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Written Statements

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

Written Statements

Thursday 15 October 2015

Business, Innovation and Skills

Pricing Practices (Groceries Market)

On behalf of the Government, I am today announcing that we have published a response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) welcoming its report and recommendations in respect of the super-complaint made by Which? alleging pricing malpractice in the groceries market.

The Government are pleased to see the CMA does not consider there to be a systemic problem in the grocery market in how retailers present prices. We also welcome CMA’s plans to take action where it has identified examples of potentially misleading and confusing practices. The CMA did find however that more could be done to reduce the complexity in unit pricing to make it a more useful comparison tool for consumers.

Addressing the recommendation concerning price promotions and special offers the Chartered Trading Standards Institute is today publishing its consultation on a revised pricing practices guide. BIS will consult later in the autumn on proposals to simplify and improve unit pricing to help the consumer compare prices more easily across similar products and therefore identify the best deals. We will continue to work closely with Which? CTSI, retailers and supermarkets, including through the BIS expert working group, and welcome continued input from the CMA.

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UK Green Investment Bank

My written statement of 25 June provided an update on work to move UK Green Investment Bank plc (GIB) into private ownership. It was always our intention that GIB should mobilise maximum private investment in the green economy. This reflects our policy aim of getting the market to work in tackling green policy challenges.

Bringing private ownership directly into GIB is part of this aim and a natural next step for the company now it has proved itself a successful commercial enterprise capable of operating with private sector capital rather than relying on public funding for its investments. It will allow the bank to access a much greater volume of capital than would be the case if GIB were to remain in Government ownership meaning it can grow its business, move into a wider range of sectors and have the greatest possible impact in mobilising investment so that more green projects get financed more quickly than would otherwise be the case. The plans have the full support of the company and its independent board, including chair, Lord Smith of Kelvin.

As I said in my previous statement, a key objective in moving the company into the private sector is that it should be free to borrow and raise capital without this affecting public sector net debt. Giving GIB this freedom is essential if the company is to invest in accordance with its ambitious green business plan.

It is now clear that to achieve re-classification of GIB as a private sector enterprise, we need to remove the public sector controls imposed on the company by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. Unless we remove these controls, there is a real risk GIB would remain classified to the public sector even after a sale so would remain subject to Government control over its capital raising. This unintended effect of the legislation has only become apparent in the course of our work to facilitate GIB’s transition into the private sector.

In view of this, as a necessary part of the privatisation process, we now propose to use the Enterprise Bill, through an amendment shortly to be tabled at the Lords Committee stage, to repeal the relevant sections of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 relating to GIB.

I recognise that in taking this step, people will wish to be assured GIB will nevertheless continue to invest in green sectors as Parliament envisaged. I wish to make clear that the Government also want and expect a privately owned GIB to continue this clear focus on green sectors—mobilising more private capital and further accelerating the transition to a green economy.

It is clear from preliminary feedback that potential investors are interested in acquiring a stake in GIB precisely because of its unique green specialism and its green- focused business plan. As part of any sale process, we would expect potential investors to confirm their commitment to GIB’s green values and to set out how they propose to ensure these are protected.

I will provide further updates about the transaction as soon as possible.

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Treasury

UK Bilateral Loan to Ireland

HM Treasury has today provided a further report to Parliament in relation to the bilateral loan to Ireland as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010. The report relates to the period from 1 April 2015 to 30 September 2015.

A written ministerial statement on the previous statutory report regarding the loan to Ireland was issued to Parliament on 15 June 2015, Official Report, column 1WS.

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Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Risk Assessment)

Money laundering can undermine the integrity and stability of our financial markets and institutions. Countering terrorist financing is also important in protecting national security and forms a key part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy.

Money laundering is a global problem and the laundering of proceeds of overseas corruption into or through the UK fuels political instability in some countries. The European Commission’s 2013 impact assessment of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing points to global criminal proceeds potentially amounting to some 3.6% of global GDP; around US$2.1 trillion in 2009.

