undertaken to improve the delivery of cost reductions and value for money. New PPP projects are subject to tougher approval and assurance processes. The UK no longer uses the PPP format to source projects for which there is an insufficient capital requirement or continuing lifecycle maintenance/service obligation, or for lower value projects.

The UK emphasised that while PPP remains a useful procurement option, it is not suitable for every project and should only be selected when it can demonstrate that it provides a better value for money outcome than conventional procurement processes.

The UK noted that a fundamental feature of PPP structures is that they provide for availability payments over the life of a long-term service contract. However, EU regulations only provide for availability payments that are linked to development and construction pre-payments. If operational availability payments are not permitted, this could distort the decision-making process on the type of PPP structure that is adopted and unnecessarily constrain the options available to member states.

Health: Complaints and Litigation


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Simon Burns) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

We have today laid before Parliament the Government's response to the House of Commons Health Committee Sixth Report of the Session 2010-12: Complaints and Litigation (Cm 8120).

The starting point for this committee's inquiry has been that, sometimes, patient experience of the NHS falls below the high standards expected, and when this happens, patients should have access to a responsive and effective complaints and if necessary litigation systems.

The majority of people using health and social care services in England are satisfied with the care and treatment received. However, there are times where things go wrong. In these circumstances, it is important that people are able to make a complaint and to have them investigated and dealt with effectively.

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Complaints are important and need to be taken seriously. When something has gone wrong it needs to be put right quickly, and organisations need to work closely with people to find the most appropriate resolution to a complaint. Organisations also need to make sure they learn from every aspect of a complaint so that the same thing does not happen again. The more successful organisations take the views of their customers, including views expressed in complaints, seriously.

A small proportion of complaints made about care relate to negligent harm. In these circumstances, it is correct that complainants are able to obtain proportionate compensation in a timely manner for the harm they have suffered.

The Government's civil justice reforms will develop a system that is proportionate, encourages personal responsibility in resolving disputes, and with streamlined procedures to provide timely access to justice. This will improve outcomes for patients seeking compensation, and allow limited NHS resources to be diverted away from legal expenses and back to patient care.

The Government welcome the committee's acceptance that the current complaints arrangements provide the potential for delivering better outcomes for complainants and improvements in service delivery. However, the Government accept that there is more to do, and we will work with the NHS better to ensure lessons learnt from the local investigations of complaints feed into service improvements. Good practice does exist in the NHS, and it needs to be shared more widely.

The NHS reforms the Government have proposed offer an opportunity to drive improvement and to improve patients' experiences of the NHS and they will put patients, carers and local communities at the heart of the NHS. In addition the Government's transparency agenda, along with the wider information sharing agenda instigated by the Health Service Ombudsman, the Department of Health and regulatory bodies, should help to ensure that in future, information in respect of complaints will be more widely available to the public to inform choice and to highlight areas of healthcare provision that need improvement.

Information Commissioner's Office


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Today I am publishing the revised framework document that governs the day to day relationship between the ICO and the Ministry of Justice. Agreed by both the Information Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice, the revised document enhances significantly the independence of the ICO.

The Government firmly support an independent and influential ICO and this revised framework complements the legislative clauses the Government introduced in the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

Under the new framework mechanisms are put in place to enable the ICO to retain certain types of income, subject to the outcome of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, and the reporting requirements on the ICO are significantly reduced. In addition to this, a

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number of changes have been introduced to allow the ICO greater freedom to make certain financial and administrative decisions.

However, while furthering the ICO's financial and administrative independence, the framework document ensures this is balanced with appropriate reporting arrangements to enable the Ministry of Justice to maintain and ensure the proper expenditure of public money allocated to the ICO.

Copies of the consultation revised framework document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the department's website at www.justice.

Maritime Incident Response Group


Earl Attlee: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

As part of the comprehensive spending review that the Government set out last October, we announced the intention to consult with interested parties about a review of the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Since it was established in 2006, the MIRG has responded to just six fire incidents and has not had a significant impact on the outcome of any of those. Since February the MCA has consulted those Fire and Rescue Services providing the current MIRG capability.

Feedback from the shipping industry suggests that the most valued service provided by the MIRG is their initial fire assessment advice. The MCA had therefore initially hoped that the Fire and Rescue Services providing the current MIRG capability would be able to provide such a service, but agreement on this has not been possible. The Government therefore intend to establish alternative arrangements for such a fire assessment and advice service using commercial salvors.

Under the new arrangements professional personnel will be deployed to an incident to make an assessment of the status of a fire and to provide advice on the best course of action and-as in many cases today-reassure port authorities that a ship can be safely accepted into a port so that shore based fire fighters can attend to the fire. This approach recognises that international legislation already requires that all ships' crews are trained and equipped to fight fires on ships.

The new service will not require funding from the public purse as costs will be recoverable. A 90-day notice period will begin today and the existing MIRG arrangement will end on 14 December 2011.

National Minimum Wage


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumers and Postal Affairs (Edward Davey) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Government have written to the Low Pay Commission setting out what we would like the commission to consider on the

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national minimum wage. The document contains evidence on economic and non-economic issues, including the minimum wage rates, the youth labour market, apprenticeships, work experience, and compliance and enforcement.

In addition, we have today published guidance on Business Link and to clarify when individuals performing work experience, including interns, are entitled to the minimum wage.

