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Written Statements

Volume 632: debated on Monday 4 December 2017

Written Statements

Monday 4 December 2017

Treasury

ECOFIN: 5 December 2017

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 5 December. EU Finance Ministers will discuss the following items:

Early morning session

The Eurogroup President will brief Ministers on the outcomes of the 4 December meeting of the Eurogroup, and the Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU. The Chair of the European Fiscal Board (EFB) will present the EFB’s annual report followed by an exchange of views.

Strengthening of the Banking Union

The Council will be invited to take note of both the presidency progress report on the European Deposit Insurance Scheme and information from the Commission on the state of play of the action plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe. ECOFIN Council will also hold a policy debate on the banking risk reduction package.

Current financial services legislative proposals

The Council presidency will provide an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.

VAT administrative co-operation

The Commission will provide information on new proposals relating to VAT administrative co-operation measures.

Council conclusions on “The EU list of non-co-operative jurisdictions for tax purposes

The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions which include the finalised EU list of non-co-operative jurisdictions for tax purposes.

Council decisions on the implementation of the stability and growth pact

Ministers will be invited to adopt a Council decision to close the UK’s excessive deficit procedure (EDP) and a decision and recommendation on Romania’s compliance with the EU’s fiscal rules.

European Semester 2018

The Commission will present the annual growth survey 2018, the alert mechanism report 2018 and a recommendation for a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro-area. Ministers will provide their initial reactions.

EIB proposal to establish a European Development Bank

Ministers will receive information on an EIB initiative to create a subsidiary dedicated to development.

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Communities and Local Government

Planning and Capacity: Update

Our Housing White Paper is clear that fixing our broken market requires solutions that look to the long-term. It requires action to boost local authority planning capacity to plan strategically and across local authority boundaries; to support local authorities to take a proactive role in planning for high-quality and scale; and to encourage local authority ambition and leadership in the delivery of new communities, not just new housing estates.

As part of our commitment to those goals, today I am:

inviting bids from local authorities and third sector organisations to a £25 million Planning Delivery Fund to support joint working, quality and innovation;

allocating £3 million of capacity funding to the 14 garden villages in our programme; and,

publishing a consultation of regulations which will enable the creation of locally led new town development corporations, as an effective vehicle for the delivery of new garden towns.

The £25 million Planning Delivery Fund, which is now open for bids, was first announced in the Housing White Paper and will support ambitious local authorities in areas of high housing need to plan for new homes and infrastructure.

The Planning Delivery Fund will provide the most ambitious local planning authorities with the skills, capacity or capability they need to deliver high quality housing growth at scale and implement our wider planning reforms. We want to support the type of joint working and strategic planning which has been demonstrated in Oxfordshire. A commitment to bring forward for adoption a joint statutory spatial plan across authorities is part of Oxfordshire’s recently announced housing deal.

In the Housing White Paper, we announced our ambition to increase nationally set planning fees to 20 per cent. Although this will partially address the issue of planning department funds, it does not go far enough to ensure local authorities are equipped with the appropriate resources, particularly in specialist areas such as design. The Government believe that good design is fundamental to creating attractive, safe and healthy places where people genuinely want to live and to ensure development is acceptable to communities.

The Government are initially opening up £11 million of the £25 million Planning Delivery Fund for financial years 2017-18 to 2018-19, to support and encourage:

more and better joint working, across local authority boundaries, ensuring that there are the skills and capacity where needed to plan strategically for housing growth, and to manage delivery of new homes and infrastructure;

a step change in design quality of new development, as well as design advice and support to local authorities delivering growth; and,

innovation in the planning system, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes and enable the delivery of more high quality homes.

Accordingly, bids are invited for awards from three dedicated funding streams: a Joint Working Fund, a Design Quality Fund, and an Innovation Fund. A copy of the prospectus, including the funding criteria and how to submit a bid have been published (available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-delivery-fund-prospectus).

