Written Ministerial Statements
Wednesday 23 May 2012
Business, Innovation and Skills
UK Space Agency (Performance Targets)
I have tasked the UK Space Agency to provide policy support to Ministers on civil space issues and to lead a civil space programme which delivers maximum economic, scientific, and policy benefits for the UK.
I have set the UK Space Agency the following key targets for 2012-13:
1. To advise BIS on affordable options for UK participation in the ESA in readiness for the ESA Ministerial planned for November 2012, setting out the advantages and disadvantages of the options.
2. To ensure the ESA programme brings benefit to UK industry, and the research base.
3. To implement the proposal for the £21 million investment in the low-cost constellation of operational small radar satellites (NovaSAR).
4. To work with industry on amendments to reduce burdens placed on satellite operators, and based on the public consultation, set out a timeline to implement agreed proposals for change to the Outer Space Act.
5. To improve performance of the agency by implementing 2011-12 audit recommendations over the period 2012-13—2014-15.
Target measurement techniques:
Target 1—Decisions made on investment proposed by November 2012. This will need both BIS and HMT agreement.
Target 2—Measured by the industrial return figures of ESA that reflect the work won by UK organisations against an ideal of return coefficient of 1.
Target 3—A decision on the grant will be by June 2012, payment by March 2013, with the grant review open for the normal 5-year window.
Target 4—Consultation released in May 2012 and final plan by December 2012.
Target 5—Improvement in agency performance will be reflected in audit reports in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
State of the Estate 2011
I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008, “The State of the Estate in 2011”. This report provides an assessment of the efficiency and sustainability of the Government’s civil estate and records the progress that Government are making in this area. The report is published on an annual basis.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 15 May 2012. Ministers discussed the following items:
Revised Capital Requirements Rules (CRD IV)
The presidency presented a proposal for a general approach on the CRD IV directive and regulation, which was followed by a ministerial discussion. Following substantial changes made to the proposal during negotiations at the 2nd May ECOFIN and a critical revision in the run up to this ECOFIN, I was able to join the rest of the Council in agreeing the presidency proposal. These changes will ensure that: the Government will be able to implement the recommendations of the Vickers review in full; that Europe as a whole will be able to implement Basel III; and that the Government will have the necessary freedom to carry out our macro-prudential policy objectives.
The presidency will now start negotiations with the European Parliament, on the basis of the Council’s general approach. The aim is to reach agreement on the texts at first reading, if possible by June, as requested by the European Council in March.
Negotiating Mandate for Savings Taxation Agreements with third countries
The presidency introduced a recommendation for a Council decision to adopt the mandate for the Commission to negotiate amended savings agreements with five third countries. During the discussion Luxembourg and Austria were unable to agree to the proposed mandate and the presidency concluded that it would not be possible to adopt the mandate at this meeting.
2012 Ageing Report
The presidency introduced proposed Council conclusions on the sustainability of public finances in the light of the 2012 Ageing Report. After a brief ministerial discussion the 2012 Ageing Report was endorsed and the conclusions were adopted by the Council.
Fast Start Climate Finance
The presidency introduced proposed Council conclusions to endorse the fast start finance report. The Commission highlighted that, despite the difficult economic situation and tight budgetary constraints, the EU was on track to meet its commitments and Ministers adopted the conclusions.
Draft General Budget for 2013
The Council took note of a presentation by the Commission of its draft for the EU’s general budget for 2013 and held an exchange of views on the proposal. The UK intervened to make clear that the Commission’s proposed 6.8% increase was not realistic in the current climate, with member states making great efforts to reduce deficits at home, and that the EU should focus on improving the quality, rather than increasing the volume, of expenditure, reducing over-budgeting and finding greater efficiencies. Our intervention was supported by a number of other member states. The Council will now look to establish its position on the draft budget by the end of July.
Ministers were updated over breakfast on the European Commission’s spring forecasts. Ministers were also debriefed on the euro group meeting of 14 May which discussed the economic situation in Spain and their three pronged strategy being implemented to: tackle regional fiscal deficits, implement structural reforms and reform the banking sector. The Greek delegation had also briefed euro area member states on the political situation in Greece.
Ministers also discussed the forthcoming election of a new president for the EBRD and were updated on the process that would be followed for the election on 18 May.
Finally Ministers were updated by the EFC president on the progress being made in reducing European seats on the IMF Board by two, as agreed at the Seoul G20 summit in 2010.
