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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 7 September 2011


Double Taxation Convention (United Kingdom and Republic of Hungary)

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A new double taxation convention with the Republic of Hungary was signed on 7 September 2011. The text of the convention has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be made available on the HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Communities and Local Government

Permitted Development Rights

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): Fulfilling the mandatory requirements of the Green Energy (Definition and Promotion) Act 2009 we have laid before Parliament Statutory Instruments that amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007. These measures will provide:

New permitted development rights to allow for the installation of electrical outlets for recharging electric vehicles in off-street public and private car parks, and amendments to clarify that local authorities can install on-street charging points for electric vehicle as permitted development; and

Deemed advertisement consent for installers of charging points and energy suppliers to display their nameplates on the charging points; and

New permitted development rights for householders to install small-scale domestic wind turbines and air source heat pumps on their premises, subject to strict limitations and conditions(1)

We will shortly publish a summary of the responses to the public consultation and a more detailed statement on the Government’s response to them. I will place copies of these documents in the House Library.

Subject to the views of parliamentary colleagues the provisions relating to electric vehicle charging points will come into force on 1 October 2011. Those relating to micro-wind turbines and air source heat pumps will come into force on 1 December 2011.

(1)Including a maximum noise limit of 42dB LAeq, 5minutes for both technologies. The noise limit will be reviewed one year after these measures come into force.

Energy and Climate Change

Parliamentary Oral Question (Correction)

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): An error has been identified in the grouped oral answer that I gave to the

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hon. Members for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) and for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell),

Official Report


7 July 2011, columns 1636-1638. The answer refers to the announcement in March of at least 100,000 green deal apprentices being funded. The correct figure should have been 1,000.

The answer given was as follows:

4. Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on skills and employment in the energy sector. [64267]

13. Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) ( Lab): What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on developing skills in the low-carbon sector. [64277]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): My Department works closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to promote skills and employment in the energy sector. The Budget announced £180 million of funding for 50,000 additional adult apprenticeships, and we announced in March that at least 100,000 green deal apprentices could receive Government funding towards their training. There are many opportunities, with the new build nuclear programme alone expected to create 30,000 high-skilled new jobs nationally.

The correct answer should have been:

My Department works closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to promote skills and employment in the energy sector. The Budget announced £180 million of funding for 50,000 additional adult apprenticeships, and we announced in March that at least 1,000 green deal apprentices could receive Government funding towards their training. There are many opportunities, with the new build nuclear programme alone expected to create 30,000 high-skilled new jobs nationally.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Biodiversity Strategy for England 2011-2020

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I am pleased to announce that the Government published the new biodiversity strategy for England 2011-2020—“Biodiversity 2020: a strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services”—on 19 August, setting out a new strategic direction for biodiversity policy in England for the next decade.

The strategy describes how we will put into effect the convention on biological diversity agreements made in Nagoya as well as the European Union’s 2020 biodiversity target. It directly supports the aims of the Government’s natural environment White Paper setting out a more integrated approach to biodiversity conservation. The strategy builds on the evidence provided by the groundbreaking national ecosystem assessment and the independent review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network led by Professor Sir John Lawton, and takes account of the European Union’s biodiversity strategy.

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The strategy aims to halt overall biodiversity loss by moving away from the piecemeal conservation of the past towards a more effective and integrated large-scale approach delivering multiple benefits. It puts people at the heart of biodiversity policy, addresses environmental pressures and takes account of the need to improve our knowledge.

It sets clear outcomes describing what we aim to achieve over the next 10 years for habitats, species, ecosystems and for people, as well as a series of priority actions to take us to 2020.

It is a Government strategy. However, it cannot be delivered by Government alone. It is clear that our policies on biodiversity present an excellent example of the big society in action. Alongside Government and their agencies, there are a huge number of individuals and organisations already making a vital contribution to the conservation and enhancement of our biodiversity. This “biodiversity partnership” will be absolutely crucial to its success and the strategy will continue to support this partnership approach, and to build on it.

Copies of the strategy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the ninth progress report on developments in Afghanistan.

This report focuses on key developments during the months of July and August, commonly associated with a seasonal escalation of violence, and the month of Ramadan, a period during which the Taliban leadership has called for increased activity. There have been a number of high-profile attacks, including the 19 August attack on the British Council, which seriously undermine perceptions of security, although overall there have been fewer enemy attacks across the country than last year. Progress has been made towards our security objectives but challenges remain, including civilian casualties as highlighted by the latest UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) report. General Allen took command of ISAF in July and will conduct a campaign review in due course.

