TOUGH NEW MEASURES TO TACKLE DRINK DRIVING

The Parliamentary Information Office has been monitoring progress in Government policy relating to alcohol misuse for major features on responsible drinking in the next edition of the publication. In March last year, 2011, we reported on the Government’s response to the reports by Sir Peter North and the Transport Select Committee on drink and drug driving. Then last Thursday, 22nd November 2012, the government launched a consultation on some of the legislative changes the government proposed in its response

 

Included in the package of tough measures announced by Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond mp are plans to remove the statutory right to a replacement blood or urine test where a breath test reading is above and close to the legal limit, closing the loophole which allows those testing positive in breath to sober up while they wait for a blood or urine sample to be taken.

 

The government also intends to legislate to allow police the option not to perform a preliminary breath test where roadside evidential breath tests are carried out following the rollout of roadside evidential breath testing devices and give registered health care professionals greater roles in testing drink drivers – both of which options would speed up the enforcement process and deal with more drink drivers.

 

Stephen Hammond said:

 

“We have made great progress in tackling drink drivers and the 2011 fatality figure for drink and drive accidents is the second lowest ever recorded.

 

“However, last year 280 people died ruining the lives of families up and down the country so more needs to be done to eradicate this menace. That is why we are taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement against drink driving.

 

“I am determined to make the jobs of those who deal with drink drivers easier and less bureaucratic so that bringing offenders to justice is not left to chance.

 

“Currently, drivers who record less than 50 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath have the right to demand a blood or urine test – despite being over the legal limit of 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres. This is known as the statutory option.

 

“This option dates back to the original introduction of breathalyser technology when there were concerns over reliability.

 

“In his review of drink and drug driving Sir Peter North recommended the removal of the right to demand a blood or urine test as evidence showed people were using it as a delaying tactic. The government also believes that improvements in the accuracy of technology means that this option is no longer necessary.

 

“The consultation also seeks views on removing the requirement for a preliminary breath test where roadside evidential breath testing is used. At the moment, when a suspected drink driver is pulled over by police, they undergo a preliminary breath test and are then taken to a police station for a further evidential test.

 

“Results from the evidential test taken at police stations are the only ones used as evidence. Under the new plans, following the introduction of mobile evidential testing devices the police could perform the eventual test at the roadside so the preliminary test would not be required.

 

“The government also wants to see a wider range of registered healthcare professionals given the power to take evidential blood samples in hospitals and to assess whether a driver may have a condition due to a drug. This will enable tests to be carried out more swiftly, easing the pressure on doctors who are currently the only professionals with the authority to carry out the tests.”

 

Other proposals within the plans include:

 

o   commissioning further research into the current process used to decide whether a driver banned due to drink driving can regain their licence

o   further exploration of how greater use can be made of vehicle forfeiture powers to get the most dangerous and irresponsible motorists off the road, including drink drivers.

 

This consultation encompasses the legislative changes the Government proposed in its response of March 2011 to the reports by Sir Peter North and the Transport Select Committee on drink and drug driving.

 

The consultation period runs until 2 January 2013

 

The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook will continue to report on Government action to curb alcohol misuse over the months ahead.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

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THE UK’s G8 PRIORITIES

The Parliamentary Information Office reported last November (2012) that the 2013 G8 Summit of world leaders will take place in Enniskillen, Fermanagh’s county town. On Tuesday 1st January 2013 the Prime Minister announced that the UK’s G8 Presidency will be an economic G8 that deals with big issues in the global economy and prioritizes trade, tax and transparency.

 

The Prime Minister David Cameron has written to fellow G8 leaders to outline his plans for the G8 Presidency.

 

“As the UK takes over the Presidency of the G8, I wanted to write myself to begin a discussion with you about what we can achieve together. We will be meeting at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June. Northern Ireland’s prospects have been transformed by the peace process of the last twenty years – and it is a mark of the progress made that we can hold a G8 Summit there.

