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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
19 December 2016
Volume 618

Written Statements

Monday 19 December 2016

Culture, Media and Sport

Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

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The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council took place in Brussels on 21 and 22 November 2016. Shan Morgan, the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the UK at the Youth, Culture and the Sport sections of the Council. As is procedure, this statement sets out a record of that meeting.

Youth

The Council was asked to adopt draft conclusions on promoting new approaches in youth work to uncover and develop the potential of young people. The conclusions recommended the need to promote effective and innovative cross-sectoral policies that can help young people realise their full potential. The UK supported the conclusions and these were adopted by Council.

The presentation was immediately followed by a policy debate on young Europeans at the centre of a modern European Union, introduced by representatives from the Young Audience Unit of the European Broadcasting Union. This debate discussed how best to connect young people to policy-makers. The UK described its successful UK Youth Parliament initiative and welcomed the opportunity afforded to participate in cross-EU dialogue with young people through the presidency’s successful Youth Conference.

Culture

The Council presented a progress report on the proposals for the revised Audio-visual Media Services Directive. The Audio-visual Media Services Directive seeks to ensure the effective operation of the internal market for television broadcasting services by ensuring the free movement of broadcasting services throughout the EU. The Commission (represented by Commissioner Oettinger) vowed to work constructively with member states in assisting the Maltese presidency reach a general approach by next Council.

This was followed by first reading on the proposal for a European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018). The objective of this initiative is to raise awareness of the opportunities that cultural heritage bring, mainly in terms of intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and economic growth. At the same time, the European Year aims at drawing attention to the challenges that cultural heritage is facing, including environmental and physical pressure on heritage sites and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. The UK supported this and a general approach was agreed.

The Council was invited to adopt a proposal to amend the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033 to extend the access to EFTA/EEA countries. A general approach was agreed, with UK Government support of the proposal. The UK parliamentary scrutiny reserve was noted and maintained.

Finally there was a public debate, “towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”. This discussed how the EU and its member states can co-operate to bring about a more strategic approach to culture in external relations. The UK’s intervention focused on the work of the British Council and the need to respect the principle of subsidiarity as member states must be free to pursue their own cultural agendas.

Sport

The Council adopted conclusions on sport diplomacy. The conclusions acknowledged that sport is a possible tool in supporting intercultural, economic and political cooperation, and that its potential can be part of extending and strengthening contacts between the EU and third countries. The UK supported the adoption of these conclusions.

This was followed by a public debate on the impact of sport on personal development. The UK intervention demonstrated the work the UK is already carrying out in this area through participation, Olympic legacy and the sport strategy.

Other business

The Maltese delegation presented information on the work programme of their incoming presidency.

The French delegation presented information on reform of the European copyright framework. This was followed by the Croatian and Irish delegations on the European Capitals of Culture 2020. The Italian delegation presented information on ‘Facing crisis in Europe: Investing in Culture’.

The Council was presented with information on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting in Glasgow (19-20 November) by the EU member states representatives in WADA, Belgium and Malta. This was followed by the French delegation on development and specific features of the organisation of European sport.

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Exiting the European Union

General Affairs Council December 2016

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I attended the General Affairs Council on 13 December. The meeting was chaired by the Slovak Presidency and held in Brussels.

The General Affairs Council discussed: the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework; inter-institutional agreement on better law-making; enlargement and stabilisation and association process; preparation of the European Council on 15 December 2016 and the European semester 2017.

A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2016/12/13/

Multiannual financial framework

There was no agreement on the multiannual financial framework and discussions will continue into next year. With the exception of Italy, who maintained their reserve, all member states were supportive of the current mid-term review proposal.

Inter-institutional agreement on better law-making

The joint declaration on legislative programming was adopted. This was signed by the presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in Strasbourg. Vice-President Timmermans flagged this achievement saying it focused on real deliverable priorities.

Preparation of the European Council on 15 December 2016

There was a discussion of the agenda items for the European Council which took place on 15 December. The agenda would cover: migration, security (internal and external/defence) economic and social development (youth) and external relations, which will cover the EU/Ukraine association agreement.

I intervened to underline the importance of preparing business affecting all member states at meetings of the 28, and our intention to observe the rights and obligations of membership until we leave the EU.

On migration, I intervened to express our on-going commitment to a comprehensive approach, and sought proper evaluation of existing partnership frameworks before extending them to new countries.

On external security, I requested that the text of the draft Council conclusions be amended to clarify that the proposed planning and conduct capability should be for non-executive purposes only, to bring the text in line with conclusions at the FAC Defence in November, which had outlined a balanced approach that avoided duplication with NATO.

On economic and social development, I registered the UK’s support of ambitious language on the single market, including maintaining momentum on services and deepening of the single market.

On external relations, I supported the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on Syria and pressed for explicit reference to Iran as an ally of the Syrian regime and a reference to restrictive measures among the options the EU ought to consider within the European Council conclusions.

European semester 2017

This agenda item was not discussed at the meeting, but the inclusion of the item followed the Commission publishing the Autumn Package of the European Semester on 16 November 2016.