A copy of the evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available from the BIS website at



Earl Attlee: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Philip Hammond) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

On 3 August 2011, I announced the criteria that the Government will consider particularly relevant to the appropriateness of the sale of a major trust port in England or Wales under the Ports Act 1991. This followed the consultation that I announced on 16 May 2011 (Official Report, col. 4WS] and which closed on 27 June. I regret that it was not possible to announce this first by Written Ministerial Statement to the House, but I did not wish to delay consideration of the application by Dover Harbour Board for a transfer scheme.

I am aware that Dover Harbour Board has now considered the criteria, intends to proceed with its application for a transfer scheme under the Ports Act 1991, and proposes to submit a new set of documents containing a further elaboration of its scheme for decision by the Minister of State under the new criteria. If interested parties would find it useful and seek my department's assistance, we would be happy to consider ways in which properly to facilitate discussions on all the options before the Dover Harbour Board submits its elaborated proposal. I should make clear that the decision Minister would take no part in such discussions and would continue to perform her statutory functions in an objective, impartial manner whatever the outcome of any such discussions.

The following paragraphs set out the revised policy which the Secretary of State expects to follow when considering an application under the Ports Act 1991 for the sale of a major trust port in England or Wales. This covers the consideration of any proposal for a transfer scheme submitted under Section 9 or 10 of the 1991 Act, together with the exercise of the Secretary of State's functions in respect of the subsequent sale of the port to which the scheme relates. The Secretary of State also intends to have particular regard to the policy considerations set out below before making a transfer scheme himself under Section 12 of the 1991 Act or subsequently approving the sale of a port to which such a scheme relates.

Essential Criteria

Community participation

The Secretary of State will not approve an application for the sale of a trust port under the 1991 Act unless the sale is considered likely to deliver an enduring and significant level of community participation in the

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port. Such participation could take a variety of forms, but must include the ability to influence the port's long term development and may include the right to receive a share in the profits of the port, or the future increase in its value. It does not necessarily require a community role in the operation of the port.

Future investment in, and development of, the port

The Secretary of State will not approve an application unless the sale is considered likely to deliver an ownership model with the capability and access to capital to meet future investment needs and to exploit development potential of the port.

Fair price

The Secretary of State will not approve an application unless the sale is considered likely to represent good value for money, having regard not only to Exchequer proceeds and market conditions, but also to other benefits including those to the community and the wider economy.

Fair competition

The Secretary of State will not approve an application that is likely to deliver an ownership model which results in unsatisfactory levels of competition in the relevant sector.

Highly Desirable Criteria

Transport networks

It is highly desirable for an application to be likely to deliver an ownership model which will cause the port to be operated so as to contribute to reliable, resilient and efficient transport networks.

Sale process

It is highly desirable that the sale should be conducted in such a way as to give all bona fide prospective purchasers a fair and equitable opportunity to participate.

Desirable Criteria

Employee involvement

It is desirable for an application to be likely to deliver port employee participation in the ownership of the port, such as the right to receive equity shares or a share in its future success.1



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.

The Government will not attend the high-level meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference against Racism on 22 September at the United Nations in New York.

The Government remain fully committed to the international fight against racism. The recent examination of the UK by the UN Committee for Elimination of

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Racial Discrimination demonstrated that we remain committed to tackling racism at home and abroad. The committee welcomed the notable efforts the UK has taken to tackle racial discrimination and inequality and the important progress we have made.

However, the Government do not want to be associated with the commemoration of an event which was tainted by anti-Semitism and intolerance. We join a number of other countries in not participating in the September meeting, including the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia and Germany.

Standards and Testing Agency


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), a new executive agency of the Department for Education, will commence operating on Monday 3 October. The STA will be responsible for the development and delivery of all statutory assessments from early years to the end of key stage 3.

This work was previously carried out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, which, subject to the will of Parliament, will cease its final remaining functions in March 2012.

Taxation: Avoidance


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 which exploit the provisions of double taxation agreements (DTAs). The responses so far received have made it clear that the proposed legislation, as drafted, could cause significant uncertainty for compliant UK businesses and overseas investors about its intended scope and its practical effect.

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

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approaches for legislating against treaty abuse are necessary, they will consult on these alternatives in line with the tax consultation framework.

Telephone Hacking


The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am publishing the Government's response to the 13th Report of the Home Affairs Committee into the "Unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications".

The committee's report highlights a number of issues arising from the activities of journalists at News International and their associates, as well as the failings of the police investigations into those activities.

The committee is to be commended for producing such a thorough report and for producing it so quickly after the final evidence sessions, so that it could inform

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the parliamentary debate in July and also sit usefully alongside other work that the Government have commissioned in this area, including:

the inquiry being led by Lord Justice Leveson, commissioned by the Prime Minister; Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's report considering instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties, which I have commissioned; and the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report into their experience of investigating police corruption and any lessons that can be learnt for the police service, which I have also commissioned.

Many of the issues highlighted by the report are for the police service and the Government believe that the report is a valuable contribution to the debate around changes needed to police culture.

Alongside the Government's response to the Home Affairs Committee's report, we are also publishing the First Report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission on its experience of police corruption. Both documents will be available on the Home Office website and copies will be available from the Vote Office.

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