Tuesday 7 November 2017
Bilateral Loan to Ireland
I would like to update the House on the UK’s bilateral loan to Ireland.
In 2010, the Government committed to providing a £3.2 billion bilateral loan to Ireland as part of an international assistance package of €67.5 billion including loans provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU), euro-area member states and other bilateral lenders Sweden and Denmark.
The UK provided this bilateral loan in order to help put Ireland back on a sustainable path, ensure economic stability and because Ireland is a key trading partner and ally. I regard Ireland’s stability to be a key component of the stability of the UK economy and the banking sector, particularly in Northern Ireland.
The loan agreements of all other creditors under the assistance package, including the UK, each have a clause requiring that Ireland makes a proportional early repayment to them in the event that Ireland repays any creditor under its assistance programme ahead of schedule.
In 2014, following a significant improvement in Ireland’s access to international credit markets, all creditors, including the UK, agreed to waive these clauses to allow Ireland to repay a substantial proportion of its loans from the IMF. A written ministerial statement updating the House on that waiver was laid in Parliament on 13 October 2014, Official Report, column 2WS.
Ireland has now set out its intention to repay early and in full the outstanding €4.5 billion owed to the IMF, as well as the bilateral loans of €0.4 billion from Denmark and €0.6 billion from Sweden, and replace these with loans with Irish sovereign debt.
I can inform the House that I have today provided a waiver under clause 19.3 of the Credit Facility Agreement (amended 4 October 2012) enabling Ireland to make early repayments to the IMF, Sweden and Denmark without the requirement to make pro-rata early repayments to the United Kingdom. This decision does not amend the amount or timing of interest and principal repayments owed to the UK as originally foreseen in the Credit Facility Agreement (amended 4 October 2012).
It is clear to me that, where all other lenders provide similar waivers, granting a waiver for the UK bilateral loan delivers material benefits to Ireland’s fiscal position and debt sustainability in the coming years. However, the benefits of these actions are not exclusive to Ireland, as the potential improvements also enhance the likelihood of repayment of the UK’s loan.
The waiver I have agreed is conditional upon the other remaining creditors—the EU and euro area member states—issuing similar waivers.
By repaying the outstanding amount owed to the IMF, Ireland will no longer automatically be eligible for post-programme monitoring. This has been a crucial part of ensuring the Ireland loan provides value for money for the UK taxpayer, and the IMF have given assurances that they will continue to conduct staff visits up until the end of the originally envisaged post-programme period in 2021. This coincides with the scheduled repayment of the final tranche of the UK loan.
In addition to this announcement, HM Treasury has today provided a further report to Parliament in relation to Irish loans as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010. The report relates to the period from 1 April 2017 to 30 September 2017.
A written ministerial statement on the previous statutory report regarding the loan to Ireland was laid in Parliament on 18 April 2017, column 36WS.
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 7 November. EU Finance Ministers will discuss the following items:
European Free Trade Association (EFTA) dialogue
Ministers will have their annual meeting with representatives from the EFTA group of countries, to exchange views on how best to make economic growth inclusive.
Early morning session
The Eurogroup President will brief Ministers on the outcomes of the 6 November meeting of the Eurogroup, and the Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU. Ministers will also discuss the EU’s common candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation.
VAT e-commerce package
Ministers will consider various items which make up the VAT legislative package, including Council regulation.
Review of the European system of financial supervision
The Commission will present to Ministers its legislative proposals on financial supervision, followed by an exchange of views.
Current financial services legislative proposals
The Council presidency will provide an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.
The Commission will present its proposals on resolving existing non-performing loans, preventing the build-up of future non-performing loans and measures to increase the efficiency of the general insolvency framework in member states.
Follow-up to the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and of the IMF annual meetings in Washington
Minsters will receive information from the presidency and the Commission on the outcomes of the 12 to 15 October G20 and IMF meetings.
European Court of Auditors’ annual report
The president of the Court of Auditors will present the auditors’ report on the implementation of the budget of the European Union for the 2016 financial year.
The Council will discuss the autumn statistical package, review progress achieved and exchange views on the prospects for European co-operation on statistics. Ministers will also be invited to adopt Council conclusions.
Finance (No. 2) Bill 2017
The Finance (No.2) Bill will be published on Friday 1 December.
Explanatory notes on the Bill will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office, and placed in the Libraries of both Houses, on that day.
Copies of the explanatory notes will also be available at: www.gov.uk.
Communities and Local Government
Local Government Improvement
I should like to make a statement on local government improvement.
Local government in Dorset
I am announcing today that, having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am “minded to” implement the locally led proposal for improving local government in Dorset. This was submitted to me in February 2017. In the Dorset area, there are currently two small unitary councils—created in the 1990s—of Bournemouth and of Poole. They are surrounded by a two-tier structure of Dorset County Council and the district councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland.
