Wednesday 11 December 2013
Business, Innovation and Skills
Insolvency Service (Statistics)
The Insolvency Service has today released official statistics covering the number of individual insolvencies (bankruptcies, debt relief orders and individual voluntary arrangements) in each parliamentary constituency in England and Wales, for the period 2000 to 2012. These show that:
the rate of total individual insolvencies per 10,000 adults in England and Wales peaked at 30.9 in 2009, and has fallen each year to 24.5 in 2012;
the rate of total individual insolvencies per 10,000 adults in each constituency in 2012 ranged from 6.7 to 59.2;
any comparison of rates between years at this local level should take into account that small changes in the number of insolvencies can have a large impact on the rate.
Full details are available at:
Statistics at local authority level were published on 12 July 2013 at the same web address.
Related statistics, covering individual and company insolvencies in England and Wales up to 2013 Q3 are available at:
The new list of ministerial responsibilities has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be sent to each hon. Member’s office in this House.
The list can also be accessed on the Cabinet Office website at:
Energy and Climate Change
EU Energy Council
In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Brussels on 12 December, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.
We expect the Council to reach political agreement on the proposal to amend the renewable energy directive and the directive relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels. The proposal is intended to address indirect land use change (ILUC), which occurs when production of biofuels from crops grown on existing agricultural land results in the displacement of production on to previously uncultivated land.
The UK continue to believe the most appropriate way to address ILUC is through the introduction of ILUC factors and a cap of 5% on biofuels from food crops. However, the majority of member states favour a high cap on biofuels from food crops. The current proposal is for a 7% cap, which represents a compromise between member states. The proposal also includes incentives for advanced biofuels, which seek to support them in a cost-effective way.
However, a number of member states still have significant concerns about the proposed political agreement and discussions will continue at the Council to try to resolve these issues. The UK will seek to ensure that any political agreement includes the best possible outcome for the UK.
Following the identification of five priorities in the area of energy policy at the May 2013 European Council, the Lithuanian presidency will report on progress towards completing the internal energy market and invite Ministers to endorse a Council report to go to the European Council in March 2014.
The presidency will then present a report on the progress and achievements in EU external energy policy since the November 2011 European Council conclusions, and set out further measures to strengthen and improve EU external energy policy. Ministers will be asked to endorse the report. The presidency will also present a round-up of recent and upcoming events and developments in international energy relations.
The presidency will provide information on the agreement reached with the European Parliament on the recast regulation concerning the notification to the Commission of investment projects in energy infrastructure in the EU, which requires member states to report biennially on their planned new energy infrastructure investment projects or those to be decommissioned. The previous regulation was annulled after successful European Parliament action to change the legal base (to an energy base, which requires co-decision). The EP also proposed a number of substantive amendments. The UK with other member states and the Commission successfully resisted most of these, mainly on the grounds of the need to avoid increasing the reporting burden on member states. The limited changes which have been agreed would not substantially increase the reporting burden.
We expect the presidency to provide an update on negotiations of the nuclear safety directive, which is currently being discussed at official level in Brussels.
The Greek delegation will outline priorities for its forthcoming presidency: advancing the internal energy market, energy security and infrastructure, energy pricing and costs, external energy policy, the 2030 framework and energy efficiency.
Over lunch, Ministers will discuss energy prices and competitiveness.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Waste Prevention Programme for England
Today I am announcing the publication of the waste prevention programme for England. The programme fulfils a commitment in the 2011 Government review of waste policy in England.
Preventing excess waste from arising delivers environmental, economic and social benefits, and is key to moving towards a more sustainable economy. The programme demonstrates the benefits of reducing waste, making the link to wider work on resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production. It sets out the aims and priorities, along with actions businesses, the wider public sector, civil society and consumers can take to benefit from waste prevention.
Many individuals and organisations are already taking action to reduce waste, which is highlighted in the programme. To encourage further action, we will support change in a number of ways. For example, we will bring industry together under a new sustainable electrical action plan to catalyse action and seek commitment on designing products for optimum life. Alongside this, we are supporting pilot projects and trials of takeback and hiring and leasing schemes to demonstrate the benefits of resource-efficient business models and supply chain innovation.