European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Governors Meeting
The EIB board of governors met prior to ECOFIN. In discussion, the president of the EIB noted that calls for growth orientated policies were becoming more frequent but, for the bank to increase its lending activity, it would have to increase its capital. It was also important to ensure the bank maintained its AAA rating. I intervened to stress the importance of maintaining the AAA rating and that this was critical to the organisation’s effectiveness. However I was willing to consider the arguments for supporting growth. I also stressed that any increase in lending should have a better geographical balance throughout the EU.
Ministerial Dialogue with Candidate Countries
Ministers, over lunch, held an informal meeting with their counterparts from the EU accession and candidate countries—Croatia, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia—focusing on the candidate countries’ pre-accession economic programmes for the 2012-14 period.
Enterprise Management Incentives
The Government announced in the Budget that the individual limit on qualifying EMI options will be increased from £120,000 to £250,000.
The Income Tax (Limits for Enterprise Management Incentives) Order 2012 (SI 2012 No. 1360), giving effect to the increase was laid before the House of Commons earlier today. The order will come into force on 16 June 2012 and apply to qualifying EMI options granted on or after that date.
Tax Policy Consultation
Budget 2012 announced that we would consult on requiring controlling persons who are integral to the running of an organisation to have PAYE and NICs deducted at source by the organisation by which they are engaged. As referred to in the Chief Secretary’s oral statement earlier today and his review into “The Review of the tax arrangements of public sector appointees”; we are today publishing this in the form of a consultation document on the taxation of controlling persons.
The consultation document is available on HMRC’s website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Culture, Media and Sport
Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held in Brussels on 10 and 11 May. I represented the UK at the culture and audiovisual sections of the Council, together with Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Minister for Culture and External Affairs. Shona Robison, the Scottish Minister for the Commonwealth Games and Sport, represented the UK for the sport section of the Council.
The Council adopted, without discussion, conclusions on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation. These conclusions follow on from the conclusions on Europeana adopted by the Council in 2010 and respond to a Commission recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation which was adopted in 2011. They identify key issues for further progress in this field and invite the member states, the Commission and Europeana to take further measures to ensure that progress in digitisation can be maintained. The UK supported the adoption of these conclusions.
The Council adopted a partial general approach on the proposal for a regulation establishing the Europe for Citizens programme for 2014-2020. This programme will follow on from an existing EU programme, but with a new legal base of article 352 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Under section 8 of the European Union Act 2011, an Act of Parliament is required before the UK can consent to EU legislation based on article 352. The UK therefore supported the adoption of the partial general approach but I informed the Council that an Act of Parliament will be required. I also emphasised that in the current economic and financial climate we expect that the budget for the programme will be reduced from the level proposed by the Commission.
The Council also adopted a decision designating Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) and Wroclaw (Poland) as the European Capitals of Culture for 2016.
Culture and Audiovisual
The Council adopted a partial general approach on the proposal for a regulation establishing the Creative Europe programme for 2014-2020. This programme will follow on from the current Culture, Media and Media Mundus programmes. The partial general approach did not include the programme budget and the proposed new loan guarantee facility. The UK did not support the partial general approach, as it does not provide for selection decisions—that is, decisions about which projects will be awarded EU funding under the programme—to be subject to member state scrutiny through the formal comitology arrangements.
However, I was able to welcome other aspects of the proposal, in particular recognition of the increasing importance of the digital agenda and technological innovation in culture and media, and the increased scope for new synergies and cross-sectoral initiatives.
Ministers from other member states expressed broad support for the partial general approach. Most were also broadly supportive of the loan guarantee facility as a means of improving access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises in the cultural and creative sectors. However, some raised questions and concerns about whether it should supplement or replace grant spending in the programme and about whether and how it would benefit smaller member states and organisations and how it would be implemented in practice. For the UK, I welcomed the opportunity to consider the issues relating to the loan guarantee facility in the light of developments in the negotiations on the multi-annual financial framework.
The Council adopted conclusions on combating doping in recreational sport. These conclusions refer to the European Union Work Plan for Sport for 2011-14 which highlight the fight against doping as a priority theme and established an expert group on anti-doping. They set out why doping in recreational sport is an important problem and support the extension of the mandate of the expert group to collate best practices and produce recommendations in this area by the end of 2013. The UK supported the adoption of these conclusions and they were adopted without debate.
The Council also held a policy debate on future challenges in the fight against doping including in recreational sport. The UK recognised the important role which the EU and its member states have to play in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) review of the world anti-doping code, noting that article 10 of the code (regarding the sanctioning of athletes) needs to be amended and that the UK is pushing for tougher future sanctions as part of the review process. The UK also set out its views on the issue of combating doping in recreational sport and noted that the education of athletes, particular younger athletes, is a key issue. The UK observed that the educational work carried out by UK anti-doping at the recent school games was a good example of this.
