Monday 27 October 2014
Business, Innovation and Skills
EU Informal Foreign Affairs Council
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Lord Livingston) has today made the following statement.
The EU Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Rome on 15 October 2014.
I represented the UK on all the issues discussed at the meeting. A summary of those discussions follows.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
The presidency took stock of the recent negotiating rounds. Member states reiterated their commitment to securing a deal, recalling the geopolitical importance of the agreement and looking ahead to fresh impetus after the US mid-term elections. Member states agreed on the need to improve transparency and public engagement, in order to highlight the benefits of TTIP more effectively and respond to concerns. There was a discussion on several areas of the negotiations, including trade in services, geographical indications, energy and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
The Council meeting was preceded by a dinner attended by EU Trade Ministers, EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht and the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman. The discussion reflected on progress so far, areas of difficulty in the negotiations and public concerns in the EU. Several member states intervened on specific issues, including transparency, the energy sector and services.
Commissioner De Gucht provided reassurance that only the EU and Ukraine could table files for amendment and stated that he could not see the European Parliament agreeing to any significant changes. Member states then engaged in a limited debate.
WTO Doha Development Agenda
The Commission reported that there had been no progress in Geneva towards securing Indian agreement to the trade facilitation agreement reached in Bali last year. Discussion ensued on potential ways forward.
AOB - State of play of legislative items Trade Defence Instruments and International Procurement Instruments
The presidency noted that there had been no agreement on these files within Council to date, and that there would be further discussion on them at a later date. There was no debate.
Kay Review Report
I would like to inform the House that the Government are today publishing a report on progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Kay review of equity markets. Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
In July 2012, the Kay review report set out a vision for reform of UK equity markets to ensure that they support long-term investment, constructive relationships between companies and in their investors, and sustainable value creation by British companies. The Government have welcomed the review and responded in November 2012 setting out a number of steps it would take to deliver against its recommendations, and calling for a sustained commitment to reform from both, Government and market participants.
In the response we committed to publishing an update on progress achieved by the Government, regulatory authorities and market participants, to deliver the review’s specific recommendations, and to respond to its wider principles and directions. The report meets that commitment, providing a broad stock-take of measures taken by the Government and regulatory authorities relevant to the delivery of the recommendations and wider principles of the Kay review. It also summarises progress made by business groups and the investment industry to develop good practice as Professor Kay suggested.
The Government believe this represents significant progress to implement the agenda set out in the Kay review. However a further sustained commitment from Government and market participants will be needed to deliver this important agenda. The report therefore also highlights plans for further work in a number of areas.
This programme of work should be seen in the context of the Government’s Industrial Strategy which reflects the long-term focus recommended by Professor Kay. The strategy aims to develop enduring partnerships between Government and business to give confidence for investment and growth.
Today’s report also incorporates the Government’s response to the Law Commission review of fiduciary duties. The Government have already welcomed the Law Commission’s report, published in July 2012, which was commissioned in response to a recommendation of the Kay review. In particular we have welcomed its clear guidance on the factors which fiduciaries and other investment intermediaries should consider when investing on behalf of others. We now set out a more detailed, positive response to the Law Commission’s specific recommendations, which include a commitment to ensure that the Law Commission’s core findings with respect to consideration of long-term factors in investment decisions will be embedded in regulatory guidance.
Alongside today’s progress report, we are also publishing two additional documents resulting from the Government’s programme of work to implement the Kay review. Copies of each of these documents will be placed in the Libraries of the Houses.
First, we are publishing an independent research paper, commissioned as part of our response to the Kay review, into the metrics and models used to assess company and investment performance by long-term investors. Our intention is to convene a number of focused round-table discussions involving investors, asset managers and companies, and relevant regulatory authorities, to discuss the findings of this research and to agree what practical steps may be appropriate. These may include the development of guidance on good practice or regulatory reforms.
Secondly, we are publishing the note of a BIS round-table of expert stakeholders which we convened to consider whether policy measures restricting the role of short-term shareholders during a takeover bid could be made to work in practice. We had committed to look in detail at this question in our response to a recommendation of the BIS Select Committee report on the Kay review of November 2013.
Overall, the discussion reached a clear consensus, broadly in line with the Government’s previous analysis, that there are a series of legal and technical implementation issues which would be extremely difficult to overcome in introducing such a measure, and that it appeared unlikely that a disenfranchisement measure would eliminate the influence of short-term shareholders in a takeover bid. In light of these conclusions and the level of consensus among those attending the round-table, we have no plans to introduce a disenfranchisement measure.