Enlargement and stabilisation and association process

The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir Alan Duncan MP, took part in a discussion on enlargement, which focused on Turkey’s EU accession path. The Council could not reach agreement on the overall package of enlargement conclusions. Instead, the presidency issued a statement covering the conclusions which enjoyed broad support from the overwhelming majority of member states. We remain firmly committed to driving forward reform, embedding stability and addressing shared challenges in the Western Balkans and Turkey. EU and NATO accession processes are fundamental to delivering these objectives.

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International Development

Multilateral Development Bank Replenishments

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In a world of global instability, effective international partnerships are more important than ever.

Britain has a proud track record as a global partner, contributor and problem solver. Our investment in institutions such as the World Bank helps us meet our responsibilities to the world’s poorest and is firmly in Britain’s national interest.

As a true leader on the world stage, Britain is successfully driving action to strengthen the multilateral system to ensure it is capable of meeting the unprecedented demands of the 21st century.

The world needs strong global institutions that are relevant not only for today but for the future—which is why ongoing reform at the World Bank is so important.

The UK is succeeding in securing these reforms. Following successful engagement from the UK and others, the International Development Association—which delivers the Bank’s work in the poorest countries—has agreed to:

double the investment that goes to fragile states;

increase support for poor countries dealing with protracted crises and hosting large numbers of refugees;

secure opportunities for job and wealth creation; and

boost investment in the private sector.

These reforms build on good progress made over the past three years. The recent multilateral development review found that the World Bank is one of DFID’s top performing partners, but there are still improvements to be made.

DFID is driving all agencies to be fully transparent about what, why, where and how they spend taxpayers’ money. We are pressing all our multilateral partners, including the World Bank, to publish their spending in line with international transparency standards, open up their management overheads and other costs to greater scrutiny, and push for similar tough requirements all the way down the supply chain.

The UK will continue to press the Bank and its partners to make further progress and deliver even stronger results on the ground.

Last week, the IDA negotiations that took place in Yogyakarta reached agreement on the replenishment of IDA to cover the period July 2017 to June 2020. The negotiations secured a total of $75 billion for IDA 18.

This funding will transform the lives of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Thanks to this investment up to: 180 million children will receive life-saving vaccines, 20 million births will be attended by skilled health personnel, 45 million will get access to clean water, 35 million people will get access to reliable electricity, 10 million teachers will be recruited or trained, and 200 million children and women will get proper nutrition. These are big numbers—and behind each one are real lives that will be fundamentally improved because of this investment.

Given these impressive results, the reforms made since the last IDA replenishment, and wider reform commitments, the UK has agreed to contribute £2,516 million as a grant over the life of the replenishment, and a highly concessional loan of £820 million that will be repaid to the UK Government, to this total.

This month also saw the conclusion of the 14th replenishment of African development fund negotiations, which secured a total of $7 billion for 2017-2019. This investment will give tens of millions of people in Africa better access to transport and electricity, and millions of people access to clean water. After securing commitments from the AfDF to greater focus on job creation, women’s empowerment, private sector investment and investment in fragile countries, the UK has agreed to contribute £460 million to this total.

The world is changing fast. We all need to raise our game. The great power of the multilateral system is its potential to be more than the sum of its parts. This is why the UK will work relentlessly to drive up its performance and get the most out of every pound of taxpayers’ money.

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Wales

Welsh Government Fiscal Framework

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The UK Government and Welsh Government are today announcing a new funding settlement for Wales based on need, empowering the Welsh Government to grow the Welsh economy.

This historic agreement lies at the heart of the Wales Bill’s determination to provide secure, long-term funding for the Welsh Government. The deal sets out how the Welsh Government will be funded alongside the devolution of stamp duty land tax, landfill tax and Welsh rates of income tax in a manner that is fair for Wales and fair for the rest of the UK.

Through these new and principled arrangements, the Government have ensured that the Welsh Government will have a fair level of funding for the long term, taking into account Welsh tax capacity and treating population change consistently across tax and spending.

This deal underlines the mature relationship between Westminster and Cardiff as we move closer to agreeing a lasting settlement for the people of Wales.

This will be achieved through the creation of a new needs-based factor within the Barnett formula to determine changes in the Welsh Government’s block grant in relation to devolved spending. The Governments have also agreed to use the Comparable model to determine changes in the Welsh Government’s block grant in relation to tax devolution. Alongside the Barnett formula, this will ensure population change is treated consistently within the Welsh Government’s block grant funding.

This agreement will also double the Welsh Government’s overall capital borrowing limit to £1 billion and increase the annual limit to £150 million. We will also create a new Wales reserve to enable the Welsh Government to better manage its budget.

This agreement therefore paves the way for the National Assembly for Wales to consent to the Bill and enable the Welsh Government get on with the job of using their new tax powers to grow the Welsh economy.

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Work and Pensions

International Labour Organisation Recommendation 204

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The 104th session of the International Labour Conference 2015 adopted recommendation 204 concerning the transition from the informal to the formal economy. International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendations, adopted following negotiation amongst ILO member state Governments and business and union representatives, serve as non-binding guidelines. The Government welcome this recommendation and recognise its importance in its global context, as it acts as a guide for all countries in their work towards making full, decent, productive and freely chosen employment a central goal in their national development and growth strategy. The recommendation is primarily aimed at those countries with less developed social security systems. It is not envisaged that this recommendation will have any impact on the UK as it is consistent with UK Government policies.

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