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Written Statements

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Cabinet Office

Ministerial Responsibilities

I have today published a revised edition of the “List of Ministerial Responsibilities” (October 2009). Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and the Vote Office.

The list can also be accessed at: http://


Corporate Taxation

I am today announcing the Government’s intention to present to Parliament in the next Finance Bill a change to the rules on how groups of companies are taxed when they buy back their issued debt at a discount to the amount borrowed.

At present where a debtor company is released from its debt liability for less than the amount borrowed it is taxed on the difference between the amount it has borrowed and the amount it pays to be released from its liability. In order to prevent avoidance of the charge the same rules apply where a company connected to the debtor—for instance a fellow group member—instead buys the debt from the creditor. However, in order to help genuine company rescues, there is an exception to this anti-avoidance rule in certain circumstances.

The circumstances are:

where the creditor company is arm’s length to the purchaser; and

where the purchasing company was not connected to the debtor any time during the three-year period ending 12 months before the purchase.

In the present financial conditions many banks and other businesses have issued debt that is trading at a discount to the amount borrowed.

Many, for good commercial reasons, are seeking to buy their debt back from the market. However some are taking advantage of the rules set up to help company rescues in order to avoid being taxed on the profit they make when their debt is cancelled for less than the amount they borrowed. They do this by setting up a new company to buy the debt.

The Government therefore propose to change the rules, which will apply in relation to any debt buybacks that take place from today to ensure that only those debt buybacks that are undertaken as part of genuine corporate rescues will benefit from the buyback profits not being subject to tax.

The changes proposed are that the conditions requiring the purchasing company not to be connected with the debtor during a prescribed period will be replaced by the following three conditions:

there must have been a change in ownership of the debtor in the period of 12 months before the debt purchase;

the debt purchase must have been intrinsic to the change of ownership; and

before the change of ownership, the debtor must have been suffering severe financial problems.

Even if these conditions are met such that the debtor is not taxed on the discount at the time of the buyback, any future cancellation of the debt by the new creditor will result in the debtor being taxed on the previously untaxed discount.

Communities and Local Government

Ordnance Survey (Performance Targets 2009-10)

The following performance targets have been set for Ordnance Survey in 2009-10:

Ordnance Survey will report externally against a set of agency performance monitors as required of all executive agencies in Government:

To achieve an operating profit before exceptional items, interest and dividends of £14.6 million for the financial year 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.

Some 99.6 per cent. of significant real-world features greater than six months old are represented in the database.

To achieve a free cash flow before exceptional items of £12.5 million for the financial year 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.

To reduce the underlying cost base by 3 per cent. between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010.

To achieve a customer experience index score of at least 80 per cent.

These targets reflect Ordnance Survey’s new business strategy as announced at Budget 2009.

Connecting Communities

I can today inform Parliament about a plan to reinvigorate and connect with those communities that are feeling the pressure from recession most acutely and ensure they are well placed to share fully in future prosperity and emerge stronger and more cohesive.

In recent years substantial investment has transformed large parts of the country. But this investment has taken place against a background of wider changes which has left some communities feeling under pressure.

Around 100 areas of the country have been identified as the focus of a targeted programme of work that will focus on alleviating those pressures and making sure that real help is available.

Practical actions delivered on estates and streets will focus on developing a real insight into what is happening in those communities and introduce changes that will address local people's concerns, reconnect them with jobs and tackle the real and perceived sense of unfairness some people are feeling.

I can today name the first 27 neighbourhoods across 21 local authorities that will be involved in the initial phase of this £12 million programme of local intensive engagement that will connect communities.

Each area will draw up specific plans to address local challenges. While the responses will vary from place to place they are likely to focus on three key areas:

Leadership The quality of leadership will be critical to success in this area. Complex challenges require exceptional leadership. In order to allow people to feel they are being heard, there is a need for honest and open debate to explain how decisions are made. Where decisions are contentious leaders need the skills and confidence to challenge misconceptions and respond with action where needed. There will be support for training leaders; and also the other front line staff and community activists who need also to know and shape the emerging strategy for each area.

Giving people a voice Local people must have the chance to express their worries and know that someone will act on their behalf. I want to enable an open debate about what the challenges really are in these areas—even if this raises difficult and uncomfortable issues. This means giving people the space to air their grievances to political and community leaders. Alongside measures to increase the visibility of more formal leaders, individuals will be encouraged to act as community champions or tenants and have a bigger say in local issues. This will help build up the confidence and self-esteem of residents so that they feel that they can regain control over their estates, their lives and their futures.

Increased opportunities More particularly, raising awareness of the opportunities already available in the area—whether that is investment and regeneration, jobs and skills, childcare and youth services, education and healthcare, or efforts to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Measures like the Future Jobs Fund need to be delivered in ways which clearly respond to local priorities, shaped by the people whose lives it will affect.

The areas have been identified by examining a range of hard and soft data around cohesion, deprivation and crime, perceived unfairness in the allocation of resources and feedback from people working locally.

Connecting Communities Areas

GO Region


ILE Area



Bury Green Ward

King's Lynn

North Lynn

East Midlands


New Parks


Abbey Ward




Barking & Dagenham






Cray Valley & Mottingham


Colyers & North End

North East




Castle, Redhill & Southwick

North West

Blackburn with Darwen

Little Harwood

Cheshire West and


Ellesmere Port


Cleator Moor



West Midlands


Kingstanding, Stockland Green &



Druids Heath, Brandwood Ward


Bartley Green & Weoley




Burslem & Shelton


Milton Keynes

Tinkers Bridge, Woughton Ward

South West

North Somerset

Western-Super-Mare Central Ward


Bourne Valley, Rossmore


Park Ward, Walcot East

Yorkshire & Humber

N Lincolnshire

Caistor Road Estate, Barton Ward


Park Ward, Walcot East

Yorkshire & Humber

N Lincolnshire

Caistor Road Estate, Barton Ward

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Minister with responsibility for marine and the natural environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) and the Minister with responsibility for food, farming and environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick) will represent the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 19 and 20 October.

There are a number of items on the agenda relating to agriculture and fisheries which are of significant interest to the United Kingdom. Discussions will take place on the following:

the dairy market;

placing on the market of products from genetically modified maize;

EU/Norway annual fisheries consultations for 2010;

control system for ensuring compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy;

2010 fishing opportunities for fish stocks in the Baltic Sea;

marketing standards for poultry meat; and,

health check corrections

There are currently two items under any other business—renewal of fishing fleet under the European fisheries fund regulation from Lithuania; and a state aid request from Poland for the purchasing of agricultural land.

Also scheduled is a ministerial lunch on 19 October to discuss ‘Policy Coherence for Development, and in particular those aspects relating to food security and FAO reform’.