The first seven areas (including Lashkar Gah in Helmand) formally began the transition process in July. Transition does not mean an immediate withdrawal of international security assistance force (ISAF) troops but will see the Afghan national security force (ANSF) begin to take lead responsibility for security in the areas. ANSF numbers have now exceeded their October 2011 targets and a new target of 352,000 by the end of October 2012 has been endorsed by the Security Standing Committee of the Joint (Afghan and NATO) Co-ordination and Monitoring Board. There was a welcome reduction in overall Afghan national police (ANP) attrition which brings the rate back on target but Afghan national army (ANA) attrition rates still need to be reduced.

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We welcome President Karzai’s decree of 10 August which ruled that the final decisions of the parliamentary crisis should rest with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). On 21 August the IEC announced its findings and called for the replacement of nine sitting MPs. It will fall to the secretariat of the Lower House of Parliament to implement the changes.

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).

British Embassy (Côte d'Ivoire)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): With the onset of civil war, the British embassy in Côte d’Ivoire formally closed on 1 April 2005. As stability returned to the country, the UK opened a political office in 2006, reporting to and supervised by our high commission in Ghana. Following the United Nations-certified presidential elections earlier this year and the inauguration of President Ouattara, I am pleased to announce the reopening of the embassy in Côte d’Ivoire.

As I said in Parliament on 11 May 2011, there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain’s diplomatic influence overseas. I am committed to extending the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s global reach and strengthening its influence. Reopening the embassy in Côte d’Ivoire, with a fully accredited, resident ambassador taking up residence in spring 2012 is part of that commitment.

Under President Ouattara’s Government, peace and stability are slowly returning to Côte d’Ivoire. However, President Ouattara and his Government face huge challenges if the country is to recover from the deep divisions created by the disputed elections and the subsequent civil war. Through the Government’s new building stability overseas strategy, the UK will continue to support security sector reform, national reconciliation, reconstruction and human rights in Côte d’Ivoire. It is important that justice is seen to be served on all those on both sides of the political divide who have been found responsible for crimes and human rights abuses in the recent conflict.

Since the closure of the embassy in 2005, our influence in Côte d’Ivoire has been limited. Reopening sends a clear signal that we are committed to helping peace, stability and prosperity return to Côte d’Ivoire. A fully accredited ambassador will be able to work more closely, and more credibly, with President Ouattara and his Government to help Côte d’Ivoire demonstrate their commitment to justice, reconciliation and human rights and to become a beacon of democracy in west Africa.

Reopening the embassy will also support our commercial ties. Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world, the fourth largest exporter in sub-Saharan Africa, and has one of the best infrastructures for business in the region, there will be real opportunities for UK companies particularly in the agricultural, energy and financial sectors. Increased prosperity and growth in Côte d’Ivoire is in all our interests.

The reopening of the embassy will incur a marginal cost of £16,000. A limited consular service will be offered in Côte d’Ivoire. Our high commission in Ghana will continue to provide a visa service as well as full consular assistance.

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Sudan and South Sudan

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham): I would like to provide the House with an update, following the summer recess, on developments in Sudan and South Sudan.

We continue to support and encourage Sudan and South Sudan to develop as two independent states in peaceful co-existence with one another. Both countries face significant challenges. There remain many outstanding issues following the end of the comprehensive peace agreement, the responsibility for which must ultimately lie with the Governments of the two countries.


Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile

The conflict in Southern Kordofan continues. We remain deeply concerned at this situation, and continue to call for an immediate end to the violence that is having a devastating effect on over 150,000 civilians. It is disappointing that, despite the announcement on 23 August by Sudanese President al-Bashir of a unilateral two week ceasefire, we have received reports of continuing violence and human rights abuses by both sides in southern Kordofan. As I made clear in the statement of 24 August, we urge the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (Northern Sector) to allow immediate humanitarian access to the many civilians affected by the ongoing violence.

It is very concerning that violence has broken out in Blue Nile State, which shares many of the challenges faced by Southern Kordofan. Thousands of civilians have already been displaced. As I made clear in the statement of 2 September, we condemn any action that endangers civilian lives, in particular aerial bombardments. We will continue to work closely with our international partners to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of an agreed process to address the root causes of the violence in both Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.


In Abyei, we continue to have concerns about the humanitarian situation, with over 100,000 people still displaced by the violence earlier this year. Following UN Security Council Resolution 1990, which authorised the deployment of up to 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers to Abyei as part of United Nations Interim Stability Force for Abyei (UNISFA), deployment of UNISFA troops is ongoing. UNISFA was primarily mandated to monitor and verify the withdrawal of SAF and SPLA troops from the Abyei area. We are very concerned that this has not yet occurred and call for both sides to immediately start withdrawing from the Abyei area. UNISFA should also provide de-mining assistance, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, facilitate the return of civilians in the Abyei area and protect those under imminent threat of physical violence. We expect the Security Council to mandate UNISFA to provide force protection for border monitors, whose deployment was agreed to on 30 July by Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa.


