Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

From 17 November 2014, written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. On the day of publication, Commons statements are also available on the Today's Written Statements page.

Written statements are also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 04 February 2015
Made by: Lord Freud (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Better Workplace Pensions

My Right Honourable Friend The Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb MP) has made the following Written Statement.

I am pleased to announce that today I intend to lay before Parliament draft Regulations to ensure value for money in relevant occupational pension schemes, which provide money purchase benefits, through improved governance and measures to safeguard savers in qualifying schemes against high and unfair charges. I am also publishing the accompanying Government response to the October consultation on these measures, Better workplace pensions: Putting savers’ interests first.

We are committed to building a pensions system that people can save into with confidence and that will help ensure financial independence in retirement. Over 5 million people have now been automatically enrolled into workplace pension schemes. By 2018, 8 to 9 million people will be saving for the first time, or saving more towards their pension.

It is vital, therefore, that workplace pension schemes are run in the interests of members, whose savings will not be diminished by excessive charges.

Since these proposals were announced last March, we have been working closely with industry stakeholders, consumer representatives and regulators to develop the detailed regulations. Today’s Command Paper is therefore the culmination of an extensive and rigorous process of analysis and consultation. It provides a response to our recent consultation on the draft Regulations to implement our proposed governance and charges measures for qualifying schemes. It also announces the next stage of our work to ensure full disclosure of costs and charges throughout the value chain in workplace pension schemes, as we plan to publish a joint call for evidence with the Financial Conduct Authority in spring 2015.

For relevant workplace personal pension schemes, the Financial Conduct Authority will be introducing corresponding rules to control charges and to establish Independent Governance Committees from April 2015. Their rules, together with our Regulations, will ensure that savers are protected regardless of the type of workplace pension they are saving into.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, these draft Regulations will be a major step towards ensuring a positive outcome for millions of people in retirement.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS247
WS
Home Office
Made on: 04 February 2015
Made by: Mrs Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department )
Commons

Report to Parliament on the Application of Protocols 19 and 21 to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in Relation to EU Justice and Home Affairs Matters (1 December 2013- 30 November 2014)

The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice have prepared the Fifth Annual Report to Parliament on the Application of Protocols 19 and 21 to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (‘the Treaties’) in Relation to EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Matters. The Report, which is today being laid before the House, is submitted on behalf of both my own Department and that of the Secretary of State for Justice.

On 9 June 2008 the then Leader of the House of Lords committed to table a report in Parliament each year setting out the decisions taken by the Government in accordance with Protocol 21 (‘the Justice and Home Affairs opt-in Protocol’) and to make that report available for debate. These commitments were designed to ensure that the views of the Scrutiny Committees should inform the Government’s decision-making process.

The Minister for Europe confirmed this commitment on behalf of the Coalition Government in 2011, and this is the Fifth such Report. It covers the period 1 December 2013 to 30 November 2014. For completeness, the report also covers the application of Protocol 19 to the Treaties on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the EU (‘the Schengen opt-out Protocol’).

Over the period covered in the Report, the Government took 33 decisions on UK participation in EU Justice and Home Affairs legislative proposals. Of these, the UK opted in to 21 proposals and did not opt in to 10 proposals. The Government has also taken 2 decisions to opt-out of proposals under the Schengen Opt-out Protocol during the period covered by this report. At the point of publication, 2 EU legislative proposals are subject to Ministerial and Parliamentary consideration with regard to an opt-in decision. The Report also provides an indicative list of legislative proposals which are expected to be brought forward over the next 12 months that are likely to require a decision on UK participation under the Justice and Home Affairs Opt-in or Schengen Opt-out Protocols.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS227
WS
Home Office
Made on: 04 February 2015
Made by: Mike Penning (The Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims )
Commons

Police Grant Report England and Wales 2015-16

My rt hon Friend, the Home Secretary, has today laid before the House, the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2015/16 (HC 930). The Report sets out, my rt hon Friend, the Home Secretary’s determination for 2015/16 of the aggregate amount of grant that she proposes to pay under section 46(2) of the Police Act 1996, and the amount to be paid to the Greater London Authority for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. Copies of the report are available from the Vote Office.

At the time the provisional Police Grant Report was published on 17 December 2014, I said that I was also considering whether a limited amount of Police Capital Grant would be reallocated to support the Communications Capabilities Development (CCD) programme and Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programmes (ESMCP). After careful consideration I have decided that £20m will be reallocated to support the CCD programme. This will reduce overall infrastructure costs, maintain capabilities to comply with current legislation, and develop future communications capability. More time is needed to fully define the capital requirements for ESMCP in the future and so I have decided that it is not appropriate to reallocate funding for this Programme in 2015/16.

This Statement also includes details of other funding streams that the Home Office, the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Government intend to provide to the Police in 2015/16.

The Police Grant Settlement 2015/16

Table 1: Police revenue funding 2015/16

2015-16

£m

Total General Funding:

Comprising….

Police Core Settlement

4309*

of which Home Office Police Main Grant

4136

of which National and International Capital City Grant (MOPAC)

174

Former DCLG funding

2851

of which formula funding

2818

of which Ordnance Survey

2

of which Legacy Council Tax Freeze

31

Welsh Government

135

Total Home Office Specific Grants:

822**

Comprising….

Welsh Top-up

13

Counter Terrorism Police Grant

564

Police Innovation Fund

70

Police Knowledge Fund

5

Independent Police Complaints Commission (for the transfer of integrity functions)

30

College of Policing (for direct entry schemes)

5

City of London National and International Capital City Grant

3

HMIC (for PEEL inspection regime)

9

Police Special Grant

15

Major Programmes

40

Legacy Council Tax Freeze Grants

of which 2011/12 council tax freeze grant

59

of which 2013/14 council tax freeze grant

7

of which 2014/15 council tax freeze grant

3

Police Private Finance Initiatives

73

Total Government Funding***

8190

% cash change in Total Government Funding****

-3.5%

% real change in Total Government Funding

-4.9%

* **Rounded to the nearest £m

***The police will also separately receive £434.4m in Local Council Tax Support Grant. This will be paid by the Home Office.

**** This is the difference in total central Government funding to the police compared to 2014/15. The reduction in core Government funding (i.e. funding that is damped) is 5.1%.

Table 2: Division of police capital between funding streams

2015/16 Police Capital

£m

Police Capital Grant

89.5

Police Special Capital

1

Communications Capabilities Development (CCD)

20

NPAS

10.4

Total

120.9

Table 3: Revenue allocations for England and Wales 2015/16

Local Policing Body

2015/16

HO Core (incl Rule 1)

Welsh Top-up

Welsh

Government

Ex-DCLG Formula Funding

Legacy Council Tax Grants (total from HO)

£m

Avon & Somerset

105.6

-

-

56.8

14.7

Bedfordshire

40.6

-

-

23.5

4.6

Cambridgeshire

48.8

-

-

24.5

6.0

Cheshire

61.8

-

-

45.0

8.3

City of London

18.5

-

-

33.8

0.1

Cleveland

46.4

-

-

38.8

7.7

Cumbria

28.9

-

-

31.0

4.8

Derbyshire

62.5

-

-

37.9

8.7

Devon & Cornwall

103.3

-

-

63.5

15.5

Dorset

41.5

-

-

17.4

7.3

Durham

43.0

-

-

37.2

6.1

Dyfed-Powys

31.4

6.1

12.8

0.0

-

Essex

103.4

-

-

56.3

13.1

Gloucestershire

34.6

-

-

19.6

5.6

Greater London Authority

1040.1

-

-

754.1

119.7

Greater Manchester

227.9

-

-

182.4

24.5

Gwent

43.2

-

29.7

0.0

-

Hampshire

120.7

-

-

63.5

12.9

Hertfordshire

71.8

-

-

36.6

9.5

Humberside

67.6

-

-

46.8

10.0

Kent

106.9

-

-

67.0

13.3

Lancashire

101.1

-

-

79.6

12.8

Leicestershire

65.7

-

-

39.9

8.9

Lincolnshire

38.6

-

-

20.4

6.8

Merseyside

123.2

-

-

113.5

15.6

Norfolk

50.5

-

-

28.9

9.3

North Wales

45.4

6.5

21.3

0.0

-

North Yorkshire

41.9

-

-

27.2

7.9

Northamptonshire

43.4

-

-

24.3

6.6

Northumbria

110.8

-

-

108.0

8.2

Nottinghamshire

78.4

-

-

48.4

9.7

South Wales

89.3

-

71.2

0.0

-

South Yorkshire

101.2

-

-

77.9

10.9

Staffordshire

66.9

-

-

40.2

11.3

Suffolk

41.0

-

-

23.0

6.8

Surrey

62.5

-

-

29.4

9.2

Sussex

98.4

-

-

54.2

13.2

Thames Valley

142.0

-

-

74.3

15.3

Warwickshire

31.2

-

-

17.5

5.2

West Mercia

66.7

-

-

43.6

12.0

West Midlands

252.3

-

-

181.3

19.0

West Yorkshire

172.5

-

-

130.1

16.7

Wiltshire

37.7

-

-

20.8

5.2

Total England & Wales

4309.2

12.5

135.0

2818.3

503.2

Table 4: Capital allocations for England and Wales

Local Policing Body

2015/16

£m

Avon and Somerset

2.0

Bedfordshire

0.8

Cambridgeshire

1.0

Cheshire

1.3

City of London

0.7

Cleveland

1.0

Cumbria

0.7

Derbyshire

1.2

Devon and Cornwall

2.2

Dorset

0.8

Durham

1.0

Dyfed-Powys

0.6

Essex

1.8

Gloucestershire

0.7

Greater Manchester

4.5

Gwent

0.9

Hampshire

2.3

Hertfordshire

1.1

Humberside

1.4

Kent

2.1

Lancashire

2.1

Leicestershire

1.3

Lincolnshire

0.8

Merseyside

2.6

Metropolitan

23.7

Norfolk

1.0

North Wales

0.9

North Yorkshire

0.8

Northamptonshire

0.8

Northumbria

2.5

Nottinghamshire

1.4

South Wales

1.9

South Yorkshire

2.1

Staffordshire

1.3

Suffolk

0.9

Surrey

1.2

Sussex

1.8

Thames Valley

2.9

Warwickshire

0.8

West Mercia

1.4

West Midlands

4.8

West Yorkshire

3.5

Wiltshire

0.8

Total England & Wales

89.5

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS226
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 04 February 2015
Made by: Steve Webb (The Minister for Pensions)
Commons

Better Workplace Pensions

I am pleased to announce that today I intend to lay before Parliament draft Regulations to ensure value for money in relevant occupational pension schemes, which provide money purchase benefits, through improved governance and measures to safeguard savers in qualifying schemes against high and unfair charges. I am also publishing the accompanying Government response to the October consultation on these measures, Better workplace pensions: Putting savers’ interests first.

We are committed to building a pensions system that people can save into with confidence and that will help ensure financial independence in retirement. Over 5 million people have now been automatically enrolled into workplace pension schemes. By 2018, 8 to 9 million people will be saving for the first time, or saving more towards their pension.

It is vital, therefore, that workplace pension schemes are run in the interests of members, whose savings will not be diminished by excessive charges.

Since these proposals were announced last March, we have been working closely with industry stakeholders, consumer representatives and regulators to develop the detailed regulations. Today’s Command Paper is therefore the culmination of an extensive and rigorous process of analysis and consultation. It provides a response to our recent consultation on the draft Regulations to implement our proposed governance and charges measures for qualifying schemes. It also announces the next stage of our work to ensure full disclosure of costs and charges throughout the value chain in workplace pension schemes, as we plan to publish a joint call for evidence with the Financial Conduct Authority in spring 2015.

For relevant workplace personal pension schemes, the Financial Conduct Authority will be introducing corresponding rules to control charges and to establish Independent Governance Committees from April 2015. Their rules, together with our Regulations, will ensure that savers are protected regardless of the type of workplace pension they are saving into.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, these draft Regulations will be a major step towards ensuring a positive outcome for millions of people in retirement.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS225
WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Lords

Local Government Finance

My hon Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Kris Hopkins) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government has today laid before the House the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2015-16 and the Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) Report 2015-16. These reports set out for each local authority in England, individual local government finance settlement funding assessments, business rates tariffs and top-ups, the basis of their distributions, and the council tax referendum principles for 2015-16.

Further to my oral statement of 18 December 2014, Official Report, Column 1590, a draft of the Local Government Finance Report was issued for consultation in December. During the consultation period, which closed on 15 January, Ministers met a number of local authorities and representative groups including the Local Government Association, London Councils, the District Councils Network and the National Association of Local Councils. I also led a phone-in discussion in which over 100 authorities participated. In addition, the consultation received numerous written responses.

Having considered the views of all those who commented on the provisional settlement, we have decided to confirm the proposals for the settlement for 2015-16 as announced. We are confirming our proposal that the council tax referendum principle for 2015-16 will be set at two per cent. In addition, we are providing a further £74 million to upper-tier authorities to recognise that councils have asked for additional support, including to help them respond to local welfare needs and to improve social care provision.

Delivering a fair settlement

Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit left by the last Labour Government, including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending.

Yet we have aimed to deliver a settlement that is fair to all parts of the country, both north and south, urban and rural, city and shire. There is still significant scope for councils to deliver sensible savings – from more joint working, better procurement, ‘invest to save’ use of reserves, using transparency to find and cut waste, collecting unpaid taxes, tackling fraud, and better property management.

Even with the savings that have been made to date, English local government expects to spend over £115 billion in the current financial year. Net current expenditure by councils (excluding education due to the shift to academy funding) has risen in cash terms under this Government.

With the addition of the extra resources mentioned above, the overall change in local authorities’ spending power in 2015-16 is now -1.7 per cent. When taking into account the funds that we are providing to support local transformation, the overall final reduction is even lower – at 1.5 per cent. Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to receive substantially more funding and we are continuing to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4 per cent in their spending power in 2015-16 – the lowest level in this Parliament.

