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Written Statements

Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2012

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Treasury

Pensioner Taxation and Employee Share Schemes

The Government launched the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in July 2010 to provide independent advice on simplifying the tax system.

The OTS has today published an interim report on its review into pensioner taxation and the final report on the review of approved (tax-advantaged) employee share schemes, both commissioned by the Government on 5 July 2011.

The Government asked the OTS to carry out a two-stage review of pensioner taxation. In this first stage of the review the OTS has identified and examined at a high level those parts of the tax system which cause the most complexity for pensioners. The OTS will analyse these areas in more depth before formulating recommendations in the second stage of their review.

The Government also asked the OTS to carry out a two-stage review of employee share schemes. The first stage of the review looked at the four tax-advantaged schemes. The OTS was asked to evaluate the four schemes, identifying where they create complexities and disproportionate administrative burdens for scheme users, and examining areas where the schemes could be simplified. The OTS will look at the simplification of unapproved schemes in the second stage of its review.

Electronic copies of both reports have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The Government will respond to the OTS reports in the Budget, on 21 March 2012.

Defence

HMS Victory

I am pleased to inform the House that I am today laying a departmental minute, the contents of which are replicated below, which proposes the transfer of HMS Victory and its contents and fittings to the HMS Victory Preservation Trust. This is a new charitable trust which has been established for the purpose as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The proposed transfer would enable private donations to supplement current Defence provision for support of the ship; and I am pleased to inform the House that the Gosling Foundation has generously agreed to donate £25 million to support the establishment of this new trust. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has agreed to match this donation with a further capital grant of £25 million. Together, this amounts to a very sizeable endowment and would enable HMS Victory to be sustained for the benefit of future generations.

This transfer is part of a wider agreement which would enable HMS Victory to remain as a commissioned warship under her commanding officer and ship’s company. Currently the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, she will become the flagship of the First Sea Lord.

The detailed arrangements proposed, which are subject to legal and contractual discussions and trade union consultation, envisage that the trust would assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance contract. The MOD would provide project management assistance in support of the contract for up to two years to enable the trust to grow this expertise. I expect the new arrangements to be in place by 1 April 2012.

Departmental Minute Dated 6 March 2012 Concerning the Gift of HMS Victory to the HMS Victory Preservation Trust:

“1. It is the normal practice when a Government Department proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding £250,000, for the Department concerned to present to the House of Commons a minute giving particulars of the gift and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the gift until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

2. The gift to be made in this case, subject to finalisation of legal and contractual arrangements, is to a charitable trust controlled by the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and comprises the historic warship HMS Victory together with its collection, fixtures, fittings and contents, material in store, technical information and the cradle on which the ship rests in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Department also intends to grant rights to occupy and use the dry dock and land around the ship together with associated services access rights and leases to use those buildings in the dockyard which support the ship—put simply, a complete package, which would allow the trust to take over responsibility for the ship’s maintenance, repair and operation as a heritage attraction. The current maintenance contract for the ship operated by the Department would be novated to the trust; and the Department would provide project management expertise to the trust for a period of up to two years while the trust develops its own in-house expertise.

3. As a unique and irreplaceable national heritage asset, it is difficult to measure the value of HMS Victory in financial terms but the ship (together with its associated historical artefacts, fixtures and fittings) has an insurance valuation of £10,000,000. Apart from the ship itself, the value of the material in store and the cradle is assessed as £5,000,000. The total value of the gift is therefore £15,000,000.

4. Although the property of the charitable trust, the ship would be licensed to the MOD so that she can remain a commissioned warship and flagship of the Royal Navy. This allows for the development of a partnership between the Department and the voluntary sector for the support of this important element of British and naval history; and enables the sustainment of this iconic symbol of our history for the benefit of future generations.

5. The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, before 23 March, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.”

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environmental Council

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and I will represent the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 9 March.

At this Council, the presidency will seek legislative political agreement on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified organisms in their territory.

The presidency will also conduct a legislative orientation debate on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE).

Ministers are expected to adopt non-legislative Council conclusions on: a road map for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050; the follow-up to the 17th session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change and the 7th session of the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto protocol (Durban, 28 November to 9 December 2011); and Rio+20: Pathways to a sustainable future.

The following topics will be covered under ‘any other business’:

Information from the presidency and the Commission on the outcome of the 12th Special Session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS 12/GMEF), Nairobi, 20-22 February 2012;

Information from the commission on ETS/aviation: state of play;

Information from the presidency and the commission on the convention on long-range transboundary air pollution (CLRTAP)—revision of the Gothenburg protocol: state of play;

Information from the Netherlands delegation on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the sound level of motor vehicles;

Information from the presidency and the commission on the European semester/annual growth survey—the way forward after the March European Council.