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Written Statements

Thursday 20 June 2013

Armed Forces: Reserve Forces

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces (Andrew Robathan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

With the expiry of the call-out Order made on 29th June 2012, a new Order has been made under Section 56(1)(a) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to continue to be called out into permanent service as part of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Some 133 Reservists are currently called out in support of UNFICYP. All are serving in Cyprus.

The new order is effective until 28th June 2014.

Communications: Social Media

Statement

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Rt. Hon Friend the Attorney General has made the following written ministerial statement:

Director of Public Prosecutions has today published his final guidelines for prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media. This follows an earlier public consultation exercise on the interim guidelines, details of which were announced in my written statement to the House on the 19th December, 2012.

The final guidelines take account of comments received in the consultation and the experience of recent prosecutions. They have been amended to clarify additional evidential and public interest considerations relevant when prosecutors assess whether a prosecution is required in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The overall approach of the guidelines remains the same, making a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment or breach of court orders on the one hand, and other communications - for example, grossly offensive communications - on the other. The first group will be prosecuted robustly. Whereas cases in the second group, which meet the evidential stage, are unlikely to require a prosecution in the public interest if the sender expresses genuine remorse, the communication is swiftly removed, it is not intended for a wide audience or does not obviously go beyond what could conceivably be acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

Copies of the final guidelines have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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ECOFIN

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Clark) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Luxembourg on 21 June 2013. The following items are on the agenda to be discussed.

Contribution to the European Council meeting on 27-28 June 2013 – European Semester 2013

Council will consider the fiscal and economic elements of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) for Member States. The UK’s CSRs are broadly in line with domestic reform priorities. The Council recommendations are non-binding and there are no sanctions for non-compliance.

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Council will discuss the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations related to the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) for a number of Member States.

Commission / European Investment Bank (EIB) report to the European Council

Following the March European Council, the Commission, together with the European Investment Bank, are expected to report to the June European Council on the implementation of the EIB’s capital increase. The Commission/EIB will present their initial findings to Council.

Financial assistance to Ireland and Portugal

Council will consider two Council implementing decisions amending previous implementing decisions on granting Union financial assistance to Ireland and Portugal.

ECB/Commission Convergence Reports and enlargement of the euro area

The euro area Member States will make a recommendation to the Council on Latvia’s euro adoption. The UK does not have a vote on the decision by EU Member States to adopt the euro. ECOFIN will also prepare a letter for the President of the Council to send to the European Council summarising discussions.

Development of policy options in the climate/energy field – follow up to the May European Council

At the request of Poland, Council will hold a state of play discussion on this item.

Code of Conduct (Business taxation)

As with each Presidency, the Council will be asked to endorse Conclusions accompanying the Code of Conduct Group report on progress made under the Irish Presidency.

ECOFIN Report to the European Council on tax issues

This is the six-monthly report which ECOFIN forwards onto the European Council, summarising the progress made under each Presidency on tax issues.

Report by Finance Ministers on tax issues in the framework of the Euro Plus Pact

This is the six-monthly report which summarises progress made under each Presidency on tax issues in relation to framework of the Euro Plus Pact.

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Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 2011/16/U as regards mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation

The Commission will present a proposal on amending the existing Administrative Cooperation Directive. The UK will look to ensure that any amendments do not conflict with or undermine the embedding of a new global standard in the automatic exchange of tax information.

Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive

The Presidency will seek a general approach on the Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD). The UK supports the concept of a strong framework in Europe for bank recovery and resolution and broadly welcomed the Commission’s proposal. It will be important that any agreement on the BRRD delivers a credible and useable bail-in tool. Domestically, the UK has already taken tough action to reform the banking sector. This includes implementing a new resolution regime, the largest bank levy in Europe and structural reforms to the banking sector (for example, the Vickers ring fencing).

Any other business

The Presidency intends to give a state of play update on the Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive.

EU: Trade Foreign Affairs Council

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint): My Rt. Hon Friend, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Dr Vince Cable), has today made the following statement.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Luxembourg on 14 June 2013. I and Sir John Cunliffe represented the UK on all the issues discussed at the meeting. A summary of those discussions follows.

One legislative item was discussed: the Commission’s two Trade Omnibus proposals which bring common commercial (trade) policy regulation into line with post-Lisbon decision-making arrangements. Council noted the political agreement reached in Trilogue on the Trade Omnibus proposals and congratulated the Presidency on this significant achievement. The Commission (de Gucht) welcomed the milestone, after a protracted negotiation between the institutions.