The Government have already taken steps to improve the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regimes including by:

launching the Economic Crime Command in the National Crime Agency in 2013;

publishing the UK anti-corruption plan in 2014 and setting up a new specialist international corruption unit in the NCA;

strengthening the confiscation regime under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and creating a new offence for participation in organised crime;

introducing a reporting process for anti-money laundering (AML)/counter-financing of terrorism (CFT) supervisors, improving the transparency and accountability of supervision and enforcement in the UK;

building asset confiscation enforcement (ACE) teams to crack down on those who refuse to pay their confiscation orders, contributing to the recovery of £199 million last year, the highest amount on record;

forming a new partnership with the financial sector to create the joint money laundering intelligence taskforce;

and launching a review of the suspicious activity reports (SARs) regime.

Today, the Government are publishing the UK’s first national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing. It identifies and assesses the UK’s money laundering and terrorist financing risks, drawing on data from UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies, anti-money laundering supervisors, Government Departments, industry bodies and private sector firms.

The national risk assessment has found that while the UK’s response to money laundering and terrorist financing risks is well developed, more could be done to strengthen the UK’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime, including in the following areas:

the understanding of certain types of money laundering, and particularly in relation to “high end” money laundering, where the proceeds are often held in bank accounts, real estate or other investments, rather than cash;

the consistency of the UK’s supervisory regime, and specifically the understanding and application of a risk-based approach to supervision;

the priority given to combatting money laundering by law enforcement agencies and the effectiveness of their response.

The Government will take forward these findings in a comprehensive action plan. The priorities for the action plan will include:

fill intelligence gaps, particularly those associated with “high end” money laundering through the professional services sector;

enhance our law enforcement response and build more effective public-private sector partnerships, to tackle the most serious threats;

address the inconsistencies in the supervisory regime that have been identified;

work with supervisors to improve individuals’ and firms’ knowledge of money laundering and terrorist financing risks;

increase collaboration between law enforcement agencies, supervisors and the private sector to support prevention and detection.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the anti-money laundering regime is effective and proportionate, with businesses and regulators taking a risk-based approach to implementation. The Better Regulation Executive is leading a “red tape” review into the UK anti-money laundering regime to identify for example where companies are confused as to what is required or are undertaking unnecessary activity which diverts attention away from where there are real risks. The results of this review will inform the action plan.

The UK is periodically assessed under mutual evaluations by the Financial Action Task Force. The national risk assessment and the action plan will be kept under review and will inform the UK’s next evaluation.

A copy of the report has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Culture, Media and Sport

TV Licence Fee Enforcement Review Report

On 16 July 2015, the TV licence fee enforcement review, independently led on behalf of the Government by David Perry QC, was published and laid before Parliament.

In accordance with section 77(3) of the Deregulation Act 2015, I am now pleased to present a short report setting out my response to the review, and its recommendations.

The review has provided a fundamental contribution to the debate on the future of the TV licence fee enforcement regime, and I can confirm that the issues highlighted, and the recommendations made, will be considered in further detail during the forthcoming charter review.

As this report will play a central role in the debate, I do not propose to make regulations under section 78(1)(a) or (b) of the Deregulation Act 2015 at this time. This will be kept under review throughout the charter review and I will make a statement to the House taking a firm decision in due course as part of that process.

A copy of the report has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements.

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Defence

Service Museums

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State in the House of Lords, Earl Howe, has made the following written ministerial statement.

I am today announcing the start of a comprehensive review of the three service museums; the National Army Museum, RAF Museum and National Museum of the Royal Navy, all of which are executive non-departmental public bodies (ENDPB) of the Ministry of Defence. In this capacity, the service museums provide independent advice to the Secretary of State for Defence on the promotion and management of armed forces heritage matters.

This review is part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring, and improving, the accountability and effectiveness of public bodies on a regular basis. The review will be conducted in accordance with Government guidance for reviewing ENDPBs, and will focus on the core questions of the continuing need for the functions of the ENDPBs, their effectiveness and their governance arrangements. It will be carried out in an open and transparent way, and stakeholders will be given the opportunity to contribute their views.

I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed.

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Education

School Expansion

I have today written to the headteacher at the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, Kent, to confirm that I have approved their proposal to expand on to a new site in Sevenoaks, Kent.

It is this Government’s policy that all good and outstanding schools should be able to expand to offer excellent places to local students. The Weald of Kent Grammar School is one of the top performing schools in the country, with 99% of its students achieving five A* to C grades in GCSE exams in 2014, and 98% of sixth form students achieving at least three A-Levels at grades A* to E.

