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Written Statements

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2013

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 21 May 2013


Visual Effects Industry

As announced at Budget 2013, the Government are today launching a consultation on options to provide further support for the visual effects industry through the tax system.

The UK has historically been one of the global centres for visual effects production, and is currently home to a number of world-renowned and award-winning visual effects studios making a significant contribution to British culture.

The visual effects sector makes a valuable economic and cultural contribution to the UK, supporting the performance of the wider digital and creative content sectors. This includes the film, animation, high-end television and film industries, which the Government aim to support through their targeted creative sector tax reliefs. The Government are therefore keen to explore the need for Government measures to address any reported decline within the UK visual effects industry.

The consultation published today invites views from individuals, companies, and representative and professional bodies on options to provide further support for the visual effects industry through the film tax relief as well as alternative spend and tax options to support the sector. Copies of the consultation document have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

This initial stage of consultation closes on 2 July 2013. The Government will take all responses into account.

HM Revenue and Customs Brief

On 25 March HMRC published HM Revenue and Customs brief 04/13, which clarified the tax position of some regular payments to fund investors made by persons other than the fund itself. The brief stated that these payments, which are usually characterised by industry as rebates of the annual management charge, are taxable and should be subject to withholding tax and then further taxed as necessary at the investor’s marginal rate.

It has been brought to the Government’s attention that offshore investors also frequently receive such “rebates”. Given the legal position, this means that tax should now also be withheld on rebates paid to offshore investors.

However, unlike distributions to domestic investors, offshore investors are not normally subject to withholding tax on either interest or equity distributions. The “rebates” paid to investors are economically similar to additional distributions from the fund. Collecting withholding tax for offshore investors may therefore create distortions in how different forms of distribution from the fund are treated for tax purposes.

This difference could have a profoundly negative impact on the international competitiveness on the UK funds industry. Imposing a requirement to withhold tax would therefore be at odds with the Government’s investment management strategy, published at Budget 2013. The Government are determined to improve the UK’s competitive position as a centre for investment management.

The Government have therefore decided to ensure that this unintended consequence of the law as clarified by revenue brief 4/13 does not create inconsistencies in the tax system or impact on UK competitiveness.

The Government will imminently publish two short statutory instruments amending the Authorised Investment Funds (Tax) Regulations 2006 and also The Offshore Funds (Tax) Regulations 2009. These will remove the duty to withhold tax from “rebates” of the annual management charge in most cases where these payments are made to investors who are not UK resident for tax purposes.

Following a four-week consultation period, the Government expect to lay the regulations, setting out the detailed rules, subject to the usual parliamentary process.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Regional Growth Fund

Round 4 of the Regional Growth Fund closed in March and we received 309 bids, competing for a share of £350 million. The region which submitted the most bids was the North West, but there was a strong regional spread of applications across England.

Round 4 bids are now being appraised and will be reviewed by the independent advisory panel, chaired by my noble Friend Lord Heseltine. The panel will make recommendations to the ministerial group led by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and we hope that we will be able to announce selected bidders in the summer.

Rounds 1, 2 and 3

I would also like to take the opportunity to update the House on progress of the previous RGF rounds.

In total £1,920.9 million of RGF cash is available to businesses through RGF projects and programmes and over £800 million of private sector cash has already been invested thanks to this commitment of support. This will stimulate local economies and provide much needed growth and jobs. A summary of money available in each English region is at annex A.

The pace of RGF has significantly increased and we have enabled the private sector to invest its own money into projects in England, creating and protecting jobs and supporting the Government’s industrial strategy to rebalance the economy.

We remain committed to ensuring money continues to be made available quickly, and companies can access RGF awards as soon as they agree a final offer with us. A total of 98% of projects and programmes from rounds 1 and 2 have agreed final offers and for round 3, 92% of awards have been finalised.

Withdrawn bids

I am publishing the most recent list of bidders who have withdrawn at annex B; updated from my written ministerial statement of 11 February 2013, Official Report, column 33WS. As stated previously, the withdrawal of a small proportion of bids is to be expected given the robustness of the contracting process.

Money from withdrawals is recycled into the RGF. Ministers can use this flexibly to encourage growth through specific economic opportunities or to respond to economic challenges in vulnerable parts of the country. In exceptional circumstances this will take place outside the normal bidding process, although detailed due diligence requirements will still need to be met.

