Wednesday 25 November 2015
Business, Innovation and Skills
EU Competitiveness Council
The EU Competitiveness Council will take place on Monday 30 November and Tuesday 1 December. Baroness Neville-Rolfe and I are currently to represent the UK on day one—industry and internal market—with the deputy permanent representative Shan Morgan representing the UK on day two—research, innovation and space.
There are no legislative items on the agenda for this Council.
The first item will be a “competitiveness check-up,” during which the Commission will set out the latest economic data related to competitiveness, and the Luxembourg presidency will present its assessment of which Commission proposals impact on competitiveness. Then there will be a presentation by the Commission on the single market strategy in goods and services, which was released last month. This will be followed by a policy debate.
The afternoon session will start with a brief report on the outcome of the lunch discussion on better regulation. This will be followed by a presentation by the Commission and exchange of views on the Commission’s recommendation for the establishment of National Competitiveness Boards within the euro area.
The agenda items under any other business are a presentation by the Commission on the state of play on real driving emissions and the manipulation of emission control system in cars; a presentation by the Commission summarising the activities of the SME Envoy network from 2015; and a discussion on stricter firearms control. The Council will end with a presentation by the Dutch delegation on priorities for their EU presidency which will begin on 1 January 2016.
Our main objectives on the internal market and industry day are to:
Ensure that proposals brought forward in the single market strategy, in particular on priority areas such as the services passport, are implemented quickly and with the necessary level of ambition; and
Encourage as many like-minded member states as possible to support us in pressing the Commission to bring forward proposals for EU burden reduction targets.
The research day will see three sets of draft Council conclusions on: research integrity; advancing gender equality in the European Research Area (ERA); and the advisory structure of the ERA. There will be an exchange of views on potential of the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) to stimulate research and innovation in Europe. There will also be a lunchtime discussion on bringing the higher education and research areas closer together.
There are five any other business items being discussed. The first four are information from the Commission on: the Retirement Savings Vehicle for European Research Institutions (RESAVER); the “Science4Refugees” initiative; Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Bioeconomy—A challenge for Europe, SCAR Foresight Exercise; and a report on the state of the Energy Union.
The meeting will end with a presentation by the Dutch delegation on the priorities for their upcoming EU presidency.
Our objective for the research day is to support the balance achieved in the work on research integrity, advancing gender equality and the advisory structure of the ERA, and to participate positively in the exchange of views on EFSI. ERA in particular has had significant UK input and we have consistently supported Commissioner Moedas on taking forward EFSI in the area of research and innovation.
EU Foreign Affairs Council
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment has today made the following statement:
The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) will take place in Brussels on 27 November 2015. I shall represent the UK.
The substantive items on 27 November will be: Adoption of Council conclusions on the recently published Commission trade strategy; state of play discussions on preparations for the 10th World Trade Organization ministerial conference; on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the EU and the US; the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement negotiations; and on trade negotiations with ASEAN countries and Japan. There will also be a discussion on the trilateral talks that have been taking place between the EU, Russia and Ukraine on planned implementation of the EU-Ukraine DCFTA. Over lunch trade relations and trade policy matters pertaining to China will be discussed.
Autumn Statement (Measures with Immediate Effect)
As part of “Spending review and autumn statement 2015”, the Government have announced a number of measures which will have immediate effect.
Loans to Participators: trustees of charitable trusts
The Government are introducing legislation to exempt loans or advances made by close companies to trustees of charitable trusts from the tax charge under the loans to participators rules where the loans are applied only to the purposes of the charitable trust. This ensures that transactions which do not fit the policy rationale of the rules are not caught. The change will have effect for all loans or advances made on or after 25 November 2015.
Reform to the related party rules in the intangible fixed assets regime
The Government are introducing legislation to confirm how the corporation tax rules for intangible fixed assets apply to partnerships with corporate partners. This ensures the related party commencement rules will apply as they are intended to apply. The change will be effective immediately but only in respect of debits and credits accruing on or after 25 November 2015
Capital Allowances and Leasing: Anti-Avoidance
The Government are introducing legislation countering two types of avoidance involving capital allowances and leasing. The first involves artificially lowering disposal values, allowing businesses to claim excess capital allowances, and the second involves transferring entitlement to tax deductible lease payments in return for receiving a payment that is not taxed as income. The legislation will have effect for relevant transactions that take place and agreements entered into on or after 25 November 2015.
Further details on the measures listed above are contained in the draft legislation, explanatory notes and tax information and impact notes published on the gov.uk website.
Social reform is at the heart of this Government’s programme, and nowhere is that more true than in criminal justice.
We are embarking on a radical reform of our prisons to rehabilitate offenders, cut crime and enhance public safety. Investment for nine new prisons, which will have better facilities for work and education, has already been announced.
Today I can also announce a new beginning for female offenders with women prisoners serving their sentences in more humane surroundings better designed to keep them out of crime. We will close the inadequate and antiquated Holloway prison and invest in 21st-century solutions to the problems of criminality.
For women offenders in London, we are now in a position to hold them on remand in the more modern facilities at HMP Bronzefield. We will also reopen newly refurbished facilities at HMP Downview as a women’s prison later next year. This will allow sentenced women to be held in an environment that is more appropriate for many of those currently sent to Holloway. Both provide a better setting for children visiting their mothers. Both are well located with good transport links to London.
I am very grateful to the hard-working staff in the prison who have deservedly won praise for their work. Despite their inspirational efforts, Holloway’s design and physical state do not provide the best environment for the rehabilitation of women offenders. Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons last published inspection of Holloway noted that the
“size and poor design make it a very difficult establishment to run”.
I am extremely mindful that Holloway holds many vulnerable women. For that reason, no one will be moved immediately and we will not close the prison until services similar to those currently provided for women offenders are in place elsewhere. We expect the prison to close by summer next year.
The closure of Holloway underlines our determination to invest in a high-quality, modern prison estate with better facilities to help prisoners turn away from crime.