Tuesday 10 December 2013
Banking Act 2009
The Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a report required under section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 covering the period from 1 April 2013 to 30 September 2013. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
Finance Bill 2014 (Draft Legislation)
The Government consulted on a number of tax policies, following their announcement at Budget 2013. Today, the Government are publishing responses to these consultations alongside draft legislation to be included in Finance Bill 2014. This fulfils our objective to confirm the majority of intended tax changes at least three months ahead of publication. Draft legislation will be open for technical consultation until 4 February 2014.
Details of the clauses published today are set out in the overview of legislation in draft document, which also includes tax information and impact notes for each measure. All publications will be available on the gov.uk website.
The Government are publishing draft legislation on policies announced at Budget 2013 and earlier, including:
Completing the merger of the main corporation tax and small profits rates recommended by the Office of Tax Simplification.
An increase in the level of the income tax personal allowance to £10,000 from April 2014.
A package of measures to support employee ownership, including a capital gains tax relief and an annual exemption from income tax on bonus or equivalent payments paid to employees of those companies.
A remote gambling reform to move the taxation of remote gambling onto a place of consumption basis.
A social investment tax relief to encourage individuals to invest in social enterprises.
Changes to make film tax relief available at a rate of 25% on the first £20 million of qualifying production expenditure, and 20% thereafter, for small and large budget films.
Countering the disguising of employment relationships through the use of limited liability partnerships and the tax-motivated allocations of business profits where partners include both individuals and companies—mixed membership partnerships.
Abolishing the stamp duty reserve tax charge on unit trusts and open-ended investment companies in schedule 19 to the Finance Act 1999, with effect from 30 March 2014.
The Government will also publish draft legislation on policies announced in the 2013 autumn statement. This includes draft legislation to:
Introduce a transferable tax allowance for married couples.
Ensure that the reliefs introduced to support employee ownership work in the way that is intended. The corporate tax legislation will be amended to ensure that the exemption from income tax does not disqualify companies from claiming corporation tax relief on payments which would otherwise have qualified. Transfers of shares and other assets to an employee ownership trust will also be exempt from inheritance tax providing certain conditions are met.
Increase the maximum annual value of shares that an employee can acquire with tax advantages under the share incentive plans to £3,600 a year for “free” shares and to £1,800 a year for “partnership” shares.
Increase the rate of the bank levy set for 1 January 2014 to 0.156%, and make a number of changes to the bank levy’s detailed design following a 2013 review.
Prevent employment intermediaries being used to avoid employment taxes by disguising employment as self-employment.
Reduce the capital gains tax private residence relief final period exemption from 36 months to 18 months.
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 10 December 2013. The following items are on the agenda to be discussed.
Council will be asked to reach political agreement on a proposal on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments. The compromise text which Ministers will be asked to agree is identical to that discussed at ECOFIN in November. The Government support an agreement of the amending proposal to the EU savings directive and an adoption of the mandate as soon as possible.
Bank Recovery and Resolution
Council will consider the European Parliament’s amendments to a proposal for a directive establishing a framework for the recovery and resolution of credit institutions and investment firms, in preparation for potential political agreement.
Deposit Guarantee Schemes
Council will consider the European Parliament’s amendments to a proposal for a directive on deposit guarantee schemes, in preparation for potential political agreement.
Macro-economic Imbalance Procedure—Commission Alert Mechanism Report
Council will hold an initial exchange of views on the alert mechanism report, the first stage in the macro-economic imbalance procedure.
Annual Growth Survey 2014
Council will hold an initial exchange of views on the annual growth survey 2014. The Government broadly welcome the annual growth survey 2014 and its continued focus on jobs and growth.
Assessment of Economic Partnership Programmes
Council will be invited to adopt draft Council opinions on the economic partnership programmes of Spain, France, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovenia, describing the policy measures and structural reforms that are needed to ensure an effective and lasting correction of their excessive deficits.
Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact
Council will seek to adopt a Council decision and Council recommendation relating to Poland’s excessive deficit procedure.
Annual report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2012
The President of the European Court of Auditors, Mr Vitor Caldeira, will present to Council the annual report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2012. The Government take the report and its findings seriously and strongly support the need to improve financial management of the EU budget.
Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a facility for providing financial assistance for Member States whose currency is not the euro
The presidency will hold a state of play discussion on a proposal to amend the current EU balance of payments regulation.
Single Resolution Mechanism
Council will examine the proposal, establishing uniform rules and a uniform procedure for the resolution of credit institutions and credit investment firms in the framework of a single resolution mechanism and a single bank resolution fund. The presidency is looking to reach a general approach.
Energy and Climate Change
Written Ministerial Question (Correction)
An error has been identified in the written answer given to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie)—[Official Report, 18 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 726W]. The figures provided for 2010-11 and 2011-12 were understated and the figures for 2012-13 were overstated.
