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Written Statements

Thursday 13 October 2011

Armed Forces: Education


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

I am now able to announce the conclusions of the review I led into continuity of education allowance (CEA).

CEA costs the department about £180 million a year to support the 7,900 children of about 5,500 service claimants; about £70 million of this is to settle the tax liability that would otherwise be incurred by claimants serving in the UK. Parents are also required to contribute a minimum of 10 per cent of the school fees; many pay much more, as the maximum allowance covers less of their chosen school's fees. The 7,900 service children are distributed across about 440 schools, 25 of which are state boarding schools, and they represent about 11 per cent of the total number of children in boarding schools in the UK. The review found that CEA contributes to operational effectiveness by supporting family mobility and accompanied service. It is greatly valued by claimants; but it is expensive, complex to administer and has had a weak governance structure. The challenge for the review was to develop an approach that would increase value for money and save costs, while still supporting mobility, within the context of service life as we expect it to be in the future. Moreover, we had to ensure that the interests of service children were fully protected. I believe we have achieved this.

First, and of paramount importance, I reaffirm the Government's commitment to support service personnel and their families. As the recent Ofsted report on children in service families made clear, the combination of deployment of a family member and regular moves of home and school can cause anxiety and stress for service families whether living in the UK or overseas and education is disturbed. While this pattern of mobility remains, as it still does for many of our personnel, it is only right that support should be available to minimise the disruptive effect of frequent moves on family life, including support for those service parents for whom continuity of education for their children is best met through boarding school provision.

We have consulted the service community-claimants and non-claimants-both directly and through the service families federations. We have consulted the principal associations representing boarding, independent and preparatory schools and we have compared our practices with those of other major employers in the public and private sectors and our major allies.

We have exhaustively considered a wide range of options for reshaping CEA and how it is delivered. The main options considered were: different ways in which the department might contract, or pay, for the service; greater use of state boarding schools; increasing

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the minimum age to exclude the primary stage of education; reducing the maximum age for child eligibility to the end of year 11; restricting entitlement to those serving abroad and with no access to suitable schools; ceasing entitlement for new joiners; increasing parental contributions; transferring the tax liability to claimants; alternative remuneration/allowance packages; and improvements to governance. Many of these options would bear heavily on claimants and their children; and could not be implemented without allowing reasonable time for adjustment.

Against this background, for at least the near to medium term, we have decided to maintain the core principles of CEA and restrict changes to those that have merit in their own right. We will maintain current parental contribution rates to overall school fees and the eligibility age range for children, though we will remove eligibility for initial claims for years 12 and 13. There will be no changes in our provisions for special educational needs or day school allowances. Parents will continue to be able to choose the most appropriate school for their children from the current wide range of state and independent schools on our accredited list, but as overall numbers of CEA claimants decline we will encourage those who still need boarding education to use state boarding schools, where the tuition fees are already met by the state. Improvements to governance, rule-tightening and clarification of existing entitlements are being introduced. We will develop a centralised payment system to pay fees direct to schools. Any liability to income tax will not be paid by individual claimants.

In the longer term, we expect the terms and conditions of service of our personnel, and their living patterns, to be different. Withdrawal of units from Germany, concentration on fewer bases and the expectation that many more of our personnel will have less mobile careers, allowing greater stability of home life, will change the requirement for CEA. We will need to do more to encourage and support stability. The New Employment Model (NEM) programme, which is due to report in the summer of 2012, aims to define how this will happen and, while the project is pursuing a balance between a wide range of potential benefits, we will set a clear target that it should reduce expenditure on CEA by at least half by 2020, compared with the pre-strategic defence and security review baseline. In designing the NEM, we may well find that reduced mobility will enable us to achieve the challenging reductions in expenditure without major changes to the allowance itself. But, in addressing this issue, the project will also have to look more radically at the best ways to support personnel and families within future resources, given the high costs of boarding education and the relatively small numbers of personnel who could be expected to be eligible for CEA by the end of the decade.

I believe that this is a good outcome for service families and the taxpayer, balancing the need to support service mobility at present with longer-term structural changes, in a measured and progressive way that takes account of financial constraints, improves value for money and avoids adverse impact on service children.

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Armed Forces: Rehabilitation and Recovery


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.