Annex A – Finalised Awards by Region from Rounds 1,2 & 3


Award Amount in millions (Finalised)

North West


North East


Yorkshire and the Humber


West Midlands


East Midlands


East of England


South East


South West


This is the money currently available in each region for business to draw down as agreements have been finalised up to these values.

The remainder of the money available is with the nationally run RGF programmes and totals £439.4 million.

Annex B - Withdrawn projects

A number of bidders have withdrawn since the last published list (February 2013). The withdrawal of a small proportion of bids is to be expected given the robustness of the contracting process.

Bidders may withdraw a project or programme for any reason. Commonly these include global market conditions; realisation through the due diligence process that the project could not be supported (including on state aid grounds); and changes in senior management or parent company strategy.

The alphabetical list of withdrawn bids to be published as an annex to the written ministerial statement is below. Those highlighted in bold denote the new withdrawals.


Name of Beneficiary



Name of Beneficiary



A&P Tyne Ltd



Kilgour Metal Treatments



Ames Goldsmith UK Ltd



LNX Distribution Ltd/Elonex






Marlow Foods Ltd



BRM Packaging Ltd



Messier-Dowty Ltd



C&C Baseline Ltd



Nissan UK P3



Caparo Precision Strip



Northern Tissue Group Ltd



Carlton & Co



Pailton Engineering Ltd



Cleveland Potash Ltd



PD Teesport Ltd



1CE3 - Conitech



Pilkington United Kingdom Ltd



CE4 – Verta Energy



PMT Industries Ltd



Cumbrian Holdings



Prom Chem Ltd



Cummins Generator Technologies Ltd



Rapiscan Systems



2CT5 – Exhaousto Ltd



Robert Bosch Ltd



CT7 – Aggregate Industries Ltd



St. Modwen Properties



CT8 – W.D. Irwin & Sons



SCM Pharma Ltd



CT9 – Arla



Shepherd Offshore Ltd



Diodes Zetex Semiconductors Ltd



Sirius Minerals



Disley Tissue Ltd



Stainless Plating Ltd



Federal-Mogul Friction Product



Sunsolar Energy Ltd



Fosters Bakery (Staincross)



T & N Plastics Ltd



Geothermal Engineering Ltd






GE Power Conversion UK Ltd



Thales Properties Ltd (Leicester)



Guilford Mills Ltd



The Listen Media Company



Heerema Hartlepool Ltd



Treves UK Ltd



Huntsman Polyurethanes (UK) Ltd



Turner Powertrain Systems Ltd



Hydra-Valve Advanced Valve & Pipeline Solutions



Universal Engineering



I-Plas Products Ltd: Recycled



Vestas Technology UK Ltd



ING Lease UK Ltd



Zegen (Wilton) Ltd



J&B Recycling Ltd


1CE is the Chirton Engineering package of projects

2CT is the Carbon Trust package of projects

Communities and Local Government

Planning Practice Guidance

The Department for Communities and Local Government ran a consultation exercise between 21 December 2012 and 15 February 2013 seeking views on the review group’s recommendations contained in the report of the review of planning practice guidance led by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor.

The review has examined all current guidance material and has recommended rationalising advice and making it easier to use. Existing guidance is unwieldy in its current form and the review has recommended that it be shorter but retain key elements, and be more accessible to be useful to everyone using the planning system.

We accept that the existing guidance suite needs reform and consolidation. In the light of the positive response to this consultation, we are carefully considering the implementation of the review group’s recommendations. As set out in the Budget, we will publish significantly reduced planning guidance, providing much needed simplicity and clarity in line with Lord Taylor’s recommendations. We accept the majority of the report’s recommendations, with the exception of those on signposting best practice material produced by the sector and the immediate cancellation of out-of-date guidance.

The Government’s response to both this consultation and the Taylor review has been placed in the Library of the House and is available on the Department’s website.

Culture, Media and Sport

Sporting Legacy

Through the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and other major sporting events, we have raised the level of ambition for sport in this country for people in every community. I would like to update the House on progress with the delivery of the Government’s 10-point sports legacy action plan (my statement of 18 September 2012, Official Report, column 35WS). My last progress report was issued on 24 January 2013, Official Report, column 18WS. Since then, LOCOG has handed over its games maker database to Sport England working in partnership with UK Sport and London Partners and Join In. The consortium partners are now reaching out to the 5.3 million people currently on the database, with information about volunteering opportunities across the UK. This includes advice on how to volunteer at major sporting events such as the international cricket champions trophy in June and the rugby league world cup in November to ensure that we build on the success of the London 2012 games makers at future events.

