Wednesday 30 October 2013
Business, Innovation and Skills
Technology Strategy Board (Triennial Review)
On 10 July 2012 I announced in Parliament through a written ministerial statement—Official Report, 12WS—commencement of the triennial review of the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.
The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency; its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.
The review concludes that the functions performed by the Technology Strategy Board are still required and that it should be retained as an Executive non-departmental public body. The review also examined the governance arrangements for TSB in line with guidance on good corporate governance set out by the Cabinet Office. The review concluded that TSB complies with all statutory accountabilities and has strong and effective governance structures. It nonetheless identified a number of opportunities for improvement which are now in the process of being implemented.
The full report of the review of the TSB can be found on the gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
As part of the defence transformation announcement on 18 July 2011, the Secretary of State for Defence confirmed that two signal regiments would relocate from Germany to Beacon barracks in Stafford in 2015. Following that announcement the Minister for the Armed Forces gave approval for the recommencement of a procurement competition for the capital works requirements supporting these moves.
Today I am announcing that the procurement competition has concluded, that all the bids have been evaluated and scrutinised, and that the MOD has decided to award a contract for the redevelopment of Beacon barracks, Stafford to Lend Lease Construction (EMEA) Ltd. The redevelopment will enable the two signal regiments, 16 Signal Regiment currently based in Elmpt and 1 Armoured Division Signal Regiment1 based in Herford, to relocate to the UK in the summer of 2015. During the redevelopment the site will continue to be home to 22 Signal Regiment and the Tactical Supply Wing (RAF) and we will maintain all essential services, undertake all necessary works services and work with the local authorities in Stafford to prepare for the arrival of personnel, families and equipment in 2015.
The programme team will continue to consult interested parties including the trade unions and, in Germany, we will continue to engage with the relevant authorities and employee representatives at national, regional and local levels.
The move of the two signal regiments is the final phase of our pre-SDSR (strategic defence and security review) basing programme, which set out to close Rhine Garrison and Münster station in Germany. We are on course to close Münster station by the end of 2013 and the moves to Stafford will enable the full closure of Rhine Garrison by March 2016. The remaining unit moves out of Germany will be implemented as part of the Army basing plan, which was announced by the Secretary of State on 5 March this year.
1Armoured Division Signal Regiment will be re-titled to 1 Signal Regiment in 2015 as part of Army 2020 restructuring.
Following the successful completion of the first wave of city deals in July 2012 with the “core cities”, the Government committed to work with a further 20 cities and their wider areas to negotiate a second wave of city deals in October 2012.
Over recent months I have been in negotiation with the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, Suffolk county council, Ipswich borough council and the Babergh, Suffolk Coastal and Mid Suffolk district councils. The Greater Ipswich city deal aims to address youth unemployment and to increase the skills level of the local work force. By bringing together the efforts and resources of local businesses, local councils, colleges and the Government it will:
Provide opportunities for every young person in the area to be in education, an apprenticeship or work
Ensure that dedicated support is available to match young people with jobs through a youth jobs centre
Expand the number of jobs and apprenticeships in local businesses
Increase local investment in skills training
Over its lifetime, the New Anglia local enterprise partnership estimates that the deal will ensure:
Over 3,500 young people are supported into work
£10 million of new local investment in skills training will be made by employers and local agencies
5,000 new apprenticeships will be created
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
European Environment Council
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and I represented the UK at the European Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg on 14 October. Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change, also attended.
After adopting the list of legislative and non-legislative “A” items, Environment Ministers had an exchange of views on the proposal to amend the shipments of waste regulation. The Commission emphasised the potentially severe environmental impact of the dumping or mismanagement of waste. The strengthening of inspections could bring economic benefits for member states. All member states welcomed the potential of the proposals to improve compliance with the waste shipments regulation. The UK and Bulgaria argued that further consideration was required as the proposal risked failing to achieve its objectives. Several member states agreed with the UK’s concern that requiring the publication of detailed inspection plans could be counterproductive. The UK argued that such detailed proposals were contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. The UK would prefer an obligation on member states and their authorities to plan effectively for inspections, without being overly prescriptive. A number of member states, including Germany, supported the UK.
