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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
30 June 2016
Volume 612

Written Statements

Thursday 30 June 2016

Culture, Media and Sport

Telecommunications Council

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The Telecommunications Council took place in Brussels on 26 May 2016. As is procedure, this statement sets out a formal record of that meeting. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, represented the UK.

The first item was for agreement for a general approach on the proposal for a decision on the use of the 470-790 MHz frequency band in the Union (First reading—EM 5814/16 + ADD 1 and 2). The UK supported this general approach. There were no major interventions and the general approach was agreed by Council.

This item was followed by a debate on the EU electronic communications regulatory framework. The debate was informed by three questions from the presidency. The UK intervention was as per the pre-Council statement. Other member state interventions included Finland, Sweden, Romania and Latvia who generally agreed with the UK position on the importance of protecting national competence with respect to spectrum management, but that there should be better EU co-ordination. Some member states including Sweden, Poland and Lithuania, also highlighted the need for any new electronic communications framework to assist the rollout of broadband, especially in rural areas, by promoting competition. On the issue of increasing the scope of the framework to include over the top services (OTTs), many member states, including Finland, Ireland and Lithuania, were wary of widening the current scope to include OTTs. However, Germany and Spain wished to do so in order to create a “level playing field” for all comparable services. The Commission offered the view that the primary objective of the new framework should be further driving broadband rollout, especially ultrafast broadband.

This was followed by four items under AOB. The first two items were progress reports from the presidency on: a proposal for a directive of the European on the accessibility to public sector bodies’ websites (First reading—EM 16006/11); and measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the Union (NIS—First reading—EM6342/13). This was followed by information from the Commission on developments on internet governance. Finally, the Slovakian delegation informed the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency. There were no interventions on any of these items.

The agenda item on the role of platforms in the digital economy was withdrawn by the presidency shortly before Council took place.

Council then adjourned until the next meeting, due to be held on Friday 2 December 2016.

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Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

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The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council took place in Brussels on 30 and 31 May 2016. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, represented the UK at the Culture and Sport Councils on 31 May. As is procedure, this statement sets out a record of that meeting.

Culture and Audiovisual

The first item was the adoption of conclusions on the role of Europeana in digitising cultural heritage. The UK supported the adoption.

Council then moved to the main item on the agenda which was the Commission’s proposal for a new audiovisual media services directive in the context of its digital single market strategy. All Ministers welcomed the continuation of the country of origin principle as the cornerstone of the directive and the UK repeated its view that this must not be eroded for the continued functioning single market. There was some discussion on proposals to secure funding for European content. The UK, along with Finland, observed that quotas might not be the best way to achieve this. On accessibility rules, the Commission agreed with the UK that sector-specific rules might be useful. The Commission and presidency concluded by calling for a speedy adoption in order to keep up with ever-changing technology.

There were six AOB items including information on an upcoming proposal for an EU year of cultural heritage 2018, an item on the future funding of the European Union youth orchestra, a French item on interoperability of digital content and a request by Poland, supported by Slovenia, Romania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Belgium and Malta for an increase to the existing €5 million ceiling stipulated in the current European regional development funds for small-scale cultural projects. There was also information from the German delegation on the latest court decisions concerning the remuneration of publishing companies based on copyright law, and a presentation by the Slovak delegation on priorities for their upcoming presidency. The UK did not intervene on any of these items.

Sport

This Council focused on integrity and good governance in sport, with the adoption of Council conclusions, supported by the UK, and a policy debate. Member states outlined best practice in their countries and France and Denmark led calls for member states to continue signing the Council of Europe convention on match-fixing. The UK intervention highlighted the Prime Minister’s recent anti-corruption summit and the resulting pledge to launch an international sports integrity partnership.

Under AOB, Malta fed back to Council on discussions at the recent meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal. The Commission also presented an update on studies on the specificity of sport and the role of sport in regional development. Sweden, Italy and France called for further work in this area. The UK did not intervene. Council then adjourned until the next meeting; due to be held on Tuesday 22 November 2016.