On measuring sports participation, I can now confirm that there will be one set of data released through Active People. The next release of data will be in June 2013.

Elite Sport

Elite Funding

UK Sport has recently agreed the medal targets for summer Olympic and Paralympic sports for their targeted competition events in 2013. In June, UK Sport will publish these agreed medal targets as they are used to track progress towards success in Rio in 2016. Further information on this will be included in my next update.

World Class Facilities

Good progress is being made on the transformation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. In preparation for the reopening in July 2013, all eight of the park venues, including the five sporting venues, now have operators in place.

East village (previously the athletes village) will be London’s newest neighbourhood; it will provide 2,800 new homes for Londoners from 2014 including outstanding free schooling for all ages at Chobham academy and an advanced medical clinic. Delancey and Qatari Diar have invested £557 million in the athletes’ village, and will provide the long-term management of the site. The joint venture will work alongside Triathlon Homes who have invested £268 million in this project to date, and will manage the affordable housing in the village.

Major Sports Events

Since my written statement of 24 January, the UK has successfully delivered three major events:

All England badminton champs;

BMX Supercross world cup; and

FINA diving world series

We have also won the right to host the following major sports events:

IPC para athletics grand prix final 2013

UCI track world cup 2013

FIH hockey world league 2013

The Tour de France Grand Depart 2014

We are currently bidding to host more events including:

The track cycling world championships (2016);

The European judo championships (2015);

The rowing world cup (2015);

The world figure skating championships (2016);

The youth Olympic games (2018).


Places People Play

Sport England has again increased the funding for Places People Play raising it to £155 million. Sports facilities have now been improved and updated as a result of the programme.

Since my last update, 11,747 new sport makers have been recruited, bringing the total to 50,704.

The Sportivate programme has now given 225,000 young people the chance to try new sports, an increase of 84,445 since January. The programme has also been extended until 2017 with an additional £24 million of lottery funding.

Youth Sport Strategy

In May, a £1.8 million a new year long pilot to test new and innovative approaches to the delivery of women’s sport was launched in Bury. Also, as part of the strategy the first £5.1 million of the £40 million community sport activation fund has been allocated to 32 projects. StreetGames has created 46 door step club pilots, designed to offer sustainable clubs for young people in disadvantaged areas.

A total of 80,000 students have participated in active universities, an increase of 35,000 since the first year and we now have 153 college sports makers in place in further education colleges. In addition, a pilot in Birmingham has led 18 schools to open up their sports facilities for community use.

Join In

Join In 2013 will run for six weeks over the anniversary period. This year there will be 10,000 events, attracting 70,000 volunteers—these events will span the UK and 25% of them will focus on community activities. Since my last update, Join In have also become members of the consortium who own the LOCOG database, allowing them to build on their ambition to become the home of the games makers. In addition, Join In will host the “Go Local” event at the Olympic park on 19 July which will not only bring together those who volunteered in 2012, but also encourage them to inspire others to volunteer and to undertake projects in their own community.

School Games

As of 6 May 2013, a total of 16,918 schools had registered for the school games, of which 13,271 are fully engaged in the programme. A total of 450 school games organisers are in post with funding extended until 2014-15. Around 70 county festivals of sport are taking place during the summer, and I would encourage as many Members of the House to support their local community schools as possible.

An exchange of young athletes with Brazil will take place again in 2013—helping to build on our excellent relationship in the lead up to Rio 2016. In September, Sheffield will welcome a mixed team of both able-bodied and disabled Brazilian athletes to compete alongside our elite, young athletes at the school games national finals. In return, the UK will be send a team of some of our best, young disabled athletes to compete at Brazil’s school Paralympic-style games in November, providing them with valuable experience in competing against high-class international competition at a major sporting event.

PE/School Sport

On 16 March this year, the Prime Minister announced details of the new school sport premium, which will see £150 million a year going directly to primary school head teachers to improve the quality of PE and sport available for all their pupils. This will complement the £1 billion already being invested into youth and community sport—helping to ensure a lasting legacy of the London 2012 games and providing all young people the chance to begin a lifetime’s habit of playing sport.