The full answer given was as follows:
Chris Leslie: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many overseas trips, and at what total cost, his Department has made in each year since 2010; and what the costs of (a) flights, (b) internal travel, (c) hotel accommodation and (d) subsistence were of each trip. 
Gregory Barker: Cost information is available for all years but it is not possible to establish the number of overseas trips for every year since 2010. The following table shows the data centrally held:
Number of Trips
(b) Internal travel
(c) Hotel accommodation and (d) subsistence
The correct answer should have been:
Cost information is available for all years but it is not possible to establish the number of overseas trips for every year since 2010. The table below shows the data centrally held:
Number of Trips
(b) Internal travel
(c) Hotel accommodation and
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council will be on 16 and 17 December in Brussels. I will be representing the UK to cover the agricultural items while the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) who is responsible for farming, food and marine environment, will cover the fisheries items. Richard Lochhead MSP, Michelle O’Neil MLA and Alun Davies AM will also attend.
This Council will largely deal with the fixing of the 2014 fishing opportunities in EU waters and the Black sea.
On agriculture the Commission will present their proposal for a regulation on information provision and promotion measures for agricultural products on the internal market and third countries. There will also be a proposal for a Council regulation related to the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (sCMO).
This Council is also notable because the four regulations of the new common agricultural policy (CAP) and the CAP transitional regulation will pass through their final stage of approval. The Council plan to agree them as an “A point” on the agenda. This will allow the regulations to be finally published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
There are currently seven any other business items;
European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF);
Amendment of an EU directive on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants (“NEC directive”);
Conference on “The EU dairy sector: developing beyond 2015” (Brussels, 24 September 2013);
Public consultation results (organic farming);
Animal health/plant health/seeds/control/expenditure;
“Hybrid” nutrition labelling system recommended in some member states;
Market access to the Russian Federation concerning EU exports of plants and plant products.
On Thursday and Friday last week, we experienced an exceptional coastal surge along the east and parts of the west coast of the UK. This caused flooding to around 1,400 properties and damage to infrastructure.
Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by high winds and whose homes and businesses have been damaged during these powerful storms. However, through investment by Government and improvements to the way we manage this type of flooding, we were able to protect up to 800,000 properties which would otherwise have been flooded.
The extremely severe conditions were caused by a rare combination of factors. Very low atmospheric pressure over the North sea caused the sea level to rise. This, combined with the high astronomic tides and gale force winds, resulted in a tidal surge of unprecedented sea levels on some parts of the coast.
It is worthwhile comparing the events of last week with the storm surge of January 1953. The latter claimed the lives of over 300 people; 24,500 homes were damaged or destroyed and there was considerable damage to national infrastructure.
Two people lost their lives as a result of last week’s high winds and I offer my sincere condolences to their families. However no lives were lost as a result of flooding, and the numbers of homes, businesses and infrastructure affected were small in comparison to 1953. This serves to reinforce the importance of the recent and continuing investment that we have made in flood defence schemes and forecasting capability.
Response and impacts
The Government are grateful for the excellent response from our front-line emergency services. I pay tribute to the community spirit of ordinary people who have rallied round to help their neighbours in difficult times. I want to particularly praise the work of the Environment Agency, Met Office and Flood Forecasting Centre. There were also many local authorities which worked tirelessly to prepare for and respond to the surge as it happened.
We were organised and prepared. From the earliest signs of a possible surge threat, Government Departments and agencies, local resilience fora and local authorities were making preparations. I myself chaired three meetings of COBR on Thursday and a further COBR meeting on Friday. We were able to plan and co-ordinate the response to ensure the focus was on protecting communities at risk and the key infrastructure that supports them.
Over 160,000 homes and businesses received a flood warning and advice in advance to enable them to put their flood plans into action. Approximately 18,000 properties were evacuated in the afternoon and evening of Thursday 5 December along the coast from towns and villages including Great Yarmouth, Boston, Clacton-on-Sea and Sandwich.
Over 100 specialist flood rescue teams and their equipment were on standby across the country as part of the national asset register managed by the fire and rescue service national co-ordination centre. A number of strategic holding areas for these flood rescue teams and equipment were established in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, utilising vital equipment which had been mobilised from across the country.
The extreme conditions of last week put sea defences to their greatest test in 60 years. Record tidal surge levels were experienced at many locations, including at North Shields, Whitby, Hull, Immingham and Dover. In Wales, Rhyl was badly hit with 250 properties affected. Some parts of the east coast experience such circumstances only once every 500 years.
Numerous assets and barriers were deployed along the coast, including at Goole, Great Yarmouth and Colne in Essex. Tidal barriers were operated at several locations including at Hull, which I have seen for myself and I understand worked well. Over £200 billion worth of property was safeguarded in London by the Thames barrier which was raised against the highest level it had faced since it started operating in October 1982.