The UK was represented by officials at the high-level sport structured dialogue. This was opened, for the first time, to all delegations, rather than the usual presidency trio format. The sports movement was represented by IOC, EOC, FIFA and UEFA. The UK emphasised that strengthened dialogue was paramount to the integrity of the sports movement and drew parallels with the international sports integrity partnership announced at the Prime Minister’s recent summit. The UK also referred back to London 2012 Olympic games and the sports betting integrity forum which the UK established.

A joint declaration of intent on enhancing regular dialogue on topics of shared responsibilities regarding major sports events was signed by the Dutch presidency and the four representatives of the sports movement.

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Defence

Operation SHADER

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In the counter-Daesh quarterly update to Parliament on 24 May 2016, I said that following the meeting of counter-Daesh coalition Defence Ministers in Stuttgart on 4 May, we were considering what further support the UK might offer to reinforce the global coalition.

I can confirm today that we will be sending around 50 additional trainers to the Al Asad airbase in Western Iraq to provide instruction on countering improvised explosive devices (c-IED), infantry skills and combat first aid. As well as the extra training personnel, the UK will also provide around 90 personnel to assist with guarding the airbase, and around 30 personnel to form a head quarter staff to help command the mission. In addition an engineering squadron will deploy for around six months to build necessary infrastructure to support the deployment.

This deployment will add to the significant contribution the UK is already making to the campaign, with over 1,100 personnel deployed to the region. Our strike aircraft have now conducted around 900 air strikes against Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria and our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft provide niche and highly valued capabilities. On the ground, as part of the coalition’s Building Partner Capacity (BPC) programme our forces have helped to train more than 18,000 members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF), including Kurdish forces, in Besmaya, Erbil and Taji. With coalition support, Iraqi forces are pushing Daesh back and reoccupying territory. Fallujah has now been liberated after suffering at the hands of Daesh since early 2014. As Iraqi forces continue to regain territory and begin preparatory operations to retake Mosul, it is important that the coalition continues to provide the support needed to allow them to make further progress.

The extra trainers will be working closely with US and Danish forces, who lead the BPC programme at Al Asad, providing training to the Iraqi army 7th Division, border guards and federal police from behind the wire in c-IED and basic infantry skills, and combat first aid. This will in turn help Iraqi forces consolidate recent military gains in Anbar province and the building of forces for operations around Mosul.

On 24 May 2016 I also set out our intention to provide the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq with a supply of ammunition to equip the Peshmerga. I am today laying a departmental minute concerning the gifting of ammunition to the Kurdistan Regional Government. This will enable the Peshmerga to defend themselves, protect citizens and continue to hold the front line against Daesh. The gifting package will consist of heavy machine gun ammunition for use with the weapons previously gifted by the UK, and sniper rifle ammunition. The total cost is approximately £1.4 million plus an estimated £4,100 in transport costs. Given the requirement to provide support to ongoing operations in northern Iraq, the departmental minute will lay for five sitting days from the date of this statement.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Services

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FCO Services operates as a trading fund of the FCO. I have set the following performance targets for 2016-17:

An in-year surplus before interest, tax and dividend.

A return on capital employed of at least 7% (weighted average).

A productivity ratio of at least 80%, measuring actual billable hours versus available billable hours.

To deliver the efficiency savings of £12.1 million as reported over the corporate plan period.

A customer satisfaction result of at least 80%.

To provide an annual discretionary dividend to the FCO of at least £1.5 million.

An overall improvement of 2% on the average 2015 index Your Say score for My Manager.

Target 2016-17 = 65%

FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets through its annual report for 2016-17.

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Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils June 2016

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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 June and I attended the General Affairs Council on 24 June. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Dutch presidency. The meetings were held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2016/06/20/

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Mogherini highlighted the conclusions on Burma and business and human rights. Ministers signed the EU/East Africa economic partnership agreement.

Arctic

The UK welcomed the adoption of Council conclusions on the Arctic: the EU has an important role in helping to meet the challenges facing the region, focusing on those areas where it can add value, such as research, climate change and the environment.

The Sahel

Ms. Mogherini updated Ministers on her recent discussions with G5 Sahel countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—and emphasised the importance of working in partnership with third countries to address shared challenges, particularly migration. Council conclusions were adopted which set out the importance of tackling the long-term drivers of instability and migration, as well as the need to continue to strengthen the capacity of local security forces.

