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Written Statements

Wednesday 26 February 2014

EU: Environment Council


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

My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Davey) and I will represent the UK at the European Environment Council meeting in Brussels on 3 March. Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change in the Scottish Government, and Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food in the Welsh Government, will also attend.

Following the adoption of the agenda and approval of the list of “A” items, there will be a policy debate on a framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030. Member States will be invited to discuss the framework and in particular consider two questions which have been posed by the Greek Presidency. First, whether the framework provides the appropriate balance between ambition and flexibility. Second, what the next steps should be for the policy debate, taking into account the need to provide certainty for investors in the longer term and the forthcoming international climate negotiations. This is in the context of discussions on the 2030 framework due to take place in March European Council.

After a series of AOB points relating to climate, Ministers will break for a working lunch. This will provide Ministers with the opportunity for a discussion on the withdrawal of the existing proposal for a Soil Framework Directive and the means of tackling soil degradation in the future. The UK supports the objective of protecting soil but is concerned that the existing proposal lacks sufficient flexibility and could impose additional regulatory burdens. The UK therefore supports the withdrawal of the current dossier as proposed in the Commission’s Communication on Regulatory Fitness (REFIT).

Following the lunchtime discussion, the Council will hold an exchange of views on the proposal that would allow Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory. Ministers will consider the Presidency compromise proposal put forward after the recent General Affairs Council debate on the cultivation of a specific GM maize crop. During this debate, a significant number of Member States expressed their willingness to revisit the EU legislative framework. Ministers will explore whether there is common ground to reopen the discussions on this legislative file and whether the compromise proposal offers a good basis for further technical work.

The Council will then turn to an exchange of views on non-legislative activities with regard to greening the European Semester. In light of the Annual Growth

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Survey 2014, Council has been asked to discuss the Europe 2020 resource efficiency and low-carbon objectives and the possible involvement of Environment Ministers in the European Semester cycle. Ministers have also been asked to consider which measures are currently taken at national level in the areas of resource efficiency and climate action to achieve sustainable growth. The UK is already active in these areas and supports the objectives on sustainable growth. This discussion will be followed by a series of AOB points relating to the environment.

Over the course of the day, the following topics will be covered under ‘any other business’:

• Information from the Commission on a clean air programme for Europe;• Information from the Czech delegation, supported by the Polish and Estonian delegations, on a review of the best available techniques reference document for large combustion plants;• Information from the Commission on the EU approach to wildlife trafficking;• Information from the Commission on the state of play of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period ratification;• Information from the Commission on a Recommendation regarding the exploration and production of hydrocarbons using high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

John Anthony Downey: Prosecution Decision


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

The Attorney General (Dominic Grieve): Further to yesterday’s written statement made by my Rt. Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and following lengthy legal argument and a 53 page judgment from the court, the prosecution of John Anthony Downey on four charges of murder and one of causing an explosion with intent arising out of the Hyde Park bombing in 1982, has been stayed.

The alleged offences arose out of the notorious bombing carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Hyde Park in the morning of Tuesday 20th July 1982. As members of the Blues & Royals Regiment of the Household Cavalry rode along South Carriage Drive on their way to Horse Guards for the Changing of the Guard, a car bomb exploded. The effect was devastating. Four of the Guard were murdered—Lieutenant Anthony Daly, who was aged 23, and Trooper Simon Tipper, who was aged 19, died at the scene; Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, who was aged 19, died the following day; and Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, who was aged 36, died two days after that. A total of 31 other people were injured (a number of them seriously) and 7 horses were destroyed.

John Anthony Downey was arrested on 19th May 2013 at Gatwick Airport where he was on route to Greece. On his arrest he produced a letter stating that

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he was free to enter the jurisdiction without fear of arrest. Despite that letter he was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with four counts of murder. Before he was charged my consent was sought, as the law requires, for him to face a charge of causing an explosion. I gave that consent.

I believed then that it was right to do so and I remain of the same view today.

