14 Oct 2014 : Column WS15

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS15

Written Statements

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Armed Forces: Veterans’ Transition Review


Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My right honourable friend the Minister for Government Policy and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Oliver Letwin MP) has made the following written ministerial statement.

I have today placed in the libraries of both Houses a response to Lord Ashcroft’s Veterans’ Transition Review which outlines our proposals to address the 42 distinct recommendations made in the report on how to improve the transition process.

I am grateful for the work of Lord Ashcroft and his team in delivering a thorough review of the transition provision for Service Personnel, not least as it confirmed that the majority of Service leavers make a successful transition to civilian life, begin new careers, and enjoy good health. The report also highlighted that the media and public perception that the majority of veterans tend to have some kind of physical, emotional or mental health problem as a result of their service is not true and potentially damaging.

We have taken time to analyse the recommendations in detail; almost all have been accepted positively and, where possible and practical, are being implemented. The Government will continue to work with the Service Charities, local communities and industry to improve the experience of transition and to promote the skills and experience of Service leavers in the civilian workplace.



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 publication of the Government’s Response to the recommendations made by the General Aviation (GA) Challenge Panel in its final report to Ministers which was published in May.

We recognise the singular role that the GA sector plays as a driver within the UK’s aviation industry. Many of our pilots and engineers are trained within the GA community, and the vast majority of the aircraft in this country operate within it. Its value has been estimated at some £1.4bn to our economy, and it possesses the potential to support even more skilled jobs than at present and make an even greater contribution to economic growth.

The Government welcomes the rigour with which the Challenge Panel have worked to produce their report and recommendations. The Government has

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS16

considered the recommendations, has responded to these and made a number of announcements about the work being taken forward within its response.

These include;

• Establishing a new cross-Department Star Chamber chaired by the Minister without Portfolio and including senior representation from all Government Departments with influence on GA matters;• Commissioning economic research to inform views of where Government policy could go further to support a vibrant GA sector, including a commitment to look again at planning issues relating to airfields in light of the planned economic research;• Committing to challenge and support the delivery of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) General Aviation Road Map, including consideration of amendments to the EASA Basic Regulation where appropriate; • Considering how to make the legislative requirements for GA users crossing the border easier to understand, and undertaking a consultation on pre-notification periods for GA flights to reduce the timescale for advance notification at designated customs ports;• Undertaking a joint review of the Air Navigation Order with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to assess where this has disproportionate impacts on the GA sector;

Much of this work will contribute to a Government Strategy for GA which we plan to publish in the spring of 2015.

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.

Department for Communities and Local Government: Recess Business


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): I would like to update the House on the work of my Department since the summer recess.

My Rt Hon Friend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles), made a Statement on the work of the Department during the House of Commons Summer recess (1 September 2014, Official Report, Column 1WS). Written statements were also made on the steps that the Department is taking to protect vulnerable children, following the inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham (10 September 2014,  Official Report, Column 37WS) and on rationalising confusing and overlapping housing statements (12 September 2014, Official Report, Column 47WS) .

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS17

The Secretary of State has also today made the following written statement outlining the Department’s work during the House of Commons conference recess:

I would like to update hon. Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department since the House rose for Conference Recess on 12 September.

Getting Britain building

The Coalition Government’s housing investment is supporting the construction industry to get Britain building the homes that our country needs. House building is now at its highest level since 2007, which shows our long-term economic plan is working and bringing in results. But there is more to do.

On 26 September, I launched a new £400 million Rent to Buy programme to boost the building of new rental homes that will help hardworking people rent now and buy later. This new scheme provides more flexibility for those who want to rent affordably now, save for a deposit, and then buy their home. Under the scheme, housing associations and other providers can bid for a share of £400 million in low-cost loans to build up to 10,000 new homes across the country. Landlords must then make these homes available for rent at below-market rates for at least seven years giving the tenants the opportunity to save a deposit and get ready to buy their new home.

Figures published by my Department on 25 September showed how almost 53,000 households in England have already benefitted through the Government’s Help to Buy schemes. These schemes enable hardworking people to buy a home with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require.

