Tuesday 27 January 2015
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 27 January 2015. Ministers are due to discuss the following items:
Investment plan for Europe
The Commission will present its proposal on the European fund for strategic investment, a key element of the investment plan for Europe, followed by a first exchange of views.
Current legislative proposals
The Council will receive an update from the presidency on ongoing work on financial services dossiers.
Presentation of the presidency work programme
The new Latvian presidency will present to Council its six-month work programme in the ECOFIN area.
Presentation of the Commission work programme
The new Commission will present its work programme for 2015, focusing on the economic and financial agenda.
The Council will hold an exchange of views on two Commission communications on economic governance: first, on the economic governance review and secondly, on clarifying the existing flexibility in the stability and growth pact.
Preparation of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and governors on 9-10 February 2015 in Istanbul
The Council will adopt terms of reference in view of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and governors in February in Istanbul.
Energy and Climate Change
Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) has made the following written ministerial statement today.
Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that non-departmental public bodies continue to have regular independent challenge.
The review will examine whether there is a continuing need for CoRWM’s function and its form and whether it should continue to exist at arm’s length from Government.
If there is evidence of a continued need for the body, the review will also examine whether CoRWM’s control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.
I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Non-lethal Equipment: Jordanian Armed Forces
I have today laid a departmental minute proposing the gifting of non-lethal equipment to the Jordanian armed forces.
My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague) informed the House on 6 March 2013, Official Report, column 961, that he intended to provide additional non-lethal equipment to the Syrian opposition in order to help save lives. He then laid a departmental minute on 15 April 2013 and issued a written ministerial statement, Official Report, column 16WS, containing details of that gift which included, among other equipment, five 4x4 vehicles with ballistic protection. The equipment was due to be donated to the Syrian opposition National Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit based in Turkey. Although we have been able to deliver some of the equipment, regrettably, we have been unable to deliver the five 4x4 vehicles as planned.
There are two reasons for this:
1—only the US government and United Nations have been granted permission by the Turkish Government to use such vehicles in Turkey; and
2—the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) was not a registered entity at the time and therefore the ACU would have only been permitted to store and use the vehicles within Syria.
Our assessment is that delivering the vehicles to Syria carries too much of a risk of them ending up in the wrong hands. For example, on 7 December 2013 the Islamic Front raided the Syrian Military Council’s headquarters in Bab al-Hawa and took some of their equipment. We therefore now consider that the best option is to gift the vehicles to the Jordanian armed forces (JAF). The JAF would use them in their efforts to manage current insecurity on their border with Syria, including cross-border smuggling activity. This option represents the least risk of the vehicles falling into the wrong hands and is most cost-effective to the taxpayer given that the vehicles are already stored in Jordan.
This gift has been scrutinised to ensure that the provision of this equipment is consistent with export controls and complies with our international obligations. Recipients have been carefully selected to prevent equipment being given to those involved in extremist activities or human rights violations.
The value of these vehicles is £386,375.70 which will be met by the Government’s conflict pool fund.
The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.
House of Commons Commission
House of Commons Governance
(Representing the House of Commons Commission): On 22 January the House of Commons agreed a motion supporting the recommendations in the report of the Select Committee on House of Commons Governance. The House of Commons Commission held an additional meeting on 26 January to ensure a speedy start to implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.
At its meeting, the Commission agreed a specification for the position of Clerk of the House that incorporates the job description set out in annex A to the Governance Committee’s report. The Commission also agreed a recruitment process in line with the Committee’s recommendations. Details will be published in the brief for candidates when the recruitment is launched. The intention is that the recruitment process should be completed before the dissolution of Parliament on 30 March.
The Commission has also taken two other initial decisions:
It has agreed that implementation of the Committee’s recommendations will assume no change to the membership of the Members Estimate Committee (option “A” in paragraph 152 of the Committee’s report).
It has agreed to write to the House Committee to propose a first joint meeting of the Commission and the House Committee in October 2015. This will provide time for the Commission to be established in its new form and for an appointment to the new post of Director General of the House of Commons. (See paragraph 128 of the committee’s report.)
The Commission is next meeting on 9 February when, among other matters, it expects to consider the job specification and recruitment process for the position of Director General of the House of Commons.
Today I am publishing the report of the Holocaust Commission and copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
On this poignant Holocaust memorial day, 70 years on from the liberation of Auschwitz, “Britain’s Promise to Remember” sets out the steps this country will take to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved and its lessons are never forgotten.
The Commission’s work was informed by a call for evidence which received nearly 2,500 responses. This included one of the largest ever gatherings of British Holocaust survivors at Wembley stadium; a youth essay competition with more than 700 entries; and a wide range of consultation events and meetings, including at the White House and United Nations.
The Commission found widespread dissatisfaction with the existing Holocaust memorial in Hyde park, which was felt to be hidden out of sight and offer no context, information or opportunity to learn more. The strength of feeling on this was very clear, particularly from many of Britain’s Holocaust survivors.
The Commission drew on emerging findings from the world’s largest study of young people’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust—conducted by UCL’s Institute of Education. This found that the majority of our young people do not know some of the most fundamental facts that explain how and why the Holocaust happened, even after studying it at school. The Commission also reported inadequate support for regional projects, compounded by a lack of long-term funding for Holocaust education. And it identified the urgent need for the recording and appropriate preservation of the testimony of survivors and liberators.
So the Commission made four main recommendations. First, Britain should have a striking and prominent new national memorial in central London, to make a bold statement about the importance our country places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust and to stand as a permanent affirmation of the values of our society.
Second, there should be a world-class learning centre to accompany the national memorial. This would be a must-see destination that would draw on the latest technology to engage and inspire vast numbers of visitors. The new learning centre would also bring together a nationwide network of Holocaust organisations and support head teachers to champion Holocaust education throughout the country.
Third, there should be an endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education for ever. This would cover the running costs of the learning centre and also support Holocaust education around the country, including through local projects and travelling exhibitions.
Fourth, the Commission recommends an urgent programme to complete the task of recording and preserving the first-hand testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators. The Commission proposes a new independent body to deliver all these recommendations and wants to see testimony work completed this year, the creation of the national memorial in 2016-17, and the learning centre within the next Parliament.
With the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition I am accepting these recommendations. I am today setting up the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation, under the leadership of Sir Peter Bazalgette, to get on with this urgent work. In support of this, and to kick-start a society-wide fundraising effort, the Government will commit £50 million towards the delivery of the new national memorial, learning centre and endowment fund.
I would like to express my thanks to Mick Davis and to all the Commissioners— including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) and the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) who have given this work the cross-party status it so profoundly deserves.
Today we stand together—whatever our faith, whatever our creed, whatever our politics. We stand in remembrance of those who were murdered in the darkest hour of human history. We stand in admiration of what our Holocaust survivors have given to our country. And we stand united in our resolve to fight prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.
We will keep Britain’s promise to remember. Today, tomorrow and for every generation to come.
The Holocaust Commission report can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements