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Written Statements

Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 19 January 2016

Written Statements

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Business, Innovation and Skills

Trade

My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Lord Maude of Horsham) has today made the following statement.

The Government aim to increase the number of exporting businesses by 100,000, from 188,000 in 2010 to 288,000 by 2020, and to increase the value of exports significantly. This will require a step-change in UK exports. Some of the factors that affect exports are beyond our control, including for example the strength of the pound vis-a-vis other major currencies, the decline in the growth of global trade and the changing role of emerging markets. There are, however, things that Government can and should do to make a difference to exports.

We intend to:

drive up the number of exporters through an increasingly digital offer (such as exporting is great) that will lead businesses to the right advice and support, including a joined-up HMG toolkit;

drive up the value of exports, by focusing attention on those markets with the biggest opportunities for sectors in which the UK is or can be a strong competitor and where Government can add most value; and,

drive up the future pipeline of export opportunities, which includes ensuring that British businesses are poised to seize the opportunities generated through the prosperity fund’s activities to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development.

This will require a whole-of-Government approach, bringing together resources from across Whitehall. Integrated industry sector teams will report to departmental Ministers with responsibility for wider policies for that sector (e.g. food and drink in DEFRA). This will better leverage our specialist knowledge and existing relationships with business, and enable joined-up policy and operational delivery. This will require significantly improved cross-Whitehall engagement on exports, as well as other major changes to UKTI’s operating model. Under the new model, a streamlined UKTI HQ will lead and convene overall Government activity to drive up exports. Business planning will become more rigorous, to give greater clarity and confidence on the resources available to sector Ministers and overseas heads of missions. Importantly, this joined-up approach will help ensure that exports are supported by domestic policies.

UKTI is developing a single digital platform through which businesses can access HMG and private sector support. On its own, however, this is not enough to deliver the step-change needed in exports. UKTI’s current model relies heavily on giving advice to businesses. The new model will over time place much more emphasis on direct support for businesses that are seeking to export, drawing on the experience of what export promotion agencies do elsewhere in the world. We will pilot some of these ideas in a few sectors and/or localities over the coming months. As part of this, UKEF will work alongside the British Business Bank to ensure that Government’s financial offering to SMEs is coherent, easy to use, and fills identified market gaps. Importantly, where export services can be provided by the private sector, with little or no value provided by Government’s involvement, HMG ultimately intends to exit that market and focus instead on fostering the conditions for an invigorated private sector export support marketplace.

Other work that supports exports will continue. This includes making the UK a more attractive environment for inward investment (which can often be a driver for exports), and working within the European Union to encourage the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements.

The focus on trade as a Government priority has also been reinforced by the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint a number of new trade envoys, taking the total up to 24 covering 50 high growth and emerging markets. The trade envoy programme supports HMG’s overall strategy to drive economic growth. Envoys are carefully selected for their experience, skills and knowledge of particular sectors or markets, or their knowledge of business. Their role is to help promote the UK’s excellence globally and champion HMG’s trade and investment priorities. The newly appointed trade envoys are:

Angola—The right hon. Baroness Northover

Burma, Brunei, Thailand—Mark Gamier MP

Canada—Andrew Percy MP

DRC, Mozambique—Richard Benyon MP

Ethiopia—Jeremy Lefroy MP

Ghana—Adam Afriyie MP

Iran—The right hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick

Morocco, Tunisia—Andrew Murrison MP

Nigeria—John Howell MP

Philippines, Malaysia—Richard Graham MP (extending his existing envoy role in Indonesia, ASEAN Economic Community)

Taiwan—Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Uganda, Rwanda—Lord Popat.

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Communities and Local Government

Voluntary Right to Buy Pilot

In October 2015, the Government announced the voluntary agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation that will extend right to buy discounts to 1.3 million more families across the country.

At autumn statement 2015, the Chancellor announced that, ahead of full implementation, there would be a pilot with five housing associations, which would inform the design of the main scheme.

The power of the Secretary of State to make payments to housing associations in respect of right to buy discounts would be established by clause 62 of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015.

The Government will provide funding for the pilot. The five housing associations will be compensated for their administrative costs up to the point of sale, and once the Housing and Planning Bill receives Royal Assent, would be compensated in full for the cost of the discounts.

Expenditure on the implementation of the pilot, including routine administration, communication, marketing, valuation and legal costs will take place relying on the sole authority of the Supply and Appropriation Act, subject to eligibility and approval. Expenditure will be met from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s existing budget.

The funding of sales and the contractual commitment to sales will be contingent upon the Housing and Planning Bill receiving Royal Assent.

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Culture, Media and Sport

Football Supporter Engagement and Ownership

I am today publishing the final report of the Government expert working group on football supporter ownership and engagement.

This is a report prepared by football, with the authorities that run the game, working together with supporter organisations that speak on behalf of fans up and down the land, with help from Government. It sets out a number of recommendations for what more can be done to encourage greater engagement between supporters and those that run their club, while also helping to remove barriers to supporter ownership, when such opportunities arise for credible supporters’ trusts to bid to own their club.

In bringing the various football interests together to report on issues creating barriers to supporter ownership and recommended action to overcome these, Government are fulfilling the commitment they made to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, following its inquiry into football governance in 2011 and the follow-up report in 2013.

The report recognises that football clubs play an important role in their local communities, and that supporter ownership is already happening at a number of football clubs, especially in the lower leagues. However, the path to achieving ownership has not been as straightforward as it seems, with supporters often without the necessary finance, expertise and opportunity to bid for their club when it becomes available.