We welcomed the Government of Sudan and Liberation and Justice Movement’s endorsement of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur on 14 July. We now urge

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both parties to implement the agreements made. We are grateful to the Government of Qatar for their continued efforts to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict, and look forward to working closely with Qatar through the Implementation Follow-Up Committee which meets for the first time on 11 September. Looking forward, we encourage continued engagement between the Government and the armed movements to prevent Sudan from breaking further into conflict. We stand ready to support the UN and AU as they prepare a road map setting out the next phase of the Darfur peace process.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement

We are disappointed that there has still been no conclusive agreement between the two countries on many of the outstanding unresolved issues from the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) which ended on the 9 July. These issues include oil, citizenship and border demarcation. There has been no progress on agreeing the citizenship rights of southerners in (north) Sudan, and vice versa, beyond the agreement of a nine-month transitional period which will come to an end in March 2012. The five disputed areas of the border remain unresolved. We strongly encourage both parties to negotiate in earnest with the intention of reaching a lasting settlement.

We support the facilitation offered by the African Union high-level implementation panel (AU HIP), led by Thabo Mbeki, to come to an agreement on these matters. The UK has contributed £250,000 to AU HIP this year, enabling this crucial work. We continue to press both parties and the AU HIP to urgently engage in resolving these issues.


President Bashir publically stated on 12 July that a constitutional review process, required following the completion of the comprehensive peace agreement, will be a broad-based and inclusive dialogue. We will continue to press for this to be the case.

South Sudan

In South Sudan, we welcome President Kiir’s announcement on 27 August of his first Cabinet, eight weeks after independence. This is an important step for the new country. We welcome his commitment to improving service delivery across Government and his intent to show concrete progress on this within 100 days. We now look forward to engaging with the new Ministers, and working with them in support of our shared goals. We will continue to highlight the importance of tackling corruption at every level.

UN Mission In South Sudan

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), mandated to support peace in South Sudan, continues to deploy. The mission, led by former Norwegian Development Minister, Hilde Johnson, will seek to foster state building and economic development, prevent and resolve conflict and protect civilians. Recently we have seen continued localised violence in South Sudan, which gives cause for real concern. There are ongoing sporadic bouts of fighting in Warrap state which are estimated to have killed around 100 people, while one recent incident of inter-tribal violence in Jonglei resulted in several hundred dead. I welcome the South Sudanese Government’s decision to send troops to the area to prevent further revenge attacks and an escalation of violence. We urge the Government of South Sudan to work swiftly to

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establish a reconciliation process and identify long-term solutions to the causes of such violence—as they have committed to doing.

Going forward, we encourage the Government of South Sudan, supported where necessary by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to be more proactive in addressing inter-tribal conflicts, and their underlying causes.

Economic Development

In Sudan and South Sudan, the growth and diversification of the economy will be a vital factor in establishing the long-term stability and development that will prevent conflict and the abuses of human rights that accompany conflict. The primary responsibility for this lies with the Governments of the two states. The UK will play its part, however, in supporting such development, for example in South Sudan we will create more employment opportunities in agriculture and work to help reduce the costs of trans-border trade; and in Port Sudan, where the opportunities for economic development are considerable.

UK Commitment/Conclusion

The UK will remain committed to supporting the development of two economically viable and peaceful states, underpinned by good governance, respect for human rights and an environment in which humanitarian assistance can reach all that need it. We continue to speak out against unacceptable actions in both countries when we feel it necessary. We will continue to work closely with the Governments in both Sudan and South Sudan and with our international partners in pursuit of those goals.

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Work and Pensions

Welfare Reform Bill (Employment and Support Allowance)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): As part of his spending review announcement, the Chancellor set out his proposal to introduce a time limit of one year for those claiming contributory employment and support allowance who are in the work-related activity group. The change will, subject to the passage of the enabling legislation, apply from April 2012. For those in the work-related activity group who have already received a year or more contributory employment and support allowance as at April 2012, entitlement will cease immediately.

In order to avoid delay in implementing this policy the Department for Work and Pensions has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund of £2,705,000 to allow for the development of IT, ensure those potentially impacted by the time limit in April 2012 are notified of the change and to deliver the operational support that will be required before Royal Assent of the enabling legislation. Parliamentary approval for resources of £2,705,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department of Work and Pensions. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £2,705,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.