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Written Statements

Thursday 14 June 2012

Disclosure and Barring Service


The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information (Lynne Featherstone) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The new Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will bring together the work of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and represents an important element of the Government’s reforms to the disclosure and barring arrangements.

I am pleased to announce that the following senior appointments have been made to the DBS:

Chairman of the Disclosure and Barring Service: Bill Griffiths, formerly chair of the Forensic Science Service; andChief Executive, Adrienne Kelbie, currently Deputy Chief Executive and Corporate Director of Business Support for Hull City Council.

These appointments will take effect later this year.

Driving: Fixed Penalty Notices


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

The department has today published a consultation paper on changes to the treatment of penalties for careless driving and other motoring offences. This follows up key commitments from the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety, published in May 2011.

With careless driving, the current enforcement process is time consuming and inefficient. We are therefore proposing to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence and open to the offer of education training. We believe this will help the police to enforce against this offence more efficiently. It will also provide greater flexibility in dealing with those low level careless driving behaviours that fall below the threshold for a court summons, enabling the greater use of educational training.

We will also be consulting on raising the level of many motoring fixed penalty notices, including increasing the penalty levels for many (usually endorsable) road traffic £60 FPN offences to £90. We have broadened the scope of the measure and are consulting on other options including, increasing the levels for non-endorsable offences, motor insurance offences, and graduated fixed penalties—all by a similar proportion.

Most of these penalty levels have not been increased since 2000 and are lower than other fixed penalties such as for disorder. This risks offences being perceived as minor infringements. In addition, increasing penalty levels will encourage the introduction of educational

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courses for other offences, such as not wearing a seat belt and the proposed careless driving fixed penalty.

There are no proposals to make any changes to penalty levels for parking restriction FPN offences.

These measures will play an important role in improving road safety for all road users as well as maintaining compliance with motoring laws.

The consultation documents can be found on the department’s website. An electronic copy has been lodged with the House Library.

Equal Pay


Baroness Verma: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information (Lynne Featherstone) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the Government are publishing their response to an element of the modern workplaces consultation. This is our proposal to require employers who lose an employment tribunal case on equal pay to carry out a pay audit.

We have considered the responses to the consultation carefully, and we intend to proceed with this proposal. This will mean that an employment tribunal which finds that an employer has discriminated on grounds of sex in contractual or non-contractual pay will be obliged to order the employer to conduct a pay audit in cases where continuing discrimination is likely. An audit would not be ordered if an audit has been completed in the last three years, the employer has transparent pay practices or the employer can show a good reason why it would not be useful. Micro-businesses will initially be exempt from the proposals.

The Government intend to issue a further consultation later this year on the exact details of how the audits will operate and what publication requirements will apply. We will work closely with business organisations and other interested stakeholders throughout this process, and we will seek an opportunity to bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows.

This proposal will supplement “Think, Act, Report”, which is a simple, voluntary, step-by-step framework to help companies think about gender equality in their workforces, on key issues such as recruitment, retention, promotion, and pay. Between them, these measures show our commitment to use of voluntary measures in most circumstances, and to act firmly where there is need.

The response will be published on the Home Office website at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/ and a copy will be placed in the House Library. Responses to other elements of the modern workplaces consultation will be published in due course.

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.

I attended the General Affairs (GAC) which met in Brussels on 29 May.

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The GAC was chaired by the Danish EU presidency, Mr Nicolai Wammen, Minister for European Affairs. A provisional report of the meeting can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/129266.pdf.

Multiannual financial framework

The General Affairs Council focused on the proposed multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the period between 2014 and 2020. The meeting was the first discussion of all areas of the MFF and looking at all areas of the latest version of the negotiating box text. This text is not binding but will set the tone and the direction of future discussions on the MFF.

The version of the negotiating box text discussed at the General Affairs Council, which I have deposited in the Library of the House, contains positive language on the need to focus EU spending on areas that promote growth. It also explicitly states that “it is essential that the future MFF reflects the consolidation efforts being made by member states to bring deficit and debt onto a more sustainable path”. This is helpful to us; however there were less helpful parts of the text with options for macroeconomic conditionality and reform to own resources, including the rebate and the possibility of a financial transaction tax.

I argued that text relating to the UK rebate should not be in the negotiating box for discussion, as any changes to the own resources decision, including those required to amend the UK rebate, require consensus among member states. The UK would not agree to any changes to the UK rebate or any new own resources such as a financial transaction tax and therefore their inclusion was pointless.

