Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 14 May 2013
Business, Innovation and Skills
The 16th annual review of the Government Chemist has been received. The review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses plus those of the devolved Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland. The review will also be laid before the Scottish Parliament.
Child Trust Funds
The Government have today launched a consultation on whether they should permit the transfer of savings held in child trust funds to junior ISAs, and, if so, on what basis. The Government propose that voluntary transfers from child trust funds to junior ISAs should be allowed if requested by the registered contact for an account, usually the parent or guardian.
The purpose of the consultation, which runs until 6 August, is to obtain further evidence on potential costs, benefits and other impacts of the Government’s proposal, as well as asking for opinions on any alternative proposals, before deciding whether to proceed with any changes.
I will deposit copies of the consultation document in the Libraries of both Houses.
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 14 May 2013. The following items are on the agenda to be discussed.
Banking Recovery and Resolution
There will be a state of play discussion on the banking recovery and resolution directive.
Current legislative proposals
The presidency intends to give a state of play update on the revision of the anti-money laundering (AML) directive and the revised rules for markets in financial instruments directive/regulation (MiFID/MiFIR).
Draft Amending Budget No 2 to the General Budget 2013
ECOFIN will seek to reach a political agreement on this. The Government have been clear that they want to see real budgetary restraint in the EU. They will not support a request for additional payments from the EU budget for 2013. The Government are committed to continue to work hard to limit EU spending, reduce waste and inefficiency, and deliver the best possible deal for taxpayers.
Savings taxation and mandate for negotiations of amendments to the Savings Taxation agreements with third countries
ECOFIN will seek to reach a political agreement on a proposal for a Council directive amending the EU savings directive, and to adopt the mandate for negotiations of amendments to the savings taxation agreements with third countries. The Government support an agreement of the amending proposal to the EU savings directive and an adoption of the mandate as soon as possible.
Draft Council conclusions on tax evasion and fraud
ECOFIN will seek to adopt Council conclusions on tax evasion and fraud. The Government believe tackling tax evasion and fraud is as an important issue for protecting revenues and for ensuring public confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of our tax systems, which needs a combination of action at both domestic and international level.
Macro-economic Imbalances Procedure: In-depth reviews
Council will seek to endorse Council conclusions on the macro-economic imbalances procedure: In-depth reviews.
Towards a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union: Commission communications
The Commission will present the two communications on a deep and genuine economic and monetary union which were published on 20 March. These cover the introduction of a convergence and competitiveness instrument and ex ante co-ordination of plans for major economic policy reforms.
Follow-up to the G20 Finance Ministers and Governors (18-19 April) and IMF/World Bank (19-21 April) 2013 Spring meetings in Washington. USA
The presidency and Commission will debrief Ministers on the main outcomes of the G20 Finance Ministers and Governors and IMF/World Bank spring meetings.
Pilot Initiative on automatic exchange of information
There will be a presentation to Council by the G5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) on their pilot project on automatic exchange of information in the area of taxation. The UK is committed to tackling tax evasion through exchanging tax information between countries and, with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the UK is aiming to embed multilateral automatic exchange of information based on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) agreements with the US as the new single global standard.
Disclosure and Barring Scheme
The Government are introducing legislation to exempt from income tax any benefit arising where an employer pays or reimburses fees for the disclosure and barring service (DBS) online update service and, in some circumstances, fees for Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks.
The update service is a new subscription service being introduced in June 2013. It lets individuals keep their DBS certificates up to date and allows employers or prospective employers to carry out free, online, instant checks to see if any new information has come to light since the certificate was issued.
There is a fee to join the update service. Where employers pay for or reimburse the cost of the fee, there would normally be a taxable benefit in kind for the employee concerned—this legislation will remove that liability.
In addition, the Government are also exempting fees paid or reimbursed by employers for CRB checks when the employee has applied for or holds an active subscription to the update service.
This supports the Government’s commitment to overhaul the criminal records regime to give individuals greater control of their own information, allow DBS certificates to be reused when applying for similar jobs, and reduce the red tape burden on employers.
Falkland Islands Veterans' Mortality Data
In 2010 Defence Statistics (previously known as Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA)) was asked to undertake a study to determine the number of suicides among the cohort of service personnel who deployed to the Falkland Islands during the 1982 campaign. The intention of the study was to examine claims by some ex-service organisations that there have been more lives lost to suicide among this cohort than the 2371 service personnel lost during the 1982 conflict itself.
The study has been extended to investigate the total number of deaths for this Falklands cohort, grouped by cause. The figures are published today as an official statistic notice on the defence statistics website (http://www.dasa.mod.uk) and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.
Key points to note in the data are:
These statistics confirm that the number of suicides among UK veterans of the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict (over the period 14 June 1982 to 31 December 2012) does not exceed the number of service personnel who lost their lives during the 1982 conflict itself, as previously claimed by some groups.
All causes of death are lower than the equivalent general population; in particular the 95 deaths due to suicide among this cohort (including in-service suicides and open verdict deaths) indicate a 35% decreased risk compared with the UK general population.