Disability Sport Legacy

Sport England have just announced funding of £1,984,203 for the English Federation of Disability Sport for 2013-15. This will provide more opportunities for disabled people to take part in sport and deliver programmes to meet the needs of disabled people.

International Development

In February, Lord Coe was appointed chair of the International Inspiration Foundation (IIF). Following the creation of the new merged charity, the full board of trustees was appointed including Katherine Grainger CBE; Terry Miller and the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). As of March 2013, the charity International Inspiration’s programme has contributed to or influenced 40 sports or education policies in partner countries, helping to promote sustainable change in these countries’ sports systems.

My next update to the House will be in July, to mark the anniversary of the opening of the London 2012 games.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs/Development Foreign Affairs Councils

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 27 May and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will attend the Development Foreign Affairs Council on 28 May. These meetings will be held in Brussels, and will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.

Foreign Affairs Council


On Syria, Ministers will discuss the regional ramifications of the crisis and the prospects for the Geneva II talks. We will seek agreement to amend the arms embargo to allow EU countries the flexibility to provide greater support to the moderate opposition, including a broader range of military equipment.

Common Security and Defence Policy

Ministers will discuss preparations for the December European Council discussion on defence, with a focus on the first of the three taskings agreed at the December 2012 European Council. These taskings were to increase the effectiveness of the common security and defence policy (CSDP); enhance EU capabilities; and strengthen the European defence industrial base. We will encourage the discussion on the first tasking to focus on practical measures that improve cost-effectiveness of the EU’s civilian and military missions and operations and deliver more effect on the ground, while continuing to ensure complementarity with NATO.

Middle East Peace Process

This is the first discussion of MEPP since the February FAC, at which EU Ministers addressed the deteriorating prospects for a two-state solution, and the importance of engaging the US. This discussion will be an opportunity to agree the focus of EU policy and engagement on the MEPP for the coming months. The UK will focus on how the EU can contribute actively, alongside other regional and international partners, to efforts led by the United States to drive progress on the MEPP. This will include the incentives the EU could offer the parties to reach a negotiated solution. The UK will reiterate the importance of predictable, sufficient support for the PA and its institutions, as well as support for efforts to reinvigorate the Palestinian private sector.

Iran E3+3

Baroness Ashton is expected to update Ministers on the latest progress on E3+3 nuclear talks with Iran, including her meeting with the Iranian chief negotiator Jalili in Istanbul on 15 May. No discussion is expected.


Baroness Ashton is expected to update Ministers on the latest progress in Mali, including on the progress made at the donors’ conference which took place in Brussels on 15 May. Discussion is expected to be limited.


The Foreign Secretary will brief colleagues on the 7 May London conference, and will look ahead to the September Brussels conference.

Development Foreign Affairs Council

Council Conclusions to be adopted by the Council

We expect Ministers to adopt Council conclusions on the annual report 2013 to the European Council on EU development aid targets, the EU approach to resilience: learning from food security crises, and food and nutrition security in external assistance. The Government welcome these conclusions.

Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals Framework and Rio +20 Follow-up

This will be the main item for discussion. Ministers will debate the EU approach to the post-2015 development agenda and Rio+20 follow up. Council conclusions are expected to be adopted in June.

Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change

The Commission and European external action service will give an update on the implementation of this policy and anticipated process for delivery in the next programming period (2014-2020).

Information Points

There will be information points on food and nutrition security, member states’ 2012 overseas development assistance (ODA) figures. Policy coherence for development, the 11th European development fund and local authorities.

Chris McManus (Inquest)

In his statement of 13 March 2012, Official Report, column 141, the Secretary of State for Defence informed the House of the deaths of the British architect, Chris McManus, and his Italian colleague Franco Lamolinara, who were taken hostage by Islamist terrorist group Ansaru in Nigeria on 12 May 2011 and who tragically were killed by their captors during a joint UK/Nigerian rescue operation on 8 March 2012. The Secretary of State for Defence reminded the House that Her Majesty’s coroner was legally responsible for determining the cause of Chris McManus’ death and that his statement could not in any way prejudice the course of the coroner’s inquiries.

