Written Ministerial Statements
Friday 30 November 2012
Business, Innovation and Skills
Retail and Manufacturing
The Government are committed under the Red Tape Challenge to reduce the burden of regulation which acts as a barrier to growth. Unnecessary regulation has to be removed especially if it is outdated and now covered by more current legislation.
We have laid before the House a statutory instrument which will amend and revoke two measures identified under the retail theme of the Red Tape Challenge. This is detailed in the second Government response and follows on from the initial Government response to the retail and manufacturing consultation which was published on 16 July 2012.
The second Government response details our plans to amend the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 to reduce the age at which children can legally purchase Christmas crackers from 16 to 12-years-old which is the minimum age allowed under current EU legislation (The Pyrotechnic Articles Directive 2007/23/EC). This is to promote greater personal freedom as heavy-handed intervention is unnecessary for Christmas crackers which are low-risk items.
Additionally, we will revoke the Pencils and Graphic Instruments (Safety) Regulations 1998 because the safety standards they refer to are outdated and no longer reflect current products and processes. The regulations mostly use safety limits which have remained unchanged since 1974. Currently, there are more recent product safety standards which cover the same areas and offer consumers a comparable level of protection. Therefore we are revoking the Pencils and Graphic Instruments (Safety) Regulations 1998.
The amendment and removal of these measures will not reduce consumers’ protections but increase clarity and make the law for business and consumers more straightforward.
The following regulation will be amended by the 6 April 2013 common commencement date:
Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1554).
The following regulation will be revoked by the 6 April 2013 common commencement date:
Pencils and Graphic Instruments (Safety) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/2406).
The new list of ministerial responsibilities has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be sent to each MP’s office.
The list can also be accessed on the Cabinet Office website at:–
Balance of Competences Review (Taxation)
The Government have today published a call for evidence on the balance of competence between the United Kingdom and the European Union on taxation.
Following the Foreign Secretary’s oral statement launching the Balance of Competence Review in July 2012 and written statement on the progress of the review on 23 October 2012, Official Report, column 46WS, the public call for evidence on taxation will run for 12 weeks from 29 November 2012 to 22 February 2013.
HM Treasury is seeking evidence from individuals and groups with an interest or experience in taxation policy and its application.
The report, following the call for evidence, on the current balance of competence on taxation and what this means for the national interest will be published by the summer of 2013.
Copies of the document have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the Treasury website at: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council/Defence Foreign Affairs Council/General Affairs Council
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) responsible for international security strategy attended the European Defence Agency Steering Board and the Defence Foreign Affairs Council (Defence FAC) in Brussels on the morning of 19 November. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Brussels on the afternoon of 19 November. They both attended a lunch for Foreign and Defence Ministers. I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 20 November.
Foreign Affairs Council, Defence Foreign Affairs Council, and related meetings
These meetings were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Commissioners Piebaigs (Development), Barnier (Internal Market and Services), and Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy) were also in attendance for some of the discussions.
A provisional report of the meetings and all conclusions adopted can be found at:
European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board
An EDA Steering Board at Defence Ministers level was held immediately before the Defence FAC. Norway was present for the first time since signing a co-operation agreement with the EDA.
The Steering Board agreed the EDA work programme 2013 and the EDA work plan for 2013-15. In addition to these action points, the Steering Board endorsed a pooling and sharing code of conduct to be implemented voluntarily at national level and received an update on the interaction between defence and wider EU policies.
Defence Foreign Affairs Council
The three current EU military operations. Operation Atalanta (counter-piracy). Operation Althea (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the EU training mission Somalia (military training mission) were discussed in the Council. The Minister expressed the UK’s support for these ongoing operations.
The Minister raised the UK’s desire to increase the utility of Battle groups including through better use of their constituent capabilities. The NATO Secretary-General was present throughout the operational discussions, focusing on the importance of EU and NATO co-operation.
Commissioner Barnier briefed Ministers on the work of the defence taskforce designed to foster a stronger and more competitive European defence industry ahead of the December 2013 European Council discussion on defence. The High Representative concluded that the issue deserved further attention in spring 2013 and that the EDA should continue to represent member states’ views on the taskforce.
The Minister successfully secured a budget freeze for the European Defence Agency (EDA) for 2013, making clear that in the current financial climate, when we were making cuts to the UK defence (and other) budgets, we must seek continuously to drive efficiency and scrutinise every pound spent on defence. For this reason, we could not accept a budget increase at this time. The Council subsequently agreed to freeze the EDA budget for 2013 at the same level as 2012 (€30.5 million).
