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Written Statements

Volume 558: debated on Wednesday 13 February 2013

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Defence

Afghanistan (Lines of Communication)

I have today laid before Parliament three bilateral reverse transit agreements with the Republic of Uzbekistan; and a Ministry of Defence departmental minute describing a gifting package which the UK intends to make to the Republic of Uzbekistan.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat operations are due to be completed by the end of 2014. The Government have announced that UK troop numbers in Afghanistan, currently at around 9,000, are due to fall to about 5,200 by the end of 2013 with further significant reductions planned for 2014. The MOD has begun to plan for the recovery of some £4 billion of inventory deployed to Afghanistan. On current estimates, this could amount to the equivalent of about 6,500 twenty- foot containers of equipment, together with about 2,500 vehicles. The draw down operation is made even more challenging by Afghanistan’s remote geographical location, difficult terrain and potentially unstable regional security conditions.

Currently, the only surface option for the recovery of UK equipment from Afghanistan is by the southern transit route through Pakistan. We are in the process of opening this reverse transit route with the Pakistani Government. However, this route will be hard pressed to meet the capacity demands that ISAF draw down will generate. We have therefore been seeking to diversify our potential equipment recovery options by establishing reverse transit routes (surface and air) through the central Asian Republics and Russia—collectively known as the Northern Lines of Communication (NLOC).

Three reverse transit agreements have been concluded with the Republic of Uzbekistan, enabling the recovery of non-war like stores and, separately, motorised armoured vehicles, by rail; and equipment (including war-like stores and ammunition) and personnel by air. These are being published as Command Papers (Cm 8522, 8523 and 8524) and are today being laid before Parliament, each with an accompanying explanatory memorandum. These agreements have already completed Uzbek parliamentary ratification procedures and will enter into force once the UK formally notifies the Republic of Uzbekistan that our internal clearance procedures are complete.

My Right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe’s written statement of 23 February 2012, Official Report, column 83WS set out the broader context of the UK’s engagement with central Asia, noting that underpinning the UK’s growing prosperity and security interests in the region is our commitment to promote core values of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As part of our promotion of regional security and stability, we will continue to engage with the Republic of Uzbekistan on these core values and on a range of security-related issues, including counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and border security, continued support to Afghanistan stabilisation, conflict prevention and crisis management work, counter-radicalisation and some aspects of defence reform and co-operation.

The Republic of Uzbekistan has already played a constructive role in helping to secure Afghanistan’s stability but will face increased security challenges once ISAF has withdrawn from Afghanistan. We have therefore been examining options for gifting surplus UK equipment to help meet those challenges. The departmental minute which I have today laid before Parliament describes a gifting package to the Republic of Uzbekistan of surplus Leyland DAF trucks and Land Rover spares that is intended to contribute to this. Both items have been examined and cleared against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, which include an assessment of whether the equipment might be used for human rights violations or internal repression. Subject to completion of the departmental minute process, delivery will be undertaken progressively during 2013.

Rolls-Royce Submarines (Foundation Contract)

I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence has awarded a 10-year foundation contract to Rolls-Royce Submarines worth around £800 million that will underpin the future delivery and support of the UK’s nuclear propulsion capability. This is the first of three foundation contracts, to be signed as part of the MOD’s submarine enterprise performance programme (SEPP), and will enable savings to the MOD of around £200 million.

The SEPP aims to deliver at least £900 million of savings across the Royal Navy’s submarine programmes by 2020-21, by improving commercial arrangements with industry partners. This was announced in “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review” (Cm 7948, 19 October 2010).

The foundation contract covers the overhead, running and business costs at Rolls-Royce Submarines’ sites. Historically, these costs were included in each individual contract placed with the company. This new foundation contract, however, will consolidate these costs, focus on efficiency, and will secure key terms and conditions for future contracts between the MOD and Rolls-Royce Submarines.

The foundation contract will help sustain around 2,000 jobs at Rolls-Royce Submarines in the UK, which provides a unique national strategic capability that has a vital role to play in meeting the present and future defence and security needs of the UK.

The MOD is in similar negotiations with its other tier 1 industry partners in the submarine enterprise: BAE Systems Maritime—Submarines; and Babcock Marine. I shall make further announcements in due course.

Votes A Annual Estimate 2013-14

The Ministry of Defence Votes A estimate 2013-14, will be laid before the House on 13 February 2013 as HC 855. This outlines the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for each service in the armed forces during financial year 2013-14.