In June 2009 the previous Government announced that a feasibility study into the establishment of a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) would be undertaken. I am today announcing the outcome of that study and the next steps that will be taken. But I wish to do so in the wider context of what is being done for members of the Armed Forces in the field of both rehabilitation and recovery.

Rehabilitation is primarily clinical treatment for medical conditions arising from illness, wounding or injury. The Defence Medical Services (DMS) are responsible for the provision of rehabilitation. Defence relies upon the availability of medically fit and healthy personnel in order to generate forces for operations. A tiered structure of rehabilitation is provided for all personnel who need it, whatever the cause of their injury or illness. The DMS run local primary care rehabilitation facilities in barracks and stations in which minor cases can be treated. More significant conditions are referred to one of 13 regional rehabilitation units (RRU) in the UK and two in Germany.

In the operational theatre, a deployed rehabilitation capability is available to treat personnel with minor injuries, so avoiding the need to repatriate them. The most seriously wounded are treated first in the theatre of operations before aeromedical evacuation and admission to the military ward of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. When their injuries are sufficiently healed, most such patients start a rehabilitation programme at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey, which treats complex or persistent cases regardless of how they are caused.

Let me turn now to recovery. Recovery is primarily a non-clinical activity that may involve individuals taking rest periods during their rehabilitation treatment programmes. Recovery activity ensures that wounded, injured and sick personnel have access to all the key services and resources needed to help them return to duty or make a smooth transition to an appropriately skilled civilian life. This care is delivered across the defence community by the combined efforts of the services and the service charities, responding to carefully tailored individual recovery plans setting out a recovery pathway.

Single service recovery provision is co-ordinated by the Defence Recovery Steering Group (DRSG) and collectively forms the Defence Recovery Capability (DRC). The Army's wounded, injured and sick are managed at Brigade level by 13 regional personnel recovery units (PRUs). The naval services, including the Royal Marines, are supported at each Royal Navy base but have special facilities at Devonport with Hasler Company. The Royal Air Force has a recovery flight as part of their recovery pathway which is followed by all RAF personnel who are unable to return to duty after sickness or injury.

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A programme is under way to support the DRC by the creation of personnel recovery centres (PRCs). These centres are already being built in garrison towns in Colchester, Catterick, Tidworth and, in the case of the naval services, at Plymouth. The Pathfinder Centre, opened in Edinburgh in 2009, supported by Help for Heroes for the first two years, is now being run by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and supported by the Royal British Legion and Erskine homes.

The PRCs and other facilities are being built by Help for Heroes in Tidworth, Colchester and Catterick and by the Royal British Legion in Sennelager in Germany. This has been made possible by the generous initiatives of Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. Long-term funding will be the responsibility of the MoD. Additional support is being provided by many other charities and government agencies to ensure that the DRC is able to deliver effective and co-ordinated support from regional support hubs.

The Battle Back programme provides adaptive sport and adventure training opportunities to wounded, sick and injured personnel at all stages of recovery. The programme will be further developed through a Defence Adaptive Sport and Adventurous Training Centre at the Sport England Centre of Excellence at Lilleshall. Funding for this Battle Back centre is being provided by the Royal British Legion and wider Battle Back activity is supported by Help for Heroes through the PRCs.

This partnership between the MoD and the service charities is a long-standing tradition. This multimillion pound programme, using funds raised by a generous and benevolent British public, is already supporting wounded and injured personnel. Once completed, the DRC will provide a comprehensive support network to both serving personnel and their families, and to those who leave the services through injury.

Rehabilitation medicine is advancing rapidly in terms of how technology can help people recover and the extent to which modern medical science might offer new possibilities in the rehabilitative field. While the existing defence rehabilitation facility at Headley Court, established in 1947, is widely admired for achieving remarkable results for those injured in conflict, it is important that defence is in a position to benefit to the maximum degree from advances in technology and science. Realising the full benefits of such advances will not be possible in the medium to long term because of the physical constraints of the Headley Court site and will therefore require purpose-built accommodation and facilities. It was for this reason that the feasibility study into the concept of a DNRC was conducted, involving the possibility of establishing a new facility in the Midlands and looking at how the whole issue of rehabilitation should be developed in 21st century terms.

