Tuesday 22 October 2013
UK Guarantees was announced in July 2012 with enabling legislation, the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012, receiving Royal Assent on 31 October 2012.
Today I am announcing that 40 projects, worth £33 billion, are now “prequalified” for the UK Guarantees scheme. A robust assessment and due diligence process is required before final approval of a guarantee can be given, but this means that these projects are eligible for support. The Government have already announced that the guarantee scheme is being offered to help support the Northern line extension, the Mersey gateway bridge and Hinkley Point C. In addition, the following projects have agreed to be listed on the gov.uk website:
Able Marine Energy Park, Humberside
Chinook Energy—Renewable Energy from Waste
Countesswells Development, Aberdeen
Five Quarter Energy Holdings Limited—Deep Gas Winning
Gasrec plant and refuelling stations
Melius Energy—Avonmouth biomass power generation
Intergen UK Development Ltd—Gateway Energy Centre
Intergen UK Development Ltd—Spalding Expansion
Islandmagee Gas Storage Facility
Neart na Gaoithe Windfarm
Tilbury Green Power—waste wood-fired power generation
University of Northampton
University of Roehampton
In April 2013, the Government approved a guarantee for £75 million to Drax Finance Ltd to finance the partial conversion of a coal-fired power station to biomass.
UK Guarantees was launched to address constraints in the long-term debt markets by providing a sovereign-backed guarantee to help infrastructure projects raise debt finance. In exchange for a guarantee the borrower will pay a fee, determined by the nature of the guarantee and the risks inherent in the project. Guarantees for up to £40 billion in aggregate can be offered under the initiative.
The Government will report to Parliament on the financial assistance given as guarantees in line with the requirements set out in the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012.
Central Advisory Committee on Pensions and Compensation
On 15 September 2011, Official Report, column 53-54WS, a written ministerial statement announced the commencement of the triennial review of the central advisory committee (CAC) on pensions and compensation, an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) which I chair. I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.
The CAC plays an important role in providing me with expert advice on the pensions and compensation schemes that my Department operates. In addition, it acts as a single formal consultative body that can assess proposed changes to schemes.
The review therefore concludes that the functions performed by the CAC are still required, but that it does not need to be classified as a NDPB in order to carry out these functions. The report recommends that the CAC be reclassified as a stakeholder advisory group and my officials will take the necessary actions to make this change in due course.
A copy of the full report is available on the gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
North Liverpool Community Justice Centre
I am today announcing the Government’s response to the consultation on proposals for the future of the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre (NLCJC).
Having reviewed analysis of responses to the consultation, the Lord Chancellor has decided that the proposed closure of the NLCJC should proceed and that the majority of its work be transferred to Sefton magistrates court. In consideration of the responses received, the original proposals have been revised. Youth and education welfare cases will be dealt with by Liverpool youth court and Liverpool and Knowsley magistrates court respectively.
The consultation response document is published on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk.
The written ministerial statement made by the hon. Member for Maidstone and the Weald (Mrs Grant) on 17 July 2013, Official Report, column 113WS announced that future local consultations on court and tribunal closures would typically run for six weeks. Given the focus of these, the procedure for announcement of any court closure consultation will be made by HM Courts and Tribunals Service writing to MPs whose constituencies are within the catchment area of the court. I will place a copy of the published documents—both the consultation document, and the Government response to the consultation—in the Library of the House of Commons. When I do so, I will write to the Chair of the Justice Committee to notify him of the fact. As is currently the case, HM Courts and Tribunals Service will also notify local stakeholders and criminal justice system partners when publishing the consultation.
This process will apply for the consultation on the future of Neath magistrates court, which is currently open and due to close on 7 November.
Work and Pensions
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 15 October 2013 in Luxembourg. The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who is responsible for employment relations and consumer affairs, represented the United Kingdom (UK).
The main discussion focused on the posting of workers enforcement directive. The UK emphasised the importance of building a stronger economy to restore growth by keeping burdens, especially on small businesses, to a minimum. Having shown considerable flexibility the UK was disappointed that a general approach was not agreed between Ministers. The UK will continue to aim to ensure that the directive strikes the right balance between protecting posted workers’ rights and the effective functioning of the single market.
There was an exchange of views on youth employment in which the presidency highlighted the significant challenge of youth unemployment across the EU. The UK outlined the successes of the youth contract and discussed the importance of vocational training systems. The Council adopted its declaration on the European alliance for apprenticeships, and the minute statement outlining UK concerns on the prescriptive nature of aspects of the text and the need to respect member state competence in this area was noted.
During the lunchtime discussion, Ministers discussed the key lessons learned from last year’s European semester process. Many member states shared UK concerns over the need for greater European Commission transparency in terms of sharing the evidence base underpinning the CSRs much earlier in the process. The Employment Committee (EMCO) and Social Protection Committee (SPC) reports on the evaluation of the European semester were endorsed. The SPC report on their contribution to the annual growth survey 2014 policy priorities was also endorsed.
There was also a policy debate on the social dimension of the European monetary union. Most member states agreed in principle with the proposed scoreboard and indicators but some called for this to remain voluntary for those not in the eurozone. There was broad agreement that the European semester should remain the primary instrument for pursuing this work. The Commission concluded that there was clear support for the principle of a social dimension of the EMU but recognised that they needed to do more to explain what it means in practice for member states and what indicators needed to be included in the scoreboard.
Ministers adopted Council conclusions on the European Court of Auditors’ special report on the added value of the European globalisation adjustment fund. The Council conclusions recommend improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, and to explore alternative schemes. The UK agrees with much of the analysis in the Court’s report and with its recommendations.
Under any other business, the presidency provided updates on legislative issues and reported on the upcoming tripartite social summit meeting.