On 30 September, we announced plans to help eleven areas across England to be at the forefront of helping aspiring self-builders. The chosen areas – Cherwell, South Cambridgeshire, Teignbridge, Shropshire, Oldham, West Lindsey, Exmoor and Dartmoor, Pendle, Sheffield, South Norfolk and Stoke-on-Trent – will establish and maintain a register of prospective custom and self-builders in their area and begin identifying shovel-ready sites for them.

On 9 October, my Department announced new powers for councils to help them build new affordable homes across the country, building on the reforms we have already delivered to the decentralised Housing Revenue Account. This will allow 22 councils to borrow an additional £122 million over the next two years to deliver more than 1,700 new affordable homes and support local growth. There is further funding available to local councils, which is only available thanks to the decisive action we have taken to reduce the deficit left by the last Labour Government.

On 10 October, we announced a new £3 million Site Delivery Fund to get work on housing sites back on track. The money will help deliver up to 25,000 new homes across the country on sites that have been given planning permission but remain caught up in red tape. The fund is being shared across 60 bids from councils for areas where large housing developments have been agreed, and councils have shown how government support will allow them to tackle planning barriers and accelerate delivery on as many sites as possible.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS18

Boosting local infrastructure

The Local Infrastructure Fund is another way we are getting Britain building and boosting local economies. It is targeted at housing schemes that could deliver real benefits to their communities but are struggling to move forward. Already 85,000 homes have been unlocked through this scheme. On 24 September, my Department announced a £16.5 million cash boost to fast forward the development of a further 1,600 new homes at Newton Leys, Milton Keynes, which despite receiving planning permission for development in 2006, has been stalled for years.

On the same day, we also published a progress report on the Growing Places Fund, which showed Local Enterprise Partnerships are continuing to make excellent progress in delivering the economic growth, jobs and homes that communities need. The fund has supported 323 projects across the country leveraging £2.8 billion of extra investment including some £1.8 billion from the private sector. I expect this to support almost 70,000 new housing units and 4 million square metres of commercial and industrial floorspace.

Supporting the Right to Buy

Since the launch of the reinvigorated Right to Buy scheme in 2012, 22,500 social tenants have benefitted from expert support and thousands of pounds worth of discounts in order to become homeowners. But such a right cannot be exercised if those eligible do not know about it.

On 25 September, my Department began writing to almost one million social tenants across the country to remind them of their Right to Buy. This letterbox campaign will be supported through advertisements in selected local newspapers. These people will be informed about the new levels of discount available and the Right to Buy Agent service launched in August which provides reliable personal advice from start to finish of the process. There might never be a better time for eligible council and housing association tenants to make this life-changing decision for them and their families.

Delivering a localised planning system

On 29 September, I announced my Department’s latest estimates on planning permissions being granted for new homes. Based on our analysis of Glenigan data, a total of 230,000 new homes received planning permission in England in the twelve months to Q2 2014. Combined with the fact that the number of planning appeals has fallen, this shows that our locally-led planning system, following the abolition of the Labour’s top-down Regional Strategies, is working.

Despite housebuilding levels being on an upward trajectory there is still an acute need for more homes, especially in London. Since May 2013, those looking to convert offices into new homes have been able to do so under a permitted development right without applying for planning permission. Decentralisation is not just about bringing power down to councils, but also down to neighbourhoods and individual firms and householders. Such rights have been enthusiastically adopted by the housing industry, with a particular move towards providing new studio and one bedroom flats.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS19

This has included the conversion and refurbishment of the Archway Tower in Islington. However, Islington council issued an inappropriately-wide Article 4 Direction, seeking to abolish these rights across the whole borough. This is despite there being a previous exemption process. After discussions with the council, on 17 September we took steps to ensure empty and redundant office space in Islington can continue to be converted into new homes for Londoners. Avoiding a blanket ban across the borough, office to residential conversions have been disapplied in very small, targeted parts of the borough instead.

