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Written Statements

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Afghanistan: Reserve Forces


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

With the expiry of the call-out Order made on 6 November 2012, a new Order has been made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service to support operations in Afghanistan. The new order is effective until 10 November 2014. Reservists continue to make a valuable contribution to operations in that country and almost 1,500 have been called out during the last year.

Aviation: Red Tape Challenge


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Robert Goodwill) has made the following Ministerial Statement:

I, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield, the Minister without Portfolio, wish to inform the House of the changes to the regulation of general aviation following the General Aviation Red Tape Challenge.

The General Aviation (GA) Red Tape Challenge ran from 11th April to 16th May 2013. It received nearly 500 responses, including 298 via e-mail, three times as many as any other theme to date. These responses identified many areas where improvements are needed and highlighted the need for a change in approach to regulating GA. As a result of this, the government is launching a substantial programme of reform that will help support a vibrant GA sector. The GA sector currently supports around 50,000 jobs in the UK and makes an overall economic contribution to the UK economy of £1.4 billion per annum. It could and should be able to contribute more.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the independent regulator of civil aviation in the UK, recognises the need to create a culture change in the regulation of the GA sector. As part of this culture change the CAA is setting up a new GA unit within its current structure. This is firm recognition that general aviation requires different, and less onerous, regulation to that of commercial air transport. The CAA’s GA unit will be dedicated to effective and proportionate regulation that supports and encourages growth of the GA sector. The unit will also work with government to identify potential funding for new technologies to support the sector. It will be fully set up within the CAA by April 2014.

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The CAA has incorporated the findings of the GA Red Tape Challenge into its own internal review to produce a comprehensive GA Reform Programme. This will support a programme of deregulation and self-regulation for the GA sector. It will also remove complexity, look to deregulate where possible and where not, consider how to allow the GA sector to take on more responsibility and accountability for its own safety where possible and appropriate. This has already started with the launch in September 2013 of a consultation on deregulating for airworthiness purposes all UK-registered single-seat microlights. Starting in November, the CAA will lead a series of workshops with the GA sector to identify other areas that would benefit most from deregulation or self-regulation. These moves represent the start of an ambitious programme of work to follow.

The Government has successfully lobbied for an evaluation of the application of commercial aviation safety requirements to non-commercial aviation to be included in the EU Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) Programme and welcomes the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Roadmap for General Aviation. Both the Government and the CAA will engage with the GA community over the coming months to identify priorities for reform and take these forward within the EU’s reform programme.

The CAA will strengthen its engagement with the sector to improve consultative arrangements and ensure effective representation. The CAA is committed to being open and transparent in its engagement and collaboration with the GA community. It will work with a firm objective to support education and compliance rather than regulation and enforcement, using legal instruments and powers only as a last resort.

The CAA will involve the GA sector in the development of a new regulatory framework and its associated policies; there will be opportunities for the sector to challenge the CAA when it believes regulation is unduly burdensome; there will be more scrutiny of the CAA’s fees and charges to provide greater transparency; and the CAA will improve the quality of information it provides. From the responses to the Red Tape Challenge it is clear that regulatory complexity has led to misunderstandings. To address this, the CAA will run a ‘myth-busting’ initiative to clarify what exactly regulations require. For example, it will debunk the myth that the CAA requires all aircraft movements within the UK to be logged.

To facilitate the effective and timely implementation of these measures, the Government is appointing an independent ‘Challenge Panel’ including GA industry representatives. This panel will report directly to ministers. It will provide a ‘critical friend’ function to the CAA. The Challenge Panel will run initially for six months until April 2014. During this time the Panel will monitor and support the implementation of the CAA’s deregulatory programme. It will also be asked to identify further opportunities to deregulate and to promote growth of the sector. It will provide to ministers an interim report in January and a final report in April.

We will task the Challenge Panel to propose ideas, and will also encourage the CAA and Government Departments such as the Department for Business,

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Innovation and Skills and the Home Office, to consider where projects might support and encourage an innovative and dynamic GA sector. For example, how best to support a dynamic leisure and training sector, and how to remove outdated paperwork which serves little purpose.

