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Written Statements

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 23 October 2013

Written Statements

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Treasury

Double Taxation (Republic of Panama)

A new double taxation convention with the Republic of Panama was signed on 29 July 2013. The text of the convention has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The text has been scheduled to a draft Order in Council laid before the House of Commons on 12 September 2013.

ECOFIN

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Luxembourg on 15 October 2013. Council discussed the following items.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency provided an update on the following financial services dossiers: central securities depositories regulation (CSDR); omnibus II; markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID); the Commission noted the formal adoption of the single supervisory mechanism (SSM); 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 held an exchange of views on indicators and policy areas for strengthened economic policy co-ordination. 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 considered Commission-EIB designs for financing instruments aimed at leveraging finance for SMEs, of which participation in any scheme should be voluntary for member states.

European semester: Lessons from 2013 and way forward

ECOFIN held an exchange of views on lessons to be learned from the 2013 European semester.

Follow-up to G20 Finance Ministers and governors’ meeting on 10-11 October and annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group on 11-13 October in Washington

The Commission and presidency provided a short update on the outcomes of the G20 ministerial and IMF meetings in October.

Preparation of the 19th conference of parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw from 11-22 November 2013

ECOFIN endorsed conclusions on climate finance ahead of the UNFCCC conference in Warsaw on 11-22 November.

Counter-Terrorist Asset-Freezing Regime

My noble friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Deighton, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (“TAFA 2010”), the Treasury is required to report to Parliament, quarterly, on its operation of the UK’s asset-freezing regime mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

This is the 11th report under the Act and it covers the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 September 2013. This report also covers the UK implementation of the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime and the operation of the EU asset-freezing regime in the UK under EU regulation (EC) 2580/2001 which implements UNSCR 1373 against external terrorist threats to the EU. Under the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime, the UN has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under the Al-Qaeda (Asset-freezing) Regulations 2011. Under EU Regulation 2580/2001, the EU has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under part 1 of TAFA 2010.

Annexes A and B to this statement provide a breakdown, by name, of all those designated by the UK and the EU in pursuance of UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

The following table sets out the key asset-freezing activity in the UK during the quarter ending 30 September 2013:

TAFA 2010

EU Reg (EC) 2580/2001

Al-Qaeda Regime UNSCR 1989

Assets frozen (as at 30/09/2013)

£91,000

£11,0001

£70,0002

Number of accounts frozen in UK(at 30/09/13)

61

10

29

New accounts frozen

0

0

1

Accounts unfrozen

0

0

0

Number of designations (at 30/09/2013)

39

373

284

(i) New designations (during Q3 2013)

0

1

1

(ii) Delistings

0

0

7

(iii) Individuals in custody in UK (at 30/09/2013)

15

0

0

(iv) Individuals in UK, not in custody (at 30/09/2013)

3

0

4

(v) Individuals overseas (at 30/09/2013)

13

11

217

(vi) Groups

8 (0 in UK)

26 (1 in UK)

63 (1 in UK)

Individuals by Nationality

(i) UK Nationals4

14

n/a

n/a

(ii) Non UK Nationals

17

Renewal of designation

0

n/a

n/a

General Licences

(i) Issued in Q3

(i) 0

(ii) Amended

(ii) 5

(iii) Revoked

(iii) 0

Specific Licences

(i) Issued in Q3

(i) 9

(i) 0

(i) 2

(ii) Amended

(ii) 0

(ii) 0

(ii) 0

(iii) Revoked/Expired

(iii) 1

(iii) 0

(iii) 0

1This does not duplicate funds frozen under TAFA.

2This figure reflects the most up-to-date account balances available and includes approximately $64,000 of funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 30/09/2013.

3This figure is based on ex-designations where the UK freeze forms the prior competent authority decision for the EU freeze.

4Based on information held by the Treasury, some of these individuals hold dual nationality.

Legal Proceedings

Appeals against designations made under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009 and TAFA 2010 were ongoing in the quarter covered by this report, brought by Zana Abdul Rahim. Two civil claims relating to designations are also ongoing, one brought by Gulam Mastafa against the Treasury and other Government Departments, and another brought by an individual, known as “M”, against the Treasury. The challenge under s63(2) of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 brought by Mohammed Al Ghabra against the Treasury and joined to be heard with his claim for Judicial Review against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is also ongoing.