The Weald of Kent Grammar School submitted a proposal for expansion in 2013. At that stage the then Secretary of State could not approve the proposal as an expansion because the proposal at that time was for a mixed-sex annexe when the existing school was single sex. The school submitted a revised proposal in September 2015 under which girls will be educated on both sites alongside a mixed-sex sixth form. I am satisfied that this proposal represents a genuine expansion of the existing school, and that there will be integration between the two sites in terms of leadership, management, governance, admissions and curriculum. I am also satisfied that the excellent quality of learning currently delivered will be replicated across the newly expanded school. I welcome the fact that the newly expanded school will better meet the needs of parents in the local area, with 41% of existing pupils at the Weald of Kent Grammar School already travelling from the Sevenoaks area.

The school expects to be able to start educating pupils at its new Sevenoaks site from September 2017.

My decision in this case has been taken on the basis of the proposal from the Weald of Kent, in line with legislation and criteria determining what constitutes an expansion. It does not reflect a change in this Government’s position on selective schools. Rather it reaffirms our view that all good schools should be able to expand, a policy which is vital to meet the significant increase in demand for pupil places in coming years. Further applications from good selective schools to expand will continue to be considered within the framework of the statutory prohibition on new selective schools and would have to meet the criteria for being a genuine expansion.

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Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs Council

First I would like to send my apologies that a pre-Council letter was not sent ahead of the Council on this occasion. This is a rare occurrence owing to a combination of late finalisation of the agenda for Council, and conference recess.

The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council took place on 8 and 9 October in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following items were discussed.

The interior session on 8 October began in mixed Committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (non-EU Schengen states) where the presidency provided an overview of their paper on the future management of the EU external border. The subsequent discussion saw calls for enhanced collective responsibility for the external borders, including some support for the Commission’s calls for a fully-fledged EU border and coast guard and an extended mandate for Frontex, although the presidency was clear that member states must retain primary responsibility for controlling their own border. The Commission also drew attention to the role of EU smart borders and the Schengen information system in balancing border management and security, and the need for further consideration on whether more was needed to ensure the proper functioning of the Schengen acquis. The October European Council will return to this subject.

There was also an update on the relocation mechanisms agreed at the 14 and 22 September extraordinary JHA Councils, and the implementation of the ‘hot spots’ screening centres in Italy and Greece, with calls for all member states to provide Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) with additional personnel and resources. There had been some progress, with implementation underway in Italy and starting in the Greek islands imminently, but it was clear more work was required, including on the return of those not requiring protection. Concerns were also raised regarding the likely effectiveness of intra-EU relocation and further secondary movement. Discussions on an agreed list of safe countries of origin and a permanent crisis mechanism for relocation (amending the Dublin regulation) would continue at official level.

The UK was clear that the current situation required a new international approach- strict enforcement of rules was required for those who abuse member states’ asylum and migration systems but we should be generous to those who needed our help. Economic migrants needed to be returned swiftly, including from hotspots, so that the right messages were received by those intending to set out for Europe. The UK would continue to support EASO and Frontex and will offer additional assistance, building on the offer already made this summer. I also made it clear that the UK would be willing to use its expertise in helping Greece set up the necessary systems and structures.

Returns were the subject of a separate debate, with the Commission introducing an EU action plan on returns, Council conclusions on the future of EU returns policy and a returns handbook, and stating that by the end of October there would be 10 joint EU return flights to African and Western Balkan countries. An EU returns office will be established within Frontex to co-ordinate all returns action and better use will be made of existing tools such as SIS and EURODAC databases. The main challenge remained countries of origin not accepting their nationals back, despite recognised international obligations for them to do so, leading for calls for greater use of conditionality in broader relations with key third countries.

The UK reiterated the importance of returning those not requiring international protection, in order that help could be focused on those in greatest need, which meant that effective returns of those not requiring international protection in Europe was vital. Identifying safe countries of origin was welcome, but the EU needed to go further.

I, also suggested that considering claims from certain countries as inadmissible except in exceptional circumstances could be the next step in tackling abuse, and that the use of detention was also necessary. The UK argued that it was important to consider seeking leverage with third countries to secure co-operation, that detention was often necessary and that the EU should take forward discussions on multi-purpose centres and safe zones outside of Europe to which economic migrants could be returned. I expressed the Government’s support for improved returns mechanisms, in particular at the EU external border and noted that the UK will carefully consider all current and future proposals.

