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Written Statements

Thursday 17 October 2013


Tax Policy Consultation and Draft Legislation

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The Government’s approach to developing tax policy emphasises the benefits of policy consultation and legislative scrutiny.

Following Budget 2013, the Government have engaged with interested parties, seeking their views on more than 30 areas of tax policy. The next stage of consultation aims to ensure that the legislation works as intended.

Draft clauses to be included in Finance Bill 2013 will be published on 10 December 2013, together with responses to policy consultation, explanatory notes and tax information and impact notes. The consultation on the draft legislation will be open until 4 February 2014.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Low Pay Commission: National Minimum Wage

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Jo Swinson): I am pleased to announce that the Government have written to the Low Pay Commission setting out what we would like the Commission to consider on the national minimum wage. The document contains the Government’s interim evidence on economic and non-economic issues, including the minimum wage rates and the youth labour market. An updated version of the evidence will be published later when the latest information on earnings and economic forecasts will be included.

A copy of the evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available at: www.gov.uk.


Contingency Liability

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): In line with normal practice I would like to inform the House that while in the summer recess, my Department provided an indemnity to the Church Commissioners for England, in order to secure a lease arrangement on its site for CET primary school, Westminster, from September 2013 until 31 March 2017.

Such an indemnity would normally be notified in advance to Parliament but since the need was identified during recess, officials wrote to the right hon. Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, copied to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) as Chair of the Education Select Committee on 21 August 2013, informing them of the proposed indemnity.

I inform the House today of the indemnity provided and a departmental minute, which sets out the detail of the indemnity, has been laid in both Houses.

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Child Poverty Commission (Annual Report)

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): I, in collaboration with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, wish to inform the House of the publication of the annual report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission “State of the Nation: social mobility and child poverty in Great Britain”.

The report sets out the views of the Commission on the progress made toward the goals of improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom. It also includes a description of the measures that have been taken by the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales.

The Government welcome the report and the Commission’s contribution to these important issues. We will consider their recommendations and our response in due course.

The report will be laid in Parliament and published later today. The report will be available at www.Gov.uk/SMCPC.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agricultural and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Owen Paterson): The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council is on Thursday 17 October in Luxembourg. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), will be representing the UK. Richard Lochhead MSP may also attend.

The Council will concentrate on fisheries items. There are no agricultural items scheduled for this Council.

The agenda items are as follows:

Council regulation fixing the 2014 fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks applicable in the Baltic sea

EU /Norway: annual consultation for 2014

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) annual meeting— exchange of views

AOB item: north-east Atlantic mackerel management and coastal state negotiations

Bovine TB

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Owen Paterson): This Government are committed to ensuring we have a comprehensive package of measures to tackle bovine TB (bTB), including a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high incidence of TB in cattle.

I am updating the House following the completion of the six-week control pilot in Gloucestershire on 15 October. This is further to my statement of 9 October, in which I

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informed the House that Natural England was considering, and has since granted, a short extension to the pilot in Somerset to improve the disease benefits already achieved.

As previously announced, the badger population in Gloucestershire immediately before the pilot began was estimated to have fallen to 2,350 compared with an estimated population of 3,400 last summer. In the six weeks of the pilot 708 badgers have been removed from this population. This represents just over 30% of the local badger population.

In view of this, the chief veterinary officer (CVO) has advised that the period of culling this year should be extended to achieve the earliest and greatest possible impact on bTB in Gloucestershire. Natural England is therefore considering an application for an extension from the cull company in Gloucestershire.

The pilots held this year are the first stage in a planned four-year cull. Three of the areas of the randomised badger culling trial also had a slow start. These areas saw an increase in the numbers of badgers removed in subsequent years and went on to contribute to overall disease benefits.

I have always been clear that both the Somerset and Gloucestershire culls are pilots. This has enabled us to test the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of controlled shooting as a means of reducing badger numbers and so reduce significantly disease in cattle. Having the two separate pilot areas has similarly enabled us to see how different environmental factors, field and other conditions affect the practical delivery of our objectives. Experience gained on the ground has been invaluable. I would like to pay tribute to the local farmers and landowners who are undertaking the cull, often in difficult terrain and weather, and often in the face of intimidation by a small minority who are determined to stop this disease control policy.

After the independent panel of experts has reported, we will consider all the information these pilots have generated and decide on next steps. The early indications are that, as in Somerset, the pilot in Gloucestershire has been safe and humane. Nevertheless, the Gloucestershire pilot has again demonstrated that the cull period may need to be longer than six weeks in future, enabling teams to adapt their approaches to suit local circumstances.

These pilots are another step towards halting the spread of bTB. We continue to make good progress on all aspects of our draft strategy to eradicate the disease in England within 25 years, including the development of workable badger and cattle vaccines and better biosecurity on farms. Collectively, we are putting in place the necessary measures for the successful long-term eradication of bTB in the UK.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

“Adapting To Change: UK policy towards the Arctic”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): I would like to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is today publishing the Government’s Arctic policy framework, “Adapting To Change: UK policy towards the Arctic”.

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The framework sets out the detail of the UK’s interests in the Arctic, how we will work with Arctic states and the wider international community, and what expertise the UK can offer to help meet some of the long-term challenges facing the region.