Moreover, there were significantly fewer deaths in the Falkland Islands veterans’ cohort compared to an equivalent group of the general population (1,335 actual veterans’ deaths compared to an estimated 2,079 for an equivalent general population, which equates to a 36% decreased risk).
Any suicide is a tragedy for the individual and the family involved, but we believe these statistics will enable ongoing well-informed debate to ensure that the nation continues to invest in the right mental health support for service personnel and veterans.
While veterans’ health is the responsibility of the Department of Health and the devolved Administrations, the Ministry of Defence complements the national health services’ delivery through the veterans and reserves mental health programme, which includes provision of mental health assessments for veterans. We also support the Big White Wall, a web-based peer support platform, and the Combat Stress 24-hour mental health helpline.
1 In addition to the 237 UK armed forces deaths during the campaign, four personnel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, six from the Merchant Navy and eight Hong Kong sailors also died (as well as three Falkland islanders). This study does not include any follow up for these populations.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Balance of Competences Review
I wish to update the House on the progress of the balance of competences review. My written statement last year, 23 October 2012, Official Report, column 46WS, set out the time lines for the review. I am pleased to report that the review is progressing and on track. The six first semester reports covering a synopsis of the internal market, taxation, foreign policy, development co-operation and humanitarian aid, health, and animal health and welfare and food safety are currently being drafted and will be published in early summer. We will launch calls for evidence for the nine reports in semester two this week.
Calls for evidence for the first semester reports were published in November and were open for three months. The evidence received has been high quality, and has provided a firm foundation to analyse the impact of EU competence in these areas. While responses were mainly from interested parties in the UK reflecting the focus on the national interest, we also received some evidence from foreign partners and international organisations. We intend to publish information on who submitted evidence alongside the final reports, subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
Reports will undergo rigorous internal scrutiny to ensure they are comprehensive, robust and evidence-based. They will then be presented to the European Affairs Committee for approval prior to being published.
Calls for evidence for the nine reports in semester two will be launched this week. Lead Ministers for each report will inform the House separately when their call for evidence is published. As with the first semester, Government Departments will consult widely, including Parliament and its committees, business, the devolved Administrations, and civil society in order to obtain evidence to contribute to their analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the review.
Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have all officially bid to host Expo 2020. A decision on which country will host this event will be made by the BIE general assembly in November this year. This is an extremely strong field of contenders.
I am pleased to announce that the UK has decided to support UAE’s bid for Dubai to host Expo 2020.
If successful in this bid, Dubai would bring Expo to the middle east for the first time in history.
We assess that the Dubai bid is exceptionally strong: focused on global connectivity and accessibility, underpinned by its geographical location and its position as a global logistics and transport hub. All these would allow exhibitors to reach a large and varied international audience.
We are also convinced that holding Expo 2020 at a time of great change in the region would send a positive signal to the world that this is a region of dynamism, innovation and vast human potential.
Over 100,000 British citizens live and work in the UAE and co-operation between our nations now ranges from our thriving educational and tourism links, joint defence projects, security and foreign policy issues, to our increasing investment in each other’s economies. Expo 2020 and its prelude will provide great opportunities to further strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
General Affairs Council
I will attend the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 21 May in Brussels. The GAC will be chaired by the Irish presidency and will focus on the multiannual financial framework (MFF), the preparation for the 22 May European Council and the preparation of the 27-28 June European Council as well as follow-up to previous European Councils.
Multiannual financial framework (MFF) draft amending budgets
We expect the Irish presidency to give a presentation on the progress made in the “trilogue negotiations” following an informal trilogue meeting which took place on Monday 13 May. The Irish presidency represents the European Council in these negotiations, which are between the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has made clear that they see the MFF as linked to discussion of the large, €11.2 billion draft amending budget for 2013. I will emphasise that we see the two as distinct issues and progress on the MFF should not be hindered by the separate discussions on the draft amending budgets. There is no evidence at this early stage in the annual budget cycle that extra funding is needed or justified. I will continue to argue, along with our like-minded allies, that this is far too large and there is insufficient evidence to justify these requests. On the MFF we will continue to encourage the European Parliament to consent to the deal as soon as possible, and that the ceilings from the February European Council agreement must be respected.
22 May European Council preparation
The 22 May European Council will focus on tax evasion and avoidance and energy. There will be an update on the latest developments on economic and monetary union (EMU), and there may also be discussion on foreign policy priorities.
We welcome discussion of action to be taken on tax. The Prime Minister has been driving work on this area through the UK presidency of the G8 and will take a leading role in pursuing global action to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, including through the EU. Our principal objective at the May European Council is to ensure that EU action on tax complements action being carried out through the G8, G20 and OECD and contributes to a global tax agenda which clamps down on tax evasion and avoidance.
On energy, the European Council will discuss the energy challenges confronting the EU in the context of the EU’s competitiveness agenda. President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, and President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, have both sought to focus work on completing the internal energy market, boosting investment in modern energy infrastructure and the challenge of high energy prices.