Macedonia

Ministers discussed the longstanding political crisis in Macedonia. The Foreign Secretary expressed concern at the continuing crisis and supported renewed EU/US negotiations. Ms. Mogherini issued a statement after the Council ended, calling for the full implementation of the Przino agreement signed one year ago by the political parties, which included the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of abuse of power.

Middle east peace process

Ministers exchanged views on prospects for the middle east peace process, in the light of the upcoming Quartet report, and planned follow-up to the 3 June Paris conference. In spite of sobering developments on the ground, Ministers shared the view that the EU must remain proactive and engaged, and be ready to invest further political capital as soon as conditions allow.

Georgia—visa liberalisation

Ministers exchanged views on visa liberalisation in the context of EU-Georgia relations, pursuant to the proposal submitted by the Commission in March to exempt Georgian nationals from the requirement to obtain visas when travelling to Schengen countries for short stays. The UK is not part of the border and immigration aspects of Schengen so would not be affected by any changes to the relevant regulation 539/2001 pursuant to the Commission proposal.

Libya /EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia

The Council adopted the Council decision to extend and expand Operation Sophia’s mandate to boost the capability of the Libyan coastguard to help stem the flow of illegal migration and to combat arms trafficking. It is important that work to implement this decision starts as soon as possible. The UK will work with the Libyan authorities, regional countries, other EU member states and international organisations to achieve this. Operation Sophia has already saved almost 15,000 lives and destroyed over 120 smuggling vessels. Operation Sophia’s additional tasking will build the Libyan Coastguard’s ability to tackle migration and limit Daesh terrorists’ freedom of movement.

Under any other business, the German Foreign Minister updated the Council on the German chairmanship of the OSCE. He set out his plan to visit Nagorno Karabakh in late June to encourage both sides to continue a sustained dialogue.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on the middle east peace process.

The Council adopted conclusions on Myanmar/Burma.

The Council adopted conclusions on business and human rights.

The Council adopted conclusions on child labour.

The Council approved the signature and provisional application of the economic agreement between the EU and East African Community (EAC) partner states.

The Council approved the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in

2015.

The Council repealed common position 2008/109/CFSP and Council regulation 234/004, lifting restrictive measures and an arms embargo imposed against Liberia.

The Council adopted the EU’s common position in view of the third meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council with Serbia, which took place in Brussels on 22 June 2016.

General Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2016/06/21/

The General Affairs Council on 24 June, in Luxembourg, discussed the outcome of the UK referendum, prepared the June European Council conclusions, and discussed implementation of specific aspects of the inter-institutional agreement (IIA), including the Commission’s Work programme for 2017.

Slovakia also presented its priority work programme for its upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU.

June European Council

The Council discussed the draft conclusions ahead of the European Council on 28-29 June. The European Council is due to focus on migration, economic matters, external relations and the outcome of the UK referendum.

European semester

As part of the European semester process, the Council approved the draft country-specific recommendations which will be endorsed at the European Council on 28-29 June. The recommendations were also approved at the Economic and Financial Council (ECOFIN) and the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO).

Inter-institutional agreement (IIA)—Better law making and transparency

As part of the IIA process, the Council discussed the legislative priorities for 2017, in particular transparency aspects of the IIA and the Commission’s Work programme for 2017, which the Commission will present to the Council in November 2016.

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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Security

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This is the ninth statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland and the second statement to this Parliament. It covers the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism, rather than from international terrorism, which Members will be aware is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who updates the House separately.

In the six months since my statement on Northern Ireland’s security situation, the same, relatively small and fractured, violent dissident republican groupings have persisted with their campaign of violence. Their activities are against the democratically expressed wishes of the people in Northern Ireland. They continue to seek relevance and inflict harm on a society that overwhelmingly rejects them. Their support is very limited. Northern Ireland’s future will only be determined by democracy and consent. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and MI5 work diligently to limit the threat these groups are able to pose. Because of these efforts the vast majority of Northern Ireland’s population are able to go about their daily lives untroubled by terrorism.

The terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland related terrorism remains “Severe” (an attack is highly likely) and the need for vigilance continues. Violent dissident republicans retain access to a wide variety of terrorist material including firearms, ammunition and improvised explosive devices and remain committed to an agenda of violence.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland, MI5 and their security partners continue to work tirelessly to counter the threat, often placing themselves at significant risk in order to keep people safe. Countless attacks are prevented in their early stages. So far this year, the PSNI have recovered terrorist items including firearms, ammunition and bomb-making equipment. There have been 59 arrests, of which, eight individuals have been charged for terrorist-related offences.

The lethal nature of the threat posed by terrorist groupings was demonstrated in March when prison officer Adrian Ismay died as a consequence of injuries he sustained when an improvised explosive device functioned under his vehicle as he left his Belfast home for work. Adrian Ismay’s death is first and foremost a tragedy for his family and friends. But it also serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing risks faced by prison officers, police officers and members of the armed forces, some of whom have been very fortunate to escape injury in other terrorist attacks, both on and off duty.

Violent dissident republicans continue to try to injure and murder PSNI officers, prison officers and members of the armed forces. The main focus of dissident republican violence continues to be in Northern Ireland. However, on 1 May, the Home Secretary announced that MI5 had increased their assessment of the threat level in Great Britain from Northern Ireland-related terrorism from “Moderate” (an attack is possible but not likely) to “Substantial” (an attack is a strong possibility). Violent dissident republicans have long aspired to carry out attacks in Great Britain to perpetuate their ongoing campaign of violence, and as a way to gain publicity for their wholly unjustifiable acts.

Republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations also regularly conduct brutal criminal assaults in an attempt to exert control over their communities. Between January and May of this year, there were 27 paramilitary-style attacks, three of which were fatal. It is unacceptable in Northern Ireland that there are still people who believe they are above the law. They are not and the PSNI is determined to pursue them and bring them to justice.

Our strategic response

Tackling terrorism, including Northern Ireland-related terrorism, is the highest priority for this Government. This Government’s first duty is to keep people safe and secure right across the United Kingdom. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that our security agencies, the police and others are equipped to deal with any threat we might face.

The strategic defence and security review made clear that we will maintain our investment in capabilities to keep the people of Northern Ireland safe. Over this Parliament, we will provide PSNI with £160 million of additional security funding to tackle the threat in Northern Ireland. Cross-Government spending on counter-terrorism as a whole will increase by 30% in real terms over this Parliament.

In the Republic of Ireland, An Garda Siochana (AGS) continue to play a significant role in countering the terrorist threat, having effected seizures of substantial amounts of explosives, ammunition and firearms. Joint working between PSNI, MI5 and the Garda remains crucial in the investigation and disruption of the violent dissident republican threat.

Tackling ongoing paramilitary activity

There was never any justification for paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, and there is none today. This is a central theme of the Fresh Start agreement of November 2015 between the UK Government, Northern Ireland’s main political parties and the Irish Government. It contains commitments to deal in a broadly based way with paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.

The independent panel report on the disbandment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland has shown there are individuals who use the real and perceived remnants of paramilitary structures to engage in serious criminality and violence, which can have a devastating effect on communities. In addition the assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, which was commissioned by the UK Government last autumn, judged that individual members of paramilitary groups with a legacy of violent activity, are engaged in organised crime and still represent a threat to national security.

A joint agency task force has been set up to enhance existing efforts to tackle cross-jurisdictional organised crime and the Executive is developing an action plan to tackle paramilitary activity, in response to the recent recommendations made by the panel. By the end of 2016, we also intend to establish an independent reporting commission which will report on progress to tackle ongoing paramilitary activity.

Conclusion

The “Severe” level of threat in Northern Ireland from violent dissident republicans will continue in the near future, and further potentially lethal attacks are highly likely. However, the PSNI, MI5 and An Garda Siochana will continue their outstanding work, exerting every effort to disrupt attacks and prosecute those responsible. I would like to thank them all for the work they do. Under this Government there will be no let-up in our efforts to ensure that terrorism never succeeds.