On 2 October, my Department published new figures showing that during the three months up to June 2014, councils received 1,900 applications to enable redundant office buildings to be turned into new homes. They also revealed 900 had been approved during the same period. Permitted development rights are also enabling people to extend their homes without having to apply for planning permission. These figures revealed councils received 7,700 applications for home extensions – 6,500 of which got the go-ahead without needing to go through the whole planning process. These figures are just for one quarter, but illustrate how our local planning reforms are helping deliver new homes and support home improvements.

Protecting the countryside and Green Belt

The Coalition Government is determined to protect our countryside and the Green Belt, as stated in the Coalition Agreement.

On 2 October, my Department published new planning guidance reaffirming how councils should use their Local Plan drawing on protections in the National Planning Policy Framework, to safeguard their local area against urban sprawl. This guidance explains that, once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional cases, through the preparation or review of the local plan. It also states that housing need does not justify the harm done to the Green Belt by inappropriate development. Unlike the Labour’s discredited Regional Strategies, we have been very clear that there is no central diktats demanding that councils rip up the Green Belt.

On 14 September, we announced proposals for consultation on amending planning policy and planning guidance on travellers. The new measures that will ensure fairness for all in the planning system and provide greater protection for our Green Belt and countryside. The measures will crack down on unauthorised traveller sites to tackle those who flout planning rules and abuse the system.

It also proposes that the definition of travellers in planning law will be changed so that local authorities would only be asked to plan ahead to meet the needs of those who lead a genuine travelling lifestyle. This would mean any application for a permanent site by someone who has stopped physically travelling would be considered in the same way as an application from the settled population - rather than be considered under policies relating to travellers.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS20

Ensuring high standards in private rented housing

On 1 October, my Department brought forward new rules that require letting agents to join one of three redress schemes, to ensure tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold them to account.

The vast majority of landlords and letting agents provide a good quality service to those looking for a home in the private rental sector. The redress schemes will help ensure standards are maintained and provide tenants with somewhere to go if they feel like they are getting a poor deal.

The schemes run by The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme offer independent investigation into complaints about hidden fees or poor service.

Increasing accountability and transparency in local government

Greater power for local government must go hand in hand with greater local transparency and accountability. The public should be able to hold local councils to account about the services they provide. But to do this, people need information about what decisions local councils are taking, and how local councils are spending public money.

This Government has introduced a new publicity code for local councils in England, to help defend the independent free press. The code sets out a range of provisions on the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded newssheets. Alas not everybody follows these guidelines. So on 26 September, my Department warned 11 councils that legal action could be taken in a matter of weeks if they fail to stop or justify actions considered not to be in compliance with this code. Action is being taken against the London Boroughs of Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, as well as Luton, Medway and North Somerset councils over the frequency of their municipal newspapers. Tower Hamlets was also notified about the provisions in the code on lawfulness of council publicity.

On 3 October, my Department also updated the local government Transparency Code, which will further extend and entrench local accountability and openness on how councils spend taxpayers’ money and make decisions. This will now become a legal requirement, subject to the passage of the associated secondary legislation through Parliament.

Enhancing efficiency and resilience of local fire and rescue services

On 10 October, my Department published the September updates of the Future Control Room Services Scheme and an update on the marketing and disposal of the Regional Control Centres. These updated national summaries provide good evidence to show that the Future Control Rooms projects remain on track to deliver the benefits outlined in the original national summary. Good progress is also being made to market and dispose of the remaining Regional Control Centres which were a legacy of the failed FireControl programme and its flawed contracts (signed by the Labour Government) with no break clauses.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS21

Improving local welfare provision

The nationally-run community care grants and crisis loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need. So, in 2012 as part of wider welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions made the decision to abolish these discretionary funds and transfer responsibility to councils so they could deliver and tailor new local support because they best know their areas’ needs. In contrast to the centralised grant system, under the Department for Work and Pensions’ reforms, councils could choose how best to provide support in their areas.

The Department for Work and Pensions has provided a separate fund for 2013-15 and is currently conducting a review of the provision to date. On 10 October, the Government published a consultation on how local welfare provision should be funded in 2015-16. We will analyse the responses to this consultation alongside the findings of the on-going Department for Work and Pensions’ review into the existing provision. The Government will make a decision on funding for 2015-16 in time for the provisional local government finance settlement in December 2014.

Improving governance of public-sector pensions

On 10 October, my Department published consultations on the governance of the pension schemes for local government and firefighters, as part of the Coalition Government’s wider public service pension reform to ensure better value for taxpayers’ money.

Celebrating and rejuvenating the Great British high street

The high street has been the cornerstone of our communities for decades and we are starting to see them re-emerge with a renewed sense of self-confidence. The Great British High Street Awards to find Britain’s best high streets is shining a light on hard working traders and communities around the country and showing what can be done to help shopping streets evolve to be places where people want to shop, socialise and work.

On 3 October, my Department published a shortlist of 21 high streets which are battling it out in seven categories – coastal, market town, city, village, local parade, town centre and London – for the coveted Great British high street crown.

Championing united communities and British values

To mark International Day of the Girl on 11 October, the Government announced further funding to help tackle, both at home and abroad, the unacceptable practices of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. This package includes funding from my Department to support community engagement, such as working with local faith leaders and improving education to make clear that such practices have no place in modern Britain.

On 3 October, Ministers gave their best wishes to Muslims in the United Kingdom for Eid ul-Adha, which is the second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year. Ministers also gave their best wishes to Jewish people for Yom Kippur (also known as Day of Atonement), which is the holiest day of the year for those of the Jewish faith.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS22

This Government has been championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate traditional ties and community spirit, including flag-flying. On 29 September, my Department raised the flag of Westmorland to celebrate Westmorland Day and on 1 October, my Department raised the flag of Lincolnshire to celebrate Lincolnshire Day. England’s counties and historic counties continue to form an important part of our cultural and local identity in this country and many people remain deeply attached to their home county.

I am placing copies of the associated press notices and documents in the Library of the House.



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

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Luxembourg on 14 October 2014. Ministers will discuss the following items:

Measures in support of investment

Ministers will discuss measures in support of investment, including the Commission-EIB proposal for a new Task Force to identify significant European investments which are not being realised for economic, regulatory or other business reason.

Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth

Council will discuss a Commission Communication on Research and Innovation, inviting views from Member States on how to prioritise growth-enhancing expenditure, particularly in this area.

Follow-up to the G20 Finance Ministers and Governors’ meeting and Annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group in Washington

There will be an update from the Commission following the G20 Finance Ministers and Governors’ meeting on 9-10 October 2014 and Annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group on 10-12 October 2014 in Washington.

Banking Union: Single Resolution Fund contributions

The Commission will update the Council on progress towards laying the delegated act on contributions to the resolution financing arrangements under the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) and the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM).

Business taxation

Following agreement at June ECOFIN, Ministers will be informed of progress on a joint statement between Member States and Switzerland on business taxation.

Payment appropriations

The Commission will update Ministers on the state-of-play on payment appropriations, specifically the draft amending budget 3.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS23

Mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation

The Presidency will seek political agreement to the revised Directive for Administrative Cooperation (DAC2), which will implement the OECD’s Global Standard for Automatic Exchange of Taxpayer Information (AEOI) in the EU.

Energy taxation

The Presidency will present the Energy Tax Directive, which sets minimum rates of tax for energy products used as heating fuel, motor fuel and electricity, to Council for an exchange of views.

Ministerial dialogue with EFTA countries

Ministers will meet with EEA EFTA states at this ECOFIN.

EU: Foreign Ministers


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My right Honourable Friend, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) made the following written Ministerial statement on 5 September 2014:

I attended the informal Foreign Ministers meeting on 29-30 August in Milan, Italy.

The informal format of the Gymnich allows EU Foreign Ministers to engage in a free-ranging discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to the formal Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Ministers do not agree written Conclusions. The next FAC is due to be held on 20 October.

The Gymnich was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Discussion centred on issues in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods.

Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, attended the discussion on Ukraine / Russia.

Gymnich discussion

Ukraine / Russia

There was broad agreement that Russia had increased supplies of equipment and personnel to separatists in eastern Ukraine.  Ministers agreed the diplomatic process should continue. 