 

“It is clear that in 2013 the world will continue to face grave economic uncertainty. Our first priority will be dealing with the challenges in our own countries. But as leaders of eight countries making up around half of the world’s entire GDP, the ambitious standards we set and the bold steps we take by working together through the G8 can make a tangible difference by firing up economies and driving prosperity, not just in our own countries, but all over the world.

 

“I hope that at Lough Erne we can seize this opportunity. At the heart of my agenda for the Summit are three issues – advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency. All of them are areas where I believe the G8 can play a distinctive role, using our commitment to open economies, open governments and open societies to support enterprise and deliver economic growth.”

 

The G8 (Group of 8) is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the USA and the UK. The EU is represented by Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council. The Presidency of the G8 rotates each calendar year and the country holding the G8 Presidency is responsible for hosting and organizing the annual summit, with a number of preparatory meetings leading up to it. The summit is an opportunity for G8 leaders to have frank and open discussions about the important global issues of the day. 2013 is the UK’s turn to shape the G8’s approach to these discussions with G8 leaders holding each other to account and agreeing concrete steps to advance growth and prosperity across the world.

 

As the chair of the G8, the UK has a unique opportunity to lead in shaping the outcomes of the summit and taking concrete action with other G8 countries to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including important economic and foreign policy issues of the day.

 

The Prime Minister has announced that he will focus the G8 in 2013 on 3 key areas: open economies, open governments and open societies to unleash the power of the private sector by advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency.

 

Trade

There is no greater stimulus for growth in the world economy than trade and no more important battle than the fight against protectionism. The G8 has collective responsibility to drive forward trade liberalisation. Among G8 countries work is already on going to prepare a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada and work will start next year to begin free trade negotiations between the EU and Japan and the EU and US. An EU-US free trade agreement would be particularly significant – the EU and US together make up nearly a third of all global trade and an ambitious deal between the two could provide an enormous boost to jobs and growth. The G8 leaders’ summit will be an opportunity to show the importance of this ongoing work and to agree how to accelerate progress across our common trade priorities.

 

Tax

The UK’s G8 Presidency will focus on strengthening international tax standards and working on greater international tax information exchange to tackle tax havens. This will build on work that is already underway in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and maintain the momentum set by the G20. And we will work with developing countries to enable them to collect tax that is due to them.

 

Transparency

The G8 has a long history of advancing the development agenda – and the UK’s G8 Presidency will be no different. The UK is meeting its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of its gross national income on aid from 2013 and will hold other countries to account for their promises too. With this track record on aid, the Prime Minister plans to use the G8 Presidency to support the ‘golden thread’ of conditions that he sees as critical to the growth and prosperity of countries across the world. These include the absence of conflict, clamping down on corruption and ensuring strong and accountable government.

 

Transparency and accountability are vitally important to achieve these conditions. Too often, development at the G8 has been about rich countries doing things to poor countries. But at Lough Erne the G8 will focus on getting its own house in order and helping developing countries to prosper in the process. An example of this is mineral wealth. It’s important that developing countries rich in minerals see this as a blessing not a curse. The UK is already leading efforts in the EU that will require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on. The UK’s G8 Presidency will push for greater transparency all around the globe so that revenues from oil, gas and mining are transparent. This should encourage greater accountability and ensure money doesn’t fuel conflict and corruption, but instead is used to provide better public services for citizens.

 

The combined action on trade, tax and transparency during the UK’s G8 Presidency could lay the foundations of long-term growth and prosperity for generations to come and will support the development of open economies, open governments and open societies.

 

The UK’s G8 Presidency will also make progress across a range of vital global issues, including foreign policy challenges and supporting Arab Spring countries. The UK’s Presidency will also build on the Olympic Hunger Summit and the US’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, leading the way in the battle against hunger.

 

And this year the UK will also produce a comprehensive accountability report (CAR) that will show progress against key commitments made by the G8. The report is a concrete example of transparency and accountability at work, a central theme of the UK’s G8 Presidency, and an opportunity to hold G8 leaders to account.

 

The Parliamentary Information Office will await the Summit with considerable interest and report on events in Enniskillen in June this year.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

THE UK: LEADER IN CARBON TRADING

Following its report earlier this month, November 2012, of a special meeting of the EU Environment Committee to discuss the EU Emissions Trading System, the Parliamentary Information Office, is pleased to report that an announcement yesterday established that the UK is leading the way in carbon auctioning.

 

The UK confirmed its global reputation as a centre for traded carbon markets yesterday, 21st November 2012, as the UK’s first auction for Phase III allowances of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) took place in the City of London.

 

The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is a cornerstone of the European Union’s policy to combat climate change and its key tool for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. The first and biggest international scheme for the trading of greenhouse gas emission allowances, the EU ETS covers some 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 countries.

 

London is now the hub for 90% of EU carbon trading and 80% of global carbon trading – a £90 billion market.

 

The Rt Hon Greg Barker mp, Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change said:

 

“The UK is really leading the way in carbon auctioning, and today’s sale reaffirms London’s position as a global hub for the market.

 

“Not only does this help incentivise significant emission reductions and behaviour change amongst businesses, but it also generates millions of pounds in revenue each year for the Treasury, at little or no cost to the taxpayer. This is a win-win, which makes both environmental and economic sense”.

 

Phase III sees the first sale through a private company, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) working in partnership with Government.

 

ICE Futures Europe is Europe’s largest energy and emissions exchange and the home of Brent and Gasoil, the world’s crude and refined oil futures benchmarks. In addition to the leading emissions market, ICE Futures Europe also lists European natural gas futures and options contracts.

 

David Peniket, President and COO, ICE Futures Europe said:

 

“Today’s successful auction of Phase III allowances on the ICE auction platform on behalf of the UK government represents a new milestone in the development of European emissions trading.

 

“ICE is committed to continuing to help deliver liquidity and transparent price discovery for this important market”.

 

This first UK auction of Phase III allowances held today was hosted by ICE Futures Europe, the Exchange platform, which was appointed in April 2012 to host the UK auctions.

 

The auction sold 6.5 million EUAs with an Auction Clearing Price of €6.62, raising approximately £34 million for the exchequer.

 

During Phase II of the EU ETS (ending this year), the UK held 30 successful competitive auctions, selling almost 123 million EU allowances (EUAs) and raising approximately £1.3 billion.

 

Each EUA represents an entitlement to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent gas.

 

During Phase III (2013-2020), the UK will sell approximately this number of allowances every year.

Emissions trading establish the price of greenhouse gas emissions, which allows the market to determine the most economically efficient method for businesses to reduce their emissions.

 

Auctioning provides the most efficient way of distributing allowances to the market and reinforces the ‘polluters pay’ principle which encourages businesses to factor in the cost of carbon into the decision they make.

 

The EU ETS is central to the Government’s policy for reducing emissions; around 50% of the emissions reductions that the UK has achieved to date have been incentivized by the scheme.

 

The UK has been a leader in the development of carbon auctioning, being one of the first countries to auction in phase II and one of the Member States to sell the most allowances during that phase. This latest auction reaffirms London’s position as the leader in this expanding market.

 

The UK is also taking steps towards introducing a stronger Carbon Price Floor for the generation sector. This will ensure that proper incentives are put in place within the market to support the low-carbon economy.

 

The Parliamentary Information Office will report further on the progress of the Emissions Trading System and the UK’s performance as we go through the months ahead.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

THE EU BUDGET 2012/13

The Parliamentary Information Office is, with constitutional pundits generally, waiting for the results of today’s European budget negotiations prior to the presentation of the EU draft budget tomorrow, 23rd November 2012.

 

Prime Minister David Cameron will meet this morning, 22nd November 2012, with Herman Van Rompuy, the EU president, who is proposing a deal that would cut the overall budget, but reduce the value of Britain’s annual rebate.

 

Speaking earlier Mr Cameron said he would be “negotiating hard” against an “unacceptable” EU spending increase and defending the British rebate.

 

The Commission is to present a new draft budget on Friday 23rd November 2012. After that, negotiations will re-start between Parliament and Council, aiming for a deal to be adopted at the 10-13 December 2012 plenary session and yesterday discussions on the Budget dominated European Parliamentary activity.

 

Parliament’s President Martin Schulz urged the blocking minority of member states to stop preventing the Commission from paying bills it is legally obliged to pay, in a debate in Strasbourg yesterday, 21st November 2012. These member states’ refusal to agree on an amending budget for 2012 was the reason why budget negotiations broke down on 13th November 2012.

 

Mr Schulz, referring to the main cause of the current deadlock in the annual budget negotiations, said:

 

“There are some member states in the Council which are not willing to honour their own promises. They are trying to push the EU to adopt a deficit budget. They may have done this at home, and too often and for a too long, but this house is not willing to accept such procedures at European level.

 

“This is that a blocking minority of member states refuse to adopt an amending budget to enable the Commission to pay its bills, despite last year’s promise to act promptly to remedy any such shortfalls.”

 

Mr Schulz added:

 

“If there are still unpaid bills for 2012, we cannot take any serious decision for 2013.

 

“The European Parliament is not willing to negotiate in this way. If we do not solve the problems in 2012, the EU will need to pay interest on the delays. This is not a proper way to run a budget, it is not sound financial management”,

 

During the debate with the Cyprus Presidency of the Council and the Commission, several MEPs from various political groups underlined the same message.

 

The EU needs an adequate and flexible long-term budget to strengthen its economy and labour market, said most political group leaders in the debate. This was a signal to today’s extraordinary European Council, which will seek a political agreement on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. The Council must agree unanimously, and any deal must be endorsed by Parliament.

 

“We have to go below the Commission proposal”, said Cyprus Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Andreas Mavroyiannis for the Council, pointing to the budgetary constraints across Europe The latest proposal, tabled by European Council President Herman van Rompuy, “includes all elements necessary for a deal”, he added. This proposal is €80 billion less than the European Commission proposal of €1.033 billion for seven years.

 

The budget negotiations are “a test for the EU’s credibility”, said Commission President José Manuel Barroso. “Some people say ‘let’s cut!’ and then pretend it does not make any difference. But a little difference in the EU budget makes a massive difference for the people depending on EU program. Just as an example; for every billion cut in the Horizon 2020 program, 4,000 small and medium sized enterprises lose funding”, he said.

 

EPP-Group leader Joseph Daul warned that with a budget below 1% of European GNI “we cannot continue the current policies”. Noting that 517 MEPs had voted in favour of a strong EU budget, he reiterated that the EU needs a sound and responsible budget to deliver on existing plans and promises, and added that “investing in the future is the only way out of the crisis”.

 

S&D group leader Hannes Swoboda, strongly criticised the “everyone for himself attitude” taken by some member states: “We hear people talk about €50 billion less, €80 billion, €100 billion, even €200 billion less. It is a disgraceful race to the bottom, as if the EU budget was merely a numbers game, he said, adding that the EU needs “enough to perform”.

 

ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt, compared the EU budget with national ones: “The whole debate is ridiculous. We talk about 1% of EU GNI, which is less than the budget of Belgium or Austria. The German and French budgets are both 8 to 10 times bigger than that of the EU. We need a strong EU budget, because pooling resources at EU level is the only way to beat problems at national level. We should be ready to block a deal that goes below the Commission proposal”, he said.

 

For the Green group, Helga Trüpel said “Chancellor Merkel was wrong when she told us two weeks ago that 27 member states have decided to invest 3% of GNP in research and development. She leads a band of net payers who want to cut R&D by 12% and hide behind the current presidency”.

 

Conservative Group leader Martin Callanan criticised those “who believe every problem can be solved by more Europe”. He dismissed the idea that the EU budget is an investment budget, noting that 40% of it goes on farm subsidies and 6% on administrative overheads. Mr Callanan nonetheless said that cohesion funds should be maintained for those member states which need it most.

 

For the EFD group, Nigel Farage said “it is remarkable that the European Union is talking about taking another trillion Euro from EU taxpayers, despite the fact that the accounts have not been signed off for 18 years in a row. If this was a company, the directors, or in this case the Commission, would all be in prison.”

 

For the GUE/NGL group, Gabriele Zimmer said “the additional funds asked for by the Commission merely reflect the increased tasks given to the European Union. It is not going to be used for more administration. For example, how can the EU continue to combat social exclusion and poverty if there is going to be a cut in the funding to the poorest of the poor? A different attitude must come forward in Council. People have to move away from these narrow, parochial, national interests.”

 

The declaration, signed a year ago by all member states and Parliament, says: “The Council and the European Parliament ……. ask the Commission to request additional payment appropriations in an amending budget if the appropriations entered in the 2012 budget are insufficient. …… The Council and the European Parliament will take a position on any draft amending budget as quickly as possible in order to avoid any shortfall in payment appropriations.”

 

The Parliamentary Information Office will report on the outcome of the Council negotiations and, of course, on the draft and final budgets.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

RAIL 2020 REPORT

Recently the Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook has been reporting on the Government’s plans for railway upgrades including plans for High Speed 2. In a report setting out their vision for the railway by 2020 the Transport Select Committee endorses the quest for a more efficient railway but raises concerns about safety, staffing and the protection of passenger interests.

 

Launching Rail 2020, the report of its inquiry examining government proposals to reform the railway, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee said:

 

“The number of rail passengers has increased but train companies’ unit costs have not come down. The Government wants to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers, but it must not do so by ramping up fares which can be complex and are often very expensive. Ministers must urgently set out a long-term policy on fares and rule out using higher fares to reduce peak demand for train services.

 

“There are good economic, social and environmental reasons for the Government to provide a £4 billion subsidy to the railway, but to drive efficiency savings across the sector the Government and the regulator must shine a light on complacent management, waste and profiteering by ensuring greater transparency in the finances of the rail industry.

 

“It is vital we know far more about how public money is spent so that there is confidence it does not leak out of the system in the form of unjustified profits. The Government should publish and consult on a clear statement of what the subsidy is for and where it should be targeted. Commercial confidentiality should not be used to block legitimate requirements for information.”

 

The Committee supports the McNulty Report’s general approach to achieving substantial savings. But it considers his target to save £3.5 billion by 2018/19 to be challenging and expresses specific concerns about safety, staffing and the protection of passengers’ interests. Commenting on this

 

Louise Ellman added:

 

“If train operating companies do not realise substantial efficiency savings over the next five years, then the case for more far-reaching structural changes to the industry will become compelling. Changes to the numbers and duties of station staff should not be pursued solely to reduce costs or at the expense of passenger safety or service quality. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) should also monitor safety where Network Rail and train operating companies have formed alliances, ensuring these arrangements reflect the interests of taxpayers and passengers”.

 

The report does not focus on the lessons of the West Coast Mainline Franchise debacle but the MPs make some recommendations about rail franchises, to influence the current government review. In particular, the Committee sees merit in continuing with longer rail franchises but suggests the Government explores options for reviewing contracts every five year and looks at spreading premium payments over the full length of each franchise contract. MPs also recommend that franchises which need to be re-let soon should be tendered on the basis of medium-term franchises of seven to ten years’ duration, to avoid holding up the whole process.

 

The Committee calls on the Department for Transport to consider delegating the letting and management of rail franchises to an arms-length body with more commercial expertise than the Department has at its own disposal. It also suggests that franchises should be designed to deliver wider policy objectives such as the promotion of sustainable end-to-end journeys, the quality of the passenger experience, or economic development.

 

Speaking about future franchising, Louise Ellman said, “Confidence in the DfT has been badly shaken by the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise. We are not convinced that the DfT as currently structured is best placed both to set rail policy and deliver the detailed work required to run each franchise competition. A new arms-length franchising body could employ staff with the appropriate specialist and commercial skills required to let and manage effective franchise contracts. However, ministers must remain fully accountable to Parliament for the railway.”

 

The Transport Committee has set out its own vision for the railway, including:

o   Clarity about the purpose and effectiveness of rail subsidies.

o   A clear link between policy on rail and other aspects of transport policy, for example a focus on sustainable end-to-end journeys

o   A strategic approach to policy-making which does not sacrifice democratic accountability, takes passenger interests more clearly into account, upholds safety standards and develops a strategy for improving the security of the rail network.

o   Greater transparency about the costs of rail (and the assumptions underpinning the Department for Transport’s analysis of the ratio of taxpayer to farepayer funding on different types of rail service), to ensure that new investment, operator alliances, profit or wastage levels and various forms of franchise can be better compared and evaluated.

o   More modern, flexible fares and ticketing options and a clear long-term policy on regulated fares that rules out even higher fares for commuters on peak time trains.

o   A strong single economic regulator for the rail industry with capacity and credibility to deliver savings across the board

o   Effective industry leadership via the Rail Delivery Group, scrutinised closely by the regulator to ensure that this strategic body acts in the best interests of the farepayer and taxpayer, rather than simply of established rail interests.

o   Devolution for some rail franchises, such as the Northern franchise, to local or regional bodies.

 

The Committee recommends that the Rail Delivery Group, made up of senior industry leaders, should spearhead the swift implementation of innovative ticketing technology and work with Passenger Focus to develop a clear strategy for improving retail facilities on stations and trains.

MPs also warn the rail regulator it must ensure that alliances between Network Rail and train operators don’t disadvantage rail freight. Likewise the regulator must take a cautious approach to approving the sale or redevelopment of former railway land in case such resources may be required for rail in future.

 

The committee plans to issue a further report in due course examining franchising including lessons from the west coast mainline franchises debacle.

 

We shall be adding to the article as there are further developments and any changes to the plans will be reflected in the content. The full report will be published in print and online in the next edition of the Parliamentary Yearbook.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

PARLIAMENTARY BACKBENCH BUSINESS COMMITTEE

The Parliamentary Information Office reported in 2010 on the set-up of the Backbench Business Committee which was introduced to give control of some Parliamentary time to backbench MPs. It was agreed that it should be reviewed after the first session (2010–2012). The Procedure Committee has now made some modest recommendations to increase its powers and responsibilities.

 

The Backbench Business Committee meets weekly on Tuesdays at 3pm to hear representations from MPs for debates in backbench time. This is the first business committee of any kind to be established by the House and gives an opportunity to backbench Members to bring forward debates of their choice.

 

The committee can consider any subject for debate, including those raised in e-petitions or national campaigns but an MP must make the case for their consideration.

 

The Government decides which days of the week will be given to the Backbench Business Committee for its debates and the amount of time available varies each month. The committee has limited time to schedule for debates and it is not possible to allocate debates on all the subjects suggested.

 

In a report published yesterday, 22nd November 2012, the Procedure Committee says that the Backbench Business Committee has been widely welcomed by MPs as a successful innovation, and makes some modest recommendations to increase its powers and responsibilities.

 

The Procedure Committee has reviewed its first two years, and concludes that while there is no need for major substantial change to the practices or procedures which have developed around backbench business and the work of the Committee, a number of proposals could improve and refine the framework within which it operates.

 

Noting the widespread approval of the Backbench Business Committee’s innovative approach in hearing representations from MPs pitching for debating time in public, the report recommends a change to the Standing Orders to regularize that approach.

 

The report concludes that there is scope for the Government to allow the Backbench Business Committee a legitimate expectation of a backbench business slot, in the Chamber or in Westminster Hall, in every sitting week, with exceptions at certain times of the parliamentary year (for example, the debate on the Queen’s Speech and the Budget). Such an expectation would ensure a more even spread of backbench days over the year, and enable the Backbench Business Committee to plan ahead more effectively. The report also recommends that the Committee be given the power to table business motions to regulate the time for which it is responsible.

 

Recognising the success of the Backbench Business Committee’s approach to selecting matters for debate, the report proposes that responsibility for scheduling one of the four 90-minute adjournment debates that occur each week in Westminster Hall be transferred from the Speaker to the Backbench Business Committee, on a one-year trial basis.

 

It also endorses the Liaison Committee’s recent proposal for statements in the House on the day of publication of a select committee report, adding the suggestion that such statements could also be taken in Westminster Hall.

 

Charles Walker mp, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said:

 

“We congratulate the Chair and members of the Backbench Business Committee for opening up more time in the House to backbenchers and for the transparent way in which they conduct their determinations.

 

“The Committee has firmly established itself as a key tool for backbench MPs during the first two years of this Parliament. We now have the opportunity to make some small improvements and refine the framework in which the Committee operates, to ensure that this success continues.”

 

The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook, with constitutional pundits generally, follows business in the Parliamentary committees and will continue to report on both constitutional and Parliamentary business

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org

LATEST NEWS ON THE ENERGY BILL

In its report on the Government’s draft Energy Bill in November this year, 2012, the Parliamentary Information Office published details of the Government’s long-awaited Energy Bill.

 

Subject to Parliament, the Energy Bill is expected to achieve Royal Assent in 2013, so that Electricity Market Reform (EMR) is fully up and running in 2014 as planned. The Bill has undergone a period of pre-legislative scrutiny by the ECC Select Committee since it was published in draft in May 2012.

 

All provisions in this Bill extend to England and Wales, and the majority will also extend to Scotland (apart from Clause 119 – Nuclear decommissioning costs). A number of provisions also extend to Northern Ireland.

 

The Energy Bill sets out measures to reform the electricity market, in order to keep the lights on, bills down and to reduce emissions.

 

The Bill was debated by MPs from noon on 19th December 2012 as it was introduced for its 2nd reading in Parliament.

 

On the eve of the debate, Secretary of State Edward Davey said:

 

“The Coalition Government is proposing a once-in-a-generation transformation of the electricity market from fossil-fuel dependency to low-carbon diversity.

 

“The Energy Bill will bring about a renaissance in our energy sector, providing the certainty companies need to invest a record £110 billion to upgrade our ageing power stations.

 

“This will support our economic recovery, resulting in thousands of new jobs in every nation and region of the UK.

 

“It will enable us to keep the lights on and to keep bills affordable for consumers, whilst leading to a significant decarbonisation of the power sector in order to meet our climate targets.

 

“To further support emission reductions in the power sector, we will take additional powers in the Bill to set a decarbonisation target range for 2030. A decision to exercise this power will be taken once the Climate Change Committee has provided advice in 2016 on the 5th Carbon Budget which covers the corresponding period.

 

“In addition, we will limit the bamboozling array of energy tariffs suppliers provide to four tariffs per fuel type. This will help to move millions of households on to better energy deals.

 

“Ofgem as independent regulator will be given more teeth, with energy companies required to pay compensation to consumers as well as to the regulator if they breach the terms of their licence conditions.

 

“New players will be encouraged into the electricity market through measures we have added to promote competition and liquidity.

 

“And we will further strengthen this Bill by adding proposals to promote energy efficiency and electricity demand reduction.

 

“This Bill provides the radical reforms Britain needs to secure energy infrastructure that is fit for the 21st Century.

 

“It is good for consumers, good for the economy and good for the environment”.

 

The Bill has now been sent to Public Bill Committee. The first sitting of the committee will be on a date to be announced.

 

The Bill was debated at second reading on 19 December 2012. The House of Commons voted for the Bill to be sent to a Public Bill Committee that will scrutinise the Bill line by line.

 

The Committee is expected to report by 12 February 2013.

 

Summary of the Bill

To make provision for or in connection with reforming the electricity market for purposes of encouraging low carbon electricity generation or ensuring security of supply; for the establishment and functions of the Office for Nuclear Regulation; about the government pipe-line and storage system and rights exercisable in relation to it; about the designation of a strategy and policy statement; for the making of orders requiring regulated persons to provide redress to consumers of gas or electricity; about offshore transmission of electricity during a commissioning period; for imposing further fees in respect of nuclear decommissioning costs; and for connected purposes.

 

The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook will continue to report on the progress of the bill as we go through the months ahead.

 

Web:www.parliamentaryyearbookinformationoffice.co.uk

Email: parliamentaryyearbook@blakemedia.org