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22 Oct 2012 : Column 43WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 22 October 2012

Business, Innovation and Skills

Contingency Fund Advance

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills wishes to recruit a chief executive officer (CEO) for the proposed Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) before Royal Assent has been received for the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which will create the CMA.

The CMA CEO will play a critical role in leading the organisational design of the CMA and reform of its competition processes ensuring that greater speed and rigour of decision making is delivered, in line with the Government’s response to their consultation on competition reform. The CMA CEO-designate, in conjunction with the CMA chair-designate, my noble Fiend Lord David Currie, will need to effectively manage the transition to the CMA bringing together the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission into a single new body by October 2013. To help achieve this objective the CMA CEO will need to be in post early 2013.

Parliamentary approval for resource cover for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at up to £220,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Treasury

Bilateral Loan to Ireland

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Clark): I would like to update the House on the loan to Ireland.

Ireland completed the seventh quarterly review of its International Monetary Fund and European Union programme of financial assistance on 13 September 2012, following which, the utilisation period for the fifth instalment of the UK bilateral loan began.

Upon request, the Treasury disbursed the fifth instalment of £403.37 million on 19 October 2012, with a maturity date of 20 April 2020.

The interest rate charged on the loan is calculated as set out in the loan agreement as the UK’s cost of funds plus a service fee of 0.18 basis points per annum, creating an effective per annum interest rate on this tranche of the loan of 2.372%. The UK more than covers its cost of funds.

The Treasury will provide a further report to Parliament in relation to the bilateral loan as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010 as soon as is practicable following the end of the next reporting period, which ends on 31 March 2013.

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The Government believe that it is in our national interest that the Irish economy is successful and its banking system is stable. The Government continue to support Ireland’s efforts to improve its economic situation.

Home Department

Consultation on Firearms Control (Government Response)

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): The Home Secretary launched the “Consultation on Legislative Changes to Firearms Control” on the 8 February 2012.

The consultation looked at the need for a new offence for possession of illegal firearms with intent to supply and whether the penalty for illegal importation and exportation of firearms should be increased. Today, I am announcing the Government’s response to that consultation.

Gun crime and drug offences cause considerable harm to our communities and are linked to organised crime and so we believe that the law for importing and supplying firearms should be no less serious than importing class A drugs.

Having carefully considered the consultation responses from a broad range of key partners it is clear that there is strong support for taking a tougher stance on control of prohibited firearms.

We will:

Increase the maximum penalty for illegal importation of firearms to life imprisonment.

Create a new offence of “possession with intent to supply” with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Subsequently, we will bring forward the necessary legislation as soon as the parliamentary schedule allows. A copy of the summary of consultation responses and the related impact assessment will be placed in the House Library.

Work and Pensions

Equality 2025 (Triennial Review)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): Later today I will launch a review of Equality 2025 advisory non-departmental public body. As part of the Government’s continuing drive for efficiency and effectiveness all Departments are required to review their arm’s length bodies at least once every three years. The review will be carried out by the Office for Disability Issues within the Department for Work and Pensions. The review will be looking at:

Whether the purposes for which Equality 2025 were established are still necessary.

Whether the services currently undertaken by Equality 2025 to deliver these purposes are still appropriate, adequate and effective.

Whether these services are best carried out by an advisory non-departmental public body; and, if so, how might Equality 2025’s performance be enhanced and improved?

Once completed, the outcome of the review will be published in spring 2013 on the Office for Disability Issues website, I will also place a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.