Defence and Foreign Ministers Lunch
Foreign and Defence Ministers discussed the situation in Mali, including planning for a possible EU training mission. Ministers agreed conclusions on Mali, and recognised the need for EU action. UK Ministers stressed the need for adequate planning, including force protection and co-ordination with the planned Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) operation. The High Representative said that the European External Action Service (EEAS) would adapt the crisis management concept on this basis and that she was considering appointing an EU special representative for the Sahel.
2013 European Council on Defence
Ministers held an orientation debate in view of the substantial debate on defence matters that is set to take place at the European Council in December 2013.
Ministers endorsed the High Representative’s intention to frame the debate around the EU’s collective ambition to act as a security provider through the common security and defence policy (CSDP) as part of a comprehensive approach; to work closely with strategic partners to develop defence capabilities; and to innovate, notably through a strong industrial and technological base. UK Ministers stressed that a successful debate should focus on practical issues including how to ensure that Europe develops better defence capabilities; that our defence industrial base is well placed to produce these capabilities; and that we improve the delivery of CSDP missions and operations.
Foreign Affairs Council
Middle East Peace Process
Ministers agreed conclusions calling for an urgent de-escalation of the violence in southern Israel and Gaza; strongly condemning rocket attacks on southern Israel; and stressing the need for all sides to fully respect international humanitarian law. The conclusions stated that the current situation underlined once more the urgent need to move towards a two-state solution allowing both sides to live side-by-side in peace and security.
The High Representative urged EU unity on the possibility of a Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status to that of a non-member observer state. The Foreign Secretary stated that if the Palestinians could not be persuaded to delay the EU should strive to maintain unity, and that whatever the outcome of the vote the EU should take an activist approach to reinvigorating the peace process.
Ministers reviewed developments in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Lebanon.
Ministers agreed conclusions on Syria, expressing their concern at the situation and its regional impact; welcoming the outcome of the Doha meeting; considering the national coalition for Syrian revolutionary and opposition forces as the legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people; and committing to increased humanitarian assistance. The conclusions reiterated the full support of the EU to the efforts of the joint special representative of the UN and the League of Arab states, Lakhdar Brahimi, in finding a political solution to the crisis.
The conclusions also reiterated the EU’s commitment to increase further its humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of all affected population throughout Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries, bearing in mind the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the approaching winter, and called on all donors to do the same.
Ministers discussed the EU-Egypt Task Force. The High Representative was of the view that progress had been made.
On Libya, Ministers discussed the dispatch of a fact- finding mission on a potential CSDP border management mission following the formation of the new Libyan Government.
Ministers agreed conclusions on Lebanon condemning the recent violence; supporting the Lebanese institutions; calling on all parties to engage in dialogue; and commending Lebanon for its support to Syrian refugees and disassociating itself from the Syrian conflict.
Ministers agreed conclusions on Yemen, welcoming the progress made in the first year of Yemen’s political transition; urging continued momentum; and criticising those seeking to derail the transition. Ministers welcomed pledges of economic support to Yemen and encouraged these to be translated into concrete action.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Ministers agreed conclusions that condemned the resumption of hostilities by the M23; demanded that external support to the M23 stop; delivered a clear message to the Government of the DRC that it needed to strengthen efforts to establish security and the rule of law in the east; encouraged the United Nations Organisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in its role to protect civilians; and tasked the EEAS to present a strategic approach outlining how the EU could assist in resolving the crisis.
The High Representative updated the Council on the deteriorating situation in the eastern DRC following the advances by the M23 over the weekend. The situation was dire and humanitarian impacts severe. Commissioner Piebaigs agreed that the humanitarian situation was serious and worsening; there were an additional 650,000 internally displaced persons since the recent flare-up in violence.
Ministers approved starting a process towards upgrading EU relations with Cuba. The High Representative noted that the existing framework for EU-Cuba relations, the common position, was 16-years-old and losing relevance. The EU needed to decide how best to engage in support of the ongoing reform process or it risked being left behind. An EU-Cuba agreement could codify existing elements of co-operation with Cuba and put it on a stronger footing. However, the High Representative noted the need to proceed cautiously given remaining concerns over human rights. The process should be stoppable and the existing common position should remain in place throughout any negotiations on a new agreement.