HM coroner for Swindon and Wiltshire has now concluded his investigation, and held an inquest in Salisbury on 17 May 2013. He has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

I would like to update the House on the outcome of the recent conference of the five nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) nuclear weapon states (the “P5”). The conference, hosted by Russia, took place on 18-19 April in Geneva.

P5 conferences play a vital role in building the mutual understanding and trust needed to help the P5 take forward our shared NPT commitments. This was the fourth such conference that has brought together senior policy officials, military staff and nuclear scientists from all five NPT nuclear weapon states to discuss issues across the three pillars of the NPT. It follows on from conferences in London (September 2009), Paris (June 2011), and Washington (June 2012).

The P5 conferences are an important part of the international dialogue on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, demonstrating a shared determination to make progress on the commitments set out in the 2010 NPT action plan.

The P5 issued the following statement after the meeting:

“The five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear-weapon states, or “P5”, met in Geneva on April 18-19, 2013 under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation, to build on the 2009 London, 2011 Paris and 2012 Washington P5 conferences. The P5 reviewed progress towards fulfilling the commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and continued discussions on issues related to all three pillars of the NPT—non-proliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and disarmament, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences. The P5 also had a positive exchange with representatives of civil society during the Geneva P5 Conference.

The P5 reaffirmed their commitment to the shared goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament as provided for in Article VI of the NPT and emphasized the importance of continuing to work together in implementing the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan. The P5 reviewed the outcome of the 2012 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and significant developments in the context of the NPT since the 2012 Washington P5 Conference. They assessed issues relating to strategic stability and international security, and exchanged views concerning prospects for further steps to promote dialogue and mutual confidence in this area, including in a multilateral format.

In addition the P5 welcomed a briefing by the Russian Federation and the United States on the ongoing implementation of the New START Treaty and its success to date. The P5 were also briefed by the Russian Federation and the United States on the joint 2012 inspection in Antarctica conducted pursuant to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and its Environmental Protocol. This joint inspection included verification that the international stations are implementing relevant environmental rules and that facilities are used only for peaceful purposes. The P5 shared views on objectives for the 2013 Preparatory Committee, the inter-sessional period thereafter, and looked ahead to the 2014 Preparatory Committee and 2015 Review Conference.

The P5 discussed the latest developments in the area of multilateral disarmament initiatives including the situation at the Conference on Disarmament. They expressed their shared disappointment that the Conference on Disarmament continues to be prevented from agreeing on a comprehensive program of work, including work on a legally binding, verifiable international ban on the production of fissile material (FMCT) for use in nuclear weapons, and discussed efforts to find a way forward in the Conference on Disarmament, including by continuing their efforts with other relevant partners to promote such negotiations within the CD. The P5 reiterated their support for the immediate start of negotiations on a treaty encompassing such a ban in the Conference on Disarmament. They noted the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on FMCT, and expressed the hope that its work will help spur negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. The P5 reaffirmed the historic contribution of the pragmatic, step-by-step process to nuclear disarmament and stressed the continued validity of this proven route. In this context, they also emphasized their shared understanding of the serious consequences of nuclear weapon use and that the P5 would continue to give the highest priority to avoiding such contingencies.

The P5 advanced their previous discussions of an approach to reporting on their relevant activities across all three pillars of the NPT Action Plan at the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting, consistent with the NPT Action Plan, and resolved to continue working on this issue under France’s leadership. They plan to continue their discussions in multiple ways within the P5, with a view to reporting to the 2014 PrepCom, consistent with their commitments under Actions 5, 20, and 21 of the 2010 RevCon Final Document. They welcomed the progress made on the development of the P5 glossary of key nuclear terms under China’s leadership and discussed next steps. They stressed the importance of this work, which will increase P5 mutual understanding and facilitate further P5 discussions on nuclear matters. The P5 reaffirmed their objective to submit a P5 glossary of key nuclear terms to the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The P5 are working toward the establishment of a firm foundation for mutual confidence and further disarmament efforts. They shared further information on their respective bilateral and multilateral experiences in verification and resolved to continue such exchanges.

The P5 recalled their Joint Statement of 3 May 2012 at the Preparatory Committee of the NPT Review Conference and pledged to continue their efforts in different formats and at various international fora to find peaceful diplomatic solutions to the outstanding problems faced by the non-proliferation regime. They reiterated their call on the states concerned to fulfil without delay their international obligations under the appropriate UN Security Council resolutions, undertakings with the IAEA and other appropriate international commitments. In the context of the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on 12 February 2013 and the continued pursuit of certain nuclear activities by Iran, both contrary to the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, the P5 reaffirmed their concerns about these serious challenges to the non-proliferation regime.

