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Written Statements

Thursday 22 January 2015

Agriculture and Fisheries 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 (Elizabeth Truss) has today made the following statement.

The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council will be on 26 January in Brussels. My hon. friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice), will represent the UK. Richard Lochhead MSP and Rebecca Evans AM will also attend.

There are both agriculture and fisheries items on this month’s agenda.

On fisheries, there will be a presentation by the Commission followed by an exchange of views on the proposal for a Regulation establishing a multiannual plan for the stocks of cod, herring and sprat in the Baltic Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks. On agriculture, the Commission will provide information on the Russian ban on EU agricultural products.

There are currently two Any Other Business items:

- Landing obligation- The future of the sugar sector

Consular Assistance: Murder and Manslaughter


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) has made the following written Ministerial statement:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides consular support to bereaved families and friends in approximately 70 cases of murder and manslaughter annually. It is essential that the support provided by my officials at this most tragic and difficult of times is as good as it can be and for that reason my Hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds), announced that there would be a review of consular policy in this area (Official Report, 27 January 2014; Col 20WS).

That review is now complete and I am today placing a copy in the Library of the House. The review sets out our commitments to improving the service we provide. This will include setting up a new and specialist Access to Justice Unit within our Consular Directorate, focused on these cases, as well as a renewed focus on consistency and clearer communication.

The review was based on feedback from bereaved families and friends and those who work to support them, including Parliamentarians, the Foreign and

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Commonwealth Office’s partners and its own consular staff. It is important to note that many people praised the service provided by caseworkers in London and teams at our overseas posts, in particular the high level of empathy that consular staff had shown. The Foreign Affairs Committee also concluded in November last year that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “should rightly be proud’ of the work of consular staff.

Nonetheless, there are areas where we can make improvements and new ways in which we can provide support and these are identified in this review. I will be taking a close interest in its implementation and in the work of the new unit and I have given instructions that there should be an update on progress by June 2015. I hope that through this work those sadly affected by murder and manslaughter overseas will receive the consistently excellent support that they need and that consular staff aim to provide.

This Statement included the following attachment: Review document (Review of consular assistance following murder and manslaughter cases overseas.pdf).

National Minimum Wage


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): My hon Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs (Jo Swinson) has today made the following statement.

Today I publish the response document to a public consultation on the draft consolidated National Minimum Wage (NMW) regulations.

The NMW Regulations, which set out the detailed NMW rules, came into force on 1 April 1999 and have since been amended over twenty times. As a Red Tape Challenge measure, the Government consolidated the regulations to make them easier to understand and their order more logical. As part of this process, it did not open policy decisions behind the detailed rules.

The majority of respondents to the consultation welcomed the consolidation of these regulations but expressed that even further clarity would be welcome. The Government will therefore review the guidance during 2015, including the provision of more practical examples.

This Statement included the following attachment: Response to the consultation (Response to the consultation on the draft consolidated NMW Regula .pdf).

Ordnance Survey: Change in Operating Model


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): My Rt hon Friend the Minister of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy (Matthew Hancock) has today made the following statement.

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I am today announcing the Government’s intention to change Ordnance Survey from a Trading Fund to a Government Company at the end of the financial year.

The change is operational in nature, and is aimed at improving Ordnance Survey’s day-to-day efficiency and performance. It will provide the organisation with a more appropriate platform from which to operate, and one which provides greater individual and collective responsibility for performance.

Ordnance Survey will remain under 100% public ownership with the data remaining Crown property, with ultimate accountability for the organisation staying with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Further to this change, in the coming weeks I will also be setting out more details on how Ordnance Survey will be building on its existing extensive support for the Government’s Open Data policy and on some senior appointments which will further strengthen the management team.

Ordnance Survey exists in a fast moving and developing global market. There has been rapid technology change in the capture and provision of mapping data, and increasingly sophisticated demands from customers who require data and associated services – including from government. To operate effectively, Ordnance Survey needs to function in an increasingly agile and flexible manner to continue to provide the high level of data provision and services to all customers in the UK and abroad, in a cost effective way, open and free where possible. Company status will provide that.