The study involved the MoD, the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It was conducted during 2010 and 2011 and is now complete. It took evidence from a wide variety of sources including many of the practitioners at Headley Court. It concluded that there is convincing evidence that a DNRC would build on the remarkable achievements of Headley

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Court by offering substantial betterment in virtually all areas, providing an assured level of future care that will surpass what is offered by Headley Court's current and planned capabilities. The MoD's Surgeon-General considers that the degree of betterment is shown to be compelling and very significant in terms of scale, quality, design, patient flows and future-proofing. It presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop the nation's rehabilitation capability in partnership with the MoD, which builds on defence's acknowledged lead in this area. This defence core of a DNRC has been defined in considerable detail and will include specific provision for neurological and complex trauma patients as well as back to life facilities.

The study also revealed widespread support for the notion of civilian rehabilitation benefiting from close association with the defence equivalent. Although less developed at this stage, the study concluded that significant national benefits could come into play. The urgent need for improvement in the nation's approach to getting injured people back to work is well known-the cost to the taxpayer of lost working days was estimated in 2006 to be over £60 billion. A combination of defence and civilian medicine, university-led research and development, and national disabled sporting facilities in one location could provide a combination unique in the world. The focus on work-related interventions, looking at what people can do rather than what they cannot, has the potential to bring huge benefits to the nation through reducing the social and economic costs of ill-health in working age adults. Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health and the NHS in England, and the Surgeon-General in the MoD strongly support the development of a DNRC, and the trustees of the Headley Court Trust also support the project. The next steps will be to develop further the concept for the national elements and to embark upon acquiring the necessary capital through a fundraising campaign. During the study a test site in the Midlands was identified as able to accommodate both the defence military establishment and allow space for national facilities to be developed over time. The test site allowed the development of robust costs on the basis of designs to fit the MoD's clinical brief.

With his permission, modestly given, I am able to tell the House that the benefactor behind this project is the Duke of Westminster. The initiative was his from the outset. Since then, the Duke of Westminster has been working on the project quietly behind the scenes for two years, and it was he who generously funded the feasibility study. His generosity has now extended to the acquisition of the test site so that, as a first step, a dialogue with the planning authority can take place to explore the site's DNRC potential. He will also fund the necessary work to process the planning application. If the decision is made to proceed with a DNRC, it is the Duke's intention to donate the site to the project. He will now lead the major donor fund-raising campaign and make a very substantial donation to it beyond what he has already given.

Nevertheless, I can assure the House that no final decision on the future of Headley Court has been made. I expect to be in a position to announce progress on these next steps towards the end of 2013. Should

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the decision be made to proceed with the project, the outcome would be a new defence establishment, opening in 2017, which would ensure that the spirit and achievements of Headley Court are carried forward into the 21st century on a new larger site, purpose-built to continue to do what Headley Court has always done so well.

Meanwhile, development of the defence recovery capability will proceed and by the end of 2012 the full capability is expected to be in place.

The Government are committed to providing the best possible care for our wounded and injured service personnel. A DNRC offers the clear and compelling opportunity to realise the full benefits of future advances and we should seize it for the medium to long term. For now, I can assure the House that we shall continue to invest in Headley Court so that it continues to deliver to the best possible standard. A project to increase capacity and sustain infrastructure is planned to start at the end of this year.

Asylum: Procedures and Reception Conditions


The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Immigration (Damian Green) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have decided not to opt into the European Commission's amended proposals for asylum procedures and reception conditions directives.

The Government have grave concerns about the way in which the provisions in the amended reception conditions directive would allow asylum seekers to work after six months if a decision at first instance has not been reached and would place stringent restrictions on member states' ability to detain asylum seekers in exceptional circumstances. These restrictions are unnecessary in a system such as ours where detainees have the right to apply to the courts for release on bail, or to bring a legal challenge against their detention.

The amended procedures directive would place restrictions on accelerated procedures, and on the making of asylum appeals non-suspensive (where a right of appeal can be exercised out of country only), which would endanger a number of systems that the UK operates to manage straightforward asylum claims effectively-in particular our detained fast track that provides speedy but fair decisions for any asylum seekers whose claims are capable of being decided quickly.

Unfortunately, rather than giving us the correct means by which to consider asylum claims effectively and to deter abuse, both directives subject member states' asylum systems to unjustified regulation and focus excessively on enhancing the rights of all asylum seekers whether their claims are valid or not. This would have significant cost implications for the UK.

