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Written Statements

Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2016

Written Statements

Tuesday 5 January 2016


ECOFIN: 8 December 2015

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 8 December 2015. Ministers discussed the following items:

Financial transaction tax

The member states that have agreed to participate in the financial transaction tax (FTT) provided an update on their progress. Estonia has stated it will not participate, reducing the number of member states involved to 10. I reiterated that the UK would not participate in the financial transaction tax and that the UK would oppose an FTT with extra-territorial effects that were detrimental to the interests of non-participating member states, including through a renewed legal challenge if necessary.

Common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB)

Following a presentation by the presidency on the state of play regarding the CCCTB proposal, the Council held an exchange of views.

Completing the banking union

The Commission gave a presentation on its proposal for a European deposit insurance scheme and its communication “Towards Completion of the Banking Union”. This was followed by an exchange of views.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency updated the Council on the state of play of financial services dossiers.

Implementation of the banking union

The Commission gave an update on several dossiers linked to the banking union: the single resolution fund, the bank recovery and resolution directive and the deposit guarantee scheme directive.

Fight against the financing of terrorism

After taking note of a Commission presentation on the next steps to reinforce the European framework in the fight against terrorism, the Council held an exchange of views.

Future of the code of conduct (business taxation)

The Council adopted conclusions on the future of the code of conduct group on business taxation.

Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS)

The Council adopted conclusions on base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) in the EU context.

European semester

The Commission presented its annual growth survey, alert mechanism report and draft Council recommendation on the euro area. This was followed by an exchange of views.

Common position on flexibility in the stability and growth pact (SGP)

The Chair of the Economic and Financial Committee provided a debrief on the common position agreed with regards to flexibility in the SGP for short-term economic conditions, structural reforms and public investments. The Council took note of the agreement.

Statistics: EU statistics and implementation of the European statistics code of practice

The Council adopted conclusions on the annual statistical package following a Commission presentation on the implementation of the European statistics code of best practices.

European Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implantation of the budget for the EU for the financial year 2014.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) presented its report on the implementation of the 2014 budget followed by an exchange of views by the Council.



Armed Forces Pay Review Body Recruitment

I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Lesley Mercer as a Member of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body. Ms Mercer will begin her three year appointment on 1 March 2016. This appointment has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council: 14 and 15 December 2015

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 December. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. I attended the General Affairs Council, which was chaired by the Luxembourg presidency. The meetings were held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

In her introductory remarks the HRVP shared her assessment of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the first Stabilisation and Accession Council of 11 December. Ministers also heard an assessment of the situation in Burundi by the HRVP and the Belgium Minister of Foreign Affairs. The HRVP also touched on the successful outcome of the COP 21 conference in Paris and plans to schedule a discussion on climate diplomacy at a Foreign Affairs Council in the new year.

Eastern Partners

Ministers had an exchange on political developments in the eastern partner countries, with HRVP and Commissioner Hahn outlining the challenges regarding the eastern partners. There was a general consensus behind the principle of developing differentiated approaches in line with the review of the European neighbourhood policy. A discussion is likely on Ukraine at the January Foreign Affairs Council.


Ministers reaffirmed the relevance of the February Council conclusions in shaping EU external counter-terrorism action. HRVP made clear that the EU’s policy framework was valid and the focus must be on prioritisation and implementation. The Foreign Secretary underlined that national security was the responsibility of member states, but actions should be co-ordinated to maximise effectiveness.

Informal lunch with Turkish Foreign Minister

Ministers had an informal exchange of views with the Turkish Foreign Minister focusing on regional issues and counter-terrorism co-operation. A high-level dialogue meeting, with the participation of the HRVP and the Commission, will be held in Ankara in January 2016.


Ministers heard a briefing by the UN SRSG Kobler on the Libyan political dialogue and the outcomes of the Rome conference. Ministers reconfirmed their support to the UN-led process, including the formation of a Government of national accord in Libya and pledging economic and security support to help stabilise the country.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on the European neighbourhood policy.

The Council adopted conclusions on Iraq.

The Council adopted conclusions on the special report entitled “EU support for the fight against torture and the abolition of the death penalty”.

The Council adopted conclusions on the 2015 annual report on the EU’s development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2014.

The Council adopted conclusions on the special report entitled “The ACP Investment Facility: does it provide added value?”

The Council set a new financial reference amount of €43.65 million to cover expenditure related to the EU police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

The Council decided to lodge an appeal against the judgement of the EU General Court annulling Council decision 2012/497/EU on the conclusion of an agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, in so far as it applies to the territory of western Sahara.

General Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 15 December focused on: the inter-institutional agreement on better regulation; the 18-month programme of the Council; preparation of draft conclusions for the European Council on 17 and 18 December 2015; the enlargement and stabilisation and association process; and the European semester.

Inter-institutional agreement on better regulation (IIA)

The GAC discussed the preliminary agreed text of the inter-institutional agreement on better regulation, circulated by the Luxembourg presidency on 8 December. I welcomed the focus on impact assessments, SMEs and the “Think Small First” principle, and the consultation of national experts on delegated acts. I registered that the UK was not in a position to endorse the political agreement, due to our outstanding parliamentary scrutiny on the dossier.

18-month programme of the Council

The GAC endorsed the 18-month programme of the Council for the period from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2017, drawn up by the Dutch, Slovak and Maltese EU presidencies.

Preparation of the December European Council

The GAC prepared the agenda for the 17 December European Council, which the Prime Minister attended. The December European Council discussed migration, the fight against terrorism, economic and monetary union, the internal market, energy union and the UK’s EU renegotiation. The European Council also considered external relations issues, including Syria and Libya.