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Transport

Crossrail: Annual Update

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On Tuesday 23 February 2016, Her Majesty The Queen visited the under-construction Crossrail station at Bond Street where it was announced that the new railway will be known as the Elizabeth line in her honour. The renaming, which will take effect when central London services commence in December 2018, is in recognition and celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s 64 years as the longest-reigning British monarch.

In the past year we have made great progress in many different areas of the project. The project is now approaching 75% complete with work well under way on planning for and delivering an operational railway. In the central tunnel section, the first 13 km of track has now been laid, approaching 70% of platforms have been completed, 77% of platform edge screens have been constructed and the opening of the temporary ticket hall at Whitechapel has been achieved.

At the end of May 2015, TfL rail services commenced between Shenfield and Liverpool Street. MTR Crossrail has been operating the service since then as a precursor to full services commencing with the new Bombardier rolling stock, progressively from May 2017. Performance has improved, with MTR Crossrail and Network Rail being awarded the transport team partnership of the year at the London transport awards.

Practical completion of Canary Wharf station was achieved on 7 September 2015, the first station contract to do so, four months ahead of schedule. Work began six and a half years ago on this project, with Canary Wharf Group contributing £150 million.

In November 2015, Transport for London released details of the train designs which will carry Elizabeth line passengers along the future route. The rolling stock, which is being manufactured and assembled at Bombardier’s plant in Derby, will each provide space for 1,500 customers and will ensure that the future capacity of the central London rail network will increase by 10%. The carriages of the first train have now been built and are being tested for use in Bombardier’s “V” shop testing and commissioning facility which was recently opened by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Major surface works being delivered by Network Rail on the existing rail network continue apace and are now approximately 65% complete, with a number of key milestones reached. Christmas 2015 and Easter 2016, as well as two bank holidays in May 2016, saw Network Rail successfully deliver Crossrail project works as part of some of the largest investment programmes ever undertaken on the national network, without overrun.

In addition, station designs at West Ealing and Southall stations have been approved; the civil engineering work at Acton dive-under and Stockley flyover is approaching completion; and construction is well under way to rebuild Abbey Wood station. On the north eastern section of the route, improvement work is well under way at all 13 stations.

I am delighted to report that 573 apprenticeships have now been created. This goes alongside over 1,000 work experience opportunities and over 12,000 enrolments on courses at the Crossrail Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy, which opened in 2012.

The Crossrail Board continues to forecast that the costs of constructing Crossrail will be within the agreed funding limits and that it will be completed on schedule. We still expect Crossrail to cost no more than £14.5 billion (excluding rolling stock costs). This is despite cost pressures across the project. However, these continue to be managed and Crossrail Ltd is implementing initiatives to deliver cost efficiencies during the remainder of the programme. Crossrail’s joint sponsors will continue to meet regularly with Crossrail Ltd to ensure that the project is being successfully managed and will be delivered within budget and on schedule.

During the passage of the Crossrail Bill through Parliament, a commitment was given that a statement would be published at least every 12 months until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information about the project’s funding and finances.

In line with this commitment, this statement comes within 12 months of the last one which was published on 2 July 2015. The relevant information is as follows:

Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Ltd by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008-29 May 2016).

£10,002,888,670

Expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (30 May 2015 to 29 May 2016) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases).

£1,599,948,000

Total expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2016) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases).

£9,250,507,000

The Amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Ltd in the period covered by the statement.

Nil

Note

Construction figures as of 29 May 2016. The total funding amounts provided to CRL by the Department of Transport and Transport for London refers to the expenditure drawn down from the sponsor funding account in the period 22 July 2008 and 29 May 2016. Included within the amount is £1,376,331,092 of interim funding that has been provided to Network Rail to finance the delivery of the on network works between 1 April 2009 and 29 May 2016. This amount is due to be repaid to CRL by 30 September 2017.

The numbers above are drawn from Crossrail Ltd’s books of account and have been prepared on a consistent basis with the update provided last year. The figure for expenditure incurred includes monies already paid out in relevant periods, including committed land and property expenditure where this has not yet been paid. It does not include future expenditure on construction contracts that have been awarded.

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