The Government will continue to approach forthcoming legislation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs on a case-by-case basis, with a view to

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maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and enhancing our ability to control immigration.

Civil Service: Training and Development


Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Francis Maude) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing further steps in reforms to make Civil Service training more modern, efficient and cost-effective.

For too long we have relied on expensive residential and classroom-based training, duplicating effort across departments. The new Civil Service Learning will focus on work-based approaches including e-learning and will directly involve managers in the training process.

The reforms in training will save around £90 million per year and at the same time improve the quality and impact of training. It will also create greater flexibility by sourcing much of the training from external providers including small and medium-sized enterprises.

As part of these reforms, the National School of Government will close on 31 March 2012. Until then the school will remain open for business and provide a range of products to support Civil Service Leaning.

The changes will:

ensure that we get the best value when we buy training through improved procurement-moving away from department based procurement to a Civil Service wide approach leveraging economies of scale;ensure consistency in Civil Service skills development and enables better evaluation and control of training effectiveness and VFM;ensure Civil Service training is delivered in line with modern practice in other organisations, move away from expensive residential and classroom-based training and focus more on work-based and supported on-line learning; andensure that by 1 April 2012, all government training and development spend will be channelled through one operator-CSL.

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 its 1st meeting of EU Transport Ministers in Luxembourg on 6 October. The UK was represented by officials.

There was a policy debate on a draft regulation amending Regulation 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending regulation 561/2006. The UK reiterated our support for measures that reduce burdens on business and expressed doubts that

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the costs and benefits of the Commission's proposal had been fully assessed. The presidency noted that discussions were at an early stage and that consideration would continue at official level.

The mandate for enlarging the geographical scope of the existing Interbus agreement was not discussed at the council.

The council agreed two negotiating mandates in the area of aviation external relations:

the first was to negotiate a high level agreement with the European Organisation for Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL); andthe second was to open negotiations on a comprehensive air transport agreement with Azerbaijan.

The council adopted conclusions on the Commission communication, The EUand its Neighbouring Regions: A Renewed Approach to Transport Co-operation. A number of member states intervened in support. The conclusions have taken on board UK's key concerns and are set broadly to maximise the opportunities for trade liberalisation, economic integration and regulatory convergence.

A lunchtime discussion on trans-European transport network was held. The UK stressed the need for realism on the TENs budget in the current economic climate and emphasised that decisions on which projects should be developed and invested in on national networks should remain with the member states concerned. Legislative proposals for all trans-European networks (transport, energy and digital communication) are expected to be published on 19 October.

Among AOB items, discussions were held on the emissions trading system (ETS) for aviation. The presidency noted that the ECJ had published an Advocate-General's opinion which concluded that the aviation ETS directive was compatible with EU law. The Commission provided oral information noting that the situation was getting highly political and would require a united EU approach to face off third countries' opposition. The UK intervened to reiterate its commitment to the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS and its support of the Advocate-General's opinion.

European Union Act 2011


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.

A Statement has been laid before the House today, 13 October and copies are available in the Printed Paper Office. This has been made pursuant to Section 5 of the European Union Act 2011 as to whether the decision made at the European Council of 24 and 25 March 2011 to amend Article 136 TFEU falls within Section 4 of the EU Act.

The Statement and forthcoming Bill to approve the proposed treaty change before the UK can ratify, will be the first application of the EU Act 2011 and the enhanced public and parliamentary scrutiny that this provides.

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Health: Obesity


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.

The Government are today publishing Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Call to Action on Obesity in England.

The public health White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for Public Health in England sets out the coalition Government's commitment to improve the health of the nation, and to improve the health of the poorest, fastest. It describes the radical shift that we are making in the way we tackle public health challenges.

The White Paper committed us to publishing a number of follow-on documents on how we will address specific public health challenges. The call to action is the second of these documents, and sets out how our vision for public health will enable us to achieve a new level of ambition in addressing overweight and obesity.

England has some of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world. It is a major risk factor for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes and costs the NHS more than £5 billion each year. Alongside the serious ill health it can lead to, it can impact on employment, self-esteem and mental health.