Supporting and making it easy for individuals to take action is equally important. We are developing a two-year, £800,000 scheme to support communities to take forward innovative waste prevention, reuse and repair activities. We will also develop a web-based postcode locator to provide a practical tool to enable householders to find their local reuse and repair services.
Specific actions for Government are highlighted and we will lead by example by continuing to reduce waste across the public sector and using Government buying standards to support cost-effective sustainable procurement. The programme does not propose any new regulation. It also fulfils a requirement of the revised waste framework directive (2008/98/EC).
At the same time as publishing the programme, we are also publishing:
An evaluation of the usefulness of measures identified in the revised waste framework directive along with a summary of existing activities.
A summary of the responses received and the Government response to the call for evidence and consultation published earlier this year.
An overview of evidence used to produce the programme.
As waste is a devolved matter, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have developed their own programmes.
Further information on the programme is available on the Government website.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Development Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will attend the Development Foreign Affairs Council on 12 December, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 December, and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 17 December. The Development Foreign Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Lithuanian presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.
Development Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers will discuss next steps for the EU in the international post-2015 process, following the UN millennium development goals review event in September and current discussions in the open working group. Conclusions on “financing poverty eradication and sustainable development beyond 2015” will be adopted.
Agenda for change
Ministers will receive an update on implementation of the agenda for change, including programming of EU financial instruments. Baroness Ashton will also update on progress on joint programming and the results framework. Ministers will be invited to exchange views on these issues.
Progress on policy coherence for development
Baroness Ashton will reflect on the progress the EU is making on policy coherence for development, and Ministers will adopt conclusions on the 2013 annual report on policy coherence.
Ministers will discuss the great lakes. Other regional items are still to be confirmed.
Foreign Affairs Council
Introduction—Review of the European External Action Service
Baroness Ashton will outline the recommendations made in her review of the European External Action Service and comment on the views received from member states.
Introduction—Democratic Republic of the Congo
Baroness Ashton will cover recent political progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during her introductory remarks, focusing in particular on the opportunities this represents.
Baroness Ashton is expected to update the FAC on the E3+3 talks with Iran taking place on 9-13 December in Vienna. Discussion is likely to focus on the outcomes of the negotiations, the implementation timetable of agreements, and any implication for EU sanctions.
On Syria, the UK will ensure intensive preparations for the Geneva II peace talks. This will include encouraging the EU to give the National Coalition its political backing, so the moderate opposition can negotiate from a position of strength. We will encourage EU institutions and member states to donate generously at the UN’s humanitarian aid conference in January. We will use the attendance of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to send a united message that the Syrian regime must allow this aid to get to those who need it in Syria.
Lebanon is the country hosting the most Syrian refugees—over 830,000—and most at risk of overspill from Syria. The UK has increased hugely our humanitarian and security support to Lebanon this year. We hope the FAC will agree conclusions reiterating EU support for Lebanon’s stability, and to call for the urgent formation of a new Lebanese Government and for all parties to abide by the policy of disassociation from the Syria conflict.
Eastern Partnership and EU/Russia relationship
Ministers will discuss the outcomes of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius and how this may impact on EU-Russia relations. Recent events in Ukraine are also likely to be covered. The UK was disappointed with Ukraine’s decision to delay signature of the EU-Ukraine association agreement, which it regards as a missed opportunity. We are watching events in Ukraine closely and continue to call for dialogue between all parties and for the rule of law to be respected. The UK will stress that the door remains open for Ukraine if it decides that it wants to sign the association agreement in the future.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) will be discussed in light of the UN Security Council resolution which authorised the deployment of the African-led international support mission to CAR (MISCA) and the deployment of French forces to support MISCA in the discharge of its mandate.
Middle east peace process
In support of the ongoing talks, the UK will press for a firm offer of EU economic and security incentives to both parties in the event of a deal, while making clear our concern at the possibility of actions that might damage the progress of these negotiations.
Baroness Ashton is likely to update Ministers on the EU-facilitated Serbia/Kosovo dialogue and Ministers will discuss opening accession negotiations with Serbia, which will also be discussed at the GAC. We were pleased to see broadly successful municipal election reruns in Kosovo, which are a key part of the April dialogue agreement, while acknowledging that there is more to do on other dialogue agreements. The UK is clear that Serbia’s negotiating framework must ensure full normalisation before Serbia can join the EU. We also want to see Kosovo’s stabilisation and association agreement proceed swiftly towards completion in the spring and avoid reopening questions of status.
Our priority is to agree conclusions that incorporate language calling for reform of the Burmese constitution in advance of the report from Burma’s parliamentary constitutional review committee, which will present its recommendations for reform on 31 January 2014. We will stress the importance of reviewing those clauses which prevent the participation of individuals from being selected for Burma’s presidency on the basis of the foreign nationality of spouses or offspring. We expect the conclusions will also reflect the outcomes of the Baroness Ashton-led EU-Myanmar taskforce which visited Burma on 14 and 15 November.
Lunch with Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will join Ministers for a discussion over lunch at the FAC. The UK will use this as an opportunity to reiterate the benefits that can accrue when the EU and Russia co-operate fully, for example, the E3+3 negotiations on Iran. We will also set out our view that the EU’s relationship with Eastern partners will bring benefits to Russia as well as the region and that Russia’s pressure on the region is counter-productive.
General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 December will focus on: preparation for the 19-20 December European Council; the review of the European External Action Service; and the enlargement and stabilisation and association process. The GAC will also receive a debrief from the informal ministerial meeting on cohesion policy held on 26 November in Vilnius.
Preparation of the 19-20 December European Council
The GAC will prepare the 19 and 20 December European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The December European Council agenda will focus on three main issues: common security and defence policy (CSDP); economic and monetary union; and economic and social policy. There will also be conclusions on enlargement, the content of which will be discussed at this GAC. I additionally expect there to be an update on the Taskforce for the Mediterranean and on completing the internal energy market.
The UK priorities for the European Council are likely to be: protecting the integrity of the single market, in relation to economic and monetary union; and on CSDP, agreeing a range of actions to improve CSDP’s effectiveness, strengthen European nations’ capabilities and improve competition and transparency in the European defence market, in a way that is complementary to NATO.
European External Action Service
The presidency hope to agree GAC conclusions on the review of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The review was sent to Foreign Ministers by Baroness Ashton in July 2013. As the Government set out in their 27 August explanatory memorandum to Parliament on this issue, we welcome the review as an opportunity to strengthen the EU’s collective weight in the world in areas that support and complement UK international objectives.
We agree that despite a difficult start, the EEAS has started to contribute to UK and wider EU foreign policy objectives, including Baroness Ashton’s role in securing the Serbia-Kosovo agreement and in leading the E3+3 process with Iran. We support Baroness Ashton’s assessment in the review of the three main elements of EU foreign policy to have emerged from the first two years of operation of the EEAS; namely the “neighbourhood”, the “comprehensive approach to crisis management”, and “international issues where our collective weight allows the EU to play a leading role in the world”. Of course, the EEAS is not perfect and there are still some outstanding issues to be resolved. To this end, we broadly welcome the proposals for change in the EEAS review.
Enlargement and stabilisation and association process Council conclusions
The GAC will discuss the Commission’s annual enlargement package, published on 16 October, and agree conclusions on the enlargement strategy and the western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland. The December GAC is the annual opportunity for the Council to take stock and give direction to the EU’s enlargement strategy and pre-accession reform priorities for individual countries.
The Government’s views on the package were set out in my explanatory memorandum of 28 October 2013. We will broadly welcome the Commission’s approach in this year’s package, reiterating our continued firm support for future EU enlargement on the basis of strict but fair conditionality, with countries moving forward on merit as they meet the conditions. We will also take the opportunity to introduce our thinking, in the context of future enlargement, on how to return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis and look forward to a future debate.
The GAC will be considering progress by all of the western Balkans countries and Turkey, with particular attention on Serbia and Albania.
Ministers with responsibility for cohesion policy met in Vilnius on 26 November to discuss progress in preparing programmes for the 2014-20 funding period. This included their experiences to date in applying new arrangements in the regulatory package agreed between the Council and European Parliament, such as the preconditions to be met before spending on specific priorities can start, the requirement to concentrate funding on a limited number of objectives, the strengthening of results orientation and improved co-ordination between different funds. For this item, the presidency will present its conclusions from the meeting.
G8 Dementia Summit
A Health Ministers summit of the Group of Eight was held in London today. The summit identified and agreed a new international approach to dementia research, to help break down barriers within and between companies, researchers and clinicians and secure a new level of co-operation needed to reach shared goals faster than nations acting alone. The following items were on the agenda for discussion:
Pre-summit briefing on the UK Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge
The UK presented to the meeting on the UK Prime Minister’s dementia challenge which includes dementia friendly communities, health and care and research.
Ministers’ and European Commission’s Prepared Statements
Statements were made by Canada, France, Germany and Italy. These were followed by statements from Japan, Russia, UK, United States and the EU.
Improving Life and Care for People Affected by Dementia and their Carers
The meeting held an exchange of views on the action that can be taken to provide better and more concrete measures for improving services and support for people with dementia and their carers.
Preventing and Delaying Dementia
The meeting held an exchange of views on the action that can be taken to stimulate greater investment and innovation in dementia prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
Social Adaptation to Global Ageing and Dementia
The meeting held an exchange of views on the action necessary to adapt to ageing society and to reduce the impact of dementia.
As part of the agreement reached, countries have agreed to:
set an ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025—backed by a commitment to together significantly increase the amount spent on dementia research and increase the number of people involved in clinical trials and studies on dementia;
a new global envoy for dementia innovation, following in the footsteps of global envoys on HIV and Aids and on climate change—the global envoy will bring together international expertise to stimulate innovation and co-ordinate international efforts to attract new sources of finance, including exploring the possibility of a new private and philanthropic fund to support global dementia innovation;
develop an international action plan for research—in particular to identify current gaps and how to fill them;
share information and data from dementia research studies across the G8 countries to work together and get the best return on investment in research; and
encourage open access to all publicly-funded dementia research to make data and results available for further research as quickly as possible
A copy of the declaration and communiqué has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
Multilateral Aid Review
I would like to inform the House of the publication today of the multilateral aid review update report.
In 2011 this Government published the multilateral aid review (MAR)—the first systematic assessment of the performance of the 43 multilateral organisations that the UK supports through core funding. The MAR is a central part of our wider efforts to ensure that we scrutinise the value for money of each pound we spend, whether we do so directly or through other organisations. Our efforts in this area were recognised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who gave us their civil service award for the most improved Government body on value for money and financial management in 2013. Other donor countries have emulated our approach.
The findings of the review confirmed the important role multilateral organisations play in supporting the UK to meet its development and humanitarian objectives —delivering humanitarian support in countries affected by conflict such as Syria or by natural disasters such as the Philippines, on promoting the rights of women and girls, and in ensuring that developing countries have the infrastructure they need to support their economic growth. The review also had a major impact on our spending decisions. While some high-performing organisations received considerable increases in funding, some poor performing institutions had their funding stopped altogether and others were asked to make urgent reforms if they wished to secure any future funding from DFID. The review also highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of multilateral organisations, and enabled us to give them a clear list of future priorities and essential reforms.
The MAR update has been undertaken to assess whether the multilateral organisations have made the progress we asked for. The report being published today sets out the results of this work. It shows that all of the multilaterals have made improvements over the two years since the multilateral aid review, that those organisations we asked to make urgent reforms are making progress, and that some multilaterals which were already doing well are doing even better. There have been significant improvements in crucial areas such as the management of finances, and how organisations work with others. This is encouraging, but more needs to be done. Not all organisations made the progress we expected of them, and the performance of some in critically important areas, such as the empowerment of women and girls, could be improved.
The Department for International Development (DFID) remains committed to strengthening multilateral effectiveness. Over the next year we will use the evidence from this update to work with multilaterals and other partners to bring about further change. There will be a particular focus on areas where progress has been too slow. We will also work with other Governments to ensure that the methodology and evidence base for future multilateral effectiveness assessments continue to improve, providing a sound basis for a full reassessment of the value for money that multilateral organisations offer in 2015. In doing so, we will seek to address issues raised with us by multilateral organisations, and in the informed commentary by the International Development Committee and others.
I am placing a copy of the MAR update report in the Libraries of both Houses.