Mapping data and services are critical in underpinning many business and public sector functions as well as being increasingly used by individuals in new technology. Ordnance Survey sits at the heart of the UK’s geospatial sector. Under the new model, the quality, integrity and open availability of data will be fully maintained, and in future, improved. Existing customers, partners and suppliers will benefit from working with an improved organisation more aligned to their commercial, technological and business needs.

The relationship with Government will be articulated through the Shareholder Framework Agreement alongside the Company Articles of Association. The change will be subject to final Ministerial approval of these governance matters.

Ordnance Survey will also continue to publish a statement of its public task, to subscribe to the Information Fair Trader Scheme and comply with the relevant Public Sector Information Regulations, including Freedom of Information legislation, and make as much data as possible openly available to a wide audience of users.

Parole Board for England and Wales


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): On 18 November 2013 the Triennial Review of the Parole Board for England and Wales was announced in Parliament. I am pleased to announce the conclusion of the Review and publication of the report today.

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The Review has concluded that there is a continuing role for the Parole Board and that it should continue as an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body. The Parole Board has been assessed as having a ‘good’ overall rating for the standards of corporate governance and the recommendations from the review relate to three areas i) roles and responsibilities ii) communication and iii) conduct and propriety, where it has been identified that improvements can be made in order to more closely follow good practice for public bodies.

The Triennial Review has been carried out with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders and users, in addition to the Parole Board itself. The launch of the Review was publicised on my Department’s website and stakeholders were invited to contribute through a Call for Evidence and through meetings. In addition to the project board which oversaw the Review, a critical friends group challenged the evidence used to make conclusions. An independent peer reviewer also challenged the evidence for stage two of the Review.

I am grateful to all who contributed to this Triennial Review. The final report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report will also be available at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/parole-board-triennial-review.

This Statement included the following Statement: Triennial Review: Parole Board for England & Wales (Triennial Review – Parole Board for England and Wales.pdf).

Tobacco: Packaging


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): Following the announcement made by my Hon friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, in the adjournment debate yesterday on the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products (Official Report col 336-344), the Government has looked carefully at whether introducing legislation to require standardised packaging of tobacco products would be likely to deliver public health benefits, especially for children. Particular consideration has been given to possible unintended consequences, including information that was provided in the two public consultations on standardised packaging.

The Government believes that the introduction of standardised packaging would be likely to deliver important public health benefits, and that moving forward is justified. The powers in the Children and Families Act 2014, require that consent is obtained from Ministers in the Devolved Administrations for the regulations to extend to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Once that consent is obtained the Government intends to quickly lay before Parliament draft regulations to introduce standardised packaging for debate. Subject to the agreement of the Devolved Administrations and of Parliament, it is the Government’s intention to make the regulations before Parliament dissolves.

Smoking remains a critical public health concern and the Government wants, in particular, to take concerted action to reduce the uptake of smoking by children and young people. The evidence and relevant information has been considered thoroughly.

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The Government asked eminent medical researcher and paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler to undertake an independent review of the health evidence relating to standardised packaging of tobacco, and the report of the review was published in April 2014. Sir Cyril concluded that it is highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking and that the policy would very likely lead to a modest but important reduction over time on the uptake and prevalence of smoking and thus have a positive impact on public health.

When the Chantler Review was published, Health Ministers said that they were minded to proceed with standardised packaging, subject to a final, short consultation. This consultation was held between 26 June and 7 August 2014 and included a set of draft regulations. It asked, in particular, for new or additional information

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since the previous full public consultation which the Department of Health ran in 2012.

The regulations that will be laid are consistent with those published in the Department of Health’s 2014 consultation, although some technical amendments have been required.

If approved by Parliament, the regulations will be made and will specify requirements for the retail packaging of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco, and requirements for the appearance of individual cigarettes. They will specify the use of standard colours for all external and internal packaging and only permit specified text in a standard typeface.

In due course, the Department of Health will publish the summary report of the 2014 consultation which will summarise the main themes and issues arising from the consultation.