Separately, the progress report provides a more general summary of policy developments relevant to Professor Kay’s recommendation that the Government keep the scale and effectiveness of merger activity under review, and in particular notes the Takeover Panel’s recent proposed changes to the Takeover Code. Copies of each of these documents will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Culture, Media and Sport
First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund
I am today publishing the list of successful bidders to the second round of the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.
The £20 million Fund, which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Budget 2014, enables cathedrals to undertake urgent repair work. Cathedrals are powerful symbols of Britain’s shared history and are especially important as the nation comes together to commemorate the centenary of the first world war.
Decisions on funding allocations are taken by an expert panel which considers the grant applications against the published criteria for the scheme and decides which cathedrals should receive funding. The panel is chaired by Sir Paul Ruddock and includes senior figures from English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Church of England and the Catholic Church, as well as church architects, architectural historians and grant giving experts.
I am pleased to confirm that the panel has decided to allocate funding of almost £8.3million to 31 cathedrals in the second round. These are as follows:
Repairs to south side windows
Birmingham St Chads
High level repairs
High level repairs
Repairs to State Gate
Repairs to north west transept
Repairs to tower
High level works and emergency lighting
Replacing roof to south-east transept
Repairs to crypts
Repairs to south transept
Repairs to Chapel of St Andrew and St Catherine
Repairs to roofs
Replacement electrical distribution board
Repairs to north-west transept triforium roof
Repairs to Lady Chapel and nave roof
Repairs to library roof
Works to north clerestory and presbytery
Repairs to Old Baptistry Gable
Repairs to tower and south transept
Repairs to roof
Repairs to north transept and east elevation
Sheffield St Marie
Repairs to spire
Southwark (St Georges)
Repairs to parapets
Repairs to nave and nave aisle roof
Repairs to lead roof of quire and nave
Repairs to north nave aisle roof
Repairs to east window
Repairs to Camera Cantorum Stonework stonework and roof
The panel will meet again in February 2015 to take decisions on applications to the third and final round of the First World War Centenary Cathedral repairs fund.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
EU Environment Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and I will attend EU Environment Council in Luxembourg on 28 October.
Following the adoption of the agenda there will be an approval of the list of “A” items. There will be one legislative item which is an orientation debate on the Waste Package. There will be two non-legislative items: firstly, the adoption of the Council Conclusions on the preparations for the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 10th session of the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 10); and secondly, the adoption of Council Conclusions on Greening the European Semester and the Europe 2020 Strategy.
There will be a Ministerial lunchtime discussion on the EU 2030 Climate and Energy framework. It is anticipated that the Italian Presidency will circulate questions following discussions on the EU 2030 Framework at European Council on 23-24 October.
There is a series of AoB items covering:
a) Recent international meetings:
i) Twelfth Conference of the Parties (COP12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea)
ii) Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 7) (Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea)
iii) First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (COP-MOP 1) (Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea)
iv) Fifth Meeting of the Parties (MOP5) to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental matters (Maastricht)
v) Second Meeting of the Parties (MOPP2) to the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (Maastricht)
vi) Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (Mikulov, Czech Republic) and the Czech Presidency to the Convention 2014.
b) European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW).
Sewage Discharges (England)
The Government are committed to improving water quality and protecting the environment. Following consultation on our proposals earlier in the year, the Government have decided to implement a simpler regulatory framework to control small sewage discharges in England. The approach has three main strands:
simplifying the regulatory framework
a more risk-based approach to sensitive areas
communication and engagement with rural householders, business and other stakeholders, as part of wider ongoing work to improve water quality.
I will today lay new regulations [Statutory Instrument No. 2014/2852] which amend the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. These changes will come into effect on 1 January 2015 and will remove unnecessary administrative burdens on many rural households and businesses whilst keeping the essential controls to protect the environment and prevent pollution.
The new approach focuses action on making sure septic tanks and sewage treatment plants are well maintained and not causing pollution through poor maintenance or installation, and that water resources, drinking water supplies, sensitive areas and rare habitats continue to be protected. Over the coming months and during 2015, DEFRA and the Environment Agency will work with stakeholders and partners to communicate the new approach to rural households and businesses.
The amendments simplify existing regulation by removing the requirements to register, keep records of maintenance and notify when a discharge ceases. The requirements to prevent pollution are retained and will be known in future as the general binding rule this means that the basic rules that people need to follow are not changing. The amendments also update the definition of an “operator” - the person in control of a small sewage discharge.
Environmental permits for small sewage discharges will continue to be used in certain areas to protect drinking waters sources and other sensitive areas. Permits, where required, will set extra conditions in addition to the general binding rules.
In summary the regulatory framework will now comprise:
General binding rules that apply to all small sewage discharges in England. These rules set the conditions that septic tanks and treatment plants will need to meet in order for them to be used without an environmental permit.