I said that the EU had to accept that President Putin had decided to treat Europe as an adversary rather than a partner.  We needed to deter the scale of Putin's ambitions in Ukraine, increasing the economic and financial cost through intensified sanctions and diplomatic pressure.  Longer-term we needed to reduce our energy dependence, enforce the 3rd energy package rigorously, keep up NATO deterrence, and counter Russia’s propaganda with our own communications effort.  We needed to support Ukraine on the economy, energy, governance, and the elections.

There was broad agreement that pressure on Russia should be increased through a further package of sanctions, although a number of Member States reserved their position on how far this should go.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS24


A number of ministers agreed on the need for Member States to provide weapons to the Kurdish and/or Iraqi government forces fighting ISIL and to increase and coordinate the humanitarian response. There was agreement to promote an inclusive political process in Iraq. Ministers also agreed on the need to engage with regional players to contribute to resolving the challenge of ISIL.

It was also agreed that there needed to be improved coordination on handling foreign fighters from Member States.


Ministers agreed on the need to engage regional players to support political dialogue, underscored the democratic legitimacy of the House of Representatives and supported its efforts at working towards national reconciliation. They also congratulated Bernardino Leon on his appointment as the UN Special Representative to Libya.

Baroness Ashton also said that EUBAM Libya would continue its mission and return to Tripoli as soon as possible.

MEPP / Gaza

Baroness Ashton argued that the EU had been an important player throughout her tenure, supporting John Kerry, engaging with Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians.  She also informed Ministers that she would co-chair the 1 October donors’ conference in Cairo.

Ministers agreed that the ceasefire - on which the Egyptian role had been pivotal - should develop into a durable agreement, and there was general consensus that this should combine demilitarisation and reconstruction with international oversight (where the EU could play an important role). 

I underlined the important role that the UN Security Council should play and argued that the EU should support a durable agreement, including through the reactivation of EUBAM Rafah under the appropriate circumstances.  I urged the EEAS to follow up on work to put forward EU options for supporting a ceasefire.

Northern Ireland: Security


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Theresa Villiers) has made the following Written Statement:

This is the sixth statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Twenty years have now passed since the 1994 ceasefires in Northern Ireland. There can be no doubt that the security situation has been transformed over the last two decades; the vast majority of people are able to lead their lives unaffected by the current security threat. Throughout the year, Northern Ireland has shown once again that it is moving ahead, successfully hosting high profile events including the Giro d’Italia and the Queen’s Baton Relay, all of which passed off successfully and without security incident. The announcement earlier

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS25

this year that the Open Golf Championship is returning to Royal Portrush in 2019 for the first time since 1951 is further testament to this.

While so much has been achieved, Northern Ireland continues to face a terrorist threat from a small minority of groups who hold democracy in contempt. They are violent and reckless and offer nothing positive to their communities. Not surprisingly, they have almost no popular support. They do, however, retain both lethal intent and capability.

Nature and Extent of the Threat

The threat level in Northern Ireland and Great Britain from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism remains unchanged since my last statement to Parliament in January 2014. The threat to Northern Ireland is currently SEVERE (an attack is highly likely) while the threat to Great Britain is MODERATE (an attack is possible but not likely). There have been 18 national security attacks in 2014.

Police and prison officers remain the principal targets for violent dissident republicans; attacks upon them continue to vary considerably in terms of sophistication. Since my last statement, the sterling work of the PSNI and MI5, who co-operate closely with An Garda Síochána and others, has undoubtedly saved lives and helped to tackle the threat. I wish to pay tribute to all that they do to make Northern Ireland a safer place and to acknowledge the ongoing and significant personal risk they bear both on and off duty. As a direct result of their efforts there have been major disruptions, arrests and convictions in recent months as well as seizures of arms and IED components, both north and south of the border, that have impeded violent dissident republican activity.