Votes A Supplementary Estimate 2012-13

The Ministry of Defence Votes A Supplementary Estimate 2012-13, will be laid before the House on 13 February 2013 as HC 856. This outlines the increased maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for service in the reserve land forces and the reserve air forces during financial year 2012-13.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Food Standards Agency (Horsemeat Investigation)

I wish to update the House on an important development since my oral statement on horsemeat on 11 February.

As part of its audit of all horse abattoirs in the UK and ongoing investigation into the mislabelling of meat products, the Food Standards Agency, supported by the police, yesterday entered two meat premises. One was in west Yorkshire and the other in west Wales. The FSA is looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold when they included horsemeat. It will involve the police further as necessary.

The plant in west Yorkshire is Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, Todmorden, which is believed to have supplied horse carcases to Farmbox Meats Ltd, Llandre, Aberystwyth.

West Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys police entered the premises with the FSA. The FSA has suspended operations at both these plants while its investigations continue. The FSA has detained all meat found and seized paperwork, including customer lists from the two companies.

The FSA is in the process of establishing the customers of the Welsh business so that the necessary action can be taken to recall and recover products sold that may be contaminated. It will then notify customers. Both the slaughterhouse and the business in Wales have a legitimate trade in horsemeat, but investigations so far indicate that horsemeat has been used in UK produce as though it is beef.

As I told the House yesterday, it is totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is found to be defrauding the public by passing off horsemeat as beef. The FSA will continue to work closely with the police and if there is any evidence of criminal activity, I will expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved.

I will keep the House updated.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Mali

The Government have undertaken to keep this House updated on events in Mali and the wider Sahel region, including the deployment of UK personnel.

French and African military operations have driven terrorist forces out of the three cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. Some fighting is continuing in the Gao region and the risk of attacks remains. This strong response is absolutely right; it will need international support and that is why we are providing military, diplomatic and humanitarian aid as well as increasing our counter-terrorism co-operation with countries in the region.

The meeting of the support and follow-up group for Mali in Brussels on 5 February demonstrated the growing consensus in Africa and among the wider international community that the ongoing military operation to counter terrorism in Mali must be accompanied by greater momentum towards a political settlement.

As part of that settlement, we welcome news that the Malians have agreed a road map for a transition to full democracy, including elections. It is essential that the implementation of that road map is given top priority in Bamako and that progress is made quickly.

Terrorism and violent extremism thrives where there is political instability, so we need to support an effective, inclusive and sustainable political process that leads towards elections and the restoration of full democratic rule in Mali.

We will also support the people of Mali and the region as they seek to re-build their livelihoods and resolve long-standing grievances. We have called for serious negotiations with non-violent groups in northern Mali to resume as quickly as possible.

Development partners, aid agencies and NGOs must work together to address humanitarian need and to build resilience to endemic poverty and food insecurity. Since 2012, the UK has provided £78 million in multilateral and bilateral humanitarian contributions to the Sahel through the UN, Red Cross and international non-governmental organisations. Of this, £17 million has gone directly to help Mali, including a further £5 million announced by the Secretary of State for International Development this week.

We welcome the appointment of Pierre Buyoya as the AU’s High Representative for Mali and the Sahel as well as the news that Said Djinnit, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for west Africa, will be taking a leading role in promoting reconciliation. We hope that both will bring much needed leadership to these important issues.

We take very seriously reports of human rights abuses and violations in Mali. Human rights and international humanitarian law training will be an integral part of the EU training mission to Mali (EUTM) and any bilateral training provided by the UK. UN Security Council resolution 2085 emphasises that any support provided by the United Nations, regional and sub-regional organisations and member states in the context of the military operation in Mali shall be consistent with international humanitarian law and human rights law and refugee law.

The evolving threat from terrorist groups in Mali demands an international response. It must be one that is tough, intelligent, patient and based on strong partnerships. The scale of this challenge means that we must use everything at our disposal: our diplomatic networks, aid and trade, our political relations across north and west Africa, our military and security co-operation as well as supporting the building blocks of democracy, such as the rule of law and a free media.

The UK is supporting French efforts through logistical and surveillance support and by sharing intelligence. We are currently providing one C-17 transport aircraft in support of French and African operations. In addition, an RAF surveillance aircraft—the Sentinel R1—flew to west Africa on 25 January to support French and African operations. Around 70 technical personnel have deployed to Dakar, Senegal, to provide support to the aircraft. Neither they nor the personnel supporting the C-17 aircraft will have a combat role. We continue to discuss with the French Government what else might be needed.

