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Written Statements

Volume 568: debated on Tuesday 15 October 2013

Written Statements

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Business, Innovation and Skills

Foreign Affairs Council

The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) will take place in Luxembourg on 18 October 2013. My noble Friend Lord Green will represent the UK on all the issues on the agenda.

The substantive items on 18 October will be:

One Legislative item:

State of play on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for managing financial responsibility linked to investor-state dispute settlement tribunals established by international agreements to which the European Union is party.

Non-legislative items:

State of play on the preparations for the Eastern Partnership summit (Vilnius, 28-29 November 2013)—Trade aspects:

EU-Ukraine, DCFTA1 part of the association agreement.

EU-Republic of Moldova, DCFTA part of the association agreement.

EU-Georgia, DCFTA part of the association agreement.

EU-Republic of Armenia, DCFTA part of the association agreement.

Items on which a vote may be requested are: adoption of the EU-China negotiations on investment, and adoption of the EU-ASEAN negotiations on investment. A vote might be requested on the declassification of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) mandate.

Other items not subject to a vote are: the state of play on preparations for the IX World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference (Bali, 3-6 December 2013) and the state of play on China—anti-dumping/anti-subsidy measures on wine.

1Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements

Business-led Taskforce on EU Regulation (Report)

Well designed and proportionate EU legislation benefits the economy, for example by eliminating outstanding barriers to the single market. But imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on business stifles innovation, job creation and growth, particularly for small companies. This must be addressed, especially in the current economic climate. Reducing the burden of EU regulation on business is a priority for this Government.

In June, the Prime Minister therefore appointed a taskforce of six business leaders to look at reforms to EU rules, regulations and practices (both existing and proposed) to put the voice of business at the heart of the debate on cutting EU red tape. The members of the taskforce were Marc Bolland, chief executive M&S; Ian Cheshire, CEO Kingfisher; Glenn Cooper, managing director ATG Access; Louise Makin, CEO BTG; Dale Murray CBE, entrepreneur and Angel Investor; and Paul Walsh, Diageo.

The Government are today publishing the taskforce’s report: “Cut EU red tape”. The taskforce has drawn on over 100 business voices from across Europe, who have generated more than 250 proposals. Their report suggests practical ways to solve the day-to-day frustration, confusion and costs caused by poorly designed EU rules.

The taskforce sets out 30 clear recommendations to improve the most burdensome EU rules, covering the full range of business operations, including addressing barriers to overall competitiveness, starting a business and trading across borders.

Furthermore, the report proposes new principles—the “compete” principles—as a common sense filter through which any new EU regulations must pass to ensure they are pro-innovation and pro-growth.

The Government warmly welcome the taskforce’s report and its concrete proposals for reducing unnecessary costs and burdens for business. We will be considering all these recommendations in detail as a priority; they will be a key part of our work to cut unnecessary EU regulation, including at the forthcoming October European Council.

We shall also be looking at how to take forward all of the suggestions from stakeholders that did not make it into the final report.

Copies of the taskforce’s report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The report is also available online at:


ECOFIN (13-14 September)

An informal meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Vilnius on 13-14 September 2013. Ministers discussed the following items:

Working lunch for ECOFIN members

There was a debrief to Ministers from the earlier Eurogroup discussion. The Commission also presented on its recently published proposal on the single resolution mechanism.

Economic outlook and financial stability of the EU

ECOFIN discussed recent developments in the global economy, including the gradually improving macro-economic and financial situation on the euro area and the EU.

Improving access to finance for SMEsEuropean policy options

ECOFIN discussed a number of Commission-EIB designs for financing instruments aimed at leveraging finance for SMEs. The UK highlighted that participation in this scheme should be voluntary for member states.

Follow-up to the G20 leader’ summit and preparation of the IMF/World Bank annual meetings and the G20 ministerial meeting

The presidency and Commission gave a short update on the outcome of the G20 leaders’ summit on 5-6 September and Ministers gave a mandate to the Economic and Financial Affairs Committee to prepare and endorse the IMFC statement and the EU G20 terms of reference in preparation for the October meetings.

The UK endorsed the progress made at the G20 leaders’ summit on the automatic exchange of tax information and urged the Commission and the presidency to swiftly incorporate the new emerging global standard into EU law through the revision of the administrative co-operation directive.

Future shape of the financial systemfrom the Banking Union architecture to efficient structure of financial markets

The think-tank Bruegel presented on the structure of the EU financial system going forward, based on a paper they published for this discussion. An exchange of views followed.

Fight against tax fraud and tax evasion—towards a global standard on automatic exchange of information

This discussion was opened by guest speaker, Angel Gurria, the Secretary-General of the OECD, who outlined developments made at the EU and global levels towards reaching a global standard on automatic exchange of information. ECOFIN then held an exchange of views on continuing this progress with the aim of tackling tax fraud and evasion.

ECOFIN (15 October)

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Luxembourg on 15 October 2013. The following items are on the agenda to be discussed.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency intends to give a state of play update on the following financial services dossiers: common securities depositories regulation (CSDR); Omnibus II; markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID); single resolution mechanism (SRM); bank recovery and resolution directive (BRRD); and deposit guarantee scheme directive (DGSD).

Preparation of the European Council on 24-25 October 2013

a) Indicators and policy areas for strengthened economic policy co-ordination:

ECOFIN will hold an exchange of views on indicators and policy areas for strengthened economic policy co-ordination. The Government recognise the desire for euro area countries to strengthen the co-ordination of their economic policies. However the Government consider that, consistent with the June European Council conclusions, participation in any new measures for economic and monetary union should be voluntary for those outside the single currency and be fully compatible with the single market.

b) Commission-EIB SME initiative:

ECOFIN will consider Commission-EIB designs for financing instruments aimed at leveraging finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Government recognise the importance of ensuring small business has access to finance, but considers that national Governments are best placed to decide the most effective policies to achieve this. Accordingly, participation in this scheme should be voluntary for member states.

European Semester: Lessons from 2013 and way forward

ECOFIN will hold an exchange of views on lessons to be learned from the 2013 European semester—the Commission’s yearly cycle of economic policy co-ordination —and the possible ways for further improvement for next year’s exercise. The Government welcome the opportunity to discuss this with the Commission and other member states.

Follow-up to G20 Finance Ministers and Governors meeting on 10-11 October 2013 and Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group on 11-13 October in Washington

The Commission and presidency will provide a short update on the outcomes of these meetings. G20 Finance Ministers and Governors’ will discuss: recent developments in the global economy and financial sector vulnerabilities; international financial architecture reform; financing for investment; strengthening the G20 process; and a forward-look to priorities for the Australian presidency in 2014. The annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group will discuss the economic outlook and situation; and IMF policy issues, including governance, surveillance, resources and the IMF’s support to low-income countries.

Preparation of the 19th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw from 11 to 22 November 2013

ECOFIN will adopt conclusions on climate finance ahead of the UNFCCC conference in Warsaw in November.

Tax Information Exchange (Oriental Republic of Uruguay)

A tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with the Oriental Republic of Uruguay was signed on 14 October 2013. The text of the TIEA has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be made available on the HM Revenue and Customs website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.


HMS Illustrious

On 10 September 2012, Official Report, column 1WS, I announced plans to preserve the legacy of the Royal Navy’s Invincible class aircraft carriers.

HMS Illustrious, the last of these three iconic ships, is due to retire from service with the Royal Navy in 2014. The Ministry of Defence’s Disposal Services Authority (DSA) has today launched a competition which will seek innovative reuse bids to retain the ship in the UK, with part or all of it developed for heritage purposes.