Ministers discussed the situation in Ukraine following the parliamentary elections of 28 October. They also considered how to take forward the EU-Ukraine relationship, including the association agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. The High Representative concluded that Ministers might need to consider the issue further at the December Foreign Affairs Council.
A planned discussion of the United States was removed from the agenda due to time constraints.
Ministers agreed without discussion a number of others measures, including:
Noting the single progress report on the development of the EU military capabilities from November 2011 to October 2012.
Noting the report by the head of European Defence Agency about its efforts for improving the defence capabilities of participating member states.
Adoption of guidelines for the European Defence Agency’s work in 2013.
Adoption of conclusions on the development of military capabilities.
Approval of a draft security arrangement between the European Space Agency Security Office and the European Defence Agency Security Office for the protection and safeguarding of classified information exchanged between the European Space Agency and the European Defence Agency.
Allocation of €1.86 million from the EU budget to support arms export control in third countries.
Approval of the 13th progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, covering activities during the first half of 2012.
Noting the annual report on the control of military technology and equipment exports, in accordance with common position 2008/944/CFSP.
Adoption of conclusions on the review of Council common position on the EU arms export control framework
Approval of the EU’s position for the third review conference of the convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their destruction (CWC), scheduled to take place in April 2013.
Adoption of conclusions on the action plan on visa liberalisation regarding the Republic of Moldova.
Adoption of conclusions establishing a human rights dialogue between the EU and South Africa.
Setting the ceiling for member states’ contributions to the European development fund for 2014, the annual amount of the contribution for 2013 and the amount of the first instalment of the contribution for 2013.
Adoption of conclusions endorsing the joint Caribbean-EU partnership strategy.
General Affairs Council
The GAC was chaired by the Cypriot EU Presidency, Mr Andreas Mavroyiannis, Deputy Minister for European Affairs. A provisional report of the meeting can be found at:
Informal dinner hosted by the President of the European Council
The night before the plenary session of the GAC the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, hosted an informal dinner meeting to discuss the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) ahead of the special European Council on 22 and 23 November. This meeting gave member states the last opportunity to highlight their views on the draft European Council conclusions released on 13 November. Together with my like-minded colleagues, I argued that the proposed level of the MFF, at €973 billion commitments, was still too high at a time of fiscal austerity, and in excess of the UK’s demand of a real terms freeze on payments. I highlighted several areas of the budget, including the Connecting Europe Facility, which could see significant reductions from the Commission’s original proposal while still enabling above inflation increases.
The proposed text also included suggested changes to the Own Resources system, including to the UK rebate. I made clear that this, along with proposals to extend macro-economic conditionality to apply to the UK, was unacceptable.
Some other countries argued in favour of a larger budget, or for specific considerations for domestic priorities such as cohesion funding or the common agricultural policy.
Cohesion Policy Legislative package
On 20 November it was felt unnecessary to have further discussion on the MFF following the extensive exchange of views the previous evening. The first key item on the agenda was a discussion on cohesion policy where the presidency sought agreement to a partial general approach (PGA) to another legislative block. PGAs were agreed on 17 blocks at the GACs in April, June and October. These two additional blocks covered financial management and the common strategic framework; agreement of these final two blocks gave the presidency a mandate to enter into informal discussions with the European Parliament.
The Council was able to agree to the PGA on the basis that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. Poland, Italy and Slovakia also submitted a statement calling for further political discussions on cohesion policy and sought for this commitment to be incorporated within legislation. Despite supporting the principle of further political discussion I argued that including this within legislation was unnecessary. I also asked for sufficient time to be provided to enable consultation with national Parliaments due to the ongoing difficulties we have had ensuring sufficient time for Parliamentary scrutiny. Despite these additional issues, the GAC was able to reach agreement on the PGAs in the spirit of compromise.
The presidency also presented its conclusions for the informal meeting of Ministers for cohesion policy which took place on 6 November.
European Commission Work Programme for 2013
The Commission set out the main elements of their proposed work programme for 2013. This included a sizable portion of the programme devoted to developing Economic and Monetary Union proposals. The Commission emphasised that they sought to focus on areas that could create stability and promote Europe’s competitiveness. The work programme included the Single Market II proposals and the Commission expressed their hope that these proposals could be agreed before the end of this European Parliament. There were other reforms cited, such as on climate change and energy policy, and establishing a European public prosecutor. The Commission also hoped to achieve trade deals with the US and Japan and for an ambitious agenda for 2013 on enlargement and neighbourhood policy.