In line with UNSCRs 2071 and 2085, preparations continue for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to support the Malian armed forces. To support this, we have pledged £5 million for two new UN trust funds: £3 million to help support AFISMA troops and £2 million to activity in Mali that would facilitate and support political processes for building stability. We have also offered to provide training and other practical support—such as airlift—to those Anglophone west African countries that are contributing troops to AFISMA.

The UK has also offered up to 40 military personnel to take part in the planned EUTM—as well as a small number of civilian experts under the FCO’s preventing sexual violence initiative to provide human rights and gender awareness training within the mission. Planning for the EUTM is continuing in Brussels. No deployment of UK personnel will occur until force protection requirements are fully satisfied. None of the UK personnel involved in training missions would have a combat role.

The UK is supportive, in principle, of French plans for a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. This would need to be deployed in support of a political process that will build long-term stability and only when the conditions on the ground are such that it can play an effective role.

North Korea (Nuclear Test)

At 2.57 am GMT on 12 February, the US Geological Survey detected seismic activity in the vicinity of North Korea’s Punggye nuclear test site registering 4.9 on the Richter scale. The North Korean news agency confirmed three hours later that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test. This nuclear test is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874 and 2087. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat to international security and regional stability. North Korea’s repeated provocations hinder the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

On the morning of 12 February 2013, I issued a statement strongly condemning the nuclear test. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), immediately summoned the North Korean ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in order to underline the UK’s firm opposition to this nuclear test and make clear to North Korea that it can either engage constructively with the international community, or face increasing isolation and further action by the international community. The Minister met with the North Korean ambassador on Wednesday 13 February.

The UK participated in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council at 2 pm GMT on 12 February 2013. The Security Council agreed in that meeting that this North Korean nuclear test was a clear breach of existing UNSC resolutions; and that there should be a swift and robust response from the Security Council. The UK will be engaging intensively with fellow members of the Security Council over the coming days to agree a robust chapter VII Security Council resolution in response to the nuclear test. We will also consult partners in the EU on strengthening EU sanctions.

I have spoken to the Japanese Foreign Minister and plan to speak to the Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister later today. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has also spoken to the ambassadors of Japan and the Republic of Korea to confirm the UK’s position on the nuclear test. We will remain in close touch with the United States and with China.

I will provide a further update to Parliament, once the United Nations’ response to the nuclear test has been agreed.

Northern Ireland

Departmental Expenditure Limits

Subject to parliamentary approval of any supplementary estimate, the Northern Ireland Executive departmental expenditure limit (DEL), net of depreciation, is increased by £326,962,000 from £10,420,601,000 to £10,747,563,000.

Within the total DEL change, the impact on resources and capital is set out in the following table:

Summary

Opening Position

Changes

Current Position

Fiscal RDEL

9,463,471

34,362

9,497,833

Ring-fenced Student Loans in RDEL

69,210

184,800

254,010

Ring-fenced Depreciation in RDEL

386,382

0

386,382

Capital DEL

887,920

107,800

995,720

Total DEL (RDEL + CDEL - Depreciation)

10,420,601

326,962

10,747,563

The change in the NIE DEL are set out in the table below:

Fiscal RDEL

£’000

Provision at Main Estimates

9,463,471

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange

48,275

Budget Transfer to NIO: HR Connect

-1

Budget Transfer to NIO: Stormont House

-46

Budget Transfer to NIO: Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

-220

Reserve Claim: Coastal Communities Fund

450

Reserve Claim: Policing and Justice

61,254

Resource to Capital Switch

-75,350

sub total

34,362

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

9,497,833

Ring-fenced Student Loans in RDEL

Provision at Main Estimates

69,210

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Reserve Claim: Student Loans

184,800

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

254,010

Ring-fenced Depreciation in RDEL

Provision at Main Estimates

386,382

no further changes

Capital DEL

Provision at Main Estimates

887,920

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange

6,807

Barnett Consequentials (Autumn Statement 2012)

1,543

Reserve Claim: Policing and Justice

24,100

Resource to Capital Switch

75,350

sub total

107,800

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

995,720

The effect of the above changes to DEL and AME is to increase the cash grant payable to the Northern Ireland consolidated fund by £618,000,000 to £14,674,000,000.