Across England, we are currently supporting 24 locally-led garden cities, towns and villages to be exemplars of high quality, good design and best practice. Together they have the potential for approximately 220,000 homes.

Our support has helped foster ambition and innovation and to accelerate the pace of delivery, with over 10,000 new homes now started. We have provided £16 million of capacity funding to date, including an additional £2.5 million to the garden towns in our programme in October. We are now allocating a further £3 million to the 14 garden villages in our programme to fund dedicated staff, master-planning and other studies and assessments that are key to successful, high quality delivery.

The Budget announced that we would support the delivery of another five locally led new garden towns, bringing together public and private capital and using appropriate delivery vehicles such as development corporations. We intend to publish in the spring a prospectus inviting expressions of interest in ambitious, locally supported, proposals for high quality new garden communities at scale. We will continue to explore with local authorities opportunities for planning freedoms where these will enable additional housing growth in our garden cities, towns and villages or elsewhere. We will not be limited to supporting just five new garden communities, but will look to support as many as we can, around the country.

In line with our locally led approach, we do not wish to prescribe any particular delivery model, but to facilitate local authority leadership and ambition.

Our Housing White Paper committed to legislating to enable the creation of new town development corporations, overseen by the local authority or authorities covering the area proposed for the new garden community, rather than by the Secretary of State. As bodies with statutory objectives focused on the development of the new town and with significant independence, we consider that new town development corporations are well placed to manage complex co-ordination challenges across local authority boundaries and create long-term planning and investment confidence, where local authorities consider these are the right delivery vehicle.

Section 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 enables the Secretary of State, through an affirmative resolution statutory instrument, to appoint one or more local authorities to oversee the development of a new town by a new town development corporation. It also enables the Secretary of State to make regulations about how that oversight is to take place.

We are now consulting on a draft of those regulations. Our focus is on ensuring that we maximise the transfer of oversight functions from the Secretary of State to the local authority or authorities and the independence of the development corporation, and support quality and long-term stewardship within the garden community.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-new-towns-act-1981-local-authority-oversight-regulations

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Education

Childcare: Update

Today the Government are launching a public consultation on their proposed approach to revising the eligibility criteria for the early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds in light of the roll out of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is replacing a number of qualifying benefits for the two-year-old entitlement, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Income Support.

The early education entitlement for two-year-olds was introduced nationally in September 2013 and subsequently extended in September 2014 to include low income working families. We want it to continue to be the case that a wider group of less advantaged children can benefit from high quality early education.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, we propose to introduce a net earned income threshold of £15,400 per annum for those in receipt of Universal Credit. This threshold would increase the number of children benefiting—around 8,000 more children taking up this entitlement once Universal Credit is fully rolled out and in steady state. We do not propose to change any of the other eligibility criteria for the two-year-old entitlement.

Two-year-olds do not lose their entitlement once it has started so no child who has commenced their entitlement would lose it as a result of the introduction of the new earnings threshold.

If, following the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, the Government decide to take forward their proposals, we expect the revised regulations to come into force in April 2018, in time for the summer term.

The ‘Eligibility for the free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds under Universal Credit’ consultation will commence today and run for six weeks. The consultation document, containing full details of the proposals and inviting responses, will be published on the Department for Education’s website. Copies of the consultation document will also be placed in the House Libraries.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Law and Order Trust Fund Afghanistan

On 28 November 2017 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office fulfilled the pledge made by the former Prime Minister at the NATO Chicago summit in 2012 to commit £70 million for each of the calendar years 2015 to 2017 towards Afghan National Defence and Security Force (ANDSF) sustainment. At the NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016, the UK committed a further £210 million to sustain its commitment of £70 million per year from 2018 until 2020.

The UK’s 2017 contribution, funded from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), has been channelled through both the United Nations Development Programme’s Law and Order Trust Fund Afghanistan (LOTFA) and the NATO-run Afghanistan National Army Trust Fund (ANATF). The contributions will support payroll management, Afghan National Police salaries, Ministry of Interior and Afghan National Police development, and the provision of additional medical facilities for ANDSF personnel.

The development of a capable, accountable and responsive Ministry of Interior and Afghan National Police service, committed to delivering rule of law, is essential to long-term stability and security in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Police play a fundamental role in providing security, rule of law and public order, as well as helping to build trust in the legitimacy of the state. Due to the challenging security environment, international support for Afghan policing continues to be required. The UK remains committed to supporting the development of security institutions in Afghanistan, including the Afghan National Police and Ministry of Interior.

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Presidential Elections: Somaliland

On 13 November, people across Somaliland took part in elections to choose a new President. The UK played an active role as part of a group of international donors in supporting the Somaliland National Election Commission in planning, preparing and delivering these elections. On 16 November, the international election observation mission stated in its initial findings that it had not witnessed irregularities on a scale which would undermine the integrity of the result. The UK joined international partners in expressing our deepest regrets for the loss of life caused by violent protests in some locations in the days which followed the voting.

On 21 November, the National Election Commission announced that Mr Musa Bihi Abdi had been chosen by the people of Somaliland as their next President. The UK Ambassador in Somalia has extended the UK’s warm congratulations to Mr Musa Bihi Abdi on his election and has commended the commitment and responsibility of opposition candidates, Somaliland’s people, and its institutions to the electoral process and strengthening democracy.

The UK remains committed to helping people from across the Somali region to reach their fullest potential. We now look forward to deepening our partnership with Somaliland as we support Mr Bihi in fulfilling his aspiration to govern for the benefit of all Somalilanders.

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Health

Children and Young People's Mental Health: Update

Together with my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Education, I have today laid before Parliament “Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper” (CM 9523). The Green Paper forms part of the Government’s work to transform mental health support, ending what the Prime Minister has referred to as the “burning injustice” of inequality which those with mental health problems experience.

This Government have invested more than ever before in mental health services, and legislated for “parity of esteem”, to ensure that mental health is treated equally with physical health. Schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Most offer training to staff and many promote mental health and wellbeing through skills development sessions and taught sessions about particular mental health issues. Around half have a mental health lead.

However, there is more we need to do to create world-class support for children and young people’s mental health. Half of all mental health conditions begin before the age of 14. The Green Paper therefore focuses on earlier intervention and prevention before issues escalate, particularly in and around schools and colleges.

We are announcing plans to fund new collaboratively delivered mental health support teams. They will be made up of additional trained staff, supervised by NHS specialists, to provide support in or near schools and colleges for children and young people with emerging and more moderate needs, We will test how teams can work with other professionals and support vulnerable children and young people. We also want to continue to improve access to specialist services, and will pilot a four-week waiting time standard for accessing children’s mental health services.

We will also build on what schools already do—rolling out our “schools—children and young people’s mental health services link pilot” nationally. We will provide significant funding to incentivise schools and colleges to train designated senior leads for mental health to work with the new teams and implement whole-school approaches to mental health. The Green Paper also sets out how whole-school approaches will be supported by other developments that are underway, including our engagement process on relationships education, relationships and sex education and personal, social, health and economic education.

The Green Paper also contains a number of other proposals to improve support for young people’s mental health, including work to support the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s work on keeping young people safe online, convening a new partnership to look at support for the mental health of 16 to 25-year-olds, and commissioning further research in a number of areas to build our understanding of the evidence.

The Green Paper has been developed with the input of a large range of individuals and organisations. We also commissioned an independent evidence review, conducted by University College London and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, and have based our proposals on the evidence. We also benefited from the evidence submitted to the Health and Education Committees during their inquiry earlier this year into the role of education in children’s mental health. We are grateful to all who have helped shape our proposals.

The proposals as set out in the Green Paper would cost £215 million over the next three years towards the creation of mental health support teams, piloting a four-week waiting time standard and rolling out mental health first aid training to primary schools. Funding will be made available to take forward the final proposals following consultation. We will confirm the amounts to be provided to schools and colleges for training leads following consultation and development of training packages. However we will cover the costs of a significant training programme and provide up to £15 million to 20 million each year from 2019 to cover costs until all schools and colleges have had the chance to train a lead.

The Green Paper will be followed by a consultation and we welcome views on the proposals. Copies of the Green Paper will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The consultation and Green Paper can be accessed at: www.gov.uk and https://engage.dh.gov. uk/youngmentalhealth.

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International Trade

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade): 10 - 13 December 2017

The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) will meet in Buenos Aires during the 11th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Council will meet on the 10 December before the formal opening of the ministerial conference. The Minister of State for Trade Policy will represent the UK.

We expect the Council to meet again during the ministerial conference, at least once, possibly more, but the date of subsequent meetings of Council has not yet been set.

The only substantive item on the agenda for the Council in Buenos Aires is the 11th ministerial conference of the WTO.

The Buenos Aires ministerial will be the first WTO ministerial conference to be held in Argentina. WTO members will discuss a range of important trade issues, including fisheries subsidies, digital trade, agricultural domestic support and public stockholding, domestic regulation in services, investment facilitation and transparency of regulatory measures for the benefit of SMEs.

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Transport

EU Transport Council

I will attend the only formal Transport Council under the Estonian presidency (the presidency) taking place in Brussels on Tuesday 5 December.

The first item on the agenda will be a progress report on phase one of the Mobility Package, focusing on proposals designed to improve the clarity and enforcement of the EU road transport market (the ‘market pillar’), and proposals on the application of social legislation in road transport (the ‘social pillar’).

Following this, the presidency has proposed a policy debate on the ‘charging pillar’ of the package. The proposals to amend the existing directives on HGV road tolls and user charges (‘Eurovignette’) and the interoperability of electronic road toll systems (‘EETS’) set out rules for charging vehicles using the road (but do not mandate such charging) and promote better functioning of charging across national barriers.

Next, there will be a progress report on the proposed amendment to the regulation on safeguarding competition in air-transport. The proposal aims to tackle discriminatory practices and address perceived deficiencies in the existing legislation by allowing complaints to be made to the European Commission by a wider range of interested parties who suspect, or have evidence that, one or more EU carriers are being harmed by the unfair practices of a third country.

The Council will adopt conclusions on the progress on Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The conclusions do not place any binding requirements on member states. They recognise the value that the TEN-T Policy and CEF (the associated funding programme) bring to EU transport infrastructure and look to strengthen transport investment in the next EU budgeting period. The UK can support these conclusions.

Conclusions will also be adopted on the digitalisation of transport. ‘Digital Europe’ has been a priority for the Estonian presidency and the conclusions highlight the potential and challenges for the digitalisation of transport and, among other things, call on the Commission to develop a comprehensive and multimodal digitalisation strategy for the transport sector during the first quarter of 2019. The UK can support their adoption.

Next, the Council will adopt conclusions on mid-term evaluation of the Galileo, EGNOS and European GNSS agency. We welcome these conclusions and, in particular, the need for new recommendations about the future evolution of the programme to be proportionate and costed before they are brought forward for decision.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission will first present phase two of the Mobility Package, which focuses on clean mobility and includes proposals on promotion of clean and energy-efficient vehicles, combined transport of goods, and access to the market for coach and bus services. The presidency will provide information on the state of play on the proposed rail passenger rights regulation. The delegations from Germany, the Commission, Poland, France and Finland will, respectively, provide information on automated cars, implementation of the aviation strategy, world maritime days, IMO greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy, and summertime arrangements. The Commission will also provide information on military mobility, and finally, the Bulgarian delegation will present the transport work programme of their forthcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union.

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