Free Trade Agreements:

The negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) was agreed, authorising the Commission to enter into trade talks with the US. Audiovisual (AV) services are excluded from the mandate for now, but the Commission retains the right to discuss AV with the US and to return to the Council for a revised mandate if inclusion of AV would improve the deal.

On Canada, the Commission (de Gucht) provided a brief update over lunch on these negotiations. A low key update, with some limited progress noted on minor

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issues, but little movement on the three major outstanding issues: agricultural markets access; rail procurement; and financial services.

Trade Relationship with China

The EU’s relationship with China was discussed over lunch. Discussion was dominated by the high profile trade defence cases (solar panels and telecoms). The Commission was criticised for its handling of the cases. I and some others stressed the importance of maintaining a positive strategic partnership with China.

AOB: Bangladesh textiles factory collapse

Under AOB, France and the Netherlands introduced a joint paper on strengthening the sustainable development elements in FTAs and promoting EU action to improve labour standards in the garment industry. Denmark expressed support. The Commission (de Gucht) outlined its planned activities. The Presidency undertook to make a public statement following the Council.

WTO 9th Ministerial. There was not time for this agenda item.

European Arrest Warrants

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My right hon Friend the Home Secretary (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

On 16 April 2013, I informed the House that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) had identified an error in the way in which they had captured and reported the number of outgoing (Part 3) European arrest warrants (EAWs) that have been issued since 2009-10. As I set out in April, I take this matter extremely seriously, and undertook to establish whether any adverse consequential issues may have arisen, as well as ensure that any inaccurate data that may have been provided to Parliament is corrected. Accordingly, I asked HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC), in collaboration with SOCA, to audit SOCA’s systems for collecting data on EAWs; to validate the EAW figures; to ensure that the error identified in collecting data had no detrimental impact on public protection; and to provide assurances that SOCA’s new Case Information Management System (CIMS) will provide accurate data in future.

This audit is now complete and I would like to thank HMCIC for the work his Inspectorate have done to produce their report so promptly, copies of which are in the House Library. The report found that a) the audit SOCA undertook to verify the data was robust, and the Part 1 audit would result in the identification of more arrests and surrenders than previously promulgated; b) there was no evidence of systemic weaknesses that would adversely affect public protection; and c) CIMS would help SOCA record more accurate data in future.

The report also made a number of recommendations about work going forward, including: extending the auditing process to compare SOCA’s EAW data with information held on the Police National Computer; to give consideration to a focused campaign to find and

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arrest fugitives hiding in the UK; and to review the progress of all other changes to SOCA’s EAW process (including the implementation of CIMS) before the end of 2013. SOCA has accepted all these recommendations.

My officials will work with SOCA and, going forward, the National Crime Agency, to ensure that these recommendations are fully implemented.

SOCA has now provided revised data relating to incoming (Part 1) and outgoing (Part 3) EAWs. A high level summary of the data is attached to this statement. The revised data will also be published on both the Home Office and SOCA websites.

This information should be seen as superseding any figures on EAW numbers which had previously been provided to Parliament in response to Parliamentary Questions asked on this issue since 2009-10, as well as in response to enquiries and reports from Parliamentary Committees.

Summary of corrected EAW figures

The following tables refer to revised figures as issued by SOCA. A complete breakdown of the corrected figures can be found on the Home Office and SOCA websites.

http://www.soca.gov.uk/

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office

Part 3 (Outgoing EAWs)
YearTypePrevious figureNew figure

2009-10

Arrests

99

142

Surrenders

71

110

2010-11

Arrests

145

150

Surrenders

134

130

2011-12

Arrests

93

148

Surrenders

86

144

Part 1 (Incoming EAWs)
YearTypePrevious figureNew figure

2009-10

Arrests

1,032

1,057

Surrenders

699

772

2010-11

Arrests

1,359

1,295

Surrenders

1,173

1,100

2011-12

Arrests

1,149

1,394

Surrenders

922

1,076

Housing: Rented Sector

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Honourable Friend the Minister for Housing (Mark Prisk) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The rented sector has become increasingly important in meeting people’s housing needs over the last decade. On 6 September 2012, the Government announced the Housing Guarantees Schemes as part of a package of measures to expand the provision of rented housing

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and boost economic growth. The Government is setting up two guarantees schemes: one to support the delivery of large scale professionally managed purpose-built accommodation for private rent and a second to support delivery of additional affordable homes. The Government will guarantee up to £10 billion of housing providers’ debt through the two schemes.