At the meeting I also reiterated points I have made at previous meetings of the GAC: that at least €100 billion of savings had to be made from the proposals made by the Commission and that reste à liquider (RAL or unspent commitments) remained an important issue to be resolved.

June European Council

There was also a presentation of the agenda for the June European Council, which will cover the MFF, justice and home affairs, and possible foreign policy issues if the circumstances allow. The main focus of the June European Council, however, will be on the growth agenda, in particular the completion of the European Semester, which gives macroeconomic and fiscal guidance to member states, and the ideas the European Council called for in March.

G20 summit in Los Cabos

The presidency also discussed the preparations for the G20 summit in Los Cabos. The discussion followed the priorities for the EU set out in the joint letter from EU President Herman van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso to member states. These were: growth and employment; strengthening the international financial architecture; progress on financial sector reform; and tackling food security and promoting development.


Finally, I welcomed the Commission’s recent report on Croatia, underlined the importance of continued monitoring of the fulfilment of commitments, and noted that completing the process successfully and credibly was important for both Croatia and the EU.

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EU: Justice and Home Affairs


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held on 7 and 8 June in Luxembourg. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs (Theresa May) attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following items were discussed.

The council began in mixed committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (non-EU Schengen states) with an update on the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SISII). Commissioner Malmström reported that the delivery of SIS II remained on schedule for the first quarter of 2013. Initial feedback on the Milestone 2 tests had been positive, with a full report due in July. The UK supports the current SIS II project.

Next the presidency led a political debate on Schengen governance based on the first biannual report from the European Commission. The Commission called for more accurate and current data on secondary flows within the EU; looked forward to the swift adoption of the visa liberalisation temporary suspension mechanism; and encouraged member states to make better use of the Schengen Information System and SIRENE bureaus. It also drew the council’s attention to the non-binding guidelines contained in the report on temporary residence permits and travel documents and on the exercise of police powers in internal border areas. There was some agreement by member states on the need for more accurate data on secondary movements within the Schengen area and on the need to reach swift agreement with the European Parliament on the visa suspension mechanism. The UK also highlighted the importance of tackling criminality, human trafficking, abuse of free movement, document fraud and the need for an effective returns policy to combat illegal migration, including the readmission agreement with Turkey.

The presidency called on the council to accept its compromise on the two legislative instruments: the Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism (SEMM) and the Schengen Borders Code (SBC). Where the evaluation of a member state showed persistent and serious shortcomings threatening public policy or internal security, the council would be able to reintroduce internal borders for up to two years through the amended SBC. The only outstanding issue for the SEMM was the change in legal base from Article 77 TFEU to Article 70.

Member states agreed to change the legal base, which the UK welcomed as rightly reflecting the UK’s partial participation in the Schengen acquis. Whilst the UK had yet to complete its domestic parliamentary processes, the Government position was not to opt out. The UK also noted that the compromise package on the SBC correctly reflected that it was for the council to decide on the imposition of internal border controls rather than the Commission.

The presidency concluded agreement on the proposals and said that the European Parliament would be approached to launch formal trilogue discussions on

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the SBC and to hold informal discussions on the SEMM. The Commission issued a declaration reserving its rights under the treaties to challenge the legal base and balance of institutional competencies before the European Court of Justice.

Over lunch many member states acknowledged the case for revising the data protection directive, but raised concerns about the effect on the processing of information by member state authorities and about whether the proposals respected subsidiarity. Obligations on data controllers and the effect of the directive on existing international agreements were also discussed.

The main council started with a discussion on the common European asylum system. The presidency updated the council on progress in trilogue with the European Parliament on the Dublin regulation and reception conditions directive, with the asylum procedures directive to follow shortly thereafter, and noted the adoption by the Commission of its proposal for a revised EURODAC regulation. During the discussion the Commission reminded the council of the need to ensure the new asylum package added value and was consistent with the case law of the European courts. In general, member states welcomed the new proposal on EURODAC. The UK has opted in to the Dublin regulation and is considering its participation in the new EURODAC proposal. The UK has not opted in to the two other directives.

The presidency urged the council to maintain momentum on the solidarity measures being deployed to support member states under pressure and to ensure the necessary follow up was discussed at a political level. The presidency provided an update on the Greek task force and made suggestions to involve the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the registration and processing of asylum claims; increase the necessary staffing for the three new services; and provide for further involvement by the International Organisation for Migration and Frontex on returns. The European Asylum Support Office presented a quick overview of asylum trends in the EU. The Commission supported constant monitoring of the solidarity effort but warned that asylum challenges would not be dealt with effectively by focusing on illegal migration trends. The UK takes the view that solidarity work should focus on preventative action and practical co-operation.