Scotland

Supplementary Estimate (2012-13)

Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate the Scotland DEL net of depreciation will be increased by £531,033,000 from £27,837,168,000 to £28,368,201,000. Within the total DEL change, the impact on resources and capital is set out in the following table:

£000

Change

New DEL

Fiscal RDEL

-77,744

25,118,354

Ring-fenced Depreciation within RDEL

3,791

611,948

Ring-fenced Student Loans within RDEL

192,000

280,565

Capital DEL

416,777

2,969,282

Resource DEL + Capital DEL

534,824

28,980,149

Less Depreciation

-3,791

-611,948

Total DEL

531,033

28,368,201

The increase in the Scotland DEL takes account of the following adjustments to the Scottish Government provision amounting to increases of £534,824,000:

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange carry forward of £182,969,000 (£149,156,000 resource, £30,022,000 capital and £3,791,000 ring fenced depreciation);

Increase of £103,000,000 for expenditure financed by the Scottish fossil fuel levy (Capital);

Increase of £4,600,000 for Autumn 2012 Statement Barnett consequentials (Capital);

Increase of £50,000,000 for the Forth Replacement Crossing Project Prepayments (Capital);

Transfer from the Department of Energy and Climate Change of £1,555,000 in respect of the Green Deal (Capital);

A reserve claim of £700,000 in respect of the Coastal Communities Fund (Resource);

An increase in the Student Loan Subsidy impairments of £192,000,000 (Ring Fenced); and

A transfer of £227,600,000 from resource DEL to capital DEL.

Wales

Supplementary Estimate - DEL

Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Welsh Government’s departmental expenditure limit (DEL) net of ring-fenced depreciation will be increased by £107,012,000 from £14,704,278,000 to £14,811,290,000.

Within the total departmental expenditure limit (DEL) changes, the impact is set out in the following tables:

£’000

Fiscal RDEL

Provision at Main Estimates

13,371,782

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange

67,098

Reserve Claim; Coastal Communities Fund

1,150

Resource to capital switch

-113,865

sub total

-45,617

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

13,326,165

Ring Fenced Student Loans In RDEL

Provision at Main Estimates

100,518

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Reserve Claim: Student Loans

25,000

Transfer to r/f depreciation

-3,169

sub total

21,831

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

122,349

Ring Fenced Depreciation in RDEL

Provision at Main Estimates

372,481

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange

15,429

Transfer from Student Loans ring fence

3,169

Transfer to DEFRA (Environment Agency depreciation)

-1,650

sub total

16,948

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

389,429

Capital DEL

Provision at Main Estimates

1,231,978

Changes in Supplementary Estimate

Devolved Administration Budget Exchange

10,583

Resource to capital switch

113,865

Transfer from DCMS (Broadband UK)

3,700

Barnett Consequentials - First Buy

2,419

Barnett Consequentials - Further Education building and maintenance

231

sub total

130,798

Revised Provision (Supplementary Estimate)

1,362,776

Summary

Opening

Position

Changes

Current

Position

Fiscal RDEL

13,371,782

-45,617

13,326,165

Ring Fenced Student Loans in RDEL

100,518

21,831

122,349

Ring Fenced Depreciation in RDEL

372,481

16,948

389,429

Capital DEL

1,231,978

130,798

1,362,776

Total DEL (RDEL + (CDEL)

15,076,759

123,960

15,200,719

Total DEL (RDEL + (CDEL – r/f depreciation)

14,704,278

107,012

14,811,290

The net effect of these and other changes is to increase the grant payable to the Welsh Consolidated Fund by £16,338,000 from £12,844,485,000 to £12,860,823,000. full details are set out in the table below.

Reconciliation of Grant Payable to Welsh Consolidated Fund 2012-13

Main Estimates

(Reflecting Budget 2012)

Changes

Supplementary Estimate

Expenditure Classified as DEL

15,076,759

123,960

15,200,719

Expenditure Classified as AME

405,773

91,949

497,722

Total Managed Expenditure

15,482,532

215,909

15,698,441

Less:

Non-Voted expenditure:

LA Credit Approvals

107,299

0

107,299

Other Non-Voted

6,078

0

6,078

Resource Ring-fenced Non-Cash

472,999

23,350

496,349

AME Non-cash

221,714

105,806

327,520

Total Non-Voted TME

808,090

129,156

937,246

Total voted TME

14,674,442

86,753

14,761,195

Voted receipts

Contributions from the National Insurance Fund

-886,492

-55,415

-941,907

NDR Receipts

-994,000

-59,000

-1,003,000

Total

-1,830,492

-114,415

-1,944,907

Timing Adjustments

Increase/Decrease in Debtors and Creditors

535

44,000

44,535

0

0

0

Total Grant to Welsh Consolidated Fund

12,844,485

16,338

12,860,823