We have deliberately shifted the emphasis from keeping local authorities dependent on grant, to providing councils with the tools and incentives they need to grow their local economies and promote house building, including through business rates retention. For 2013-14, authorities’ own estimates show that over 90 per cent are expecting a growth in their business rates income, of over £400 million in total.

As well as growing their economies, the best authorities are transforming the way they do business. The Government is supporting them as they do so, achieving real savings and – importantly - improving outcomes for the people who use local services.

We also continue to recognise the challenges faced by rural communities. This Government has a clear commitment to rural areas, and consecutive settlements have helped to address the gap in urban-rural Spending Power. We expect the gap to continue to close. In the meantime, the settlement confirms another year of additional resources for the most rural authorities to recognise the challenges they face in delivering services. In 2015-16, this grant has increased to £15.5 million.

Supporting the vulnerable

The Government previously consulted on a range of options for how local welfare provision by upper-tier local authorities (i.e. London boroughs, metropolitan borough councils, unitary councils and county councils in two-tier areas) should be funded in 2015-16 following its localisation. The Department for Work and Pensions also carried out a review. The Government concluded that local authorities would continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets for 2015-16, alongside a range of other services, if they judge it a priority in their area.

To assist in identifying how much of their existing funding relates to this, an amount relating to local welfare provision was separately identified in each upper-tier authority’s general grant. This totalled £130 million nationally and was distributed in line with local welfare provision funding in 2014-15. The Government has always been clear that councils should choose how best to support local welfare needs. Therefore this allocation will not be ring-fenced and we will not be placing any new duties, expectations or monitoring requirements on its use.

In response to representations during consultation, we have now decided to allocate an additional £74 million to upper tier authorities, to assist them in dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care. This will further help councils as they develop localised arrangements.

This extra funding is on top of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities for 2014-15 announced last week, so that they can provide additional support packages to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place. This Government is working to join up local public services and decentralising power and funding to local communities.

Keeping council tax down for hard-working people

We are again providing funding for councils, fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners to help freeze their council tax in England. We have now provided freeze funding during all five years of this Parliament. As a result, council tax in England has fallen by 11 per cent in real terms since 2010, when it had more than doubled under the last Labour Government. Indeed, the Labour-run Welsh Government which has refused to fund a council tax freeze from the Barnet consequential payments has seen soaring council tax.

We urge councils to protect tax payers up and down the country by taking the additional funding on offer for a freeze and help hard-working people with the cost of living. The council tax freeze grant from central government will be embedded into councils’ baseline funding.

For those which do not freeze, any increase of 2 per cent or more will require a binding referendum of local electorates. Local authorities which want to do so should have the courage of their convictions and seek a mandate for this. It is already the case that a council tax referendum can be held at a reduced cost in 2015-16 when combined with the General Election.

We can further announce today that any savings to the Consolidated Fund as a result of combination of a referendum with the General Election will be redirected to councils, so that the cost of a referendum to a local authority is marginal – such as the small costs of printing and counting some extra ballot papers. This demolishes the argument floated by some that holding a local referendum would result in an excessive cost.

Copies of the Reports will be available in the Vote Office. We shall be making available supporting technical information online on my Department’s website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS246
WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Kris Hopkins (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government )
Commons

Local Government Finance

The Government has today laid before the House the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2015-16 and the Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) Report 2015-16. These reports set out for each local authority in England, individual local government finance settlement funding assessments, business rates tariffs and top-ups, the basis of their distributions, and the council tax referendum principles for 2015-16.

Further to my oral statement of 18 December 2014, Official Report, Column 1590, a draft of the Local Government Finance Report was issued for consultation in December. During the consultation period, which closed on 15 January, Ministers met a number of local authorities and representative groups including the Local Government Association, London Councils, the District Councils Network and the National Association of Local Councils. I also led a phone-in discussion in which over 100 authorities participated. In addition, the consultation received numerous written responses.

Having considered the views of all those who commented on the provisional settlement, we have decided to confirm the proposals for the settlement for 2015-16 as announced. We are confirming our proposal that the council tax referendum principle for 2015-16 will be set at two per cent. In addition, we are providing a further £74 million to upper-tier authorities to recognise that councils have asked for additional support, including to help them respond to local welfare needs and to improve social care provision.

Delivering a fair settlement

Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit left by the last Labour Government, including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending.

Yet we have aimed to deliver a settlement that is fair to all parts of the country, both north and south, urban and rural, city and shire. There is still significant scope for councils to deliver sensible savings – from more joint working, better procurement, ‘invest to save’ use of reserves, using transparency to find and cut waste, collecting unpaid taxes, tackling fraud, and better property management.

Even with the savings that have been made to date, English local government expects to spend over £115 billion in the current financial year. Net current expenditure by councils (excluding education due to the shift to academy funding) has risen in cash terms under this Government.

With the addition of the extra resources mentioned above, the overall change in local authorities’ spending power in 2015-16 is now -1.7 per cent. When taking into account the funds that we are providing to support local transformation, the overall final reduction is even lower – at 1.5 per cent. Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to receive substantially more funding and we are continuing to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4 per cent in their spending power in 2015-16 – the lowest level in this Parliament.

We have deliberately shifted the emphasis from keeping local authorities dependent on grant, to providing councils with the tools and incentives they need to grow their local economies and promote house building, including through business rates retention. For 2013-14, authorities’ own estimates show that over 90 per cent are expecting a growth in their business rates income, of over £400 million in total.

As well as growing their economies, the best authorities are transforming the way they do business. The Government is supporting them as they do so, achieving real savings and – importantly - improving outcomes for the people who use local services.

We also continue to recognise the challenges faced by rural communities. This Government has a clear commitment to rural areas, and consecutive settlements have helped to address the gap in urban-rural Spending Power. We expect the gap to continue to close. In the meantime, the settlement confirms another year of additional resources for the most rural authorities to recognise the challenges they face in delivering services. In 2015-16, this grant has increased to £15.5 million.

Supporting the vulnerable

The Government previously consulted on a range of options for how local welfare provision by upper-tier local authorities (i.e. London boroughs, metropolitan borough councils, unitary councils and county councils in two-tier areas) should be funded in 2015-16 following its localisation. The Department for Work and Pensions also carried out a review. The Government concluded that local authorities would continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets for 2015-16, alongside a range of other services, if they judge it a priority in their area.

To assist in identifying how much of their existing funding relates to this, an amount relating to local welfare provision was separately identified in each upper-tier authority’s general grant. This totalled £130 million nationally and was distributed in line with local welfare provision funding in 2014-15. The Government has always been clear that councils should choose how best to support local welfare needs. Therefore this allocation will not be ring-fenced and we will not be placing any new duties, expectations or monitoring requirements on its use.

In response to representations during consultation, we have now decided to allocate an additional £74 million to upper tier authorities, to assist them in dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care. This will further help councils as they develop localised arrangements.

This extra funding is on top of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities for 2014-15 announced last week, so that they can provide additional support packages to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place. This Government is working to join up local public services and decentralising power and funding to local communities.

Keeping council tax down for hard-working people

We are again providing funding for councils, fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners to help freeze their council tax in England. We have now provided freeze funding during all five years of this Parliament. As a result, council tax in England has fallen by 11 per cent in real terms since 2010, when it had more than doubled under the last Labour Government. Indeed, the Labour-run Welsh Government which has refused to fund a council tax freeze from the Barnet consequential payments has seen soaring council tax.

We urge councils to protect tax payers up and down the country by taking the additional funding on offer for a freeze and help hard-working people with the cost of living. The council tax freeze grant from central government will be embedded into councils’ baseline funding.

For those which do not freeze, any increase of 2 per cent or more will require a binding referendum of local electorates. Local authorities which want to do so should have the courage of their convictions and seek a mandate for this. It is already the case that a council tax referendum can be held at a reduced cost in 2015-16 when combined with the General Election.

We can further announce today that any savings to the Consolidated Fund as a result of combination of a referendum with the General Election will be redirected to councils, so that the cost of a referendum to a local authority is marginal – such as the small costs of printing and counting some extra ballot papers. This demolishes the argument floated by some that holding a local referendum would result in an excessive cost.

Copies of the Reports will be available in the Vote Office. We shall be making available supporting technical information online on my Department’s website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS224
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Lord Faulks (The Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy)
Lords

Triennial Review of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI)

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties (Simon Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

"On 27 March 2014, Official Report, column 50WS, I announced the commencement of the triennial review of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI), an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) of the Ministry of Justice.

The review has been undertaken in accordance with the Cabinet Office’s guidance on public bodies and as part of the Government’s commitment to improve and make sure of the best, accountability and effectiveness of public bodies.

I am today publishing the review, which concludes that there is no longer a continuing need for the current non-statutory functions of APPSI. Government is able to seek and receive this advice on the re-use of public sector information on a less formal basis by other bodies which perform similar functions and are not set up as NDPBs. This is supported by the evidence provided in the report.

APPSI’s statutory function has not formed part of the review as it is currently under consideration as part of the Government’s transposition of Directive 2013/37/EU on the re-use of public sector information. The Directive requires an impartial review body with the ability to make binding decisions and APPSI would be unlikely to meet these requirements. APPSI’s statutory function will be replaced by new redress provisions and will therefore no longer be required.

The triennial review recommends that APPSI ceases to carry out its non-statutory functions and is abolished once its statutory function ceases to exist with transposition of Directive 2013/37/EU during 2015.

I am grateful to current and former members of APPSI for their valuable work in advising government on public sector information and its re-use. APPSI played a key role in contributing to the Government’s approach to public sector information re-use and Crown copyright. I particularly note the early development of a concept of a national information framework, reflected in the Government’s National Information Infrastructure, and APPSI’s role in developing an open data glossary on data.gov.uk.

I will place a copy of the review in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS245
WS
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Lord De Mauley (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Lords

Case of low severity avian influenza confirmed in Hampshire

My Right Hon Friend the Secretary of State (Elizabeth Truss) has today made the following statement.

The Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed a case of avian flu in a chicken breeding farm in Hampshire. Tests have confirmed the case as a low severity H7 strain of the disease, a much less severe form than the H5N8 strain found at a Yorkshire duck farm in November; there are no links between the two cases. Initial laboratory results indicate that this is likely to be the H7N7 subtype.

The advice from Public Health England is that the risk to public health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.

To ensure that the disease does not spread, we have taken immediate and robust action. A 1 kilometre poultry movement restriction zone is in place around the premises and the chickens on the premises are to be culled as part of our well established procedures for responding to avian flu.

Whilst we are never complacent about such an important issue, we have a strong track record of controlling and eliminating outbreaks of avian flu in the UK. We are working closely with operational partners, devolved administration colleagues and the industry to deal effectively with this outbreak.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS244
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Simon Hughes (The Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties)
Commons

Triennial Review of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI)

On 27 March 2014, Official Report, column 50WS, I announced the commencement of the triennial review of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI), an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) of the Ministry of Justice.

The review has been undertaken in accordance with the Cabinet Office’s guidance on public bodies and as part of the Government’s commitment to improve and make sure of the best, accountability and effectiveness of public bodies.

I am today publishing the review, which concludes that there is no longer a continuing need for the current non-statutory functions of APPSI. Government is able to seek and receive this advice on the re-use of public sector information on a less formal basis by other bodies which perform similar functions and are not set up as NDPBs. This is supported by the evidence provided in the report.

APPSI’s statutory function has not formed part of the review as it is currently under consideration as part of the Government’s transposition of Directive 2013/37/EU on the re-use of public sector information. The Directive requires an impartial review body with the ability to make binding decisions and APPSI would be unlikely to meet these requirements. APPSI’s statutory function will be replaced by new redress provisions and will therefore no longer be required.

The triennial review recommends that APPSI ceases to carry out its non-statutory functions and is abolished once its statutory function ceases to exist with transposition of Directive 2013/37/EU during 2015.

I am grateful to current and former members of APPSI for their valuable work in advising government on public sector information and its re-use. APPSI played a key role in contributing to the Government’s approach to public sector information re-use and Crown copyright. I particularly note the early development of a concept of a national information framework, reflected in the Government’s National Information Infrastructure, and APPSI’s role in developing an open data glossary on data.gov.uk.

I will place a copy of the review in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS223
WS
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Made on: 03 February 2015
Made by: Elizabeth Truss (The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs )
Commons

Case of low severity avian influenza confirmed in Hampshire

The Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed a case of avian flu in a chicken breeding farm in Hampshire. Tests have confirmed the case as a low severity H7 strain of the disease, a much less severe form than the H5N8 strain found at a Yorkshire duck farm in November; there are no links between the two cases. Initial laboratory results indicate that this is likely to be the H7N7 subtype.

The advice from Public Health England is that the risk to public health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for consumers.

To ensure that the disease does not spread, we have taken immediate and robust action. A 1 kilometre poultry movement restriction zone is in place around the premises and the chickens on the premises are to be culled as part of our well established procedures for responding to avian flu.

Whilst we are never complacent about such an important issue, we have a strong track record of controlling and eliminating outbreaks of avian flu in the UK. We are working closely with operational partners, devolved administration colleagues and the industry to deal effectively with this outbreak.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS222
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Lord Faulks (The Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy)
Lords

Probation

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

"I wish to inform the House that Mr Paul McDowell has tendered his resignation from his post as Chief Inspector of Probation.

As I discussed with the Justice Select Committee on 2nd December and covered in subsequent correspondence with the Committee Chair, an issue arose about a potential perceived conflict of interest for Mr McDowell given his wife’s employment with Sodexo, and their role as a provider of probation services. I have considered carefully all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest. However Mr McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.

Throughout this process Mr McDowell has acted with utter transparency and professionalism. Indeed I must acknowledge Mr McDowell’s assured leadership and the grounded independence of his findings in relation to the Inspectorate and the work he has done since his appointment.

I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position. At time of his appointment Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate pre-appointment processes in place at that time were properly followed. The Justice Select Committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor in the usual way."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS243
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Lord Faulks (The Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy)
Lords

Criminal Justice

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

"I am delighted to announce that I have now signed a commencement order that brought into force the remaining uncommenced provisions of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (ORA) on 1 February 2015. This marks another significant step in implementing the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which will reduce the stubbornly high rate of reoffending which has been far too high for far too long.

For the first-time we will be giving virtually all offenders a proper chance at rehabilitation. The most significant change the ORA makes is to extend statutory supervision to the 45,000 offenders a year who are released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months, the majority of whom currently receive no statutory supervision after completing a custodial sentence. This group of offenders have the highest reoffending rates of any group: almost 60% of adult offenders released from short prison sentences in the year to March 2013 went on to reoffend within the next 12 months.

The changes the ORA makes mean that any offender whose offence was committed on or after 1 February, and who is sentenced to a custodial term of more than 1 day, will in the future receive at least 12 months of supervision and support after release.

The ORA also makes a number of changes to the sentencing and release framework set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, including expanded drug testing powers for offenders released from custody and the creation of a new Rehabilitation Activity Requirement that can be imposed on offenders serving sentences in the community.

Along with the provisions of the ORA coming in to force, on 1 February the new providers have also taken ownership of, and begun running, the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies which will manage low and medium risk offenders.

In addition, I have published revised National Standards for the Management of Offenders and national training guidelines in line with the requirements of the Offender Management Act 2007. The standards and guidelines apply to all providers of probation services engaged in the management of offenders and delivering the sentence of the court.

The standards set out the minimum requirements for the effective management of offenders subject to community and suspended sentence orders, supervision on licence and/or the new post sentence supervision period. I have placed a copy of these standards in the House Libraries.

A Competent Workforce to Transform Rehabilitation provides a set of guidelines for the qualifications, training and experience of officers involved in delivering probation services and is available on line."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS242
WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Baroness Kramer (Minister of State for Transport)
Lords

Light Dues 2015 - 16

My Right Honourable Friend, the Minister of State for Transport (John Hayes), has made the following Ministerial Statement:

On 26 July 2010, the Government announced its intention to take determined action in support of the UK shipping industry by addressing the increasing cost of the marine aids to navigation service and providing long-term stability for light dues payers so they could plan budgets effectively [Official Report, Columns 75-76WS].

Following the penny reduction in the light dues rate to 40p per net registered tonne in April 2014, I am pleased to announce that the rate will be cut by a further penny, to 39p, on 1 April 2015.

Since 2010, considerable progress has been made on three fronts. First, the three General Lighthouse Authorities for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have exceeded their RPI-X efficiency targets, through working assets harder, adopting new technologies, and procuring services together to reduce net costs.

Second, their pension liabilities have been addressed with the transfer of the General Lighthouse Authorities’ pension schemes to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme on 1 April 2014 [Official Report, 6 March 2014, Columns 64-65WS]. Third, as I announced on 16 October 2014, the work of the Commissioners of Irish Lights in the Republic of Ireland will be met fully from Irish sources as from 1 April 2015 [Official Report, Columns 48-49WS]. Both of these measures further reduce costs and remove sources of volatility from the General Lighthouse Fund.

The formation in 2010 of a Joint Strategic Board to co-ordinate and direct work “to achieve maximum efficiencies and improvements in the delivery of aids to navigation” has proved invaluable to these successes and I have asked the Board to identify the scope for further gains that can be secured over the next five years.

In partnership with the General Lighthouse Authorities and the shipping industry, the Government has successfully resolved the problems that faced the General Lighthouse Fund in 2010. This has opened the way to sustainable reductions in UK light dues. This further reduction, to support the shipping industry, means that there has been a 19% real terms reduction in light dues since 2010.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS241
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Chris Grayling (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Probation

I wish to inform the House that Mr Paul McDowell has tendered his resignation from his post as Chief Inspector of Probation.

As I discussed with the Justice Select Committee on 2nd December and covered in subsequent correspondence with the Committee Chair, an issue arose about a potential perceived conflict of interest for Mr McDowell given his wife’s employment with Sodexo, and their role as a provider of probation services. I have considered carefully all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest. However Mr McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.

Throughout this process Mr McDowell has acted with utter transparency and professionalism. Indeed I must acknowledge Mr McDowell’s assured leadership and the grounded independence of his findings in relation to the Inspectorate and the work he has done since his appointment.

I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position. At time of his appointment Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate pre-appointment processes in place at that time were properly followed. The Justice Select Committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor in the usual way.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS221
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Chris Grayling (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Criminal Justice Update

I am delighted to announce that I have now signed a commencement order that brought into force the remaining uncommenced provisions of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (ORA) on 1 February 2015. This marks another significant step in implementing the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which will reduce the stubbornly high rate of reoffending which has been far too high for far too long.

For the first-time we will be giving virtually all offenders a proper chance at rehabilitation. The most significant change the ORA makes is to extend statutory supervision to the 45,000 offenders a year who are released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months, the majority of whom currently receive no statutory supervision after completing a custodial sentence. This group of offenders have the highest reoffending rates of any group: almost 60% of adult offenders released from short prison sentences in the year to March 2013 went on to reoffend within the next 12 months.

The changes the ORA makes mean that any offender whose offence was committed on or after 1 February, and who is sentenced to a custodial term of more than 1 day, will in the future receive at least 12 months of supervision and support after release.

The ORA also makes a number of changes to the sentencing and release framework set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, including expanded drug testing powers for offenders released from custody and the creation of a new Rehabilitation Activity Requirement that can be imposed on offenders serving sentences in the community.

Along with the provisions of the ORA coming in to force, on 1 February the new providers have also taken ownership of, and begun running, the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies which will manage low and medium risk offenders.

In addition, I have published revised National Standards for the Management of Offenders and national training guidelines in line with the requirements of the Offender Management Act 2007. The standards and guidelines apply to all providers of probation services engaged in the management of offenders and delivering the sentence of the court.

The standards set out the minimum requirements for the effective management of offenders subject to community and suspended sentence orders, supervision on licence and/or the new post sentence supervision period. I have placed a copy of these standards in the House Libraries.

A Competent Workforce to Transform Rehabilitation provides a set of guidelines for the qualifications, training and experience of officers involved in delivering probation services and is available on line.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS220
WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 02 February 2015
Made by: Mr John Hayes (Minister of State for Transport)
Commons

Light Dues 2015 - 16

On 26 July 2010, the Government announced its intention to take determined action in support of the UK shipping industry by addressing the increasing cost of the marine aids to navigation service and providing long-term stability for light dues payers so they could plan budgets effectively [Official Report, Columns 75-76WS].

Following the penny reduction in the light dues rate to 40p per net registered tonne in April 2014, I am pleased to announce that the rate will be cut by a further penny, to 39p, on 1 April 2015.

Since 2010, considerable progress has been made on three fronts. First, the three General Lighthouse Authorities for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have exceeded their RPI-X efficiency targets, through working assets harder, adopting new technologies, and procuring services together to reduce net costs.

Second, their pension liabilities have been addressed with the transfer of the General Lighthouse Authorities’ pension schemes to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme on 1 April 2014 [Official Report, 6 March 2014, Columns 64-65WS]. Third, as I announced on 16 October 2014, the work of the Commissioners of Irish Lights in the Republic of Ireland will be met fully from Irish sources as from 1 April 2015 [Official Report, Columns 48-49WS]. Both of these measures further reduce costs and remove sources of volatility from the General Lighthouse Fund.

The formation in 2010 of a Joint Strategic Board to co-ordinate and direct work “to achieve maximum efficiencies and improvements in the delivery of aids to navigation” has proved invaluable to these successes and I have asked the Board to identify the scope for further gains that can be secured over the next five years.

In partnership with the General Lighthouse Authorities and the shipping industry, the Government has successfully resolved the problems that faced the General Lighthouse Fund in 2010. This has opened the way to sustainable reductions in UK light dues. This further reduction, to support the shipping industry, means that there has been a 19% real terms reduction in light dues since 2010.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS219
WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 29 January 2015
Made by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government )
Lords

Local Government Update

My hon Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Kris Hopkins) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I would like to update Hon. Members on a series of announcements relating to local government.

Promoting joint working with NHS and councils this winter

The Coalition Government is committed to greater joint working between our local public services, to help save money and improve frontline services.

From April 2015, through the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund, we are starting to transform the way we deliver health and social care services, so that they provide a properly joined-up service for patients. It will prevent up to 160,000 A&E admissions and save over £500 million in the year ahead. We have approved 97% of the local Better Care Fund plans, and the final few plans are being reviewed now.

Ahead of its April introduction, and in light of the expected cold winter, to help further promote joint working, we are announcing a total of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities, so that they can step up their efforts to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place.

£25 million of this will help over 9,500 people with additional support packages to move from hospital either back to their home or into residential care; the further £12 million will mean up to 3,500 more people a week will get home from hospital more quickly this winter, with the local authority putting in place carers and equipment to meet their needs, freeing up much-needed hospital beds within the NHS.

Social services have to be part of the solution to the high demand on hospitals at the moment. We know that they can help by getting people home more quickly when it is safe to do so once they have been discharged. And we also know that the best social care can prevent people from having to go to A&E in the first place by supporting the elderly to live with dignity and independence at home.

Extending local business rate retention

The Coalition Government has introduced new financial incentives to councils to support locally-led enterprise and economic growth, as part of our programme of decentralisation and as part of our long-term economic plan.

Since 2013, local government keeps half of all business rate revenues and business rate growth. But we want to go further over time to increase these incentives.

Last year, we announced proposals to allow 100% local retention of business rates on shale oil and gas sites. In October, we published a technical consultation on draft regulations to implement this measure. We received 25 responses. A majority of those supported retention of 100% of business rates on shale oil and gas by local government. Having considered the responses we have decided to continue with our proposals as set out in the technical consultation. This policy will ensure that local councils that host shale oil or gas sites can benefit from millions of pounds in business rates paid. The measure could be worth up to £1.7 million for a typical site and will be funded by central government.

Shale will help to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets benefitting the UK through improved energy security and economic prospects. Local councils and communities have an important part to play in securing those improvements and we believe they should also share in the economic opportunities and benefits of shale. Tough environmental protections are in place, and are being further enhanced as announced to the House during the Infrastructure Bill on Monday.

The associated secondary legislation has been laid before Parliament, and the responses to the consultation published. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the provisions will come into force in April 2015.

Promoting recycling and protecting the local environment

The Coalition Government is committed to making it easier for families to recycle, whilst avoiding unfair stealth taxes on hard-working people.

The Government is aware that some local authorities have introduced, or plan to introduce, a charge to local taxpayers wanting to use civic amenity sites to dispose of household waste and/or household recycling. This is in clear breach of the previous legislative provisions passed by Parliament to ensure that such services are provide free of charge to householders.

Such short-termist stealth taxes will not only inconvenience local residents and reduce recycling, but will actively harm the environment, by encouraging fly-tipping and backyard burning. In the Republic of Ireland which has a series of taxes on household waste collection, the domestic burning of household rubbish is the biggest single source of the emission of toxic dioxins into the air. Such pollution crosses local authority boundaries, creating a wider externality and harm to the public good.

We have therefore published proposals to close down the legislative loophole and reinstate the original principle that Parliament established, that such public goods should be free to local taxpayers. A short, statutory consultation paper has been published, and subject to due consideration of the responses, we are minded to introduce the necessary secondary legislation in this Parliament.

Curtailing powers of entry

The Coalition Government has sought to stand up for civil liberties, including curtailing unnecessary state powers of entry, stopping the abuse of surveillance powers and curbs on the use of CCTV as ‘cash cameras’.

Using powers under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, we propose changing the law that officials from the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of HM Revenue and Customs, should no longer have automatic right of entry into homes and businesses in order to value them for council tax and business rates. A tribunal will now scrutinise and need to approve any use of the VOA’s power of entry. It is proposed to change the law though secondary legislation in this Parliament, subject to approval by Parliament. A statutory consultation has been published.

This complements the steps we have taken to stop a council tax revaluation in England and terminate the tax revaluation database to protect hard-working people from unwanted tax rises.

Increasing local accountability in decision making

The Coalition Government has introduced a series of measures to increase local accountability and transparency in local government. Decentralisation should be accompanied by greater local scrutiny.

We are now publishing a short technical consultation on proposals to reform, update and consolidate the ‘functions and responsibilities’ rules in local government law. These provide a framework and guidance on which part of a local authority should be ultimately responsible for taking decisions, across Committee, Cabinet and Mayoral systems, across the accumulated body of local government law from the 19th Century onwards.

The consultation includes proposals to make clear the important role of Full Council in relation to budget setting in non-mayoral cabinets, as well as greater scrutiny by Full Council on the controversial issues of parking and waste collection. This framework provides a democratic check and balance to prevent the abuse of executive power, and ensure elected local councillors are able to represent the views of their local residents.

Protecting an independent local press

The Coalition Government is committed to protecting an independent free local press. Localism and a healthy local democracy requires not just scrutiny by councillors, but also by the press and public.

The Government has sought to take action on the practice by a small number of local authorities to publish local authority newspapers, which push out and undermine an independent press, and which constitute an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money.

Further to the Written Ministerial Statement of 13 October 2014, Official Report, Column 2WS, we have warned a small number of councils about their breaches of the local government publicity code. Today, I can announce the conclusions to date of the review into the actions of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council.

On 25 September 2014, the Council was served written notice of a proposed direction requiring them to comply with the provisions in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity relating to frequency of publication of council newsletters, newssheets or similar publications.

Having had regard to representations received from the Council about their publicity - specifically the newspaper produced by the Council, to information available to him about the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council’s publicity, and to an Equality Statement about enforcing the 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, the Secretary of State today gave the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council notice of a direction that he proposes to give to the authority under section 4A of the Local Government Act 1986, directing them to comply as soon as practicable and in any event by 31 March 2015 with the provision in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity that: “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly”.

The Council have fourteen days to make written representation to the Secretary of State about the proposed direction. Following this, the Secretary of State will take his final decision about whether or not to issue the direction. Subject to due process and consideration, we are prepared to use our formal legal powers to intervene wherever it is in taxpayers’ interests and those of a free and fair local democracy if the local councillors wish to issue their own weekly material at their expense or those of their political party; nothing prevents this, other than prevailing electoral law.

We have been carefully considering the representations from those other local authorities that received written notices on 25 September 2014 before deciding what action to take, and will make further, separate announcements to the House shortly on the individual cases. Each decision will be taken on its own merits.

I will be placing copies of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS240
WS
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Made on: 29 January 2015
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (Government Whip)
Lords

Higher Education

My Rt Hon Friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science (Greg Clark) has today made the following statement.

The Government is taking a number of steps to secure improved standards among alternative providers of higher education.

Britain’s system of higher education is renowned worldwide for its high quality, a reputation that continues to strengthen as demonstrated by the results of the recent Research Excellence Framework. It is essential that this reputation for quality continues to strengthen in all parts of the sector.

Among alternative providers of higher education some institutions contribute strongly to this reputation through exceptionally high levels of student satisfaction and the employability of graduates.

As the National Audit Office (NAO) has shown, some, however, have raised questions over the consistency of the delivery of quality provision to appropriately qualified candidates by some alternative providers.

The Government has already taken a number of steps to tighten standards among such providers, such as requiring, in 2014, all alternative providers to re-apply to be designated using a more robust designation process.

We will now take the following further steps to provider greater assurance of quality specifically:

· Alternative providers will need to be redesignated every year, rather than remaining designated indefinitely. This will not apply to the seven providers with Degree Awarding Powers that have courses designated for student support.

· As a condition of designation providers will undergo a strengthened quality assurance process, Higher Education Review, which will apply to all higher education providers and be the common review framework of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England.

· From now on alternative providers will be required to have registered any student with the relevant qualification awarding body before a claim for tuition fee support for that student can be made.

· A ‘fit and proper person’ test will apply to all directors of alternative providers as a specific requirement of the annual designation process, in line with practice in the publicly-funded sector. Changes of directors, or their circumstances, will need to be notified during the year, as well as at the annual designation point.

· Alternative providers will be required to submit information on students’ previous qualifications, demographic characteristics and achievements. This information will be published through the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

· Subject to consultation we intend to introduce a minimum English language requirement to ensure that students studying for qualifications at alternative providers have sufficient language skills to succeed at their course.

· We will require alternative providers, subject to consultation, to provide students with good quality information on: student satisfaction ratings, graduate salaries and employment, tuition fees, financial support and the cost of accommodation - through the Key Information Set, which already applies to HEFCE-funded providers.

· We will remove the student number cap from the seven providers with Degree Awarding Powers that have courses designated for student support, and allow providers offering validated degrees the flexibility to increase the number of students they recruit by up to 20% in 2015/16. We will retain the cap on all other alternative providers. From 2016/17 we will allow providers with a strong performance to expand, while reducing student numbers for other providers.

· A rapid response investigatory team has been established, headed by the Government Internal Audit Agency and including the Student Loans Company, HEFCE, the Quality Assurance Agency and BIS. The team will be able quickly to investigate allegations of abuse of the system.

· Pearson, whose qualifications are delivered by some of the alternative providers about whom the NAO have expressed concerns, have strengthened their internal quality assurance process, introducing annual approval and student re-registration and increasing the level of proficiency in English required of student entering Higher National courses.

Taken together these measures will improve the assurance that only quality alternative providers can be designated, that they recruit only students who are suited to their courses, and that student numbers in alternative providers are at appropriate levels in each provider.

The Government is determined to ensure that the strong reputation for quality in UK higher education continues and strengthens.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS239
WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 29 January 2015
Made by: Kris Hopkins (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Commons

Local Government Update

I would like to update Hon. Members on a series of announcements relating to local government.

Promoting joint working with NHS and councils this winter

The Coalition Government is committed to greater joint working between our local public services, to help save money and improve frontline services.

From April 2015, through the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund, we are starting to transform the way we deliver health and social care services, so that they provide a properly joined-up service for patients. It will prevent up to 160,000 A&E admissions and save over £500 million in the year ahead. We have approved 97% of the local Better Care Fund plans, and the final few plans are being reviewed now.

Ahead of its April introduction, and in light of the expected cold winter, to help further promote joint working, we are announcing a total of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities, so that they can step up their efforts to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place.

£25 million of this will help over 9,500 people with additional support packages to move from hospital either back to their home or into residential care; the further £12 million will mean up to 3,500 more people a week will get home from hospital more quickly this winter, with the local authority putting in place carers and equipment to meet their needs, freeing up much-needed hospital beds within the NHS.

Social services have to be part of the solution to the high demand on hospitals at the moment. We know that they can help by getting people home more quickly when it is safe to do so once they have been discharged. And we also know that the best social care can prevent people from having to go to A&E in the first place by supporting the elderly to live with dignity and independence at home.

Extending local business rate retention

The Coalition Government has introduced new financial incentives to councils to support locally-led enterprise and economic growth, as part of our programme of decentralisation and as part of our long-term economic plan.

Since 2013, local government keeps half of all business rate revenues and business rate growth. But we want to go further over time to increase these incentives.

Last year, we announced proposals to allow 100% local retention of business rates on shale oil and gas sites. In October, we published a technical consultation on draft regulations to implement this measure. We received 25 responses. A majority of those supported retention of 100% of business rates on shale oil and gas by local government. Having considered the responses we have decided to continue with our proposals as set out in the technical consultation. This policy will ensure that local councils that host shale oil or gas sites can benefit from millions of pounds in business rates paid. The measure could be worth up to £1.7 million for a typical site and will be funded by central government.

Shale will help to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets benefitting the UK through improved energy security and economic prospects. Local councils and communities have an important part to play in securing those improvements and we believe they should also share in the economic opportunities and benefits of shale. Tough environmental protections are in place, and are being further enhanced as announced to the House during the Infrastructure Bill on Monday.

The associated secondary legislation has been laid before Parliament, and the responses to the consultation published. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the provisions will come into force in April 2015.

Promoting recycling and protecting the local environment

The Coalition Government is committed to making it easier for families to recycle, whilst avoiding unfair stealth taxes on hard-working people.

The Government is aware that some local authorities have introduced, or plan to introduce, a charge to local taxpayers wanting to use civic amenity sites to dispose of household waste and/or household recycling. This is in clear breach of the previous legislative provisions passed by Parliament to ensure that such services are provide free of charge to householders.

Such short-termist stealth taxes will not only inconvenience local residents and reduce recycling, but will actively harm the environment, by encouraging fly-tipping and backyard burning. In the Republic of Ireland which has a series of taxes on household waste collection, the domestic burning of household rubbish is the biggest single source of the emission of toxic dioxins into the air. Such pollution crosses local authority boundaries, creating a wider externality and harm to the public good.

We have therefore published proposals to close down the legislative loophole and reinstate the original principle that Parliament established, that such public goods should be free to local taxpayers. A short, statutory consultation paper has been published, and subject to due consideration of the responses, we are minded to introduce the necessary secondary legislation in this Parliament.

Curtailing powers of entry

The Coalition Government has sought to stand up for civil liberties, including curtailing unnecessary state powers of entry, stopping the abuse of surveillance powers and curbs on the use of CCTV as ‘cash cameras’.

Using powers under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, we propose changing the law that officials from the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of HM Revenue and Customs, should no longer have automatic right of entry into homes and businesses in order to value them for council tax and business rates. A tribunal will now scrutinise and need to approve any use of the VOA’s power of entry. It is proposed to change the law though secondary legislation in this Parliament, subject to approval by Parliament. A statutory consultation has been published.

This complements the steps we have taken to stop a council tax revaluation in England and terminate the tax revaluation database to protect hard-working people from unwanted tax rises.

Increasing local accountability in decision making

The Coalition Government has introduced a series of measures to increase local accountability and transparency in local government. Decentralisation should be accompanied by greater local scrutiny.

We are now publishing a short technical consultation on proposals to reform, update and consolidate the ‘functions and responsibilities’ rules in local government law. These provide a framework and guidance on which part of a local authority should be ultimately responsible for taking decisions, across Committee, Cabinet and Mayoral systems, across the accumulated body of local government law from the 19th Century onwards.

The consultation includes proposals to make clear the important role of Full Council in relation to budget setting in non-mayoral cabinets, as well as greater scrutiny by Full Council on the controversial issues of parking and waste collection. This framework provides a democratic check and balance to prevent the abuse of executive power, and ensure elected local councillors are able to represent the views of their local residents.

Protecting an independent local press

The Coalition Government is committed to protecting an independent free local press. Localism and a healthy local democracy requires not just scrutiny by councillors, but also by the press and public.

The Government has sought to take action on the practice by a small number of local authorities to publish local authority newspapers, which push out and undermine an independent press, and which constitute an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money.

Further to the Written Ministerial Statement of 13 October 2014, Official Report, Column 2WS, we have warned a small number of councils about their breaches of the local government publicity code. Today, I can announce the conclusions to date of the review into the actions of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council.

On 25 September 2014, the Council was served written notice of a proposed direction requiring them to comply with the provisions in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity relating to frequency of publication of council newsletters, newssheets or similar publications.

Having had regard to representations received from the Council about their publicity - specifically the newspaper produced by the Council, to information available to him about the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council’s publicity, and to an Equality Statement about enforcing the 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, the Secretary of State today gave the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council notice of a direction that he proposes to give to the authority under section 4A of the Local Government Act 1986, directing them to comply as soon as practicable and in any event by 31 March 2015 with the provision in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity that: “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly”.

The Council have fourteen days to make written representation to the Secretary of State about the proposed direction. Following this, the Secretary of State will take his final decision about whether or not to issue the direction. Subject to due process and consideration, we are prepared to use our formal legal powers to intervene wherever it is in taxpayers’ interests and those of a free and fair local democracy if the local councillors wish to issue their own weekly material at their expense or those of their political party; nothing prevents this, other than prevailing electoral law.

We have been carefully considering the representations from those other local authorities that received written notices on 25 September 2014 before deciding what action to take, and will make further, separate announcements to the House shortly on the individual cases. Each decision will be taken on its own merits.

I will be placing copies of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS218
WS
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Made on: 29 January 2015
Made by: Greg Clark (Minister of State for Universities and Science)
Commons

Higher Education

The Government is taking a number of steps to secure improved standards among alternative providers of higher education.

Britain’s system of higher education is renowned worldwide for its high quality, a reputation that continues to strengthen as demonstrated by the results of the recent Research Excellence Framework. It is essential that this reputation for quality continues to strengthen in all parts of the sector.

Among alternative providers of higher education some institutions contribute strongly to this reputation through exceptionally high levels of student satisfaction and the employability of graduates.

As the National Audit Office (NAO) has shown, some, however, have raised questions over the consistency of the delivery of quality provision to appropriately qualified candidates by some alternative providers.

The Government has already taken a number of steps to tighten standards among such providers, such as requiring, in 2014, all alternative providers to re-apply to be designated using a more robust designation process.

We will now take the following further steps to provider greater assurance of quality specifically:

· Alternative providers will need to be redesignated every year, rather than remaining designated indefinitely. This will not apply to the seven providers with Degree Awarding Powers that have courses designated for student support.

· As a condition of designation providers will undergo a strengthened quality assurance process, Higher Education Review, which will apply to all higher education providers and be the common review framework of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England.

· From now on alternative providers will be required to have registered any student with the relevant qualification awarding body before a claim for tuition fee support for that student can be made.

· A ‘fit and proper person’ test will apply to all directors of alternative providers as a specific requirement of the annual designation process, in line with practice in the publicly-funded sector. Changes of directors, or their circumstances, will need to be notified during the year, as well as at the annual designation point.

· Alternative providers will be required to submit information on students’ previous qualifications, demographic characteristics and achievements. This information will be published through the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

· Subject to consultation we intend to introduce a minimum English language requirement to ensure that students studying for qualifications at alternative providers have sufficient language skills to succeed at their course.

· We will require alternative providers, subject to consultation, to provide students with good quality information on: student satisfaction ratings, graduate salaries and employment, tuition fees, financial support and the cost of accommodation - through the Key Information Set, which already applies to HEFCE-funded providers.

· We will remove the student number cap from the seven providers with Degree Awarding Powers that have courses designated for student support, and allow providers offering validated degrees the flexibility to increase the number of students they recruit by up to 20% in 2015/16. We will retain the cap on all other alternative providers. From 2016/17 we will allow providers with a strong performance to expand, while reducing student numbers for other providers.

· A rapid response investigatory team has been established, headed by the Government Internal Audit Agency and including the Student Loans Company, HEFCE, the Quality Assurance Agency and BIS. The team will be able quickly to investigate allegations of abuse of the system.

· Pearson, whose qualifications are delivered by some of the alternative providers about whom the NAO have expressed concerns, have strengthened their internal quality assurance process, introducing annual approval and student re-registration and increasing the level of proficiency in English required of student entering Higher National courses.

Taken together these measures will improve the assurance that only quality alternative providers can be designated, that they recruit only students who are suited to their courses, and that student numbers in alternative providers are at appropriate levels in each provider.

The Government is determined to ensure that the strong reputation for quality in UK higher education continues and strengthens.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS217
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