In a discussion on readmission agreements, the presidency hoped the council conclusions on co-operation with Turkey would be agreed soon, which would allow swift progress to be made on the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. The earliest adoption date would be 21 June, at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. It appealed to the two member states with outstanding reservations to agree the conclusions before that time. The UK supports the rapid conclusion of the EU-Turkey readmission agreements, which will be subject to a UK opt-in decision. On Pakistan, the Commission were in Islamabad on 12 June to discuss implementation of the readmission agreement and invited delegations to attend.

Presenting his biannual report, the EU Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator (Gilles de Kerchove) spoke of the importance of ensuring co-operation between EU agencies in combating terrorism and suggested Frontex

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could begin to play a role in combating terrorism at the EU’s external borders. He also highlighted the link between security and development and called for EU action to prevent the emergence of terrorist safe havens in Africa. The UK supports work being done in these areas of concern in the CT field and encourages future EU engagement on this work.

The council adopted the council conclusions on a global alliance against child sexual abuse online. The Commission noted it had been in close contact with the USA and would raise the Global Alliance at the 20-21 June EU-US ministerial meeting. The UK supports this initiative.

The council also adopted the council conclusions on the Europol Information System (EIS) in the fight against cross-border crime. The UK supports the increased use of the EIS.

A brief update was presented on legal migration proposals. Trilogue with the European Parliament had commenced on the directive on intra-corporate transferees, while the seasonal workers directive was still under discussion at working group level. The presidency informed the council that negotiations were ongoing on the proposed visa reciprocity mechanism and visa liberalisation suspension clause. The UK has not opted into these measures and does not take part in Schengen visa arrangements.

The justice day began with presidency reaching a general approach on the directive access to a lawyer. This is the third proposal on the EU’s criminal procedural rights road map, and it sets minimum standards for the rights of defence. The UK did not opt in to this directive because the Commission’s proposal as originally drafted would have had an adverse impact on our ability to investigate and prosecute crime. The UK explained that the concerns that had led it not to opt in had been resolved in this text. Cyprus will take forward negotiations with the European Parliament during its presidency. The Government will consult Parliament on any decision to opt in post adoption.

The council also reached a general approach on the regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I). The UK noted it had not completed parliamentary scrutiny on the proposal.

Next, the presidency secured agreement for a multiannual framework for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for 2013-17, which sets out the themes for its work. The presidency’s text excludes police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. The UK supports the decision not to extend the remit and believes it should not be extended until after the FRA’s planned evaluation. The framework will be sent to the European Parliament for its consent.

The presidency reached a partial general approach on two draft regulations establishing two new funding programmes—the justice programme and the rights and citizenship programme—for the period 2014-20. These are successors to the existing funding programmes in the current fundamental rights and justice framework. As the draft regulation for the proposed justice programme has been issued under Title V of the TFEU, the UK opt-in applies. The UK has not opted in to this programme. The opt-in does not apply to the draft

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regulation establishing the rights and citizenship programme and the UK put down a scrutiny reservation on the article regarding the protection of financial interests of the Union.

There was an orientation debate on the Commission’s proposal for a common European sales law (CESL). The purported aim of the CESL proposal is to stimulate growth by facilitating cross-border trade, providing legal certainty and simplifying the process for businesses and consumers. The CESL would not replace existing national laws, but would be an alternative regime to the existing contract law regime in each member state. The Cypriot presidency will continue negotiations on the proposal. The Government are currently evaluating the results of their recent call for evidence on this proposal.

The presidency also reported on three other negotiations that were in trilogue with the European Parliament. They hoped to have a first reading deal finalised by the end of the month on the victims and cybercrime directives; regarding the victims directive the Government have written to both Houses requesting scrutiny clearance. The European Investigation Order was unfortunately proceeding much more slowly due to delays in the European Parliament.

Over lunch there was an orientation debate on the data protection regulation that covered public and private sector obligations and the balance of protection of personal data and administrative burdens.

EU: Transport Council


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

I attended the final Transport Council under the Danish presidency (the presidency) in Luxembourg on Thursday 7 June.

The council reached a partial general approach on two multi-annual financial framework (MFF)-related regulations: a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council establishing the connecting Europe facility and a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council on the implementation and exploitation of the European satellite navigation systems.

I made statements on both regulations saying that while we supported what had been negotiated so far in the text, we could not formally support the draft regulations ahead of the agreement on the overall MFF negotiations as this might prejudge the overall MFF budget.