Impacts were not confined to the east coast however, with the £23 million Warrington flood defence scheme being operated for the first time to reduce the flood risk to 1,500 properties from the River Mersey.
In addition to the coastal flooding, extremely high winds—primarily across northern England and Scotland—resulted in 370,000 homes being disconnected from power supplies on Thursday. Almost all of these had power restored before the weekend.
As well as damaging homes, businesses and infrastructure, these storms also resulted in the flooding of agricultural land and sites of special scientific interest. A full assessment of these impacts will take place over the coming weeks.
The multi-agency response to the surge event is now focusing on recovery. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has set up the Bellwin scheme to reimburse local authorities for their immediate costs caused by the storm surge.
In the next few days, the Government will be discussing with every local authority area affected by the flooding what further help they need to ensure places can quickly get back on their feet.
People who have had their home damaged or destroyed should contact their local authority for help with emergency re-housing. We have also asked the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to ensure its member firms stand ready to settle insurance claims promptly.
Flood management is a top priority for Government. It has a vital role to play in protecting people and property from the damage caused by flooding and delivering economic growth and supporting a strong economy.
That is why we are making record levels of investment in improvement projects. Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 we are on track to spend £2.3 billion on protecting people and property from flooding and coastal erosion. This long-term settlement will enable the Environment Agency and other risk management authorities to reduce the risk of flooding to a further 300,000 households between April 2015 and March 2021, on top of the 165,000 protected during the current spending period.
Our continued commitment to improving flood defences will help us to manage effectively any future incidents of this magnitude.
European Environment Council
I will represent the UK at the European Environment Council meeting in Brussels on 13 December. Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change in the Scottish Government, and Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food in the Welsh Government, will also attend.
Following the adoption of the agenda and approval of the list of “A” items, the Council will hold an exchange of views on a proposal for a regulation on monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from ships. Presented by the Commission in July, the proposed regulation would apply to all ships above 5,000 gross tonnage calling at EU member states’ ports. It would require CO2 emissions of these ships to be monitored on a “per voyage” and an annual basis, and to be reported and verified on an annual basis. The presidency has suggested two questions to be discussed relating to the scope and balance of the proposal.
After a series of AOB points relating to climate, the Council will then hold an orientation debate on a proposal for a regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. Published in September, the Commission’s proposal is intended to require member states to prevent, manage or eradicate such species. The debate is designed to assist and focus negotiations. It will seek views on whether the list of species to be subject to the regulation should be limited in number, whether they should only comprise species that are not native to the EU, how they should be selected and prioritised, and whether and how action at the biogeographic regional level should be provided for.
After further AOB points relating to the environment, Ministers will break for a working lunch. This will provide Ministers with the opportunity for a discussion on the post-2015 development framework.
Over the course of the day, the following topics will be covered under any other business:
Information from the presidency on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and the quality of petrol and diesel fuels.
Information from the C0P 19 presidency, the presidency of the Council of the EU and the Commission on the 19th session of the conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change.
Information from the presidency and the Commission on EU ETS/aviation.
Information from the Commission on a proposal to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags.
Information from the Greek delegation on the work programme for the incoming presidency.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
EU-Georgia Framework Agreement
I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the following measures:
Council decision on the signing and provisional application, on behalf of the Union, of a protocol to the partnership and co-operation agreement between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and Georgia, on the general principles for the participation of Georgia in Union programmes.
Council decision on the conclusion of a protocol to the partnership and co-operation agreement between the European communities and their member states, of the one part, and Georgia of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and Georgia on the general principles for the participation of Georgia in Union programmes.
The stability, security and prosperity of the south Caucasus region, of which Georgia forms a part, is of strategic importance to the EU. Continued stability in the region helps to deliver the UK’s prosperity and energy security goals. Progress towards EU standards and norms contributes to Georgia’s prospects of becoming a peaceful and prosperous neighbour to the EU. As Georgia adopts the reforms necessary, it becomes an increasingly viable trading partner which shares European values. We therefore support Georgian progress and welcome the fact that Georgia has just initialled its association agreement with deep and comprehensive free trade area with the EU. This is an important landmark.
The Council decisions allow Georgia to participate in European Union programmes and agencies, through its participation in the European neighbourhood policy. This will support Georgia’s integration into EU networks, and will pave the way for further Georgian progress.
OSCE Ministerial Council (Kiev)
I represented the United Kingdom at the 20th ministerial Council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held in Kiev on 5 and 6 December 2013, hosted by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara. The Council is the key decision-making body of the OSCE and was attended by Ministers from across its 57 participating states.