Since my last statement, law enforcement activity on both sides of the border has impeded the activities of the so-called new IRA. Following the arrest and charge of alleged members of the leadership at the end of 2013, the group’s activities were hampered. For some months it resorted to sending letter bombs to Army recruiting offices in GB and to prison officers in Northern Ireland. These crude devices have swollen the number of national security incidents but were designed to do nothing more than garner media attention and intimidate the recipients. However, in March the group demonstrated its continued lethal intent when it used an explosive projectile against a police patrol in a residential area of west Belfast. This reckless attack was designed to kill police officers, but it came perilously close to injuring or killing an innocent family passing at the time.

The PSNI subsequently seized 2.5kgs of Semtex from this group which was undoubtedly intended for use in further lethal explosive devices. In the Republic of Ireland, An Garda Síochána (AGS) arrested and charged a suspected new IRA bombmaker. Despite these successes, the group continues to mount attacks and in late May it conducted a firebomb attack on a hotel; a month later armed men fired upon an unoccupied vehicle used by G4S staff in Belfast. However, since then the PSNI have had further successes, including the arrest and charge of another individual alleged to hold a leadership role in the group.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS26

Security partners have also had significant success in curtailing the activities of Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH). In March, the PSNI arrested an individual in Belfast in possession of an explosive device which was ready to be deployed. In May, the AGS arrested a number of individuals in possession of an even larger device, almost certainly destined to be deployed in Northern Ireland.

These arrests and disruptions demonstrate the productive working relationship between security forces north and south of the border and have ensured that ONH has been unable to carry out any significant terrorist attacks since Christmas 2013. Unfortunately, despite this pressure, members of ONH in Belfast persist in resorting to savage vigilante attacks against members of their own community in an attempt to exercise control.

Localised Continuity IRA (CIRA) members continue to plan attacks against police officers. These occasionally materialise but CIRA remains factional and riven by in-fighting. In March, PSNI recovered a crude under-vehicle explosive device from a roadside in Belfast. It was either abandoned by CIRA members or had fallen off a vehicle. In either case, it had not functioned as intended and was instead left to be found by members of the public. This kind of dangerous, wholly misguided activity is typical of this disparate group which, along with many dissident republicans, continues to use Republicanism as a cover for criminality and self-gain. Not only do dissident republicans exploit and intimidate their local communities, they are also engaged in drug dealing, robbery, extortion and punishment attacks.

These people must be held to account. In May the Court of Appeal in Belfast upheld the judgment against two CIRA members, John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, responsible for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009. The road to justice has been a long one for Constable Carroll’s family and I pay tribute to their fortitude. More recently, in September, four dissident republicans were convicted of a range of terrorism offences including the use of a terrorist training camp, an excellent result which highlights the sustained pressure that is being brought to bear against violent dissident republicans.

Loyalist Paramilitary Organisations

The two principal loyalist paramilitary organisations, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) continue to exist. Tensions and in-fighting within both the UDA and UVF also persist and remain a cause for concern.

Overall, we continue to assess that the collective leaderships of the UDA and UVF remain committed to the peace process and, in some cases, have played a positive role in preventing public disorder, particularly around parading. However, I remain concerned that there are areas where militant and criminally focused individuals are seeking to use their paramilitary connections to exploit the discontent which exists in parts of the loyalist community.

This exploitation is mainly for personal gain and can take many different forms including attacks on property belonging to elected representatives, drug dealing, extortion, intimidation and brutal punishment

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS27

attacks within their own communities. This must be, and is, being tackled robustly. I fully support the action being taken by the PSNI to apprehend those responsible. This is not an easy task and it takes time to build an evidential case but the full force of the law needs to be brought to bear upon these thugs.

While the parading season in Northern Ireland passed off largely peacefully this year thanks to the strong, co-operative approach of all of those involved, efforts must continue to ensure that public disorder of the type witnessed in previous years does not recur in the future.

The Government’s strategic approach

This Government is clear that terrorism will never prevail in Northern Ireland. The 2010 National Security Strategy made tackling Northern Ireland Related Terrorism a tier one priority - the highest priority for Government. As Secretary of State I provide regular updates to the Prime Minister and colleagues on the progress being made on tackling the terrorist threat.