In the quarter to 30 September 2013, no criminal proceedings were initiated in respect of breaches of asset-freezes made under TAFA 2010 or under the Al-Qaeda (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2011.

Annex A: Designated persons under TAFA 2010 by name5

Individuals

1. Hamed Abdollahi

2. Bilal Talal Abdullah

3. Imad Khalil Al-Alami

4. Abdula Ahmed Ali

5. Abdelkarim Hussein Al-Nasser

6. Ibrahim Salih Al-Yacoub

7. Manssor Arbabsiar

8. Usama Hamdan

9. Nabeel Hussain

10. Tanvir Hussain

11. Zahoor Iqbal

12. Umar Islam

13. Hasan Izz-Al-Din

14. Mohammed Khaled

15. Parviz Khan

16. Waheed Arafat Khan

17. Osman Adam Khatib

18. Musa Abu Marzouk

19. Khalid Mishaal

20. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

21. Ramzi Mohammed

22. Sultan Muhammad

23. Yassin Omar

24. Hussein Osman

25. Muktar Mohammed Said

26. Assad Sarwar

27. Ibrahim Savant

28. Abdul Reza Shahlai

29. Ali Gholam Shakuri

30. Qasem Soleimani

31. Waheed Zaman

Entities

1. Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)

2. Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN)

3. Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)

4. Hizballah Military Wing, including External Security Organisation

5. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development

6. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command (PFLP-GC)

7. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

8. Sendero Luminoso (SL)

Annex B: Persons designated by the EU under Council Regulation (EC)2580/20016

Persons

1. Hamed Abdollahi*

2. Abdelkarim Hussein Al-Nasser*

3. Ibrahim Salih Al Yacoub*

4. Manssor Arbabsiar*

5. Mohammed Bouyeri

6. Sofiane Yacine Fahas

7. Hasan Izz-Al-Din*

8. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed*

9. Abdul Reza Shahlai*

10. Ali Gholam Shakuri*

11. Qasem Soleimani*

Groups and Entities

1. Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO)

2. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade

3. Al-Aqsa e.V.

4. Al-Takfir and Al-Hijra

5. Babbar Khalsa

6. Communist Party of the Philippines, including New People’s Army (NPA), Philippines

7. Gama’a al-lslamiyya (a.k.a. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya) (Islamic Group—IG)

8. Islami Büyük Dogu Akincilar Cephesi (IBDA-C) (Great Islamic Eastern Warriors Front)

9. Hamas, including Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem

10. Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)

11. Hizballah Military wing, including external security organisation

12. Hofstadgroep

13. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development*

14. International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)

15. Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF)

16. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (a.k.a. KONGRA-GEL)

17. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

18. Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army)*

19. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

20. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)*

21. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command (PFLP-GC)*

22. Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)*

23. Devrimci Halk Kurtulu Partisi-Cephesi—DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front/Party)

24. Sendero Luminoso (SL) (Shining Path)*

25. Stichting Al Aqsa

26. Teyrbazen Azadiya Kurdistan (TAK)

5For full listing details please refer to: http://www.hm-treasury .gov.uk/d/terrorism.htm.

6For full listing details please refer to: www.gov.uk

*EU listing rests on UK designation under TAFA 2010.

Tax Information Agreements (Guernsey and Jersey)

Exchange of letters amending the 2009 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) with Guernsey and Jersey were signed on 22 October 2013 to permit automatic and spontaneous exchanges of information. At the same time agreements were also signed to improve international tax compliance which set out the precise details of the information which will be automatically exchanged. The texts of the agreements to improve international tax compliance have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The texts amending the tax information exchange agreements will be scheduled to draft Orders in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Energy and Climate Change

Grangemouth (Update)

Justice

Cost of Motoring

I am today announcing the publication of the Government’s response to their consultation “Reducing the number and costs of whiplash claims”, which closed on 8 March 2013, alongside further measures this Government are taking in order to help drive down the costs of motoring and put money back in the pocket of the driver.

The publication also provides our response to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s “Cost of motor insurance: whiplash” report and recommendations, published on 31 July 2013. I am grateful to the Committee for their valuable and thoughtful findings, which we have taken into account.

For too long honest drivers have been bearing the cost—through higher insurance premiums—of fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims. The Association of British Insurers indicates that 7% of all motor claims were fraudulent, and that dishonest personal motor insurance frauds worth £441 million were detected by the industry in 2011. The Government want to tackle that abuse to help drive down the cost of living and deliver a system that hard-working, law-abiding people can have confidence in.

The reforms I announce today form part of a series of changes to the justice system introduced by the Ministry of Justice, such as the reform of “no win, no fee” arrangements and a ban on referral fees paid between lawyers, insurers, claims firms, garages and others, which are removing incentives for excessive litigation and tackling the culture of claims. New figures from the Ministry of Justice’s claims management regulation unit also published today, show that the number of claims firms in the personal injury market has gone down by more than 1,000 following the law changes, from a peak of 2,553 in December 2011 to 1,485 last month.

We now propose to implement our consultation proposal to introduce an independent medical panel scheme, to establish a new and more robust system of medical reporting and scrutiny of whiplash claims. These measures received a good degree of support from those who responded to the consultation. Our reforms will mean that exaggerated and fraudulent whiplash claims are deterred and challenged while the genuinely injured, backed up by good-quality medical evidence, get the help and compensation they deserve.

We are currently working on the detail of the independent medical panel scheme. We will have further discussions with all sides, including insurers and claimant representatives, and within Government, before we bring forward our final proposals. I am grateful to representatives from all sides of the industry for their constructive proposals in this area, which we are considering. I am clear that the final scheme will need to be not only effective but proportionate and sustainable, with any costs not falling on the public purse.

We also want to work with all sides to tackle those practices which can contribute to the inflated number of whiplash claims. For example, we want insurers to end the practice of making offers to settle claims without requiring medical evidence. We also want insurers to share more of their data on suspected fraudulent or exaggerated claims with claimant lawyers, and we want claimant lawyers to carry out more effective checks on their potential clients before taking on claims.

On the consultation option to increase the small claims track threshold for personal injury claims, the Government have carefully considered all responses. We believe that there are good arguments for increasing this threshold to £5,000 for all road traffic accidents to raise incentives to challenge fraudulent or exaggerated insurance claims. At the same time, we have listened to the views of the Transport Committee and others that now may not be the right time to raise the small claims limit because of the risks that it may deter access to justice for the genuinely injured and encourage the growth of those disreputable claims firms which so damage the industry. At this stage, we have decided to defer any increase to the small claims threshold until we can determine the impact of our wider reforms on motor insurance premiums and better safeguard against the risks identified above. We believe that this is the right thing to do for all interests.

Our consultation also generated a number of further proposals to reduce fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims which we are currently considering.

The reforms I am announcing today and those which we have already made to the civil justice system should contribute to lower motor insurance premiums. Indeed we are already seeing these beginning to fall. Figures published by the AA’s British insurance premium index today show that quoted shop-around premiums have reduced by 12% over the previous year.

The Government expect the insurance companies to act on the commitment they made at the Prime Minister’s summit in February 2012 to pass on to consumers and businesses industry estimated savings of approximately £1.5 billion to £2 billion that could come from the reforms on both legal fees and future changes on whiplash claims.

I believe that taken together the measures I set out today will provide an effective response to support hard-working motorists and families, deterring fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims and helping to reduce the cost to premiums of dealing with such claims.

In addition to these reforms and in order to help further the hard-working people of this country we have decided to launch a range of measures to help drive down the costs of owning and running a car.

The fee charged for the MOT test for a car is £54.85, and has been frozen at that price since 2010. I can inform the House that the Government will freeze the price for an MOT test for the rest of this Parliament. While competition in many areas introduces discounts to this fee, some 12 million drivers are estimated to pay this fee in full. This announcement will save them from a price rise that would cost them around £50 million a year.

This Government are also determined to help the motorist at the pump. I can announce today that the Government will launch a trial of motorway signs that will display the cost of fuel along the route, helping the driver make the informed choice about where to fill up, and importantly, boosting competition along British motorways.

Finally, the Government want to make it cheaper for those who want to drive for the first time. The Department for Transport will launch a review of the fees charged to obtain driving licences and the fees for taking a test.

Copies of the Government response to the consultation and to the Transport Committee report are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available online at http://www.justice.gov.uk.