Any Other Business
The German Minister introduced a paper on the draft Commission communication on state aid for films and other audiovisual work. This paper was co-authored with the UK, France and Austria. The German Minister commented that new criteria proposed in the Commission’s draft communication would impose important restrictions on the film industry in Europe and there was a risk that large productions would begin to move away from Europe. In order to maintain Europe’s competitiveness, the wording of the communication needed to be revised. I supported Germany’s comments and noted that the film tax credit has been a huge success and that current territorialisation criteria (i.e. the obligation on producers to spend a specific part of their production budget in the territory offering aid) are working well. On aid intensity (i.e. the amount of aid available as a percentage of the production budget) I expressed our concern that the proposed new limits would impact negatively on the whole of Europe. In response, the Commission noted that the public consultation on the draft communication, which concludes on 14 June, provided an opportunity for member states and other interested parties to raise their concerns. The Commission did not intend to weaken the competitiveness of the European film industry.
The Commission briefly introduced the communication on a European strategy for a “Better Internet for Children” which was published on 3 May and stressed the need for an EU-wide strategy to provide the same protection opportunities for all children and to avoid fragmentation.
The Commission also introduced their first report on the application of Directive 2010/13/EU (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) which was published on 7 May. The Commission stressed the importance of moving towards a digital single market and explained that they have set up a media futures forum which is intended to produce recommendations before the summer.
Energy and Climate Change
Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
In March I announced the commencement of the triennial review of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). Today I am announcing the findings of that review, which I am pleased to say support the continuation of CoRWM as the most appropriate body to undertake the hugely important work of independently advising and scrutinising the Government’s managing radioactive waste safely (MRWS) programme.
The review has also looked at the governance arrangements for CoRWM in line with guidance on good corporate governance set out by the Cabinet Office and makes some recommendations to improve the appraisal of the committee chair and the training and development of committee members.
The final report of the triennial review of CoRWM can be found at: http://mrws.decc.gov.uk and I have made available copies in the Libraries of both Houses.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
On 17 April I informed the House that we would review our procedures for alerting Ministers to the death of British nationals abroad.
I can now inform the House that this review has been completed. While I am satisfied that, in the case of the death of Neil Heywood in China, consular staff followed the guidance that was in place at the time, I have also concluded that more detailed guidance would help staff decide when to inform Ministers of deaths in future. I have therefore asked that internal guidance for consular staff on the death of British nationals overseas be amended to ensure consideration is given to whether:
(a) A need exists, or may arise later, for Ministers to take action with the foreign Government to ensure appropriate handling of the case (e.g. because of any uncertainty over the cause of death);
(b) There is a high-level of pressure from the family to do something different to established consular policy;
(c) Relevant ministerial travel or other engagements is planned, especially if a visit is taking place or is pending, including consideration of the personal connections of people the Minister might meet in the UK or overseas;
(d) Strong UK and local media interest is likely (especially if a Minister is travelling);
(e) Significant parliamentary/constituency MP interest in the case is likely;
(f) There is any credible rumour or speculation surrounding the case which would significantly affect the nature of the consular support the FCO would provide;
(g) There are any other risks if Ministers are not informed.
If this revised guidance had been in place at the time of Neil Heywood’s death, I believe that Ministers would have been informed earlier than 7 February.
I have arranged for a copy of the revised consular guidance to be placed in the Library of the House.
I should also like to use this opportunity to correct a factual reference in my written ministerial statement of 17 April 2012, Official Report, column 18WS concerning the request by our ambassador in Beijing to the Chinese authorities to mount an investigation into the death of Neil Heywood. The statement:
“Our ambassador repeated the request a week later to the Director-General for Europe”
should have read
“Our Ambassador repeated the request on 5 March to the Director-General for Consular Affairs”.
Consultation on Shared Decision Making
Today I am publishing “Liberating the NHS: No decision about me, without me—Further consultation on proposals to secure shared decision-making”. This publication forms the Government’s response to the “Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control” consultation.
“Liberating the NHS: No decision about me, without me” sets out detailed proposals to implement the Government’s commitment to giving patients more say over their care and treatment through more choice and control, informed by the consultation process. A further shorter consultation is to be carried out. A small number of focused consultation questions have been included which seek views on whether our proposals are realistic and achievable.