This Government has provided additional security funding to PSNI totalling £231million between 2011 and 2015 to support them in tackling the threat. This is significant extra funding at a time when overall budgets are falling and when we also face a very significant threat from international terrorism. It is a matter of great concern that this additional funding will now have less of an impact because of the decision to severely reduce the overall funding provided by the Executive to the PSNI, caused partly by failure to implement welfare reform. There is no doubt that this will have a negative effect on the PSNI’s operational capability in some areas, notwithstanding the additional support provided by the Government.

Our strategic approach also involves working closely with our partners in the Republic of Ireland on a range of issues. Co-operation has never been better, both politically and in security terms, and we want to build on this, removing practical barriers to co-operation and maximizing our ability to act against the threat on both sides of the border.

It is worth noting that the inability of the National Crime Agency (NCA) to operate to its full extent in Northern Ireland means there will be proceeds of crime that are not seized and criminals who are not apprehended. The choice on whether to allow the NCA to operate in relation to devolved matters rightly rests with the Northern Ireland Executive. But that choice has consequences. Early resolution of this issue is essential to avoid serious law enforcement gaps emerging in Northern Ireland in response to issues of deep public concern, such as drug enforcement, human trafficking and other forms of serious criminality.

While the limit on the NCA’s powers in Northern Ireland does not have a significant direct impact on the terrorist threat, it does make it harder to seize assets from individuals involved in criminality with connections to paramilitary groupings. Depriving Northern Ireland of the full support and operational capacity of the NCA also places further pressure on the PSNI’s already limited budgets and resources.

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS28


We continue to suppress the threat from terrorism and remain fully committed to tackling it in the future, keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe and secure. This takes considerable effort and we must remain vigilant - there can be no let-up in our efforts. We are totally focused on supporting the vital work that continues on a daily basis in Northern Ireland to combat terrorism.

Police: Undercover Policing


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My rt hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The use of undercover police officers is an area of significant public and Parliamentary interest in the light of the issues identified in the reports of Mark Ellison QC and of Operation Herne. While the issues identified in those reports are historic, the public must have confidence that the behaviour described in those reports is not happening now and cannot happen in the future.

That is why, in June 2013, I commissioned from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) a comprehensive thematic inspection of the undercover work of all police forces in England and Wales and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (as it then was).

HMIC has today published the report of their inspection, which also covers the other law enforcement agencies with an undercover capability; the National Crime Agency (as the successor to the Serious Organised Crime Agency), HM Revenue and Customs, the Royal Military Police and the Immigration Enforcement Directorate of the Home Office. I am placing a copy of the report in the Library of the House and it is available online at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk.

The report finds that, in general, undercover officers carry out their roles professionally and undercover policing as a tactic is essential, but there are still important improvements to be made. In short, we must do more. The report makes a total of 49 recommendations, addressed to all chief constables and the heads of the other law enforcement agencies, as well as to National Policing Leads and the College of Policing. The recommendations focus on ways to improve the authorisation, guidance, training and oversight of undercover officers. In addition, some recommendations are made directly to undercover officers themselves, their cover officers and managers and to those in the National Crime Agency who manage the National Undercover Database.

While this Government has already taken a number of steps to increase oversight and transparency in undercover work, including raising the authorisation level for undercover officers and strengthening the role of the independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners, it is important that HMIC’s recommendations are implemented thoroughly and quickly in order to give the public the necessary confidence in this work. I have therefore written to the Chief Executive of the College of Policing and to the responsible National Policing

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS29

Leads, Sir Jon Murphy and Mr Mick Creedon, asking them to set out an action plan and timetable for the police to respond to the recommendations of this report. I will place their responses in the Library of the House when I receive them.

Railways: Passengers’ Rights and Obligations


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

I am today announcing a consultation to consider the future of exemptions from the EC Regulation 1371/ 2007 on Rail Passengers’ Rights and Obligations Regulations.

The Regulation sets out a number of obligations which the rail sector must comply with in full by 2024, including on transferability of tickets, assistance for disabled people, complaints processes, industry IT systems and information for all passengers. The aim of this consultation is to gather evidence to enable us to gain a better understanding of where the rail industry is already meeting, or exceeding, the EU standards, and to help us identify where we may be able to bring certain provisions into force earlier than the 2024 deadline required by the EU Regulation.