The P5 underlined the fundamental importance of an effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system in preventing nuclear proliferation and facilitating cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The P5 stressed the need for strengthening IAEA safeguards including through the promotion of the universal adoption of the Additional Protocol and the development of approaches to IAEA safeguards implementation based on objective state factors. They also discussed the role of the P5 in assisting the IAEA in cases involving possible detection of nuclear weapon programs in non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) in conformity with the provisions of the NPT.

The P5 continued their previous discussions of efforts to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and reviewed the recent UK-hosted P5 Experts Meeting on CTBT, at which the P5 identified a number of areas for future P5 collaboration and decided to pursue further inter-sessional work, in particular ahead of the Integrated Field Exercise in 2014. The P5 called upon all States to uphold their national moratoria on nuclear weapons-test explosions or any other nuclear explosions, and to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the Treaty pending its entry into force.

The P5 shared their views on how to prevent abuse of NPT withdrawal (Article X). The discussion included modalities under which NPT States Party could respond collectively and individually to a notification of withdrawal, including through arrangements regarding the disposition of equipment and materials acquired or derived under safeguards during NPT membership. They resolved to make efforts to broaden consensus among NPT States Party on the latter issue at the 2014 PrepCom, thus making a further contribution to the NPT Review Process.

The P5 reiterated the importance of the implementation of the 2010 NPT Review Conference decisions related to the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, in particular those related to the convening of a conference, to be attended by all the States of the Middle East, on the establishment of the Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the states of the region. They underlined their support for all States concerned making all efforts necessary for the preparation and convening of the Conference in the nearest future. They also reiterated their full support to the ongoing efforts of the facilitator.

The P5 reviewed their efforts to bring about the entry into force of the relevant legally binding protocols of nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. They reaffirmed their view that establishment of such zones helps to build confidence between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, enhance regional and international security, and reinforce the NPT and the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. They reaffirmed their readiness to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as soon as possible. They underlined the importance of holding consultations, including on the margins of the Second PrepCom, with the States Party to the Treaty on a Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone in Central Asia. They noted also the parallel declarations, adopted by the P5 and Mongolia, concerning Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status, at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 17 September 2012.

The P5 pledged to continue to meet at all appropriate levels on nuclear issues to further promote dialogue and mutual confidence. The P5 plan to follow up their discussions and hold a fifth P5 conference in 2014.”


Gender Birth Ratios

Following a request from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Department of Health has undertaken an analysis to investigate whether the gender birth ratio in the United Kingdom varies by mothers’ country of birth beyond the range that might be expected to occur naturally. The analysis concludes that when broken down by the mothers’ country of birth, no group is statistically different from the range that we would expect to see naturally occurring. However, there are significant limitations in what these data can show. As there are small numbers of births for most groups, large differences in birth rates would be needed to identify ratios outside the normal range.

The UK gender ratio is 105.1 male to 100 female births and is well within the normal boundaries for populations.

Evidence suggests that a number of factors can influence the sex of a child. These include paternal and maternal age, coital rates, number of children and sex of previous children. However, ratios above 108 and below 103 are unlikely to occur naturally other than as a product of the random variability associated with small numbers of births.

Recorded birth ratios vary widely by mothers’ country of birth. Initial analysis identified a small number of countries for which there were indications that birth ratios may differ from the UK as a whole and potentially fall outside the range considered possible without intervention. However, departmental analysts emphasised that it is possible that this was the product of natural variation and that further analysis would be undertaken.

The further analysis was quality assured by the methodology team at the Office for National Statistics and identified 10 countries which over the period 2007 to 2011 had over 10,000 births and recorded gender ratios either lower than 103 (seven countries) or higher than 108 (three countries). However, the tests undertaken indicate a strong probability that this is occurring by chance. Only one country, Sri Lanka, was found to have a birth ratio significantly different from the figure of 105.1 for the UK as a whole. Mothers born in Sri Lanka have a birth ratio of 99.2 or 99 male children for every 100 female children. However, this is not statistically significantly lower than the 103 threshold and again is likely to be the result of random variation, particularly given the relatively small numbers involved.