Council conclusions were adopted on the preparations for the 19th session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (the “Warsaw COP”). The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and ministerial colleagues focused their discussions on paragraphs relating to pre-2020 mitigation ambition and the process towards the new 2015 global agreement, including the UN Secretary General’s announcement to host a leaders’ summit in 2014.
There was a great deal of discussion on the importance of a timetable for the proposal of commitments for the new 2015 global agreement. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, supported by many colleagues, emphasised that the aim was to ensure countries left the Warsaw COP knowing they had to do their “homework” on commitments in 2014. This was consistent with the EU’s previous public statements proposing a stepwise approach to the 2015 agreement. Mr Davey also pressed firmly for ministerial engagement on pre-2020 mitigation ambition at the Warsaw COP. Conclusions meeting UK objectives in these areas were adopted. Ministers then broke for a working lunch, during which green infrastructure was discussed.
In the afternoon session the presidency introduced the agenda item on carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars, inviting interventions from any member states who could not agree with or had misgivings about the text negotiated in June under the Irish presidency. The German Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Peter Altmaier, explained he was committed to reaching a first reading agreement on the basis of the previous trilogue discussions that accepted the target of 95g/km for 2020, but that allowed some further limited flexibility.
Several member states supported the request for further consideration, and others offered support for finding a compromise. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change supported the request for further consideration in the light of these concerns, and the suggestion that the presidency and Commission develop further proposals that would generate greater consensus. He none the less noted that the compromise package on the table was a good compromise and we should only be looking to minor amendments. The presidency concluded that it would talk to the Commission, keeping in mind that a resolution was needed as soon as possible, and that it would keep member states informed of developments.
In other business, the presidency updated the Council on recent international meetings and events. There were five events of note, namely: the 11th conference of parties to the convention to combat desertification; the 20th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development; the first meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development; the special event towards achieving the millennium development goals; and the diplomatic conference for the Minamata convention on mercury. There were no interventions from member states. The Hungarian Minister updated the group on the Budapest water summit that had taken place on 8-11 October. The Commission congratulated Hungary for this timely event, as did Sweden.
Updates were also provided on the 38th International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly outcome on climate; the system for monitoring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport; and facilitating a global hydrofluorocarbon phase-down agreement under the Montreal protocol. Under other business, Denmark also reintroduced the political declaration concerning the use of industrial gas credits under the effort sharing decision which it had released in 2011. This was welcomed by a number of member states including the UK.
Railway Rolling Stock: Luxembourg Rail Protocol
My noble Friend, the Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer, has made the following written ministerial statement:
The Government have decided to opt in to the proposed Council decision on the approval on behalf of the European Union of the Luxembourg protocol to the convention on international interests in mobile equipment on matters specific to rolling stock, adopted in Luxembourg on 23 February 2007.
The Luxembourg rail protocol is intended to facilitate the financing of high-value railway rolling stock by seeking to ensure protection, for example of a leasing company’s rights against defaulters by a method of central registration, priority and common contractual terms. One of the purposes of this is to reduce the costs of leasing contracts for rolling stock. The rail protocol does this by providing an international mechanism whereby financial interests in railway rolling stock may be registered in a central database. Where an interest is registered a rule of priority would operate in favour of that interest, so protecting the investment where the operator of the rolling stock defaults on his obligations. The financial interest is protected and recoverable except when those financial interests rest in public service rolling stock in respect of which an appropriate declaration has been made. Protecting an investment in this way increases the confidence of leasing companies, and could thereby lead to a reduction in costs for industry.
The proposal has been published with a legal base falling within title V of part three of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU)—Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) matters. The citation of a title V (JHA) legal base would usually mean that there would be universal acceptance that the UK’s JHA opt-in protocol applies and that the UK would therefore be free to choose whether to participate. However, the EU institutions do not accept that the JHA opt-in protocol applies when the relevant JHA provisions fall in an area of exclusive external competence—as is the case here. The Government believe that the UK opt in under the protocol to title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union applies and they have therefore asserted their right to choose whether to opt in; they have decided it is in the UK’s best interests to do so.
The Government consider that the protocol is clearly advantageous to the UK and European rail industry, would provide greater security for the leasing companies of rolling stock, and would be beneficial both to borrowers by stimulating increased flows of capital at lower cost, and to equipment suppliers.