The allegations faced by Mr Downey were of the utmost seriousness. The bombing was an attempt by the Provisional IRA to bring their terrorist campaign to London and to attack armed forces personnel who were on ceremonial duties. Whatever the circumstances in which the letter had been sent, and it is now clear that its assurances were wrongly given, it was right that the matter should be tested in court. Neither I nor the CPS were prepared to accept that the letter and the circumstances in which it had been given were such as to automatically prevent Mr Downey’s prosecution.

The court has now heard full argument and has considered a great deal of documentation. The judgment given is a detailed and careful assessment of the case and the circumstances in which Mr Downey received his letter. The CPS and I do not consider it gives rise to any prospect of successful appeal, and I am therefore of the view that the matter cannot be pursued further.

My sympathies are with the families of those who died and with those who were injured.

NHS: Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Rt hon Friend the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt) has made the following written ministerial statement.

I wish to inform the House that I have made a decision regarding the action recommended by the Trust Special Administrators (TSAs) of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (Mid Staffs, or the trust), as I am required to do by section 65KB of the National Health Service Act 2006 (the 2006 Act).

A document setting out in more detail the reasons for my decision has been placed in the in the Library. Copies are available to hon Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Local people suffered too much for too long under a system which ignored appalling failures of care in their local hospital. They now deserve to know that same system has learned the lessons and is guaranteeing high-quality, safe services for local people. The proposals I am accepting today will provide just this.

The strength of public interest in the TSAs’ work, and the huge response to their consultation exercise, is a testimony to the great commitment local people have to the future of their hospitals.

I must also commend the trust’s staff, who have helped turn around the quality of care provided at Mid Staffs, and who in recent months have continued to provide quality services in the face of great uncertainty

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about the trust’s future. The interest, support and contributions of honourable members have also been extremely valuable. In particular, the way in which the hon Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) has championed the interests of local people at every stage of the process has been remarkable. I believe the proposals I am accepting today will bring about improvements for local people that reflect his continued concern for patient welfare and the future of Stafford Hospital.

Today’s announcement secures a first-rate offer for local patients—something they were denied for too long. Great strides have been made towards improvement in recent years but the challenges remain stark. Without over £20m in subsidy funding from the Department of Health in 2012 and 2013, the trust would have been unable to pay its staff and suppliers. At the same time, a number of services are being operated with consultant numbers below Royal College guidelines, and the trust has experienced on-going challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. Patients deserve high quality services, which are clinically sustainable.

Today’s announcement provides an assurance that the solution to the trusts’ financial and clinical problems will deliver safe and high quality services, now and into the future. I know that the TSAs and local stakeholders have worked hard to develop a set of recommendations which will achieve this.

Having considered the TSAs’ proposals in detail, I confirm I am satisfied on each of the points set out in section 65KB of the legislation, and therefore support the action recommended by the TSAs. I am also satisfied that, in accordance with my request, the TSAs have undertaken a thorough analysis and taken account appropriately of the issues regarding the four tests for reconfiguration. I am pleased that, after a long period of instability, we are able to offer the local population of Mid Staffordshire the certainty it so desperately needs.

Before turning to the detail of the proposals, I would like to remind the House of the background to the administration process at Mid Staffs. Monitor appointed an independent Contingency Planning Team (CPT) to the trust in October 2012. In January 2013, the CPT concluded in a report for Monitor that Mid Staffs was neither clinically nor financially sustainable in its current form. In a subsequent report the CPT advised that neither the Trust nor local commissioners would be able to deliver the changes required, and consequently recommended the appointment of administrators. On the basis of the CPT’s conclusions, Monitor appointed TSAs to Mid Staffs with effect from 16 April 2013. Since taking up their role, the TSAs have found no reason to dispute the CPT’s conclusions regarding the trust’s sustainability, and their analysis has only strengthened the case for change.

Since April the TSAs have been working with the trust, local commissioners and providers, and a wide range of other stakeholders, in order to develop a solution for the services at Mid Staffs. The TSAs’ final report, which has been approved by Monitor, was submitted to me on 16 January.

The TSAs’ report recommends that Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is dissolved, and that Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospitals are operated by other

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local providers. It is vital that this structural change is made as soon as possible to stabilise local health services. The TSAs have also proposed a clinical model for the services currently provided by the trust, which their independent Clinical Advisory Group (made up of leading clinicians from the Royal Colleges) has confirmed will be clinically safe. I am pleased that under this model the majority of patient visits, approximately 90%, will continue to take place at Stafford and Cannock hospitals. I also welcome the enhancements proposed for a number of current services, for example, the inclusion of specialist frail and elderly support within the Medical Assessment Unit at Stafford. All of this will contribute to a much improved offer for local people.

However, to ensure this improved offer, it is clearly not possible for all of Mid Staffs’ services to go on as they are, and therefore the TSAs’ recommendations will mean moving a small minority of services away from Stafford hospital. Local people can be reassured that local commissioners would need to be satisfied that there is sufficient capacity available elsewhere before moving services. In parallel, I am asking NHS England to identify whether consultant-led obstetrics could be sustained at Mid Staffs in a safe way in the future. In doing this, NHS England will work with local commissioners as part of their wider review of the local health economy.

The TSAs’ report also identifies the funding required to support this model and I am satisfied that, in light of intervention from the NHS Commissioning Board (also known as NHS England) in the form of time limited funding, and a commitment from commissioners to deliver further savings during and following implementation, the recommended clinical model is affordable in the medium term and, subject to the actions of local commissioners, can be a financially sustainable one. My Rt hon Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has expressed his support for my acceptance of the proposals.

On this basis I am content for the proposals to proceed to implementation. I would like to emphasise the critical role commissioners have in this process, and in particular their commissioning freedom to build upon the TSAs’ recommendations, such as in maternity, where they consider this is to be sustainable and in the interests of patients. Local commissioners will also oversee and monitor local service changes as part of their on-going commissioning responsibilities, including, where going beyond the recommendations, undertaking further public engagement where appropriate.

I therefore ask that local commissioners, local providers and all other local organisations work together during the coming months and years to implement the proposed changes, with appropriate involvement from NHS England and other national bodies, in order to secure the high quality services that the people of Mid Staffordshire deserve.

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Railways: Franchises


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Right Honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin) has made the following Ministerial Statement:

As recommended by Richard Brown in his review into franchising and as part of June 2013’s National Infrastructure Plan ‘Investing in Britain’s Future’, my Department undertook to review Government rail functions in order to identify what actions were required to deliver those functions in the most effective and efficient way. The Review has now submitted its recommendations to me. I have agreed its recommendations and implementation will begin shortly.

The Review recognised that much has already been achieved since the Department’s rail functions were brought together into a single Rail Group in January 2013. A clear, professional franchise programme is underway, implementing Richard Brown’s review of franchising, along with the Government’s ambitious rail investment programme. Building on this progress, the Review recommends further developing the Department’s rail functions as a new Rail Executive.

Creation of the Rail Executive will support the drive to strengthen our focus on passengers; build an enhanced culture of commercial expertise and innovation; and ensure greater coordination of improvements to track and trains. A single team will manage the interdependencies between rolling stock, track, stations, freight and passenger services; and between existing services and HS2. It will also develop an effective framework agreement for Network Rail, for September 2014, when it will be classified as public sector. A new approach to recruitment, reward and career development for commercial rail skills will allow the Rail Executive to increase capability at all levels and bolster commercial experience in the management team. This will reduce the Department’s dependency upon consultants and increase its ability to negotiate the best deal for passengers and the taxpayer.

The Review recommended that there should be a clear focus on rail passenger services within the Rail Executive. This will be provided by a new Office of Rail Passenger Services, forming part of the Rail Executive, with responsibilities including delivery of the franchise programme and the management of existing franchises. It will be led by an externally recruited Managing Director and supported by non-executive board members.

The Review has also recommended we consider a longer term option of a new, more arms-length body with responsibility for rail delivery functions. The creation of the Rail Executive provides a strong foundation for such future evolution and the government will consider moving to a more arms-length body in 2016.