The Department of Health will repeat this analysis on an annual basis following publication of birth data.

“Birth ratios in the United Kingdom: a report on gender ratios at birth in the UK” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office and for noble Lords in the Printed Paper Office.

The documents can also be accessed at:


Able Marine Energy Park

An application was made by Able Humber Ports Ltd on 16 December 2011 under section 37 of the Planning Act 2008 regarding a proposed development known as the Able marine energy park comprising a quay of solid construction on the south bank of the River Humber at Killingholme, together with an ecological compensation scheme on the opposite bank at Cherry Cobb Sands.

An examining authority was appointed for the examination of the application on 13 April 2012 and the examining authority’s report was delivered to the Secretary of State for Transport on 24 February 2013.

I have been appointed by the Secretary of State to decide this application in line with the Department’s guidance on propriety in quasi-judicial decision-making, so as to avoid any possible conflicts of interest which might arise from my other policy responsibilities.

Under sub-section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008 the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless he exercises his power under sub-section 107(3) to extend the deadline. If he exercises such power the Secretary of State must make a statement, to the Houses of Parliament of which that Secretary of State is a member, announcing the new deadline.

I have decided to set the deadline for the decision to 24 July 2013 (an extension of two months) in order to allow the applicant to negotiate terms of a lease of land that they require for the project with the Crown Estate who are the freehold owners of the land. This is to ensure compliance with section 135 of the Planning Act 2008 and the Crown Estate’s statutory duties. The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent for this project.

Lower Thames Crossing

The existing river crossing capacity in the lower Thames area—the Dartford-Thurrock crossing—is operating above the capacity it was designed for, and there is already serious congestion at the crossing with negative consequences for business productivity and the national economy. This crossing forms a key route within the strategic road network. It completes the orbital route of the M25 around London and provides the only Thames river crossing east of London. In addition, the Dartford-Thurrock crossing is located in the Thames Gateway area, where we expect substantial redevelopment and growth.

We therefore propose that a second crossing should be built across the Lower Thames and I am today publishing a consultation document inviting views on the relative merits of three options for locating a new road-based river crossing in the Lower Thames area and a variant of one of these three options.

The three options are:

Option A—at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock river crossing;

Option B—connecting the A2 with the A1089; and

Option C—connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.

A variant for Option C would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20.

Government are committed to tackling the congestion at the Dartford-Thurrock crossing and will improve traffic flows by introducing free flow charging technology to replace the existing cash charge collection and extensive toll plazas. However, even with these improvements there will be a future need for additional river crossing capacity. That is why Government identified a new lower Thames crossing as one of its top 40 infrastructure projects in the national infrastructure plan 2011 and committed to reviewing and consulting on options for locating the new crossing.

The technical analysis undertaken for and by my Department is now complete. It has confirmed the need for additional road based river crossing capacity and concluded that that all three options—including one with the variant—would accommodate additional traffic growth and reduce congestion at the existing crossing albeit to varying extents. In addition, the review has concluded that it would technically be feasible to deliver a scheme at all of the options.

The consultation document and related technical reports, which I am publishing today, set out the findings of the technical analysis for the three options considered and the variant. It presents information about the impacts of providing a crossing at each of the options and invites views from all interested parties.

The responses received to this consultation will be analysed and interpreted to help inform our decision on where to locate a new crossing. In weighing up the relative merits of the alternate locations, Government will need to consider the relative economic, environmental and social impacts as well as the potential cost, affordability and value for money.

This is the first stage of decision making. Subject to the decision on location, work will commence on the development of a scheme at the selected location and this will involve further consultation.

I am pleased to announce that the consultation will run from Tuesday 21 May until Tuesday 16 July. Anyone with an interest is invited to take part. A consultation document and instructions for responding can be found on my Department’s website. An electronic copy has been lodged with the Library of the House.

Department for Transport officials will also be available to answer questions with public information events on the following dates:

Thursday 13 June, Dartford library, 2-8pm;

Saturday 15 June, Grays library, 10am-5pm;

Monday 17 June, Chadwell library, 2-7pm;

Thursday 20 June, Bluewater shopping centre, 10am-9pm;

Friday 21 June, Lakeside shopping centre, 10am-10pm; and

Saturday 22 June, Gravesend library, 9am-5pm.