As a first step, an industry day will be held early in 2014 and applications to attend are now invited from organisations able to put forward mature and viable proposals, in keeping with the role and history of the Invincible class of ships.

Following the industry day, a full and open competitive process will continue throughout the remainder of 2014. In the event that no suitable reuse bids with a heritage element are submitted, the DSA will open up the competition by seeking proposals for other uses or recycling.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council/General Affairs Council

The 30 September General Affairs Council (GAC) focused on cohesion policy and the preparation for the 24-25 October European Council. I also provided the Ministers of the GAC with an update on the work we are doing on our balance of competences exercise.

Cohesion Policy

The GAC discussed a key issues paper that was prepared by the presidency. This paper focused on outstanding areas of disagreement with the European Parliament on the cohesion policy legislative package for 2014-20. This paper raised four main issues: macro-economic conditionality; the performance reserve; co-financing; and pre-financing.

On macro-economic conditionality I restated that the UK’s opt-out from sanctions for macro-economic conditionality agreed in the February European Council must be preserved. I also highlighted that the European Parliament should not have a role in decisions linked to economic governance beyond the economic dialogue that has already been established, even where as with macro-economic conditionality these decisions do not apply to the UK.

The performance reserve is intended to reward good performance when using cohesion funding and ensure that these funds are spent as effectively as possible. The focus of discussion was over the percentage of the funds allocated to the performance reserve. I maintained that any agreement must respect the ceilings agreed at the February European Council and emphasised the importance of agreeing rules that improved the efficiency and transparency of EU spending.

Likewise, co-financing rates underpin the effective use of structural funds. I argued that this purpose should not be diluted unnecessarily and that any changes to the co-financing rates should not alter the ceilings of expenditure agreed in February.

Initial pre-financing addresses cash-flow issues by providing a proportion of spending at the start of programmes. Here I raised our concern that the proposals could increase the levels of reste á liquider (build up of unspent commitments), which create uncertainty in the future levels of spending.

Preparation of the October European Council

The GAC discussed the draft annotated European Council agenda in preparation for the 24 and 25 October Heads of State and Government meeting. The agenda covers the digital single market; better regulation, including an update from the European Commission on regulatory fitness (REFIT); services liberalisation; innovation; an update on latest developments on economic and monetary union; and an open item for discussion on the current foreign policy at the time of the European Council.

I strongly supported the pro-growth agenda set for the October European Council. I highlighted that e-commerce, copyright, e-payment and big data, building on the G8 open data charter, are areas where particular priority should be given to achieve the greatest impact.

I also highlighted the need to continue the work to reduce the regulatory burdens on businesses. A number of UK businesses were conducting a review on the top 10 most burdensome EU regulations. I underlined that it would be important to listen to what business had to say.

Balance of Competences

I briefed the GAC on the six first semester reports of the balance of competences review. The intention of this review is to provide a mechanism for objective analysis based on evidence from a wide range of sources, rather than to recommend policy outcomes. The first six reports show there were clearly areas where the EU plays a positive role, but that there are also areas where changes could be made to make the EU work better.

Private Security Providers Association Launch

The UK is, along with the USA, a global leader in the private security company (PSC) market. Legitimate PSCs, working to high standards, are vital to the protection of diplomatic missions and the work of companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in complex and dangerous environments around the world.

The Government want to see the highest standards, including on human rights, across all PSCs that work in complex environments abroad. At the same time, the Government want to level the global playing field for those PSCs that work to high, measurable standards, so that they cannot be undercut by PSCs which do not meet those standards.

We have undertaken to establish a system of national certification to professional standards for PSCs, which would measure PSCs’ implementation of the commitments and principles set out in the international code of conduct for private security service providers (ICoC).

A large section of the PSC industry has signed up to the ICoC, which envisages professional standards to implement the ICoC principles and the creation of a global oversight mechanism, named the ICoC Association (ICoCA). The ICoCA forms the second track of the Government’s approach to raising standards and levelling the playing field for PSCs. The Government strongly encourage all PSCs working in complex environments abroad to both pursue certification to these standards by accredited certifying bodies and to become members of the ICoCA.

The ICoCA was launched at a conference in Geneva on 19 and 20 September. The UK, along with Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, is one of the founding member Governments of the ICoCA. Thirteen civil society organisations and 135 PSCs have also joined the ICoCA as founding members. Over 50 of the 135 PSCs that have joined the ICoCA are UK-based. The United Kingdom has provided £300,000 of funding to support the establishment of the ICoCA. Other founding states are also providing support.

The governance structure of the ICoCA will consist of a general assembly, a secretariat based in Geneva, and a 12-person board of directors, with equal representation for each of the membership pillars of Governments, civil society and industry. Former UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Dr Peter Gooderham CMG, has been elected to the board of directors. The board of directors will establish the procedures by which the ICoCA will fulfil its core functions.

Future membership of the ICoCA for PSCs will depend on them being independently certified to approved professional standards. The ICoCA will be able to monitor member PSCs are fulfilling their obligations under the ICoC, including through independent monitoring in the field, and can receive complaints that a PSC has breached the principles of the ICoC.

We believe the twin-track approach of certification to agreed standards and ICoCA oversight can help us fulfil the UK’s commitments under the UN guiding principles on business and human rights. These commitments were set out in the UK’s action plan on business and human rights, which the Foreign Secretary and Business Secretary launched in September.

Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council and the Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting was held on 7 and 8 October in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following items were discussed.

The justice day began with a discussion of the “one-stop shop” in relation to the data protection regulation. The proposal is intended to bring consistency and efficiency to the oversight and enforcement of data protection rules by supervisory authorities, where the data controller concerned has a presence in more than one member state.

Almost all member states supported the idea of a one-stop shop in principle. However, that support was conditional on the way those objectives were achieved, and it was clear that more work was needed.

The presidency concluded that work should now focus on its first proposed model for decisions to be taken by the “main establishment” supervisory authority albeit with restricted powers but an intervention was made and the presidency agreed that the co-decision model should also form part of further work by experts.

The Council then agreed a general approach on the criminal law directive on counterfeiting the euro and other currencies. The UK has not opted in to this proposal.

Vice-President Reding presented her recent proposals for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to prosecute offences of fraud against the Union’s budget and for reform of Eurojust, the EU’s judicial co-operation agency. There was support, in principle, from a large proportion of member states—not including the UK—for the EPPO but less agreement on issues of substance, including: scope; structure; competence; powers; jurisdiction and governance. The coalition agreement confirms that the UK will not take part in the establishment of the EPPO. On Eurojust, the UK regretted that the Commission had not awaited the outcome of the ongoing peer evaluation of the current framework and the UK sought an explanation as to why no impact assessment had accompanied this proposal. The presidency committed to press ahead with both negotiations in parallel.

Over lunch there was a read-out of the EU/US discussions on data protection which had been taking place in light of the Snowden leaks.

Under any other business, the presidency asked member states to help in lobbying the European Parliament to overcome the current stalemate on delegated and implementing acts on the justice funding instruments.

At the start of the interior day of the Council the presidency announced that Ministers had agreed, over lunch, to award the EU Police College (CEPOL) to Hungary on a temporary basis, as one of seven bids that followed the UK’s decision to sell CEPOL’s current site at Bramshill. The presidency noted that the 2005 Council decision specifically naming Bramshill as the seat of CEPOL would still have to be amended and a member state initiative is expected. The Government will deposit this in Parliament in the usual way and expects it to trigger an opt-in decision under protocol 21 to the treaties.