Such a pressing issue calls for bold action-by government and across the range of partners with a role to play. Our White Paper underlined the importance of taking a life course approach to public health issues, and the call to action reflects this by setting out two new national ambitions to achieve a downward trend in overweight and obesity in both children and adults by 2020. Given that more than 60 per cent of the adult population is already overweight or obese, we must tackle the major problem that we already have as well as continuing to focus on prevention.

Our approach to obesity is based on the latest scientific evidence, including advice from a group of independent experts which has estimated the extent of our over-consumption of calories. Being overweight and obese are a direct consequence of taking on more calories through food or drink than we need. We need to be honest with ourselves and recognise that we need to make some changes to control our weight. For most of us who are overweight and obese, reducing the amount of calories we consume is key to weight loss. Increasing physical activity can also be helpful alongside calorie reduction in achieving weight loss and sustaining a healthy body weight, as well as improving overall health.

In setting our new national ambitions, we are clear that it is for each of us to make our own decisions about how we live our lives. But it is important that people are equipped to make the best choices for themselves and their families, and that the healthier choice becomes the easier choice. Everyone has a role to play in this-including businesses in the food and drink and physical activity sectors, employers who can

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support the health of their workforce, and local NHS staff in talking to people about overweight and obesity and its consequences.

We are also calling on business to play a greater and leading role (alongside government and others) in supporting the population in reducing its calorie intake by 5 billion calories a day to help close the crucial imbalance between energy in and energy out. It is important for business to reduce the calorie content of everyday foods and drinks, making our environment less likely to lead to weight gain, as it is for each of us to avoid eating too much.

As set out in the White Paper, localism is at the heart of the new approach to public health and local leadership will be critical in preventing and tackling overweight and obesity. Local authorities will have a new enhanced role, supported by a ring-fenced budget, and will bring together local partners with a role in providing effective interventions-including the NHS. The call to action sets out the opportunity that this will bring and the way in which it will help to ensure that action on obesity is tailored to meet the needs of different communities and address health inequalities, rather than imposing a top-down approach.

As reducing levels of overweight and obesity is "everybody's business", it is important that everyone with a part to play knows what progress is being made. The new national ambitions provide a clear goal to aim for, and a new national ambition review group for obesity will draw together a wide coalition of partners to assess progress.

The Government invite all those committed to preventing and tackling overweight and obesity to respond to this call to action and play their part.

Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Call to Action on Obesity in England, as well as the Change4Life marketing strategy-also published today-have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I shall today table government amendments to the Pensions Bill 2011, including one that caps the maximum increase in women's state pension age at 18 months, relative to the legislated timetable.

The amendment to Clause 1 will ameliorate the increase in state pension age for around 245,000 women and 240,000 men and reduce total savings from the increase to 66 by around £1.1 billion (in 2011-12 prices). It maintains our policy to equalise the state pension age for men and women in 2018 and increase to 66 by 2020.

The Government will also table three other amendments to the Pensions Bill 2011. These amendments respond to a recent judgment of the Supreme Court and protect members of pension schemes from unclear or unfair pension saving charges.

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The first amendment clarifies what is meant by a money purchase benefit, to ensure scheme members are protected appropriately. The second extends an existing reserve power to cap charges for deferred members, which would enable government to protect all scheme members from high charges, not just active members. The third is a technical amendment to protect individuals who become automatically enrolled into a personal pension scheme when their employer closes a defined benefit or hybrid scheme to new members.



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable friend the Minister for Decentralisation and Planning (Greg Clark) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Neighbourhood planning is central to the Government's decentralisation, localism and big society agenda. With greater decentralisation of planning powers, people are being given the opportunity to shape and influence the places where they live and they have more reasons to say "yes" to sustainable development.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is today launching a consultation that seeks views on the Government's proposed new regulations governing the process for establishing neighbourhood areas and forums, the requirements of community right to build organisations, and the preparation of neighbourhood plans and orders and community right to build orders.

The consultation sets out how the Government propose to take up the regulation-making powers in the Localism Bill for neighbourhood planning and community right to build. The regulations proposed set out the minimum level of requirements that would ensure a nationally consistent approach to designating neighbourhood areas and neighbourhood forums, and the preparation of neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders. The consultation asks for comments on whether the regulations as proposed are workable and proportionate.

The closing date for responses will be 5 January 2012.

I am placing a copy of the consultation document and the draft regulations in the Library of the House.

Roads: Traffic Signs


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

Great Britain has one of the safest road networks in the world and the quality and clarity of our traffic signs make a significant contribution to this. The Department for Transport has now completed the most significant review of traffic signs for over 40 years to ensure that this traffic sign system continues to meet the needs of road users now and in the future.

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I am pleased to announce that the department is today publishing the policy document, Signing the Way, which sets out the findings of the review. This document provides a framework for a new traffic sign system that retains national consistency but reduces central government involvement in local decisions, reducing costs and giving local authorities the flexibility to respond to local needs. It also sets out our proposals for streamlining the traffic regulation order process, which would reduce costs and time.

The review recognises that our travel behaviour is changing and that people are being encouraged to cycle and to walk where practical. The traffic sign system needs to reflect these changes and this review will ensure that our traffic signs meet the needs of all road users.

Traffic signs also directly affect how much clutter there is on our roads. While road users require traffic signs to undertake their journeys safely and legally, too much signing creates an untidy, unattractive and confusing environment. The review sets out measures to reduce the number of signs on the road and provides advice to local authorities on removing unnecessary signing.

The review requires a major update of the traffic signs regulations and general directions and the department is proceeding with this work as a priority. In the interim, we will deliver changes where possible through the Secretary of State's traffic signs authorisation process.

UK Export Licensing


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 am today announcing the outcome of a review of UK defence and security export policy in the light of events in the Middle East and north Africa.

On 16 March 2011, I told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the Government would review policy and practice with regard to the export of equipment that might be used for internal repression, in particular crowd control goods, in the light of events in the Middle East and north Africa. Government colleagues with responsibilities in this area, in particular the Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills who has responsibility for our export licensing systems and operations, have been consulted in the course of this review.

The review concluded that there are no fundamental flaws with the UK export licensing system. But the review identified areas where our system could be further strengthened to enable Ministers to respond rapidly and decisively to the outbreak of conflict, instability or unpredictable events in other countries. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is already a mandatory criterion for all export licence decisions. The changes announced today will increase our confidence that UK origin goods will not be

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misused for internal repression, and that our controls are being applied in an orderly and systematic way, informed and influenced by our values and interests. This will complement the Government's efforts to build Britain's prosperity by increasing exports and helping UK companies succeed in international markets.

The Government propose to introduce a mechanism to allow immediate licensing suspension to countries experiencing a sharp deterioration in security or stability. Applications in the pipeline would be stopped and no further licences issued, pending ministerial or departmental review.

We also propose the introduction of a revised risk categorisation, based on objective indicators and reviewed regularly, that keeps pace with changing circumstances; enhances our assessment against all export control criteria, including human rights violations; and allows specifically for ministerial scrutiny of open licences to ensure that the benefits of open licensing can be maintained while keeping the associated risks to acceptable levels. This will increase oversight by Ministers, including of individual licence applications.

As a result of these changes the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will ensure that export licensing policy is more responsive to rapidly changing circumstances, particularly political instability; bring more structure and consistency to the gathering of export related information, provide more information on the human rights situation in country, including through following new security and justice assistance guidance and undertake end-use monitoring of controlled military goods, bearing in mind both the practical and resource limitations.

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The Government will continue to work to improve public information on defence and security exports, including enhanced transparency of routine export licensing decisions and how we respond during a crisis. We welcome the scrutiny of the Committees on Arms Export Controls and will continue to assist in their important work.

The Government have also considered how we can strengthen our decision making when we provide security and justice assistance overseas. We must provide assistance to international partners to tackle threats such as terrorism, serious organised crime and conflict prevention. In doing so, we will ensure that this assistance supports our values, is consistent with our domestic and international human rights obligations, and seeks to promote human rights and democracy. To this end, guidance will be issued for all HMG officials on assessing the human rights implications of our overseas security and justice assistance. We will make this guidance public later this year.

We are committed to robust and effective national and global controls to help prevent exports that could undermine our own security or core values of human rights and democracy; to protect our security through strategic defence relationships; and to promote our prosperity by allowing British defence and security industries to operate effectively in the global defence market.

The Government are determined to learn the wider lessons of events in the Middle East and north Africa. I believe that this package of improvements is the proper response to the lessons of this year. This does not preclude additional measures or further strengthening of the system.

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