On the proposal for a regulation establishing the connecting Europe facility, I supported an Irish proposal that would allow co-funding for road schemes where there were isolated (rail) networks as defined in the TEN-T regulation. I also stressed that our participation in the core corridors was subject to the provisions of Article 172 of the treaty that require member state approval and would be kept under review until we saw the final requirements in the TEN-T regulation before finalising our position.

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The council reached a general approach on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at European Union airports within a balanced approach and repealing Directive 2002/30/EC. I was able to welcome the general approach text, which would reassure the public that at the local and EU level we were taking noise management seriously.

The presidency provided progress reports on two proposals to bring EU law in line with provisions of the 2006 (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, noting some of the outstanding issues following official level discussions.

A policy debate was held on the blue belt pilot project that had been initiated under the Belgian presidency to look at reducing administrative barriers to sea trade, especially in the area of customs formalities. The presidency concluded that there was support for the Commission taking initiatives to follow up the project, including legislation, though there would need to be analysis first to ensure benefits would justify costs. I noted that there would need to be much greater clarity on benefits before any consideration was given to setting the project in a legislative context.

Under any other business, the Commission provided an update on the inclusion of aviation in the Emissions Trading System (ETS): Compliance with the 31 March emissions reporting deadline had been high, although Chinese and Indian airlines had refused to comply with the ETS following a direction from their respective administrations. The US Senate held a hearing on the ETS prohibition Bill on 6 June. DG Clima testified at the hearing. Discussions at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) continued. The next significant meeting would be at the end of June, when the ICAO Council would discuss market-based measures. I stressed the need to continue to maintain a united EU position to opposition. I highlighted that what we want is a global deal, with a target and specific measures.

Also under other business, the Commission reported on delays in the introduction of the European electronic tolling service (EETS), which should allow drivers to pay road tolls in any country with a single on-board unit and account. Finally, the Commission reported on the recent conference on piracy and maritime transport.

I also met my French, Dutch and Italian counterparts to discuss EU and bilateral issues in the margins of the council.

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 (Norman Lamb) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Government have today written to the Low Pay Commission setting out the remit for its 2013 report.

The Government support the national minimum wage (NMW) because of the protection it provides to low-paid workers and the incentives to work it provides.

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Our aim is to have NMW rates that help as many low-paid workers as possible, while making sure that we do not damage their employment prospects.

The Low Pay Commission (LPC) is asked to:

monitor, evaluate and review the levels of each of the different NMW rates and make recommendations on the levels it believes should apply from October 2013; review the contribution the NMW could make to the employment prospects of young people, including those in apprenticeships. As part of this review, the LPC is asked to consider the implications of the introduction of the raising of the participation age in England on the youth rates and the apprentice rate;review the accommodation offset; andevaluate the regulations for salaried-hours workers and consider whether there are any measures that the Government could take to ensure that it is as simple and easy as possible for employers to make sure they are paying at least the NMW and for individuals to be confident that they are being paid at least the NMW.

In evaluating and making recommendations in the areas set out above, the LPC is asked to take account of the state of the economy and employment and unemployment levels. There is also the wider policy context to consider, including pensions reform, the introduction of universal credit, the raising of the personal tax allowance, any implications of the proposed abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales (pending the outcome of the legislative process), and other government reforms that may affect the NMW.


The LPC is asked to report to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills by the end of February 2013.

Copies of the remit have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Universal Credit


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.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 sets out the overall framework for universal credit. The implementation of these arrangements will require the passage of detailed regulations.

The department, as required by the Social Security Administration Act 1992, has submitted the following draft regulations to the independent Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) for formal scrutiny:

the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and Working-age Benefits (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2012;the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and Working-age Benefits (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2012;the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 2012; and,the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2012.

In addition, SSAC will scrutinise the draft Housing Benefit (Benefit Cap) Regulations 2012 and the draft Universal Credit Regulations 2012. The Universal Credit Regulations provide detail of the new single benefit, including entitlement, elements of the award, calculation of income and capital, and claimant responsibilities. I have asked the committee to consider this set of regulations, which are not covered by the Social Security Administration Act 1992, for consultation over the summer in addition to those sent for formal scrutiny.

The committee will decide today whether it intends to consult on these regulations and what form that consultation will take.

Draft universal credit regulations, along with other sets that are selected for consultation, will be published on both the SSAC and DWP website shortly along with details of any consultation process. I will place a copy of the draft regulations in the House Library. We intend to lay the final universal credit regulations before Parliament later in the year.