Ireland, who will take on the EU Presidency in January, welcomed the proposals and emphasised the importance of progress on trade agreements and enlargement on which we will work closely with them. I argued that in all areas of EU business we would look for efforts to ensure that the regulatory burden is minimised, both through active consideration and through the use of rigorous impact assessments for each new proposal.
Preparation for the European Council on 13 and 14 December
In a follow-up to the 18 and 19 October European Council the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, will send a letter on the single market to EU Leaders with an update and outline of action required at the European Council on 13 and 14 December to deliver the progress sought in the previous European Council conclusions.
The December European Council agenda covers Economic and Monetary Union proposals including on Banking Union, discussion of the Single Market Acts I and II, defence and enlargement. Foreign policy issues are also likely to be discussed but these will be determined closer to the time. The Commission hope the European Council will endorse the Single Market Act II, and make real progress on Single Supervisory Mechanism and the Capital Requirements Directive IV.
In this discussion I emphasised the need to maintain progress on these areas but also to ensure that the integrity of the Single Market is preserved. I also expressed the UK's support for an ambitious enlargement agenda that promotes stability in both candidate and neighbourhood countries.
I will continue to update Parliament on future Foreign Affairs Councils, Defence Foreign Affairs Councils, and General Affairs Councils.
On 5 December 2011, Official Report, column 6WS, I informed the House of our plans to make a large collection of colonial administration files available to the public over a two-year period.
We have today made the fourth tranche of files available for the public to view at the National Archives (TNA) at Kew. This marks the halfway point. I am pleased to confirm that we remain on track to complete the transfer of the entire collection of files to TNA by the end of 2013 as per the schedule published on the FCO website. As promised, we have kept redactions to an absolute minimum. I am very grateful to the independent reviewer, Professor Anthony Badger, for overseeing this work with such care and commitment.
It remains the case that the FCO is still unable to confirm the existence or destruction of 170 boxes of top secret colonial administration files known to have been returned to the UK. There is some evidence that the Singapore top secret colonial administration files were destroyed as part of a review of FCO post files in the 1990s. The FCO continues to search for these files or for further evidence of their destruction.
The work on the colonial files has, regrettably, caused a short-term backlog in the regular annual transfer of some FCO departmental files from 1981 and 1982. Additional staff resource has been allocated to tackle this. We will publish on the FCO website a timetable to transfer the remaining 1981 and 1982 files between 2013 and 2015.
In his statement to the House on 5 May 2011, Official Report, column 24WS, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary undertook to implement in full the recommendations of the Cary review into the colonial administration files. These included an up-to-date inventory of the FCO’s archival holdings. This has brought to light a large accumulation of other material outside the FCO departmental file series, much of which is over 30-years-old and therefore overdue for review. The FCO has not identified any colonial administration files among these papers beyond those currently being transferred. In keeping with this Government’s commitment to transparency, we will be publishing a copy of the high-level inventory of these “Special Collections” on the FCO website. We remain fully committed both to complying with our public records obligations and to doing so with maximum transparency.
Personal Health Budgets
I am announcing the publication of the final independent evaluation report on personal health budgets, which have been piloted in the national health service since 2009 as a way to give people more choice and control over their care.
In summary, the results show that:
personal health budgets are cost-effective when implemented as the policy intended and patients have genuine control;
they improve people’s quality of life, well-being and feeling of being in control—but do not generally have any statistically significant effect on health status or clinical measures such as blood sugar levels for diabetics;
they may be more effective for people who are higher users of NHS services (such as people receiving NHS continuing health care) and those with mental health needs; and
they may reduce use of NHS services indirectly—particularly by reducing hospital admissions.
These are positive findings, which provide evidence for rolling out personal health budgets beyond the pilot programme. However, there is still much to learn about implementing personal health budgets for large numbers of people. This argues for a measured approach: setting a clear strategic direction of travel and supporting further learning as personal health budgets are scaled up.
In the light of the evidence, I can make a number of commitments.
First, the Government can confirm the ambitious objective set in the mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, that
“patients who could benefit will have the option to hold their own personal health budget, subject to the evaluation of the pilot programme, as a way to have even more control over their care”.
Secondly, we also reaffirm our commitment to introduce a right, from April 2014, for people receiving NHS continuing health care to ask for a personal health budget; the evaluation clearly suggests that personal budgets have benefits for this group of people.
