Wednesday 11 February 2015
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 27 January 2015. Ministers discussed the following items:
Investment plan for Europe
The Commission presented a proposal on the establishment of a European fund for strategic investments, a key element of the investment plan for Europe.
Current legislative proposals
The Council took note of ongoing work on financial services dossiers.
Presentation of the presidency work programme
The new Latvian presidency presented a work programme on economic and financial matters for the duration of its term, which runs from January to June 2015.
Presentation of the Commission work programme
The Commission presented its work programme for 2015, focusing on the economic and financial agenda.
The Council discussed two communications from the Commission dealing with the EU’s fiscal and economic rules.
Preparation of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Governors on 9-10 February 2015 in Istanbul
The Council endorsed EU terms of reference for a meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Istanbul on 8-9 February.
Votes A Annual Estimate 2015-16
The Ministry of Defence Votes A estimate 2015-16, will be laid before the House today as HC 1054. This outlines the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for each service in the armed forces during financial year 2015-16.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food and Environment Research Agency
I am announcing today £14.5 million of new investment in the Food and Environment Research Agency through a joint venture with Capita and Newcastle University. This is part of DEFRA’s ambitious science programme and recognition of the importance of cutting-edge research. The joint venture will expand the agency’s world-leading scientific capability and strengthen its role in food safety research. It will enable Fera to play an even greater role in helping to drive growth in our £100 billion agri-food industry.
The investment builds upon the £2.7 million already committed by the local enterprise partnership (LEP) to DEFRA’s National Agri-Food Innovation Campus York, where Fera is based. It represents a strong commitment to the regional economy and to the LEP’s priority area of agri-food business.
Fera has a significant presence in the agri-food market where it is already recognised as an internationally respected scientific organisation. As the joint venture partner, Capita will bring valuable commercial expertise and experience enabling Fera to maximise its capabilities. The venture also includes the creation of a joint academic institute with Newcastle University aimed at advancing the understanding and application of science to practical agri-food problems.
In bringing together the public sector, private sector and academia, the joint venture allows Fera to build on its reputation as an international centre of excellence and provide the invaluable scientific services that DEFRA and wider Government will continue to require in the future.
It is intended that the new joint venture will commence operating on 1 April 2015.
House of Commons Commission
House of Commons Governance
(Representing the House of Commons Commission): At its meeting on 9 February, the House of Commons Commission again considered implementation of the recommendations of the Committee on House of Commons Governance.
The Commission agreed a job specification and recruitment process for the new post of Director General of the House of Commons. The recruitment process will commence shortly with the intention that a long list of candidates will be identified by the end of March. Final selection of an appointee will take place after the general election and the establishment of the Commission in its new format.
The recruitment for the post of the Clerk of the House was launched on 28 January. The closing date for applications is 16 February.
The Commission noted that the House of Commons Commission Bill was published in the House of Commons on 5 February. The Bill provides for the changes in Commission membership that the Governance Committee recommended, and would place a new statutory responsibility on the Commission to “set strategic priorities and objectives in connection with services provided by the House Departments”.
The Governance Committee expressed surprise—paragraph 82 of the report—that the Commission had never reviewed its own working practices. The Commission has agreed that it will undertake a light-touch review before the election in order to provide a baseline against which the new Commission can assess itself.
Work and Pensions
Pension Savings (Automatic Transfers)
Later today I intend to publish an update paper entitled “Automatic transfers: A framework for consolidating pension savings”.
This paper sets out the progress we have made in designing a model for automatically transferring a worker’s small pension pots when they change employment.
Automatic enrolment is helping people to save for retirement, but we must help them to keep track of their pension savings. We do not want members to end up with more dormant pots, but we expect 50 million dormant pots by 2050 if nothing is done.
This is the rationale behind the system of automatic transfer of small pension pots into the new employer’s scheme when a member changes employment, which was outlined in the Pensions Act 2014. To ensure this system is workable for both industry and members, we need a practical implementation model.
The update paper is the culmination of work that has taken place since the Act with a wide section of the pensions industry to analyse different options and create a safe and efficient model that works in the interest of workers saving for their future.
As outlined in the paper, it is my aim that automatic transfers will first apply to a limited number of schemes, but will still cover the vast majority of members. This first stage will introduce automatic matching of an individual’s small pots. The individual will then be contacted to confirm if they want these pots to be moved to their new scheme.
With minimal change the system will then transition to the opt-out model. The transfer of dormant pensions will then take place unless the member decides not to make the transfer.
I want to introduce the automatic transfer of pots as soon as possible, while also giving sufficient time for the industry to develop the new systems required. My goal is for the initial phase of automatic pot-matching to be in place by autumn 2016.
The document will be available at: http://www.gov.uk