In doing so, we will respect the sovereign rights of the Arctic states to exercise jurisdiction over their territory; the views and interests of people who live and work in the Arctic; and the Arctic environment, its fragility and its central importance to the global climate.

We will work towards an Arctic that is safe and secure; well-governed in conjunction with indigenous peoples and international law. We will promote Arctic policies that are developed on the basis of sound science and have full regard to the environment. We will promote an Arctic where only responsible development takes place.

We will support the Arctic Council as the pre-eminent regional forum for discussing Arctic issues and actively encourage wider dialogue on Arctic matters of global importance. We will promote UK Arctic science, encourage more international collaboration and continue to fund top-class research to increase understanding of the changes in the Arctic. We will play a leading role in diplomatic efforts to avoid dangerous climate change and support the principle of designating Marine Protected Areas in international waters where science supports it. We will facilitate responsible business activity in the region by UK companies and advocate for the highest environmental and drilling standards.

Fundamentally, leadership for Arctic stewardship rests with the eight Arctic states and the peoples within those states. However, where appropriate we will show leadership on Arctic matters of global importance, such as understanding the effects of Arctic climate change on global processes, and we will work co-operatively with Arctic states and other international partners on issues that affect UK interests in the fields of governance, environment and commerce.

I have placed copies of the Arctic policy framework in the Libraries of both Houses. It is also available on: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adapting-to-change-uk-policy-towards-the-arctic.

EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the following measures:

(i) the Council decision on the signing, on behalf of the EU, and provisional application of an association agreement between the EU and its member states, and Ukraine.

(ii) the Council decision on the conclusion of the association agreement between the EU and its member states, and Ukraine.

The EU-Ukraine association agreement, including a deep and comprehensive free trade area, will deepen and broaden the political and economic relationship between the EU, its member states, and Ukraine. The agreement process supports and encourages reform in Ukraine to bring it closer to EU norms, as well giving Ukraine gradual access to parts of the EU internal market.

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UK Government policy is to support a closer relationship between the EU and Ukraine, while continuing to make clear to Ukraine that they need to deliver demonstrable improvements. We have not yet taken a decision on whether to recommend signature of the agreement which is dependent on sufficient progress on reform by Ukraine. I underlined all of these points during my September visit to Ukraine.

The Council decisions relate to an agreement which contains provisions relating to the temporary movement of natural persons for business purposes—known as “mode 4” trade in services—and the readmission of third country nationals, thus triggering the UK Justice and Home Affairs opt-in. I believe it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to these measures, which are an integral part of our wider approach on trade and support our other commitments in services and investment liberalisation.


EU Transport Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I attended the first Transport Council of the Lithuanian presidency (the presidency) in Luxembourg on Thursday 10 October.

The Council held an orientation debate on the proposal amending regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and regulation (EC) No. 2027/97 on air carrier liability in respect of the carriage of passengers and their baggage. The presidency invited responses to questions posed on compensation for missed connections and whether compensation should be time/distance-based or linked to the price of the ticket. I expressed concern that the inclusion of connecting flights in the text would impact negatively upon interlining agreements, reduce regional connectivity, increase capacity problems at airports and place the EU sector at a competitive disadvantage. I stated that the priority should be to agree the five, nine and 12-hour trigger points for when compensation is due. The time/distance-based approach to compensation should be maintained. I also took the opportunity to make some other points on the proposal—I stressed that extraordinary circumstances should not be limited to two flights, and that the provisions should not cover other transport modes.

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The Council agreed to the proposed extension until 2024 on the regulation establishing a joint undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR).

The Council agreed three general approaches on: railway safety; multi-annual funding in respect of the European Maritime Safety Agency; and the Galileo GNSS Agency.

On the proposal for a recast directive on railway safety (part of the 4th railway package), the Commission had originally proposed that the European Railway Agency should undertake all approvals, but the presidency’s compromise proposal included a similar model to the general approach on the recast directive on railway interoperability agreed at the June Transport Council for the issue of the single safety certificate. This included the UK’s proposal to give applicants a choice to use national safety authorities where operations would be restricted to one member state.

The proposal for a directive on multi-annual funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency was agreed following the withdrawal of the remaining reservations.

The proposal for a regulation setting up the European GNSS Agency which will play a central role in improving the governance and management of the EU’s satellite navigations systems, Galileo and EGNOS, was also agreed.

Under any other business, the Commission reported on the outcome of the International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly in relation to the aviation emissions trading scheme. The Commission noted that the commitment to the development of a global market-based measure for agreement by 2016, to be implemented by 2020, was a major success for the EU. I strongly welcomed the commitment to a global market-based measure. However, I pointed out that the EU needed to consider next steps in light of the outcome of the ICAO Assembly, and in particular the need to avoid hostile reactions from third countries.

The Commission updated Ministers on a developing situation where Russia is likely to commence requesting passenger data from EU airlines from 1 December 2013, and reported on the system for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport.

Spain reported on the recent train accident at Santiago de Compostela and will be focusing on the overhaul of standards and technical improvements, as well as assistance to those affected by the accident. Investigation into the accident is currently ongoing.