The presidency sought a steer from Ministers on its proposals to unlock discussion on the “visa package”—a recast of the union code on visas (“the visa code”) and proposed touring visa. The Commission and member states had been deeply divided on the proposals. There is no impact for the UK as we are not involved in either of these measures because they build on those parts of the Schengen acquis in which we do not participate. Ministers endorsed the presidency’s proposals for continuing discussions at official level.

The lunchtime discussion was on migration and development. Following a briefing by Luxembourg’s Development Minister, interventions veered to familiar ground on hotspots and relocation. The UK supports the hotspot proposals and continues to push for their rapid implementation, but we continue to oppose relocation.

The Europol Director (Rob Wainwright) updated Ministers on the recent Blue Amber operation, a series of joint operational action weeks co-ordinated through an operations room at Europol. The presidency concluded that the Committee on Internal Security (COSI) would continue to prioritise serious organised crime under the EMPACT priorities.

During a discussion on the fight against terrorism, the council adopted conclusions calling for an improved firearms intelligence picture and robust standards on firearms deactivation. The UK supports the Council’s position and has urged member states to prioritise the actions set out in the Council conclusions. The Commission is undertaking a study into further proportionate measures that can ensure greater passenger security. The UK called for the sharing of best practice in relation to rail security.

The Council agreed to step up the voluntary removal of terrorist propaganda through the Europol Internet Referral Unit (IRU). The UK welcomed the results achieved by the IRU so far and supported the upscaling of the programme, calling on more member states to second national experts to the unit. The Council agreed to enhance counter narrative work with the Syria strategic communication advisory team (SSCAT)’s support. The Government welcome the SSCAT 2016 project as a tool to support member states to improve their capacity to deliver strategic communications campaigns to counter the influence of violent extremists.

The presidency updated Minsters on the implementation of the renewed internal security strategy 2015-2020. The presidency had set the following priority areas for implementation under their tenure 1) fight against terrorism 2) tackling illegal migration 3) completion of the Europol regulation 4) completion of the EU PNR directive. The following presidency trios were encouraged to continue with a six monthly implementation plan, but also to establish an 18 month joint implementation strategy to retain continuity over the medium term.

The presidency updated on progress on the Europol and passenger name records (PNR) trilogue negotiations. Both the presidency and the Commission urged member states to continue lobbying their national Members of Parliaments to ensure they fully understand the value of PNR. I reiterated the need for intra EU data to be included for any directive to be effective.

Justice day started with a ministerial breakfast meeting on the implications of the Taricco judgment in relation to the draft directive for the protection of the union’s financial interests. There was broad agreement to retain the title V legal base and the UK, supported by other member states continued to oppose the inclusion of VAT fraud in the directive protecting our red line.

The presidency reiterated its aim to complete negotiations on both the general data protection regulation and the accompanying law-enforcement focused directive by the end of the year. With a general approach on the regulation secured in June, the presidency presented a compromise text on the directive and sought approval from Ministers to enter trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as possible. The Commission welcomed the text, noting the delicate balance that had been achieved between operational effectiveness and privacy for data subjects, and the need to create a level playing field across the EU, for all forms of data processing.

The UK welcomed the changes made during expert discussions and urged the presidency to defend the Council position during trilogue, particularly the ability of law enforcement agencies to withhold information where appropriate for operational reasons, and to transfer data to third countries. Most other member states agreed and considered the draft to be a good balance between the rights of data subjects and needs of law enforcement agencies. The general approach was agreed.

The Commission updated Ministers on the recent decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to strike down the EU-US “safe harbour” agreement, which established a framework for the transfer of data from the EU to the US. In its view, the ruling was a clear statement on the importance of data protection as a fundamental right, and validated the Commission’s to review the safe harbour agreement. The Commission acknowledged however, that the invalidation of safe harbour would require data controllers to rely on other legal grounds for the transfer of data to the US, such as contractual clauses, binding corporate rules, or consent. The Commission assured member states it wanted to see uniform application of the ruling, and expected that national data protection authorities would provide consolidated advice to business through the article 29 working party.

