Thursday 8 January 2015
Business, Innovation and Skills
Seychelles (Accession to the WTO)
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Lord Livingston) has today made the following statement.
I wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the Council decision relating to the accession of the Seychelles to the World Trade Organisation.
We are strong supporters of trade liberalisation, which promotes prosperity and jobs.
Opting in will help to achieve the Government’s trade policy objective of expanding the WTO’s membership.
The Government have supported the accession of the Seychelles to the WTO on the right terms. In acceding to the WTO, the Seychelles will embrace a series of rules and commitments which form the foundation of an open, transparent and non-discriminatory global trading system and which will provide important guarantees for them and for the other WTO members.
Accession to the WTO will bring the Seychelles more firmly into the global economy and make the Seychelles a more attractive place to do business.
The Council decision has the effect of extending to the Seychelles the horizontal commitments the UK makes to all WTO members, including in the provision of services by natural persons from third countries, otherwise known as “mode 4”. It is the presence of these mode 4 commitments in the relevant instruments which triggers the UK Justice and Home Affairs opt-in.
Armed Forces Pay Review Body (Appointment)
I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Mr Brendan Connor as a member of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body until 28 February 2018. This appointment has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
The US Department of Defence has today announced the outcome of a review of its requirement for bases for US forces in Europe. These decisions reflect the impact of force structure changes, the changing security environment, advances in technology and the fiscal climate.
I am delighted to inform the House that, following consultations between the two Governments, the US has decided that RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk will be the first location in Europe to host its F-35 aircraft, a decision that reflects the closeness of the UK/US defence relationship. Two squadrons of US F-35 aircraft will be based there, with the first aircraft scheduled to arrive in 2020. Their relative proximity to the RAF’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft—to be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk—paves the way for continued close collaboration between our respective forces. In particular, it offers further opportunities for the UK and US air forces to work and train together, including simulator training where the UK has made a significant investment.
Elsewhere, the US has decided to withdraw from its base at RAF Mildenhall—adjacent to RAF Lakenheath—and to consolidate at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire its activities at RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth. The precise timing is not yet determined; withdrawal from RAF Mildenhall is unlikely to begin until 2019. The US presence at RAF Fairford, Menwith Hill and other sites is not affected by this review.
The end of US basing at Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth is disappointing, not least to the communities of which US forces have been a part for so long. However, the advance notice the US has given us, coupled with the investment it is making at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Croughton, will help mitigate the local impact. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will convene the Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth (MAM) Working Group that brings together the local authorities, the local enterprise partnerships, BIS Local, the Ministry of Defence and other key stakeholders to agree how we manage this at local level.
When the US plans mature, we will start a period of formal trades union consultation and affected MOD civil servants will be provided with appropriate advice and support to make decisions about their future.
The US also employs other UK personnel directly, outside the civil service. My Department will work closely with the US and local partners to manage the impact of any job losses, via the Jobcentre Plus rapid response service, the Skills Funding Agency and where appropriate, the talent retention solution.
US Forces have been based in the UK for over 50 years. These decisions confirm their presence here until the 2050s. Basing their latest generation of aircraft in the UK underlines the US commitment to NATO and Europe and the strength of our bilateral defence relationship.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Government's Overseas Scholarship Schemes
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development have recently commenced a review of the Government’s overseas scholarship schemes. It will build on the triennial reviews of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and examine those schemes together with the Chevening scholarship programme to assess:
Whether there is scope for further efficiencies and synergies across the schemes;
If so, what alterations in structure, administration or delivery might realise those improvements?
The extent to which efficiencies have already been put in place in recent years.
While the scope of this review is limited to the Commonwealth, Chevening and Marshall schemes, the newly created BIS Newton Fund will also be considered in the process of evidence gathering.
Amanda Spielman, chair of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation has been contracted to conduct the review. The outcome of the review will be published in March 2015 and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Rail in the North: Rolling Stock
My Department has reached agreement with TransPennine Express and Northern Rail on plans to maintain and increase capacity on key routes and these plans will offer extra rolling stock for the north of England.
Rail services across the north are vital for passengers and for the economy. By helping people access work and leisure more easily, we are securing long-term economic growth across the region.
That is why my Department has worked hard with Northern and TransPennine Express to reach an agreement which means that existing rail services will continue, from May 2015. This follows a decision by rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook to move Class 170 diesel trains running on the Northern and TransPennine Express routes to the Chiltern franchise.
In addition, the Department for Transport has taken this opportunity to secure benefits for passengers and has reached agreement with the operators of the two franchises to offer more carriages and seats, increasing capacity on a number of routes in the North, including between Blackpool and Manchester and into and out of Sheffield in the peaks.
Northern Rail will also be increasing capacity on the Cumbrian coast line and will be finalising details on this shortly. I will make a further statement on this in due course.