Following a discussion at the June JHA Council, and pending a more comprehensive report to be given at the December JHA Council, the Commission (Reding) gave a presentation on free movement rights and the abuse of these rights. Noting that 19 member states had responded to its call for evidence, the Commission stated that free movement of EU citizens was one of the fundamental achievements of the EU. However, the Commission noted that free movement rights were weakened by abuse and the Commission would support member states in using existing EU tools to fight such abuse. These tools included sanctions, such as expulsion and re-entry bans in certain circumstances and with the appropriate safeguards. National authorities could also check whether an EU citizen had become an unreasonable burden, and if so could refuse residence and withhold benefits. The Commission noted evidence of a minority of EU mobile citizens with low employment prospects who placed a strain on disadvantaged areas and on local services.

The Commission proposed five measures to ensure that free movement rules struck the right balance between rights and obligations: working with member states to produce a handbook on sham marriages; clarifying the notion of “habitual residence” through a practical guide; increasing the share of European social funds (ESF) available to tackle social inclusion from around 15% to 20%; organising workshops with the ESF managing authorities in the member states to exchange best practice; and inviting the mayors and local leaders of the regions under the most pressure to a conference on free movement issues in spring 2014.

The UK welcomed the Commission’s acknowledgement that fraud and abuse was a real issue, but said that there was still some way to go in ensuring that the legitimate concerns expressed by a number of member states were taken seriously. A sterile debate about statistics would undermine public confidence in the EU and its institutions. The sham marriage handbook needed further work and there was a need for consistent interpretation of the free movement directive, for example on expulsion and re-entry bans. Many member states supported the UK’s position, recognising that while free movement was a fundamental principle, fraud and abuse had to be counteracted. The Commission took note of the points raised and said they would be reflected in its final report.

Next the presidency and the Commission updated Ministers on the current EU response to the Syrian situation, described as the

“worst displacement crisis in the world.”

With more than 2 million refugees in total, Syria’s neighbourhood continued to bear the brunt of the crisis and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called for greater resettlement efforts by the international community. To date, nine EU member states have pledged resettlement places, and the Commission encouraged others to follow suit.

The Commission said that the regional development and protection programme (RDPP) was making progress. A total of £6.8 million had also been mobilised from the European refugee fund (ERF), but it was critical to note that only £3.3 million remained in the pot for emergency actions. Future measures which might need to be considered were: greater co-operation between European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the member states under pressure; activating the civil protection mechanism under the right conditions; and triggering the temporary protection directive (TPD) should the situation continue to deteriorate to the point where the threshold was met.

The EU’s High Representative, Cathy Ashton, described the situation on the ground. She welcomed the UN Security Council resolution and noted that the neighbouring countries were becoming increasingly unstable. A total of 25% of Lebanon’s population was now made up of Syrian refugees. The Geneva II process continued, but had a long way to go, as the projection for the next year was that the total refugee population would increase to 3.9 million. EASO noted that for half the EU member states, Syrians were now within the top three asylum intake. The UK highlighted that it had provided over £500 million to the relief effort in the region, as well as participating in the RDPP with a contribution of £425,000. For the UK, more protection and support in the region, rather than resettlement activity, was necessary for a sustainable longer term solution. The presidency called for close monitoring of the situation, and asked the Commission to pursue further solutions.

Next Italy outlined the tragedy which took place on 3 October in Lampedusa, proposing rapid establishment of a taskforce to oversee a range of measures in response. The Commission supported the measures proposed by Italy, and announced its proposal for a Mediterranean- wide search and rescue mission to intercept migrant boats from Cyprus to Spain, working in collaboration with Frontex. This should be accompanied by quick implementation of EUROSUR, the planned external border surveillance system for the Schengen area. In addition, Commissioner Malmström urged member states to consider both resettlement and relocation activities to demonstrate real solidarity for those member states at the external border. Commissioner Malmström announced that she would be visiting Lampedusa with President Barroso the following day. Baroness Ashton underlined the importance of working with Libya and joined others in noting the difficulty of further progress on joint migration work with the Libyan authorities. Frontex was more cautious regarding the ability to conduct enhanced search and rescue efforts, highlighting that no provision for such activity was available in the budget reserve for 2013.