The accompanying document “Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control—A summary of responses” summarises the large number of comments received during the consultation period. The Government consulted on broad proposals to implement the commitments to give patients and service users more choice and control over their care and treatment and to make the goal of “no decision about me, without me” a reality. The views of patients, the wider public, health care professionals and the NHS were sought on how these plans might best be achieved.
The NHS Future Forum ran a listening exercise between April and May 2011. Its recommendations and the Government’s response to its report have been taken into account when producing our detailed proposals.
The final round of consultation will run for eight weeks. Views from patients, the wider public, organisations, health professionals and the NHS will again be sought.
Copies of the response and the summary or responses have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
Leader of the House
Explanatory Statements on Amendments (Pilot)
On 13 October 2011, the House agreed a resolution noting the recommendations in paragraphs 31 and 32 of the Second Report of the Procedure Committee of Session 2010-12 (HC 800) relating to explanatory statements on amendments to Bills and inviting the Leader of the House and the Procedure Committee to put in place a pilot scheme to implement these proposals in respect of one or more Bills before the end of the next session.
In my written ministerial statement of 10 May 2012 relating to the Government’s legislative programme for 2012-13, I stated that I would write shortly to the Chair of the Procedure Committee with proposals for such a pilot in respect of two Bills to be introduced early in this session and that I hoped to make a further announcement soon.
I am pleased to tell the House that the Procedure Committee has agreed to my proposal that the pilot should take place in respect of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill and the Small Donations Bill.
The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill will have its Second Reading today and, if the programme motion is agreed to, will be committed to a Committee of the whole House. The pilot in respect of the Bill will cover both Committee of the whole House stage and any proceedings on consideration.
The Small Donations Bill will be published soon. The pilot in respect of the Bill will cover both Public Bill Committee Stage and Report stage.
Guidelines for the tabling of explanatory statements were set out in paragraph 32 of the Second Report of the Procedure Committee of Session 2010-12 (HC 800). Questions as to the implementation of the rules shall be decided by the Chair of the Public Bill Committee, the Chairman of Ways and Means in respect of Committee of the whole House and the Speaker in respect of Report stage.
The Government intend to participate fully in the pilot. We plan to provide explanatory statements for all Government amendments for Bills in the pilot at both Committee and Report stage other than those amendments where the legal effect is clear on the face of the amendment. The Government will also do what they can to promote awareness of, and encourage participation by others in, the pilot. The Procedure Committee will consider other steps which might be taken to the same end.
The Government believe that there would have to be very significant and clearly definable benefits illustrated from this final pilot for any further progress to be made. Because there have already been several pilots for explanatory statements and only limited evidence available on the outcome of those pilots, I have proposed to the Procedure Committee, and that Committee has agreed, that there should be a formal evaluation of the pilot, with an initial evaluation conducted by the House service which the Procedure Committee will then use as the basis for a report on the outcome, together with evidence from elsewhere, including the Government’s views.
The criteria for evaluation which I have agreed with the Procedure Committee are as follows:
The extent to which explanatory statements are tabled by (a) Back Benchers and (b) the official Opposition;
The extent to which explanatory statements are viewed as worthwhile and of assistance by Members;
The extent to which explanatory statements require editorial or other intervention by the House authorities to ensure compliance with the guidelines;
The extent to which explanatory statements provided new or additional information about amendments;
The extent to which explanatory statements or information uniquely available from those statements is referred to in debate or otherwise used in discussion about the Bill;
The costs and resource implications, including indirect costs.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
I am pleased to announce the publication today of the business plan 2012 to 2016 for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The business plan sets out the services the agency will deliver over the next four years and the resources they will have available. This is a refresh of the plan the MCA first published last summer. The agency is also publishing a set of performance indicators for 2012-13.
Both documents will be available electronically on the MCA’s website, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Work and Pensions
Wage Incentives for Work Choice
I would like to announce plans to launch a new wage incentive scheme in July this year. The wage incentive—worth up to £2,275 each—will be available to employers who recruit an 18 to 24-year-old disabled person from Work Choice into sustained employment. Work Choice is a specialist disability employment programme that provides tailored support to help disabled people who have the most complex support needs.
This extra support for young disabled people will sit alongside the youth contract, which currently offers a similar wage incentive for employers who recruit an 18 to 24-year-old from the Work programme—the Government’s leading back-to-work programme.
The aim of this wage incentive scheme is to incentivise employers into giving young disabled people participating on Work Choice a chance in a weaker market. This is at a time when they might be overlooked because of a lack of skills or experience and the scheme can therefore help reduce the scarring that young people face as a result of a recession. It provides valuable support to employers, in addition to the support to employer and disabled employee already provided through Work Choice in-work support or Access to Work.