The Council welcomed two ministerial decisions in the human dimension, after two years without agreement. The decision on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is particularly welcome as a human rights priority for the United Kingdom and the first ever self-standing OSCE decision on a fundamental freedom. We also joined consensus on a decision to update the OSCE’s existing Roma and Sinti action plan. It was, however, disappointing that a decision on the safety of journalists was not able to gain consensus, despite our and like-minded partners’ strong support. The events unfolding in Ukraine serve as a vivid reminder that journalists’ safety and freedom to do their job remains a concern in a number of OSCE countries. It is also disappointing that some states remain unwilling to acknowledge that freedom of expression and media freedom protections should apply equally online as they do offline.
I also strongly welcome the adoption at Kiev of the first internationally recognised confidence-building measures on cyber security, a long standing UK priority. Further agreements were reached across the OSCE’s three dimensions, including on combating the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons, and on combating trafficking in human beings. I regret it was not possible to reach consensus on a ministerial declaration on Afghanistan and we will continue to look for ways to underscore the OSCE’s capacity to act on issues such as border security in the central Asian region. A further declaration was agreed on the Helsinki +40 process, continuing the initiative launched last year in Dublin to reinvigorate the OSCE as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015.
I look forward to supporting the incoming Swiss and Serbian chairmanships on both this and their wider agenda for the OSCE when they take the reins in 2014-15.
As I recalled in my intervention at the Ministerial Council (www.osce.org/mc/109248), the OSCE remains the world’s largest security organisation, and the United Kingdom remains committed to working with all its participating states to strengthen security across our region. The notion of security goes far beyond the absence of war, but extends to creating a framework for peace and stability with democracy and human rights at its core. To ensure that all its participating states live up to and fully implement the commitments they have all agreed to, they must demonstrate the political will to make this happen. No country is perfect, but some participating states appear determined not just to ignore these commitments, but to allow narrow national interest to undermine and weaken them.
The Council took place in Kiev at a time of heightened tensions in Ukraine following the Ukraine’s decision to postpone signature of the EU-Ukraine association agreement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I have taken every opportunity to express concern at the reports of violence being used to break up a peaceful demonstration and I underlined this again at the OSCE Council, drawing particular attention to the number of practising journalists who had been injured by law enforcement officers. I welcomed the Ukrainian authorities’ commitment to a thorough investigation, making it clear that the investigation must be rigorous, transparent and fair. I urged all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that could lead to an escalation of the situation or the restriction of personal freedoms.
In addition to attending the Ministerial Council, I had a lively discussion with Ukrainian thinkers and activists some of whom had just come from the protests. I was also able to talk to Yulia Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevhenia. I took the chance to visit the Maidan, or Independence Square, and observe for myself the genuine and peaceful nature of the protests. In my meeting with the opposition leaders, I described our efforts, including through clear and public statements in the context of the OSCE ministerial, to insist on the scrupulous adherence to fundamental civil and human rights and that those responsible for police brutality are held to account through rigorous, fair and transparent trials. I encouraged the opposition leaders to engage seriously with ideas to identify ways to help defuse the situation and map out a peaceful route forward.
I will place a copy of my statement to the plenary Session and all ministerial decisions agreed in Kiev in the Library of the House.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon
I am pleased to announce that the UK intends to make a voluntary contribution of £1 million to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
The UK is committed to supporting security, stability and justice for the people of Lebanon. This contribution to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is a signal of our steadfast support for its work to end the climate of impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon. The Minister of State with responsibility for the middle east, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson) is in Lebanon this week to reinforce these points.
International justice is central to foreign policy. It is essential for securing the rights of individuals and states, and for securing peace and reconciliation. Through the International Criminal Court, and the separate international tribunals, we are working to make clear that those responsible for the most serious crimes will be held to account. Our support to the institutions of international justice is an important part of our efforts to reduce conflict and promote stability worldwide.
Victims of Crime (Code of Practice)
Today the new code of practice for victims of crime (“the victims’ code”) has come into force.
This new code governs the information and services criminal justice agencies must provide to victims of criminal conduct in England and Wales. The new victims’ code is written in plain English with victims of crime as the target audience, providing information on what they can expect to receive from the criminal justice system at every step of the process. The code forms a key part of the Government’s strategy to reorient the criminal justice system in favour of the victim to help make the system more responsive and attuned to their needs.
To ensure that victims, criminal justice practitioners and victims’ organisations are fully aware of the services and support that victims of crime are entitled to, the Government have developed a range of products to help communicate the code as widely as possible. This includes a YouTube video, short leaflet guides to the code for adults and children and young people and an EasyRead guide for people with communication difficulties. All of the written materials and the full code can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime.
More information on the new victims’ code and the documents arising from the public consultation held from 29 March to 10 May can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital- communications/code-victims-crime.