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Written Statements

Volume 588: debated on Monday 24 November 2014

Written Statements

Monday 24 November 2014

Culture, Media and Sport

Education,Youth, Culture and Sport Council

The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council will take place in Brussels on 25 November. I will represent the UK at the culture, and audiovisual sections, and the deputy permanent representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, will represent the UK at the sport section.

Culture and Audiovisual

The Council will be invited to adopt draft Council conclusions on European Audiovisual policy in the digital era. The UK welcomes these conclusions, which set the main goals of European audio-visual policy, including high quality content, full cross-border circulation of European audio-visual works, and the assurance of equal conditions for competitiveness for audiovisual media service providers within the single market.

It will then consider draft Council conclusions on the Commission’s work plan for culture for the period 2015-2018. Although we are supportive of the work plan itself, which reflects UK priorities for the culture sector, we do not accept references in the text of the conclusions recommending the equal treatment of e-books and printed books for VAT purposes. This issue is outside the competence of the Council - it is a matter for ECOFIN Council and I therefore intend to block the conclusions.

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage, which seek to encourage an open and transparent system of cultural governance, and to promote a participatory approach to cultural policy-making. This is concordant with UK policy, and I intend to support.

There will then be a policy debate on the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to the Europe 2020 strategy. Whilst acknowledging the importance of the sectors themselves, we seek to avoid any linkage with the review of the strategy due in 2015, which is focused on structural market reforms, better regulation, and jobs and growth. I shall make it clear in my intervention that it would be an unhelpful distraction to the Europe 2020 strategy to add references to specific sectors, especially those relating to culture, where it is hard to set quantitative targets.

Sport

Turning to the sport sector, the Council is expected to adopt draft conclusions on sport as a driver of innovation and economic growth. This is in line with UK policy on the sector, and I intend to support.

There will then be a policy debate on sport and physical activity at school age, where I will demonstrate that the UK is committed to providing opportunities in sport for all children regardless of age, gender, or ability: that we are committing significant funding to school sport: and that we challenge the supposition in the Italian Presidency paper on this item that rates of participation in sport are decreasing amongst school age children.

Other Business

The EU Commission will present an update on the current state of negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, between the EU and the United States of America.

It is possible that some Member States will seek to ensure that the culture and audio-visual sectors remain excluded from these negotiations. I do not intend to intervene, as no debate has been set for this item, but if necessary will point out that the Culture Council is not the forum for raising trade issues. We should focus our energy on reaching an ambitious agreement, and look for movement on significant areas already covered in the mandate. We should aim for further progress in the negotiations before exposing our red lines to the US.

There will then be a report back on the latest Executive committee and Foundation Board meetings of the World Anti-Doping Agency which took place on 15 -16 November.

Finally there will be a presentation from Latvia on their work programme and priorities for their forthcoming Presidency of the Council, which will run for six months from January 2015.

Health

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 1 December in Brussels. The Health and Consumer Affairs part of the Council will be in the morning of 1 December.

The main agenda items will be the following:

Medical Devices Directive—The presidency had planned a general approach, but has now decided to have a discussion of a directive and to take stock of the progress made in negotiations.

Council conclusions—The Council will adopt the Council conclusions on: vaccination as an effective tool in public health; patient safety and quality of care, including the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance; and innovation for the benefit of patients.

Information from the Commission on the European response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Latvian delegation will also give information on the priorities for the forthcoming presidency, which will run from January until June 2015.

The Luxembourg delegation will introduce an item under any other business on ‘Admission criteria for homosexuals to blood donations’.

Home Department

Immigration Act 2014: Marriage and Civil Partnership

I am pleased to inform the House that, subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary secondary legislation, I plan to implement important new provisions under Part 4 of the Immigration Act 2014 to tackle sham marriages and civil partnerships on Monday 2 March 2015.

Part 4 of the Act will give us a much stronger platform for effective, systematic action to disrupt and deter sham marriages and civil partnerships and prevent them gaining an immigration advantage.

It will extend the marriage and civil partnership notice period from 15 days to 28 days for all couples in England and Wales marrying following civil preliminaries or forming a civil partnership.

Couples involving a non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) national who wish to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales will be required to complete civil preliminaries and give notice at a register office.

From 2 March 2015 I also plan to implement under Part 4 of the Act a new referral and investigation scheme for proposed marriages and civil partnerships across the UK involving a non-EEA national who could benefit in immigration terms. All proposed marriages and civil partnerships involving a non-EEA national with limited or no immigration status in the UK, or who does not provide specified evidence that they are exempt from the scheme, will be referred to the Home Office. Where we have reasonable grounds to suspect a sham, we will be able to extend the notice period in these referred cases to 70 days in order to investigate and take appropriate enforcement or casework action where we establish a sham. A couple will be unable to get married or enter into a civil partnership on the basis of that notice if they do not comply with an investigation under the scheme.

By extending the notice period and channelling to the Home Office all proposed marriages and civil partnerships which could bring an immigration benefit, the new system will give us much more time and information to identify and act against sham marriages and civil partnerships before they happen and, where they do go ahead, we will have the evidence we need on file to be able to refuse any subsequent immigration application in terms which will withstand appeal.

The referral and investigation scheme will be extended to Scotland and to Northern Ireland from 2 March 2015, subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary secondary legislation. Those who give notice of marriage or civil partnership before 2 March 2015 will not be affected by the changes.

Transitional arrangements will apply for couples where at least one party is resident overseas, who have made arrangements before 2 March 2015 for a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales and who intend to give notice and get married or form a civil partnership in one visit on or after that date. Couples in this situation will be able to apply, at the time of giving their notice of marriage or civil partnership to the registration official, to have the notice period reduced to 15 days.

Transitional arrangements will also apply for couples involving a non-EEA national who before 2 March 2015 have been granted, or have applied for and are later granted, a common licence to marry in the Anglican Church in England and Wales. Couples in this situation will be able to marry on the basis of that licence and will not be required to complete civil preliminaries before marrying.

Further information about the Immigration Act 2014 can be found on gov.uk at: https://www.gov.uk/government/ collections/immigration-bill

Further information about the changes is available on gov.uk at: https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships/ giving-notice-at-your-local-register-office.