The Commission reiterated the need to work with the US on a revision of the safe harbour agreement. It noted that negotiations on a revised framework had been ongoing for almost two years. The Commission felt that the ruling would ensure greater clarity about the safeguards that a revised agreement would need to provide.

The presidency sought Council agreement to certain articles of the proposed regulation establishing a European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO). The Council expressed provisional agreement. The UK does not participate in the EPPO. We noted our non-participation and registered our strong interest in ensuring that the scope of any EPPO does not go beyond the treaties.

During lunch, the presidency presented a progress report on the work of the EU accession to the European Convention of Human Rights and a summary of the problems with the draft accession agreement identified by the CJEU in its opinion of December 2014. There was some support for the presidency’s proposal that the EU reaffirm its commitment to the accession process. The UK, along with the Council legal service, highlighted the profound challenge presented by the Court’s opinion. The discussion concluded with the Commission recognising the difficulties faced, but agreeing to provide technical papers to assist the Council in identifying solutions to the issues raised by the CJEU.

Ministers discussed the migration situation, and the particular challenges it raises for judicial cooperation and tackling xenophobia. This included the role Eurojust might play in supporting member states in tackling these issues.

Additionally, there was a general discussion in response to the immigration crisis and best practice in co-operation between Governments and internet service providers to tackle hate speech online.

Under AOB, the Commission reminded member states that the victims’ rights directive would be coming into force on 16 November 2015. The UK is committed to transposing the victims’ rights directive by the deadline.

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Justice

HM Courts and Tribunal Service

In the last financial year HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) collected over £550 million of fines, other financial impositions, fixed penalties and orders, and that money has helped to fund vital services for taxpayers.

To build on this work, in July 2013 my Department began a procurement competition for a new provider of criminal court compliance and enforcement services, and a preferred bidder was identified in January 2015.

Following reconsideration of the Department’s requirements, we have decided that outsourcing these services to a single supplier is not the best option for HM Courts and Tribunals Service. This decision is based on the need to ensure that any contract we let completely meets our requirements, provides best value for the taxpayer and complies with procurement law.

Ministers have set out the importance of reforming HMCTS to provide a modern and efficient service for society. Improving compliance and enforcement services will continue to form a key part of that work. We believe that in-house modernisation is the best option for HMCTS.

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Coroner Reforms

The Government are committed to making sure bereaved people are at the very heart of the coroner system.

I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of a post-implementation review of the coroner reforms in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (‘the 2009 Act’), which will include a call for evidence into people’s experiences of coroner services.

Before the last Government implemented the 2009 Act’s coroner reforms, in July 2013, it undertook to review their impact after they had been in place for 18 months.

Since assuming responsibility for coroner policy and legislation following the general election I have considered the appropriateness of this Government carrying out such a review.

The reforms have now been in place for just over two years and I believe that this is a good period of time against which to assess the impact of the reforms and seek views on people’s experiences of the system

The Government are keen to hear the views of:

The providers of local coroner services—coroners, their officers and other staff, and the local authorities that fund coroner services;

those who have used coroner services under the 2009 Act—bereaved people and the voluntary organisations, including faith groups, who support them;

others who interact with coroner services—such as pathologists, other doctors and registrars; and

others who have been affected by and have experiences of coroner services under the 2009 Act.

We will seek views for eight weeks, starting today. After that we will consider the responses we have received and publish a post-implementation review report. Any proposed action arising from the findings of the review will be announced at that time.

The review is available at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk.

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Transport

EU Informal Transport

I attended the first formal Transport Council meeting under the Luxembourg presidency (the presidency) on Thursday 8 October2015.

The Council unanimously agreed general approaches on two proposals which form the “market pillar” of the fourth railway package: the proposal amending directive 2012/34 establishing a single European railway area, and the proposal amending regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 concerning the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail. The general approach texts mandate competitive tendering for public service contracts as a rule, but with several derogations to allow for direct awards in certain circumstances. I welcomed the efforts of the presidency to progress the fourth railway package, and set out the great success of rail liberalisation in our domestic market. I thanked the presidency for the provision allowing directly awarded contracts in exceptional circumstances, but expressed my disappointment in the changes to the texts allowing these in wider cases. I put forward the view that this had limited the ambitions of the market pillar and would lessen competition. However, along with all other member states I recognised the positive steps towards liberalisation that had been made and in the spirit of compromise supported the general approach. The presidency expressed their ambition to engage swiftly in trilogue discussions with the European Parliament and conclude negotiations on the package.