The Government is committed to raising standards for rail passengers across the country. The Government seeks to do this in a way that secures the maximum benefit to fare payers and taxpayers. Currently the Government is seeking to use the franchising programme to drive up standards for rail passengers, while at the same time securing cost efficiency savings that can then be passed onto farepayers and taxpayers.

When deciding on which exemptions to remove, we therefore want to ensure the right balance is struck between the benefits this would give passengers, the cost impact on taxpayers and the rail industry, the industry’s ability to meet the requirements, and Government's wider commitments to the principles of better regulation for an industry.

No final decisions have been taken on the issues covered in the consultation and the important evidence we gather during this process will help us take robust decisions on the removal of exemptions. At this stage, the indications are positive and we are proposing the removal of close to two thirds of the exemptions.

Nevertheless, it is important that we take the time to consider the benefits of removing exemptions, as well as any regulatory or cost burdens. The current exemptions in place expire shortly, and in order to allow further consideration of these important issues, we are first taking the step of renewing all exemptions in December, to provide a holding position to allow the additional time for that detailed consideration.

The consultation will run for 10 weeks from today and all relevant documents are available here https://www.gov.uk/dft#consultations. The consultation document and associated consultation stage impact

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS30

assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, as in due course will copies of the Statutory Instrument, Explanatory Memorandum, and Impact Assessment related to the renewal of the exemptions.

Taxation: Policy


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

The Government’s approach to developing tax policy emphasises the benefits of policy consultation and legislative scrutiny.

Following Budget 2014, the Government has engaged with interested parties, seeking their views on more than 30 areas of tax policy. The next stage of consultation aims to ensure that the legislation works as intended.

Draft clauses to be included in the Finance Bill will be published on 10 December 2014, together with responses to policy consultation, explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes and other accompanying documents. The consultation on the draft legislation will be open until 4 February 2015.

Tunisia and Lebanon


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My right Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Tobias Ellwood) made the following written Ministerial statement on 1 September 2014:

I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the following measures:

(i) Proposal for a Council decision on the signing and provisional application, on behalf of the Union, of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Tunisia on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Tunisia in Union programmes.(ii) Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Tunisia on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Tunisia in Union programmes.(iii) Council decision on the signing and provisional application, on behalf of the Union, of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European Community and its member states, of the one part, and the

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS31

Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Lebanon on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Lebanon in Union programmes.(iv) Council decision on the conclusion of a protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the European Community and its member states, of the one part, and the Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Lebanon on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Lebanon in Union programmes.

The UK welcomes allowing Lebanon and Tunisia to participate in Union programmes which will help familiarise them with EU policies and working methods, and allow for progressive integration into EU networks. There are also several programmes around modernising and developing their economy.

Tunisia is the region’s post-revolution success story and is establishing itself as a model for peaceful democratic transition. A new progressive constitution and electoral law have been approved in 2014, and plans are under way to hold elections this year, in accordance with the

14 Oct 2014 : Column WS32

constitution. Tunisia’s involvement in Union programmes following signature of the protocol will further support its reform process and will help bring it into line with international standards. This ties in with our policy objectives and would be a positive next step in the maturing EU-Tunisia bilateral relationship.

Lebanon needs to become a stronger independent country less susceptible to the impact of regional events. Allowing Lebanon to become involved in European Union programmes will help it do this. The UK is strongly committed to supporting Lebanon’s stability, security and prosperity. Future involvement from Lebanon in Union programmes will help the UK meet these objectives. The country is currently facing many pressing challenges including the hosting of over 1 million Syrian refugees and security challenges. Lebanon would welcome additional EU support and closer ties.

These Council decisions relate in part to the Republic of Tunisia’s and Republic of Lebanon’s eligibility to participate in the Fiscalis 2020 Union action programme and the Customs 2020 Union action programme, thus triggering the UK justice and home affairs opt-in. I believe it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to these measures, as we have already opted in to the internal EU instruments establishing the Fiscalis and Customs 2020 Union action programmes.