Most Ministers took the floor to express their condolences. Support was given to the idea of a joint taskforce, as well as increased co-operation with third countries to dissuade migrants from making these dangerous journeys or to detect them earlier. It was agreed that the focus should be on effective engagement with the Libyan authorities. The UK agreed that the collective response must improve. There was a need to target the organised criminal groups which exploited the migrants, and to have a better and more coherent dialogue on migration, mobility and security with an increased emphasis on border management. Migration issues needed to be fully incorporated into the EU’s wider external engagement with countries of origin and transit. The Commission agreed to take forward the setting up of the taskforce, and would provide more information on the search and rescue operation shortly.

Ministers were briefed by Baroness Ashton on the importance of civilian contributions to common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions, particularly in the field of justice and home affairs (JHA). The success of the missions was underlined, as were the challenges of maintaining them. Particular attention was drawn to the sizeable contribution made by secondees from justice and home affairs ministries. Ministers were thanked for these contributions and were encouraged to do even more.

The Commission briefly updated on the outcome of the first relocation forum on 25 September. The objective of the forum was to offer discussion on the mechanics for relocation in order to assist those member states which would in the future consider relocating. The Commission underlined its voluntary nature, a point which EASO echoed, and noted it should not be confused with resettlement.

The Finnish delegation briefly noted the ministerial conference on Schengen states with external land borders, which took place on 13 September, involving the Interior Ministers of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Slovak Republic. The conference had led to a number of joint commitments on co-operation between various authorities in order to secure the internal area.

Greece noted progress made in recent months against its national action plan. The new asylum and appeals service had opened its doors on 7 June, and already registered a total of 2,547 applications. The first mobile screening units had been deployed to some of the islands, and the authorities were still on track to open the first reception centre in Lesbos at the end of 2013.

In the margins of the JHA Council, the presidency facilitated a plenary discussion with the Eastern Partnership countries on judicial reform, judicial co-operation, the rule of law, corruption, organised crime, cybercrime, and migration and mobility. Ministers adopted a joint declaration and the presidency hoped it would be the first of many such meetings.


Office of the Public Guardian

My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, made the following written ministerial statement:

The Government are today publishing a consultation paper seeking views on the next phase of our proposals to transform the services provided by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). This reinforces our commitment to implementing the “digital by default” approach in public services.

The OPG is currently undertaking a programme of reform that is designed to meet two key challenges. First, to reform its systems and processes in order to deal effectively and consistently with ever increasing demand to register lasting powers of attorney—a trend that is set to continue with the country’s ageing demographic. Secondly, to transform the way its services are delivered to the public in order to reduce bureaucracy, making its services to customers simpler, more efficient and more accessible. This will be achieved by making the majority of its services accessible online.

Our consultation paper, therefore, seeks views on the following issues:

The forms and application process for lasting powers of attorney;

Supervision of deputies;

Access to the registers;

Proposals for a fully digital lasting power of attorney.

The consultation will run until 26 November. Following this, it is our intention to make the necessary changes to enable some of the provisions to come into force during 2014, although the proposals for a fully digital lasting power of attorney post 2014 will require primary legislation.

Today, I have deposited copies of the consultation paper in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. Copies are available on the internet at:

Work and Pensions

Office for Nuclear Regulation

The Department for Work and Pensions has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund of £550,000 to implement shared services (HR, finance and procurement) for the Office for Nuclear Regulation. This advance is necessitated by the lead in time for delivery prior to Royal Assent of the Energy Bill.

Parliamentary approval for additional resource of £550,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Work and Pensions. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £550,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund. The repayment is expected to be made in the financial year 2013-14.

This advance will allow the Office for Nuclear Regulation to continue to work to its current development timetable and implement shared services in time for the Office for Nuclear Regulation to be established as a public corporation in April 2014.