I am satisfied on the basis of the information currently available to me that this proposal if implemented is likely to improve local government across the area, establishing two new councils with a credible geography, and which would command local support. The existing nine councils will be replaced by a single council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the borough of Christchurch, and by a single council for the remainder of the current county area.
I understand that all the councils in the area are already working together in joint implementation committees. However, further steps are needed to secure local consent, and I hope this announcement will facilitate the necessary discussions to conclude this.
Before I take my final decision, there is now a period until 8 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if the proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. It is also open to any council in the area to come forward with an alternative proposal. The final decision would also be subject to parliamentary approval.
Once I have made my final decision on the Dorset proposal, I will also decide whether to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, Dorset councils’ proposal for a combined authority to facilitate collaboration on certain matters between whatever councils are to be in place in Dorset.
Local government in Suffolk
I am also announcing today that having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am “minded to” implement the locally led proposal I received from Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils in February 2017 to merge their two respective councils to become a single, new district council.
I have reached this decision on the basis that I consider:
the proposal is likely to improve local government in the area (by improving service delivery, giving greater value for money, yielding cost savings, providing stronger strategic and local leadership, and/or delivering more sustainable structures);
the proposal commands local support, in particular that the merger is proposed by all councils which are to be merged and there is evidence of a good deal of local support; and
the proposed merged area is a credible geography, consisting of two or more existing local government areas that are adjacent, and which, if established, would not pose an obstacle to locally led proposals for authorities to combine to serve their communities better and would facilitate joint working between local authorities.
I intend to assess any further locally led merger proposals that I receive against these criteria.
Before I take my final decision on this proposed merger there is now a period until 8 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if the proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. The final decision would also be subject to parliamentary approval.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
I am today announcing new arrangements for the governance and management of the Forestry Commission. The Scottish Government are legislating to complete the devolution of forestry, with the effect that from 2019—the centenary year of the Forestry Commission—the Commissioners’ statutory remit will be only in England. The Commission, its dedicated staff and above all our 250,000 hectares of English public forests are a great national asset. I am confirming today that the Forestry Commission will be retained in England, and will continue to manage our public forests for public benefit—including supply of timber, public access, and the environment.
We will establish a new Board of Commissioners of the Public Forest Estate. Commissioners will continue to be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of her Ministers, who will retain a power of direction.
The Government will not allow any net reduction in the size of the Public Forest Estate, and will support the Commissioners in taking opportunities through active management of the estate to plant more woodland and increase natural capital.
We will continue our work to protect, improve and expand forests and woodlands in England beyond the PFE, as part of the Government’s commitment for this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it found it.
We will work together with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to promote strong forest science, to sustain high standards for forestry in the UK, and to protect our trees against pests and diseases. Our world-renowned research agency Forest Research will continue as an agency of the Forestry Commission, with new governance, commissioning and funding arrangements agreed with the devolved administrations.
These arrangements provide certainty for the future of the Forestry Commission, and a strong, sustainable platform for our precious forest and woodland environments to thrive for the long term.
Exiting the European Union
EU Exit: Sectoral Analysis
Following the Opposition day debate motion on 1 November, the Government are making arrangements to respond to the motion which called on the Government to provide the Committee on Exiting the European Union with “impact assessments arising from” the sectoral analysis it has conducted with regards to the list of 58 sectors referred to in the answer of 26 June 2017 to Question 239.
As the Government have already made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist. During the Opposition day debate the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State told the House:
“there has been some misunderstanding about what this sectoral analysis actually is. It is not a series of 58 impact assessments.” —[Official Report,1 November2017; Vol.630, c. 887.]
I made the same point during my appearance before the House of Lords EU Committee on 31 October and to the House at DEXEU oral questions on 2 November.
The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analyses, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. It examines the nature of activity in the sectors, how trade is conducted with the EU currently in these sectors and, in many cases, considers the alternatives following the UK’s exit from the EU as well as considering existing precedents. The analysis ranges from the very high level overarching analysis to sometimes much more granular level analysis of certain product lines in specific sectors. The analysis in this area is constantly evolving and being updated based on our regular discussions with industry and our negotiations with the EU. It is not, nor has it ever been, a series of discrete impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on these sectors.
Given the above, it will take the Department, working with other Departments, time to collate and bring together this information in a way that is accessible and informative for the Committee. The Government are committed to providing the information to the Committee as soon as is possible. I have made plain to the House authorities that we currently expect this to be no more than three weeks.
As Ministers made clear during the Opposition day debate on this motion, there are a number of reasons why the Government believe that it would not be in the public interest for elements of the analysis, at least, to be released into the public domain.
The House of Commons has itself recognised that while Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament, the Government also have an obligation to consider where it would not be in the public interest for material to be published.
Furthermore, it is important to recognise in some cases there may be confidential or commercially sensitive information in this analysis, and that in many cases this analysis has been developed to underpin advice to Ministers of the negotiation options in various scenarios. It is well understood—as was the case under successive administrations—that such advice to Ministers must remain private.
I have written to the Chair of the Committee on Exiting the European Union to set out the Government’s position as outlined above. I will also be meeting the Chair to discuss these issues further on 13 November.
Pre-Council: EU Foreign Affairs Council
The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) will take place in Brussels on 10 November 2017. I will represent the UK.
The substantive items on 10 November will be: the state of play of preparations for the 11th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference, the state of play of the EU Trade Negotiations with Mexico, and the state of play of the EU Trade negotiations with Mercosur. Also, the Commission will present its report on the implementation of free trade agreements.
Trade and Customs Legislation
On 9 October 2017, the Government published two White Papers at:
These papers set out the Government’s approach to legislating for the UK’s future trade policy, establishing a standalone customs regime, and ensuring that VAT and excise legislation operates effectively upon EU exit.
The papers reaffirmed the Prime Minister’s commitment to maintaining and maximising the UK’s position as a global free trading nation, once it leaves the EU, both by boosting our trading relationships with old friends and new allies, and by seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU. The paper reiterated that, in assessing the options for the UK’s future customs relationship with the EU, the Government will be guided by delivers the greatest economic advantage to the UK and by three strategic objectives: ensuring UK-EU trade is as frictionless as possible; avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; and establishing an independent international trade policy.
The White Papers also confirmed the Government’s intention to bring forward a trade Bill and a customs Bill before the end of the year, to put in place the necessary legal powers and structures to ensure the UK is ready from the first day after exit. This will help to provide continuity and avoid disruption for individuals, businesses, and international trading partners.
The Trade White Paper asked for comments on three specific aspects of trade policy: transparency of trade policy; trade remedies frameworks; and the design of a future unilateral trade preferences scheme. The closing date for comments has now passed and the Government will shortly issue its response. Wider engagement on our trade policy proposals will continue.
The Government have now tabled resolutions for a customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill—and is today introducing the Trade Bill to Parliament.
The Trade Bill will:
Create powers to enable the UK to transition trade agreements that currently exist between the EU and other countries, and which we are party to through our EU membership;
Create the powers needed for the UK to implement the obligations created by becoming an independent member of the agreement on Government procurement, maintaining current guaranteed access for UK businesses to global procurement opportunities and offering value for money;
Establish a “Trade Remedies Authority” to conduct trade remedies investigations and to assist with international trade disputes; and
Enable HM Revenue and Customs to share data on trade so the Secretary of State for International Trade can carry out other functions currently fulfilled by the European Commission, and share data with other bodies carrying our public functions, such as the Trade Remedies Authority and World Trade Organisation.
The Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill will:
Allow the Government to create a standalone customs regime by ensuring that, among other things, the UK can charge customs duty on goods, set and vary the rates of customs duty, and suspend or relieve duty in certain circumstances;
Allow the Government to define how goods are classified to determine how much duty is due.
Allow the UK to set preferential or additional duties in certain circumstances, for example, preferential rates for developing countries (unilateral preferences) and additional duties relating to trade remedies following an independent investigation by the Trade Remedies Authority, and when authorised following trade disputes.
Allow the VAT and excise regimes to continue to function whatever the outcome of the negotiations, for example, by enabling supplies of goods and services to continue to move as freely as possible.
Combined, these two key pieces of legislation represent a significant step in creating the statutory framework and powers needed to ensure that the UK is ready for EU exit, and providing certainty and continuity for businesses and consumers alike.
Planning Act 2008: Development Consent Order
I have been asked by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, to make this written ministerial statement. This statement concerns the application made by Transport for London under the Planning Act 2008, of 29 April 2016 for a proposed development known as Silvertown Tunnel.
The application will allow for the construction of a new twin bore road tunnel to pass under the River Thames, providing a new connection between the A102 Blackwall Tunnel southern approach and the Tidal Basin roundabout junction on the A1020 Lower Lea Crossing, London.
Under sub-section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under sub-section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a statement to the House of Parliament announcing the new deadline. The Secretary of State received the examining authority’s report on Silvertown Tunnel on 11 July 2017 and the current deadline for a decision is 10 November 2017 having been extended from 11 October 2017 by way of my written ministerial statement of 11 October 2017 [HCWS153].
The deadline for the decision is to be extended to 10 May 2018 (an extension of 6 months) to enable further consideration of the effect of the scheme on air quality (including its compliance with the updated UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations published by Government on 26 July 2017).
The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent.