Consultations

DfT: Alcohol rules for leisure mariners moved a step closer with Transport Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, launching a consultation (closes on 6 May 2009) on draft Regulations that will govern which vessels will come under the scope of the offence of ‘being over the limit’.
 
Following an extensive consultation, the Government announced in 2007 that it would introduce similar alcohol restrictions for leisure mariners to those in place for professional seafarers.  The alcohol limit being introduced for leisure mariners is the same as the drink drive limit: 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood and will apply to those persons involved in the navigation of a vessel.
 
The Government proposes that the offence should affect larger, faster vessels while providing an exemption for a limited number of smaller, slower craft.  This consultation seeks views on the draft Regulations that would exempt non-professional mariners on ships which are less than 7m and a design speed of 7 knots or less.
Press release ~ Consultation on Draft Regulations for an Exception from Alcohol Limits for Non-professional mariners
 
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) recently published a consultation paper (closes on 1 May 2009) setting out proposals for the regulation of sale & rent back (SRB) schemes designed to reduce consumer detriment in this growing area of the housing market.
 
This consultation paper (CP) proposes a two-stage approach: an interim regime to be brought in from July 2009 to address the most significant problems consumers face as soon as possible, followed by a full regime which is likely to be implemented in the second quarter of 2010.
Press release ~ Regulating sale and rent back: an interim regime ~ HM Treasury: Protecting consumers in the sale and rent back market ~ OFT SRB market study
 
FSA: In a discussion paper (DP) issued recently for consultation (closes on 8 May 2009), the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has proposed a general short selling disclosure requirement for all UK listed stocks.  The proposals follow a comprehensive review of short selling undertaken since the FSA introduced its temporary ban in September 2008.
 
The DP looks at the arguments for & against short selling, examines possible regulatory constraints on short selling and then examines options for enhanced transparency.  The paper poses a number of questions on each of these areas and asks for responses to assist the FSA in formulating a regulatory response. 
 
The FSA believes that the benefits of short selling such as price efficiency & liquidity, normally outweigh the disadvantages and proposes that there should be no direct restrictions on short selling.  However, the FSA sees advantages in having enhanced transparency of short selling and so proposes that disclosure requirements for significant short positions should be introduced for all UK listed stocks.      
Press release ~ Discussion paper ~ International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) ~ Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR)
 
OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading has launched a consultation (closes 8 May 2009) on draft guidance for businesses engaged in second charge lending. Second charge loans, or 'homeowner loans', involve consumers with an existing mortgage taking out further personal borrowing secured against their home.  Defaulting on a second charge loan can ultimately lead to repossession.  Firms offering such loans must be licensed by the OFT.
 
The draft guidance covers a range of issues such as customer care, advertising & selling techniques, contractual terms & conditions and practices around managing arrears or defaults.  It sets out the standards of behaviour that the OFT expects from those businesses engaged in second charge lending.
 
The guidance is designed to complement existing OFT guidance for lenders.  Responses to the consultation on this guidance will also be taken into account as part of the wider irresponsible lending project being undertaken by the OFT.  Guidance on irresponsible lending is to be published in autumn 2009.
Press release ~ OFT – Second Charge Lending ~ Government announcement of the OFT's intention to issue guidance in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report
 
CRC: An official inquiry into the challenges & opportunities facing England's upland communities advanced a stage further last week, when Dr. Stuart Burgess, the Government's Rural Advocate and Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) announced a 'call for evidence' (Comments can be made any time up to 30 April 2009).
 
The call delivers on a commitment made last year, to draw attention to the current harsh realities of upland life and highlight what these significant parts of England will need if they are to carry on serving the rest of the country as food producers; landscape, wildlife and heritage protectors; a tourism and recreational resource; and stewards of biodiversity, water and soil.
Press release ~ CRC call for evidence ~ Country Land and Business Association (CLA) ~ Defra – English Uplands
 
LLUK: LLUK NI's operational plan for 2009-2010 is now available for consultation until Wednesday 25 February 2009.  It covers the period 2008 to 2011 and outlines how they will meet their strategic objectives for the period from 01 April 2009 until 31 March 2010, with draft plans for 2010-2011.  It also outlines how they will engage with our employers and stakeholders. Comments & feedback can be sent directly to the Northern Ireland team at northernireland@lluk.org or by ringing them on 0870 050 2570.
Press release ~ View the NI Operational Plan
 
OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading is seeking views from interested stakeholders on the main scope of its review into the local and regional media sector. In its recent Digital Britain Interim Report, the Government invited the OFT, together with Ofcom and other interested parties, to look into whether any change is needed in the merger regime regarding local and regional media - with a particular focus on print media.
 
All stakeholders wishing to submit initial comments on the key issues relevant to the scope of the review should respond by the 28 February 2009 to: Ian Windle, 9C/12, Office of Fair Trading, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, LONDON EC4Y 8JX. Tel: (020) 7211 5864 or localmediareview@oft.gsi.gov.uk
 
Following this, interested parties will also have the chance to respond to a full discussion document on the Review, which will be issued in mid-March.  The OFT plans to complete the review by mid-April, and submit findings to Government to fit the timescale for the publication of the final Digital Britain Report which is due early summer 2009.
Press release ~ OFT ~ Digital Britain Interim Report
 
DECC: A proposed new licensing scheme will open up an area of up to 200 miles around the UK for offshore gas storage and importation projects. The scheme will create a regulatory environment that will encourage investment in new gas supply infrastructure, including gas storage.
 
The proposed licensing scheme is outlined in a consultation document (closes on 23 April 2009) that has been published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Under the scheme developers will need to obtain a lease from The Crown Estate for the area they wish to use for gas storage or gas unloading, and a licence from DECC to explore, operate or develop the field or facility.
Press release ~ Consultation on the Proposed Offshore Gas Storage and Gas Unloading Licensing Scheme ~ Previous consultation and responses ~ BGS Report on Geology for offshore gas storage in salt caverns

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper (closes for part on 9 March 2009 and for other bits by 6 April 2009) on regulatory fees & levies which explains how the FSA proposes to raise the annual funding requirement from fee payers and provides an opportunity for comment – See ‘Annual Reports, etc.’ for more information. 
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