In announcing these measures we are announcing the launch of a “right to reply” consultation by the CAA into its response to the GA Red Tape Challenge. This consultation will run until 6th December and is a good opportunity for the GA sector to make its own assessment of the CAA’s detailed response. The responses to this consultation will be available to the Challenge Panel, which will be able to submit its own views on the CAA response within its January interim report. These reforms mark an important and significant step-change in the approach to GA regulation. The new regulatory regime will be founded on risk-based intervention, proportionate to the safety needs of informed participants whilst protecting uninvolved third parties and supporting and encouraging a flourishing GA sector. We will work closely with the General Aviation sector and the GA representative bodies in particular in taking this forward.

General Aviation can and should contribute to the UK’s economic success, whilst providing a safe environment for participants and the public. The Government’s aim is therefore to make the UK the best country in the world for General Aviation.

I will place copies of the documents in the libraries of both Houses.

Health: Pharmaceutical Pricing Schemes


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): I am pleased to announce today the Heads of Agreement on the new Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS). The PPRS is a voluntary scheme agreed between the Department of Health, acting on behalf of the UK Government and Northern Ireland and the branded pharmaceutical industry, represented by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), under section 262 of the National Health Service Act 2006.

The current voluntary pricing scheme, the 2009 PPRS, will terminate on 31 December 2013. Following negotiations, the Department of Health and the ABPI have reached agreement on the outline terms of a new scheme which will operate for five years starting from 1 January 2014.

The new scheme will provide an unprecedented level of certainty on almost all the NHS branded medicines bill. The bill will stay flat over the next two years and will grow slowly after that. The industry will make compensating payments to the Department of Health if NHS spending on branded medicines exceeds the agreed growth rate. The agreement therefore provides stability and predictability to both the Government and the UK pharmaceutical industry, supporting the industry’s global competitiveness. It will encourage the use of innovative and effective new medicines in the NHS.

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Alongside these arrangements, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will continue its work to introduce the broader value assessment for new medicines covered by value-based pricing. We have listened to feedback from patients’ groups that they would welcome further opportunities to feed into the development of the new arrangements for value assessment and have agreed that NICE will carry out a full public consultation before implementing the methods for wider value assessment in autumn 2014. Publication of the complete 2014 PPRS is expected later in the year.

In addition to the agreement, I am also publishing today the Government response to the consultation on the Statutory Pharmaceutical Pricing Scheme, which contained proposals to strengthen the scheme, and align it more closely to the PPRS. This scheme provides an important safeguard for the NHS, controlling the prices of branded medicines sold to the NHS by pharmaceutical companies that decide not to join the voluntary PPRS. Through this response document, we are setting out the changes we will be making, including introducing a 15 per cent price cut on branded medicines sold by statutory scheme companies. We will shortly be introducing amending regulations to effect these changes.

Copies of the Heads of Agreement, the response to the consultation and the related impact assessment have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon Members from the Vote office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Tax Compliance: Cayman Islands


The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (David Gauke) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

An Agreement to improve international tax compliance was signed with the Cayman Islands on 5 November 2013. This Agreement sets out precise details of information which will be automatically exchanged. The text of the new Agreement has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website.

Water Quality: Bathing Waters


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Hon Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Dan Rogerson) has today made the following statement.

Today I would like to announce to the House the results of water quality monitoring at England’s popular beaches and lakeside sites during the 2013 bathing season.

Between May and September, the Environment Agency took samples of water at 415 bathing areas that have been designated under the Bathing Water Regulations 2013 to test for compliance with the water quality standards set by the EU Bathing Water Directive.

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High quality bathing water is important both for the health of water users and for our seaside resorts whose economies depend on people’s enjoyment of the beach.

This year a record number of 342 of the 415 bathing waters – over 82% - met the highest standard, known as guideline. Almost 99% have complied with the Directive’s mandatory minimum standard. This means that the compliance rate has returned to the level we would expect after last year’s extreme weather conditions. It confirms that investment by water companies and other measures to improve bathing water quality are paying-off over the long-term.

Only five sites failed this year – Allonby, Fleetwood, St Annes, Seascale and Instow. Failures to meet the

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standards are caused by a complex and individual set of circumstances at each bathing water. The main sources of pollution are sewage and animal waste washed into water, particularly during rainfall.

These results are particularly encouraging because we are now only two years away from full implementation of the revised Bathing Water Directive, which will introduce much tighter water quality standards from 2015. If these standards applied now, over 55% would meet the highest “Excellent” standard and almost 90% would pass the new minimum standard. I remain committed to all designated waters passing the new minimum standard. Water companies, national and local government and businesses and the wider community have a part to play to ensure we meet the new standards and have beaches that people can enjoy.