At the GAC, I emphasised that the Prime Minister was looking forward to a substantial discussion on the UK’s EU renegotiation at the December European Council.

Enlargement and stabilisation and association process

The UK continues to be a strong supporter of conditions-based EU enlargement, which has helped bring peace, prosperity and stability across the continent of Europe. We continue to support the future EU membership of all of the western Balkans and Turkey, provided EU aspirant countries meet all the requirements of membership before accession.

I broadly welcomed the enlargement conclusions and congratulated Commissioner Hahn for his engagement in the region. I made clear that I would have liked to have seen in the conclusions a stronger commitment for the EU institutions to do more on strategic communications in the western Balkans.

I expressed my concerns about the 10 December decision by the Republika Srpska (RS) Government to suspend co-operation with the state-level judicial and law enforcement authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). I set out that political obstacles needed to be removed, including threats of unconstitutional referendums, which challenged the Dayton agreement and its core structures. I also expressed concern about the ongoing political situation in Kosovo and highlighted the importance of Kosovo having a clearer EU perspective.

2016 European semester annual growth review

The Commission presented the 2016 annual growth survey (AGS) to the GAC which focuses on the key themes in President Junker’s investment plan. The Commission proposed to pursue an integrated approach to economic and social policy in 2016, centred around three pillars: boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms to modernise European economies and pursuing fiscal responsibility. The UK supports the Commission’s headline priorities for promoting jobs and growth.



Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Prior of Brampton) made the following written statement on 21 December 2015.

I am announcing today the level of payment due from members of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) in 2016 to keep health service spend on branded medicines within the levels agreed under the Scheme. The PPRS payment percentage for 2016 will be 7.80%.

The PPRS allows patients access to the medicines they need while maintaining affordability for the NHS and providing stability for industry in support of the Government’s innovation and growth agenda. There is an agreed, fixed limit on the majority of NHS spend on branded medicines with additional expenditure above this level paid for by the pharmaceutical companies. The agreed growth limit in both 2014 and 2015 was 0%. Annual growth will be limited to 1.8% in 2016,1.8% in 2017 and 1.9% in 2018. Small companies with less than £5 million of sales a year to the health service are exempted.

The Government welcome the pharmaceutical industry’s agreement to increase its payments to the Department of Health in 2016 compared to the amount agreed in the amendment to the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) published in August 2015. This supports the Government’s NHS funding commitment made at the spending review to deliver the Five Year Forward View. This represents a payment of monies that would have been due in 2017 and 2018 under the PPRS and will support industry and Government efforts to improve patient access to new clinically and cost-effective medicines.

The Department has published a document setting out further details entitled “Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme 2014: revised forecasts and profile of payment percentages at December 2015”.

It is also available online at:


Prime Minister

Machinery of Government: Fire and Rescue Policy

This written ministerial statement confirms that ministerial responsibility for fire and rescue policy will transfer from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office. This change will be effective from today, 5 January 2016.



British Road Safety Statement

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) made the following ministerial statement on Monday 21 December 2015.

The Government are committed to investing in national road safety; this is not solely because of the tragic human consequences of road deaths and injuries. Safer roads and safer road users save lives, but they also help to reduce pressure on the NHS and emergency services, keep traffic moving and, as a result, keep our economy growing.

My hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones, is today publishing a road safety statement that sets out the Government’s vision, values and priorities for improving the safety of Britain’s roads. This statement describes the context of road safety in Britain today and the overarching scope of road safety activity for the Government. It will be followed by consultations on specific issues as options are developed. The statement covers road safety policy within Britain as governed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

In the short and medium term, the main specific actions that we will take include:

Outlining our proposals on dangerous in-car mobile phone use, reported by the RAC as being one of motorists’ top concerns, with a view to increasing penalties for drivers using a hand-held mobile phone. This road safety statement will be followed shortly by a more detailed consultation and impact assessment on this topic. The increases proposed are:

that the vast majority of first time offenders will not incur a fixed penalty notice or penalty points but will instead be offered an educational course. Whether to invite a motorist to a course is at the discretion of the police;

for the majority of vehicles (cars, vans, motorbikes), an increase from the current three penalty points to four;

an increase in the level of the fixed penalty notice from the current £100 to £150;

more significant penalties for larger vehicles, such as HGVs, where the consequences of a collision can be much more severe, so that the penalty points increase from the current three to six.

A £750,000 grant in 2015/16 for police forces in England and Wales to build drug-driving enforcement capability, consulting on options for a drug-drive rehabilitation scheme course and a High Risk Offenders regime for drug-drivers;

Consulting on legislative changes to improve urban cycle safety by ensuring that sideguards and rear under-run devices are not removed from HGVs but remain permanently fitted;

Consulting on proposals to support safety for motorcyclists, who account for 19% of all road deaths, including better training and improved safety equipment;

Consulting on ways to incentivise and reward the uptake of more pre-test practice, as announced in our Motoring Services Strategy consultation[1] on 13 November, and a broader range of real-world driving experiences, including deregulating to allow Approved Driving Instructors with dual-controlled cars to offer lessons on motorways to learner drivers;

Undertaking a £2 million research programme to identify the best possible interventions for learner and novice drivers; and

Undertaking a road safety management capacity review, to identify areas for improved joint working, local innovation and efficiency.

A copy of the Road Safety Statement will be placed in the House Libraries and will also be available on the Government website:

[l] Motoring Services Strategy consultation. Department for Transport, published November 2015.