I can announce today that the Housing Guarantees are open for business. We have awarded the licence to provide the Affordable Housing Guarantees Scheme to Affordable Housing Finance Plc, a subsidiary of The Housing Finance Corporation Limited. Their bid provided very good value for money, and I am looking forward to working with them to deliver the scheme. Affordable Housing Finance are now able to receive applications and we expect the first applications to be approved this summer, subject to due diligence.

Today, I have laid before the House a Minute setting out details of the contingent liability created by the Affordable Housing Guarantees Schemes. Under the Affordable Housing Guarantees Scheme, the Department for Communities and Local Government will guarantee up to £3.5 billion of debt on terms of up to 30 years for Private Registered Providers who commit to building new affordable housing.

We are also now able to consider direct applications for the Private Rented Sector Guarantees Scheme. The response to our invitation to tender for delivery of the scheme indicated a demand from larger investors for individual direct debt guarantees and that Government should take the first steps in developing this new market. We are in conversation with the sector and committed to exploring all of the market-led options, which will lead to guarantees becoming available as soon as possible. We will look to offer direct guarantees on money raised in the bond market by housing providers investing in large-scale and purpose-built private rented sector projects. The Government’s scheme rules for the guarantees are unchanged. Some potential borrowers are already discussing applications with my officials and others are invited to do the same. A formal application process will open shortly.

Missing Persons

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Helen Grant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

“The Government stated in its response to the Twelfth Report of the Justice Committee in the 2010-2012 Session on Presumption of Death (Cm 8377, published July 2012) that the Ministry of Justice would discuss with the Law Commission whether it could take on a project on the need for legislation to create a status of guardian for the affairs of a missing person within England and Wales.

These discussions have now concluded. The Law Commission was keen to take on the project, and was willing to adjust its planned programme of family law work to enable it to do so. However, because of the negative impact on other important reform projects

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that this would have involved, the Ministry of Justice has decided not to ask the Commission to disrupt its programme and, instead, will take forward the project within the department.

I am therefore pleased to announce that the department intends to publish a consultation paper on this subject later this year with a view to taking a final decision in 2014 on whether a status of guardian should be created. In preparing the consultation paper the department will be assisted by the charity, Missing People, and its legal advisers, the Pro Bono section of Clifford Chance LLP. The department is very grateful to Missing People and Clifford Chance for their assistance and to the Law Commission for its engagement with Government on this matter.

The department will also engage with organisations representing business interests in preparing the consultation paper.”

Presumption of Death Act 2013

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Helen Grant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

“The Presumption of Death Act 2013 received Royal Assent on 26 March 2013. Sections 9 and 15(4) of and Schedule 1 to the Act (so far as they confer a power to make rules or regulations) and sections 17 to 24 (inclusive) came into force on that date. The remainder of the Act will be brought into force by order made by statutory instrument on a date to be appointed by the Secretary of State.

The Ministry of Justice and the General Register Office are working to create the necessary rules of court and registration regulations and the associated procedures. It is expected that this work will be completed in time for the remaining provisions of the Act to be brought into force in April 2014. However, this date is not certain and I will make a further statement regarding the timing of commencement before the end of 2013.”

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Transport: Motoring Services

Statement

Earl Attlee: My Honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Department for Transport is committed to delivering better quality and better value motoring services to the public and business. I am therefore pleased to announce today that a new single agency will bring together the testing and standards services that are currently provided by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). These services will be delivered by the two agencies under a single Chief Executive and transitional board from July this year.

Bringing together the testing and standards services currently provided by VOSA and DSA will enable a single agency to deliver the same high quality service, but with greater efficiency, potentially allowing for the reduction of fees. It will be easier for customers to navigate the services offered, and will reduce the administrative burden for those individuals and businesses that currently have regular contact with both DSA and VOSA. The initial move will take place in July this year - a single Chief Executive and transitional board will oversee the two trading funds. The trading funds will continue in their current form for at least the next twelve months. By that time we expect the detail of the structural reorganisation to be complete.

This move will result in an improved service to the public. We will work to ensure that there is no detrimental effect on the high quality of customer service delivery during the transitional phase. We are also working closely with employees from the agencies to help support them through the changes.

This announcement follows the consultation on our Motoring Services Strategy which ran from 13 December 2012 to 7 March 2013. The strategy proposed rationalising the roles and numbers of agencies to provide an improved and more efficient delivery of motoring services to customers. Respondents to the consultation were generally supportive of this proposal, recognising the benefits that such a move would bring, but were keen to protect the quality of services.

I am also publishing the summary of responses to that consultation. Decisions on any other proposals detailed in the Motoring Services Strategy will be announced in due course.