Thirdly, we want to enable NHS commissioners across the country to offer personal health budgets, including through the option of a direct payment. Direct payments for health care are currently only lawful within pilot schemes, but the Health Act 2009 gave power to extend them nationally by order, with the approval of both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. We intend to bring forward proposals for this. To help inform the process, we will be launching a public consultation later this year on updating the regulations for direct payments. Meanwhile, existing pilot sites will still be able to offer direct payments, and will be able to act as early leaders in rolling out personal health budgets more widely.
Fourthly, we will be providing additional support to nine areas that are “Going Further, Faster”, pushing ahead with implementation on a larger scale and demonstrating how personal health budgets can be extended beyond NHS continuing health care. The Department will provide £1.5 million of funding to support early roll-out of personal health budgets in the period until April 2013, when responsibility will transfer to the NHS Commissioning Board.
Finally, we have also today launched a toolkit that is available to everyone who has an interest in personal health budgets. It contains a wide range of learning from the pilot programme, including practical advice and information to support the implementation of personal health budgets.
More information on personal health budgets, including the toolkit and stories of people who have budgets can be found on the personal health budgets learning network at: www.personalhealthbudgets.dh.gov.uk.
The evaluation report has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
I have today taken a decision not to release £21 million of support to Rwanda. This aid was due to be paid in December.
This Government believe strongly that aid will be most effective when the Governments we partner meet all our four partnership principles: a strong commitment to reach the poorest people; to take strong action in tackling corruption; to be accountable and transparent to their citizens; and to live up to their international obligations to support peace and respect human rights.
I have taken this decision because I consider that the evidence that the Government of Rwanda have supported the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appears to be credible and compelling. This constitutes a breach of these important partnership principles that underpin general budget support.
The UK wants to continue with our long-term and successful development partnership with Rwanda, and to work with the Government of Rwanda to secure a peaceful resolution to the situation in eastern DRC. Meeting the partnership principles alongside tangible improvements on the ground, and continued progress made by the Government of Rwanda in supporting peace, are key factors in any decision on general budget support next year.
I strongly welcome the progress made by Presidents Kagame of Rwanda, Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo and Museveni of Uganda last week and at the summit on 24 November. This latest summit resulted in an important 10-point communiqué, specifying long and short-term actions to be taken by all parties, but crucially including a renewed call for the M23 to leave Goma without delay, which must happen as part of any sustainable solution to the situation in the region.
The situation in eastern DRC remains very unstable and very frightening for the communities involved. A large number of vulnerable people have had their lives disrupted yet again and are without food and shelter. I am also, therefore, announcing a further £18 million of support for immediate humanitarian needs in DRC which will provide 100,000 people with three months of emergency food assistance, as well as access to clean water, essential household items and emergency education for more than 130,000 people. I urge the Governments of Rwanda and DRC to exercise their maximum influence to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian relief.
The UK remains committed to supporting long-term solutions which bring stability and remove the causes of conflict which currently leave space for armed groups to prosper, especially in eastern DRC.
Solutions must be led by the Government of DRC and we will remain engaged with President Kabila’s Government and urge him to work with us. We will ensure that our development programme in the DRC has renewed emphasis on programmes in the east to meet the needs of the victims of conflict and promote longer-term development. In return we expect President Kabila and his Government, with the support of the international community, to show strong leadership and take on the huge challenge of ending this long-running conflict, addressing grievances and creating the right conditions for development programmes to succeed.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
In March 2011 the Government responded to the Public Accounts Select Committee report “Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State” setting out the coalition’s plans for reforming the public bodies sector. It includes the requirement to undertake triennial reviews of Executive and advisory non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is the Government body responsible for administering the compensation schemes for criminal injuries and victims of overseas terrorism in England, Scotland and Wales. Its aim is to compensate the blameless victims of violent crime or acts of terrorism overseas. Part of the Ministry of Justice, it was established in 1994 under prerogative powers.
To deliver the coalition Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will be subject to a triennial review. The Ministry of Justice, as the sponsoring Department, has today launched a consultation, which will last until 8 February 2013, inviting views. In line with Cabinet Office guidance, the review will consider the following:
the continuing need for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority—both its functions and its form; and
where it is agreed that it should remain, to review the control and governance arrangements in place to ensure that the public body is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.
In conducting the triennial review, officials will be engaging with a broad range of stakeholders and users of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The review will be aligned with guidance published by the Cabinet Office: “Guidance on Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies”. The final report and findings will be laid in this House.