This report sets out proposals to give supporters a fairer, more realistic chance of bidding for ownership should the opportunity arise. For example, administrators appointed for football club insolvencies will now be obliged to meet with the accredited supporter trust and given the opportunity to bid for ownership. Supporters can also apply to the Premier League and fans fund panel for assistance to help with professional fees to build a credible bid, and a database will be created of suitable professional experts, who are football fans, willing to provide pro-bono advice to supporters’ bids. It goes without saying that supporters should be given an opportunity to bid for their club if it has failed, cannot continue in its current state or if there is consent from an owner looking to sell.

The Premier League has also agreed to provide an extra £1 million in funding—pending the outcome of the Ofcom investigation into how it sells its broadcasting rights—over the next three years via the fans fund to recognised football supporter organisations which provide a voice for supporters on ownership issues.

The report also asks Government to review the UK tax system, to see whether they may be able to offer incentives to supporter ownership bids, and community ownership in sport more generally. The Government will consider these proposals.

The report signals a need for there to be stronger dialogue between football club owners and a representative group of supporters on matters of strategic importance to the running of football clubs. This structured dialogue will provide a more inclusive way of ensuring supporters have access to strategic information, can discuss key issues with club owners and directors, and can hold them accountable. This should also foster improved relationships between fans groups and their clubs which may, over time, facilitate new opportunities for fans to invest in their clubs and encourage opportunities for collective share ownership.

Proposals outlined in the report have been approved by the various boards of the football authorities. The next step is for those boards to seek approval to these from their members and clubs, and where needed for these changes to be enshrined in their rulebooks. Government will work with them, where possible, to achieve this, and in doing so open up better supporter engagement with those that run their clubs and greater opportunities for supporter ownership.

I welcome this report and thank everyone involved, including the independent Chair Joanna Manning Cooper, for their hard work in the real progress that has been made. It shows what can be achieved with football and Government working together in partnership.

This report does not signal the end of the Government’s interest in supporter ownership and engagement. We will continue to review the situation and take further action if needed.

Government will also continue to challenge the football authorities to improve other areas in the governance and regulation in sport, including greater reform of their decision-making bodies, to make these more representative of the game.

The report of the expert working group is being deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-expert-working-group-on-football-supporter-ownership-and-engagement

Attachments can be viewed online at: http:// www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Iran: Implementation Day

On 15 July 2015, I made a statement to this House on the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, Official Report, columns 895-896. Almost exactly six months later, I would like to take this opportunity to update the House about reaching implementation day of the joint comprehensive plan of action, or JCPoA.

On 16 January the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran has completed all of the steps required of it under annex V of the JCPoA in order to trigger phased sanctions relief. To reach this point Iran has: shipped out over 12 tonnes of enriched uranium to Russia, thus significantly reducing its stockpile to below 300 kg; removed over 13,000 centrifuges and associated infrastructure; and removed and made inoperable the core of the Arak plutonium reactor among other actions, a detailed list of which is included within the IAEA’s report. Implementation gives the IAEA unprecedented access to sites in Iran, so that Iran’s civil nuclear programme will operate transparently.

In return, these measures have triggered the first phase of significant UN, EU and US sanctions relief. This will begin to improve many of Iran’s commercial relations, enabling it to trade with the world and benefit economically. There will be significant opportunities for British businesses and the Government are assisting them in identifying how to benefit from these. Restrictions remain in place to prevent proliferation, and Iran’s ballistic missile programme and arms sales also continue to be sanctioned.

Under the JCPoA, Iran is required to take further steps in order to trigger additional sanctions relief. Only after a further eight years, or when the IAEA reaches its broader conclusion about Iran’s nuclear programme, will the remaining sanctions on Iran be lifted. We will continue to work, with our partners in the joint commission, to ensure that any concerns about the implementation of the deal are appropriately addressed.

Reaching this point is an important step in improving global security. I told the House in July that the threat of an Iranian bomb was removed. Implementation of the JCPoA cements this achievement. I shall continue to inform the House of significant developments on the JCPoA throughout this Parliament.

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Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy 2016-17

On 18 January, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) launched a bidding round for the 2016-17 Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy (MCFHRD), doubling (to £10.6 million) a fund known last year as the Human Rights and Democracy Programme (HRDP).

The Magna Carta Fund is the FCO’s strategic programme dedicated to human rights and democracy work. It aims to further British interests overseas by supporting high-impact projects which promote institution-building, and target systemic issues and the underlying causes of human rights problems. The increased size of the fund reflects the Government’s strong commitment to human rights and focus on strategic interventions which prevent their violation. It will play an important role in helping to meet objectives set out in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, to prevent conflict, strengthen the rule-based international system and promote human rights, good governance and the rule of law.

The programme has been reconfigured around manifesto commitments and three broad themes, which exploit the mutually reinforcing nature of human rights and effective institutions. The new strategy (published in full at: https://www.gov.uk/human-rights-and-democracy-programme) invites proposals that support:

democratic values and the rule of law;

the rules-based international order; and

human rights for a stable world.

This approach encompasses our previous eight thematic priorities, but allows British embassies, high commissions and implementers around the world the flexibility to address the issues that matter most in the local context and to respond to developments. Over the course of this Parliament the programme aims to amass evidence that human rights provide practical solutions to a wide variety of real-world problems, and are integral to the security and prosperity of all.

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