The Council held a policy debate on the review of the Commission’s 2011 White Paper on Transport. I agreed that the objectives set in 2011 are still largely relevant and their importance in ensuring that transport remains a key driver for growth and the single market. I welcomed the Commission’s commitment to better regulation and REFIT, and emphasised the need for EU initiatives to be targeted, proportionate and effective. I also highlighted the opportunity and challenges that digitalisation poses for the EU.

Over lunch there was a debate on cross-border co-operation in rail security following the Thalys incident in August. I put forward my support for the exchange of best practice between member states and transport operators, rather than any legislative initiative.

The presidency provided an update on the European fund for strategic investments and the transport infrastructure investment opportunities available. Some member states made limited interventions to welcome the long-term investment opportunities and the ability to combine with other financing streams and one member state expressed opposition to the use of private investment in long-term infrastructure projects.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission provided an update on new emissions testing procedures and the state of play on the real driving emissions tests. The Commission reiterated the three main actions following the Volkswagen situation: investigations being carried out in member states, the real driving emissions proposal, and in the future revisions to type approval legislation. The Commission asked all member states to respond to proposals. Germany gave a comprehensive update on domestic action, and I along with other member states welcomed the Commission’s call for domestic investigations. I also expressed our support for the real driving emissions proposals and stressed that independent and accurate tests were key to restoring confidence among consumer and environmentalist groups.

Also under Any Other Business, the presidency provided an update on the outcome of the informal Transport Council on Wednesday 7 October and the declaration on cycling.

I was also able to hold bilateral discussions with my EU counterparts from Germany and the Czech Republic to discuss the VW emissions situation. I also met the Dutch Transport Secretary to discuss their preparation and priorities for the forthcoming Dutch presidency.

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EU Transport Council

The UK was represented at official level at the informal Transport Council held under the Luxembourg presidency (the presidency) on Wednesday 7 October 2015.

The theme of the informal Transport Council was cycling as a mode of transport. The main agenda item was the presidency’s proposal for a declaration of Ministers on cycling as a climate-friendly transport mode.

The declaration called upon the Commission to integrate cycling into multi-modal transport policy, develop an EU-level strategic document and set up a European focal point on cycling. It also set out some action points for member states which included, for example, the designation of a national focal point for cycling and for national transport infrastructure projects to focus on strengthening cycling networks.

The UK outlined the importance of cycling in the UK, and the range of economic and health benefits it brings. Support was offered for other member state views on establishing national and European focal points for exchanging best practice. The UK welcomed the fact that “road safety” and “smart mobility” were referenced, as addressing behavioural matters is a key aspect of encouraging people to cycle. The UK also highlighted the importance of respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the fact that cycling is a devolved matter and so is best managed on a national and regional level.

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Work and Pensions

Priorities on Pensions

My noble Friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) has made the following written statement:

“The new state pension comes into payment from April 6 next year. This reform will bring much-needed clarity to a system that few people truly understand, and will reduce the need for pensioner means-testing. Alongside this, over 5.4 million employees have been enrolled into a workplace pension by around 60,000 employers, dramatically increasing the number of people saving for later life. However, they represent around only three per cent of employers as large and medium-sized firms were first to implement automatic enrolment.

The Government’s priorities are to carry through those important reforms to ensure they are a success. This means new state pension being delivered as smoothly as possible and small and micro employers getting the help and support they need as they meet their automatic enrolment duties.

Government and the pensions industry are also currently working through the changes following from the new pension flexibilities which allow scheme members to have more freedom and choice about how and when they withdraw their pension savings.

All these reforms will increase the number of people saving into workplace pensions, introduce new freedoms allowing savers to access their cash, and implement a new state pension that will be far easier to understand in the future. However, we are conscious of the need to ensure Government, providers, employers and members are able to focus on these changes to ensure their success.

That is why we have decided that the time is not right to implement defined ambition, collective benefits and automatic transfers. The time is not right to ask the pensions industry to absorb the new swathe of regulation that would be needed to make such further reforms work effectively. The market needs time and space to adjust to the other reforms underway and these areas will be revisited once there has been an opportunity for that to happen”.

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