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Written Statements

Volume 603: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2015

Written Statements

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Treasury

Annual European Union Finances Statement

I am today laying before Parliament, “European Union Finances 2015: statement on the 2015 EU budget and measures to counter fraud and financial mismanagement” (Cm 9167). This is a routine annual publication. It is the 35th in the series. The statement gives details of revenue and expenditure in the 2015 European Union (EU) budget, recent developments in EU financial management and measures to counter fraud against the EU budget. It also includes an annex on the use of EU funds in the UK.

[HCWS375]

Draft Finance Bill 2016

The Government have consulted on a number of tax policies following announcement at summer Budget and previously. Today, the Government are publishing responses to these consultations alongside draft legislation to be included in Finance Bill 2016. This fulfils our objective to consult, where possible, on draft clauses for the Finance Bill, at least three months in advance of the introduction of the Bill.

The Government are publishing draft legislation on policies announced at autumn statement 2015 and earlier, including:

A new personal savings allowance to remove tax on up to £1,000 of savings income for basic rate taxpayers and up to £500 for higher rate taxpayers;

Reforms to dividend taxation by replacing the dividend tax credit with a tax-free dividend allowance of £5,000 and setting new dividends tax rates;

Establishing the office of tax simplification on a statutory basis;

A new tax relief for orchestras at a rate of 25% on qualifying expenditure.

New measures for those who persistently enter into tax avoidance schemes that are defeated by HMRC, such as a special reporting requirement and a surcharge on those whose latest return is inaccurate due to use of a defeated scheme;

A new penalty of 60% tax due to be charged in all cases successfully tackled by the general anti-abuse rule.

Detail of the clauses published today can be found in the overview of legislation in draft, which includes tax information and impact notes for each measure. All publications will be available online at: https://www.gov.uk.

[HCWS374]

Office of Tax Simplification

The Chancellor has appointed Angela Knight CBE to chair the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS). She succeeds The right hon. Michael Jack CBE who having served a full Parliament has stood down with the Chancellor’s thanks.

The OTS was established as a temporary office of the Treasury in 2010 to advise the Chancellor on options for addressing complexity in the tax system. As announced at summer Budget 2015 it will be made permanent and put on a statutory basis in Finance Bill 2016.

[HCWS373]

Defence

UN Operations in Cyprus: Call-out Order

A new call-out order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called into permanent service in support of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

Over 100 reservists have been called out for UN operations in Cyprus over the last 12 months. Over the period this new order will be in force we anticipate calling out around 150 reservists, who will be fully integrated with their regular colleagues. The use of reserves in Cyprus is now considered routine business and is fully in line with our policy of having more capable, usable, integrated and relevant reserve forces. It provides reservists with an excellent opportunity to fully integrate with their paired regular unit, providing a worthwhile, rewarding and valuable contribution to the UN peacekeeping effort.

Currently, we plan on calling out only willing and available reservists who have the support of their employer.

The order takes effect from 11 December 2015 and ceases to have effect on 10 December 2016.

[HCWS371]

War Pensions Scheme Uprating 2016

The new rates of pensions and allowances payable under the war pensions scheme proposed from April 2016 are set out in the following tables. The annual uprating of awards and allowances for 2016 will take place from the week beginning 11 April. Rates for 2016 are unchanged in line with the September 2015 consumer prices index of negative (at -0.1%).

War Pensions Rates

Rates (£)

Rates (£)

(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)

2015

2016

WAR PENSIONS

Disablement Pension (100% rates)

officer (£ per annum)

9,298.00

9 298.00

other ranks (weekly amount)

178.20

178.20

Age allowances payable from age 65

40%-50%

11.95

11.95

Over 50% but not over 70%

18.35

18.35

Over 70% but not over 90%

26.10

26.10

Over 90%

36.70

36.70

Disablement gratuity (one-off payment)

Specific minor injury (min.)

1,136.00

1,136.00

Specified minor injury (max.)

8,474.00

8,474.00

1-5% gratuity

2,834.00

2,834.00

6-14% gratuity

6,300.00

6,300.00

15-19% gratuity

11,018.00

11,018.00

SUPPLEMENTARY ALLOWANCES (WEEKLY)

Unemployability Allowance

Personal

110.10

110.10

adult dependency increase

61.20

61.20

increase for first child

14.20

14.20

increase for subsequent children

16.75

16.75

Invalidity Allowance

higher rate

21.80

21.80

middle rate

14.20

14.20

lower rate

7.10

7.10

Constant Attendance Allowance

exceptional rate

134.40

134.40

intermediate rate

100.80

100.80

full day rate

67.20

67.20

part-day rate

33.60

33.60

Comforts Allowance

higher rate

28.90

28.90

lower rate

14.45

14.45

Mobility Supplement

64.15

64.15

Allowance for lowered standard of occupation (maximum)

67.20

67.20

Therapeutic Earnings Limit (annual rate)

5,408.00

5,408.00

Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance

67.20

67.20

Severe Disablement Occupational Allowance

33.60

33.60

Clothing Allowance (annual rate)

230.00

230.00

Education Allowance (annual rate) (max)

120.00

120.00

WIDOW(ER)S BENEFITS

Widow(er)s’—other ranks (basic with children) (weekly amount)

135.15

135.15

Widow(er)—Officer higher rate both wars (basic with children) (£ per annum)

7,187.00

7,187.00

Childless widow(er)s’ u-40 (other ranks) (weekly amount)

32.37

32.37

Widow(er)—Officer lower rate both wars (£ per annum)

2,496.00

2,496.00

Supplementary Pension

90.41

90.41

Age Allowance

(a) age 65 to 69

15.40

15.40

(b) age 70 to 79

29.60

29.60

(c) age 80 and over

43.90

43.90

Children’s Allowance

Increase for first child

21.20

21.20

Increase for subsequent children

23.75

23.75

Orphan’s pension

Increase for first child

24.25

24.25

Increase for subsequent children

26.55

26.55

Unmarried dependant living as spouse (max)

132.80

132.80

Rent Allowance (maximum)

50.90

50.90

Adult orphan’s pension (maximum)

103.85

103.85

[HCWS372]

Transport

EU Transport Council

I will attend the final Transport Council under the Luxembourg presidency (the presidency), taking place in Brussels, on Thursday 10 December.

The presidency is planning a policy debate on social aspects of road transport ahead of the EU road initiatives that we expect to be published by the Commission in 2016. The debate is likely to focus on whether existing legislation should be clarified in order to reach a uniform interpretation of the rules in all member states, and the challenges in the enforcement of existing rules.

There will be a lunchtime debate on road safety at the request of the presidency. I welcome the opportunity to share expertise and best practice on road safety in the light of the UK’s excellent track record in this area. I look forward to hearing about the work done by EU colleagues to improve road safety among vulnerable road users in other member states.

Under any other business, there will be presentations on:

The state of the energy union by the Commission;

The MH17 crash following a report from the Dutch accident and investigation branch;

An aviation strategy for Europe by the Commission following publication of its aviation package on 7 December;

State of ratification of the Luxembourg protocol to the rail rolling stock convention, which Luxembourg will encourage other member states to ratify;

Nominations to the ICAO Council; and

The Netherlands’ priorities for their presidency which begins on 1 January 2016.

[HCWS370]

Rail Franchising

I am pleased to inform the House of the award of two new passenger rail franchises. Following separate, rigorous competitions I intend to award the Northern franchise to Arriva, and the TransPennine Express (TPE) franchise to First. These awards will be confirmed subject to successful completion of a standstill period of at least 10 days.

Both franchises are due to start on 1 April 2016. The Northern franchise will run for nine years, until 31 March 2025, with an extension of one year callable at my discretion. The TPE franchise will run for seven years, until 31 March 2023, with an extension of two years callable at my discretion.

My Department set out ambitious plans for the new franchises in our invitations to tender earlier this year and both Arriva and First have gone well beyond them, exceeding our requirements. This means that these franchises will oversee the biggest transformation of rail journeys in the north of England in decades, with an unprecedented package of improvements for passengers.

Together, these operators will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services with brand-new modern trains, more seats, more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience. This one nation Government is committed to closing the economic gap between north and south, and these new franchises will help to bring the northern powerhouse to life. They will play key roles in rebalancing the economy, creating jobs, opportunity and growth, and will provide significantly better journeys across the region. Crucially, in a key step towards full devolution, these contracts will be managed in Leeds by a joint team from the Department for Transport and Rail North, which represents the region’s 29 local transport authorities.

Across both franchises, Arriva and First will provide much needed new-build trains, with the introduction of more than 500 brand-new carriages. They will also remove the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains from across the north. These plans will create space for more than 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times across the north and bring in thousands of extra services a week for passengers. Alongside these investments the franchises performance will be improved to meet challenging targets to reduce cancellations and short-formations.

There will also be significant improvements for passengers’ experience, with the roll out of free Wi-Fi on trains and at stations and the installation of on-board media servers providing on-train entertainment and real-time passenger information to smartphones and tablets. Automatic delay compensation for season and advance purchase ticket-holders will be introduced across the region. First and Arriva will also invest more than £55 million in improving stations and bring them into the 21st century.

The new franchises will also mean significant returns to the Government and better value for the taxpayer. On TransPennine Express, First will pay premium to the Government of around £400 million over the life of the new franchise, taking the franchise out of subsidy for the first time. On the Northern franchise, Arriva will reduce the amount of annual Government subsidy required by around £140 million over nine years.

The award of these franchises is a hugely positive story for rail in the north of England. They are further proof that private sector competition is good for passengers, local communities and taxpayers. This Government promised passengers we would give them the premium-quality rail services that a northern powerhouse deserves. I am delighted that these awards will deliver exactly that.

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