In or near sensitive areas described in the Environment Agency’s designated sensitive areas list for small sewage discharges, new discharges (i.e. those started on or after 1 January 2015) will be required to have an environmental permit. Existing discharges (i.e. those already being made before 1 January 2015) will be governed by the general binding rules. Additional measures to protect local environments may be set through environmental permits depending on the type of area and local conditions. The Environment Agency will take a risk-based approach to permitting and will work with Natural England, other stakeholders and local communities to take account of local conditions and evidence.
For areas in groundwater source protection zone 1s, all small sewage discharges to ground, both existing and new, will continue to require an environmental permit.
Discharges from septic tanks and treatment plants that do not meet the conditions for a small sewage discharge will continue to need an environmental permit.
The general binding rules consist of the controls specified in the amended regulations laid today together with technical requirements specified by the Environment Agency as the Regulatory Authority. The technical requirements include: the design and manufacturing standards; construction, installation and operation specifications; sitting and installation of infiltration systems; and the capacity of the works and equipment.
Copies of the general binding rules, together with some additional information on the new approach will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government response to the consultation, published on 9 October 2014 is available on Gov.uk. The Environment Agency will publish guidance when the regulations come into effect. In the meantime questions or requests for advice on the new approach can be directed to the Environment Agency’s National Customer Contact Centre on 03708 506 506.
High Speed 2
Sir David Higgins, the Chairman of HS2 Ltd, has today presented the Government with his recommendations on how to transform transport connectivity in the north. His report, Rebalancing Britain, has confirmed the Government’s strategy of developing HS2 is the right one.
In particular, Sir David confirms that the strategic goal of the Y network to link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds by high speed rail is right and should be delivered as quickly as possible. He makes recommendations for some small modifications.
In addition the report says that a new east-west high speed link could halve journey times between Manchester and Leeds, transforming the economic geography of the country.
In response, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have today given the green light to develop proposals for HS3: a high speed rail link designed to bring together the north’s great cities thereby cutting journey times, boosting businesses and creating more jobs and security for hardworking people.
The Government also welcome the report’s recommendation that co-operation on transport issues should be formalised in the north. We will create a new body called Transport for the North (TfN), made up of the main northern city regions. This body will work together with other authorities and stakeholders and allow the north to speak with one voice on the big decisions, to benefit the region as a whole.
I would like to invite these cities to come together and work with the Government on the options for HS3, alongside a wider transport strategy for the north. I intend that this Government-led strategy will be developed with input from Network Rail, the Highways Agency as well as TfN, and will stretch from Liverpool to Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle.
I also welcome Sir David’s recommendations on the modifications to the Y route, and will commission HS2 Ltd to do more work on the route and stations for phase 2.
This includes further work on Leeds station, south Yorkshire and east Midlands’ hubs, the approach to Manchester, the Golborne link, the link to the East Coast Main Line and proposals for a hub station at Crewe. We will also continue to look at options for benefiting those places not directly on the line of route.
On the western leg, the Government’s consideration of the evidence so far indicates that routing the western leg via Crewe would be the right strategic option. That is still to be confirmed. But we will work on ways to accelerate delivery of the section to Crewe, pending a decision on the route in 2015.
In turn, I would ask HS2 Ltd to work with Stoke, Stafford and Macclesfield to enable direct high speed train services to serve those towns and cities via the Handsacre junction and classic network.
The report concludes that the route into Manchester should run via Manchester airport, with decisions on an airport station to be taken in due course.
It also says that further work is necessary on the Golborne link, both the route and the depot location. I will ask HS2 Ltd to continue work on this.
On the eastern leg, the location of the east Midlands hub needs to work for both Derby and Nottingham, and provide the best possible connectivity to the wider region. I am asking HS2 Ltd to continue work on this.
Sir David remains convinced on current evidence that Sheffield Meadowhall is the right location for the south Yorkshire hub. I am waiting for further evidence from Sheffield before a final decision on this.
The Leeds station site needs to work for both improved east-west connectivity and for HS2. I will request a full review of options for the station, in conjunction with Leeds city council.
I will also ask HS2 Ltd to conduct a review into the cost, and the time it takes to build high speed rail lines, drawing on international experience, to find ways of bringing down the cost of phase 2.
We will take decisions on how to take phase 2 forward in 2015.
We are making good progress on the phase 1 Hybrid Bill, and we expect to start construction in 2017. This will improve journey times not only to and from Birmingham, but to the north and Scotland.
The Government’s vision is that our high speed rail network will provide the spine of our 21st century transport system. The network will bring closer together the key economic centres in England and Scotland. “Rebalancing Britain” supports the delivery of our vision - working with interested organisations and planning the railway as effectively as possible.