The UK energy market has historically been one of the most open and transparent in Europe and we have consistently supported and called for the completion of the internal energy market. We remain committed to ambitious action on climate change but want to ensure that energy supply is maintained during the low-carbon transition. We will support revisions to the EU’s state aid rules to facilitate investments in low-carbon power generation and we will be seeking to avoid unnecessary EU restrictions on member states, who should be free to decide on their own energy mix.
27-28 June European Council preparation
We expect discussion of the agenda for the June European Council agenda at the GAC. The June European Council will focus on economic policy. This includes the European semester, which is the annual cycle of economic policy co-ordination in the EU, the growth compact which will look at further economic and monetary union within the eurozone, following the last discussion on this in the March European Council, and industrial competitiveness.
The agenda for the June European Council may also discuss foreign policy priorities, which will evolve closer to the Council itself.
Report on the European Council follow-up
Finally the Irish presidency is expected to present a report on the follow-up and implementation of European Council conclusions. We do not expect much discussion on this point. If a discussion does develop, however, I will emphasise the need to maintain momentum on progress towards fulfilling the objectives outlined in the Prime Minister’s EU growth agenda, which focuses on trade, reducing the burdens of regulation and deepening and strengthening the single market, including through the creation of a digital single market.
Deaths of Service Personnel Overseas
My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest of our quarterly statements to the House to report progress with inquests into the deaths of service personnel on active service overseas. Once again we want to record our deep gratitude to and admiration for all our service personnel who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations. Their determination, their professionalism and their courage on behalf of us all have been totally dependable. We remember those service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families left behind. We particularly remember the families of the four service personnel who have given their lives since our last statement in January.
In this statement we give details of inquests conducted by the Oxfordshire coroner, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner and other coroners in England and Wales. This statement gives the position at 6 May 2013.
We have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses providing additional information to supplement this statement. The tables show the status of all current cases and include information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held or has been directed to be held.
Our Departments continue to work together to improve our processes and ensure that they are as effective and timely as possible. As we have previously informed the House, the Chief Coroner for England and Wales is in post and will have a number of specific powers and duties in relation to service personnel inquests. Section 12 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force last year and enables deaths of service personnel killed abroad on active duty to be investigated in Scotland, where this is appropriate. The remainder of the chief coroner’s powers are due to come into force this summer.
We will continue to support the coroners who are conducting inquests into the deaths of service personnel. We are sincerely grateful to coroners, their staff and all who help and support bereaved families throughout the inquest process.
Since October 2007 both Departments have made funding available for additional resources for the coroners for Wiltshire and Swindon and for Oxfordshire. This is to help the coroners conduct the inquests of service personnel who have been repatriated to airbases in their districts. These are RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, the airbase for repatriations from 1 April 2007 to 31 August 2011, and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where repatriations have taken place since 1 September 2011. The funding prevents any backlog of inquests and helps the coroners to balance the service personnel inquests within their community workload.
Current status of inquests
Since we made our last statement there have been 11 inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. A total of 569 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan or have died in the UK from injuries they sustained in those operations. There are three cases where no formal inquest has been held. In one case, a serviceman died from his injuries in Scotland, and it was decided that a fatal accident inquiry would not be held. In the other two cases, the death was taken into consideration at inquests into the deaths of other service personnel who died in the same incidents.
Deaths in Afghanistan
As at 6 May 2013, there are 44 open inquests into the deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan. Three of these inquests relate to deaths in the last six months.
The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained nine of the open inquests and the Oxfordshire coroner has retained 19. Coroners closer to the next of kin are conducting the remaining 16 inquests. Two hearing dates have been set.
Deaths of service personnel who returned home injured
There are five open inquests into the deaths of service personnel who returned home injured but died of their injuries. Two hearing dates have been set. When investigations into the remaining three deaths are completed, they will be listed for hearing.
We will continue to inform the House of progress.
Balance of Competences Review
Further to the written ministerial statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs launching the second semester of the review of the balance of competences today, we are publishing a call for evidence for the transport report.
The transport report will be completed by winter 2013 and will cover the overall application of EU competence in transport. Responsibility for transport policy is shared between the EU and individual member states. The EU has an important role in ensuring a seamless, sustainable and efficient transport network across the EU as part of its internal market objectives. The transport report is an opportunity to look at this role and to examine the evidence concerning the impact of EU competence in transport on the UK’s national interest.
The report will focus on the development of the common transport policy and the main cross-cutting themes where the EU’s exercise of competence in transport has had an impact; economic, social, environmental, infrastructure and external relations.
The call for evidence period will last for 12 weeks. The Department will draw together the evidence into a first draft, which will subsequently go through a process of internal scrutiny before publication in winter 2013.
We will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The call for evidence sets out the scope of the report and includes a series of broad questions on which contributors are invited to focus. The evidence received (subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act) will be published alongside the final report in winter 2013.
The Department will pursue an active engagement process, consulting widely across Parliament and its committees, the transport sector and the devolved Administrations in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the review.
The result of the report will be a comprehensive analysis of EU competence in transport and what this means for the United Kingdom. It will aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership; and it will provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU. The report will not produce specific policy recommendations.
“Call for evidence on the Government’s review of the balance of competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union: Transport” has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. It is also available online at: