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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
22 January 2019
Volume 653

Written Statements

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Treasury

ECOFIN: 22 January 2019

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A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 22 January 2019. The Council will discuss the following:

Early morning session

The Eurogroup President will brief the Council on the outcomes of the 21 January meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU. Following this, the Romanian presidency will hold a discussion on the priorities for the next EU institutional cycle.

InvestEU

The Council will hold a policy debate on the InvestEU programme.

European system of financial supervision review

The Council will hold a policy debate on the review of the European system of financial supervision.

Current financial services legislative proposals

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

Presidency work programme

The Romanian presidency will present its work programme for January to June 2019, followed by an exchange of views.

European semester 2019

The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on the 2019 annual growth survey and the Council conclusions on the 2019 alert mechanism report. The Council will also be asked to approve a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area.

Economic and monetary union

The presidency will provide an update following the euro summit in December 2018.

[HCWS1262]

Home Department

Surveillance Camera Commissioner: Annual Report

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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying a copy of the 2017-18 annual report of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner before the House, as required by section 35 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner is an independent role appointed under section 34 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

The annual report covers the exercise of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s statutory functions over the year to 31 March 2018 and provides a comprehensive update on the progress made against the “National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales”, which the commissioner published in March 2017.

[HCWS1261]

Transport

Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing Charging Scheme

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The Dartford-Thurrock crossing charging scheme account for 2017-18 is published today under regulation 3(1)(d) of the Trunk Road Charging Schemes (Bridges and Tunnels) (Keeping of Accounts) (England) Regulations 2003. A copy of the accounts will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1259]

Work and Pensions

Contingent Liability Notification

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Today I will lay before Parliament a departmental minute describing a contingent liability of £329 million associated with the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) Corporation.

Confidence in the long-term stability of the pension system is a prerequisite for effective participation and achieving secure incomes in retirement, which are at the core of Government policy in this area. For this reason, there is a distinct body of legislation about private pensions and a number of public bodies play important roles, including the NEST.

NEST was established by Government to support the policy of all employers being obliged to automatically enrol their eligible staff into a workplace pension scheme. NEST ensures that all employers have access to a low cost, high quality pension scheme.

The Pension Schemes Act 2017 introduced the definition of a “master trust” and the introduction of a robust new authorisation and supervision regime to ensure that master trusts being used for automatic enrolment are safe for the nearly 10 million people now saving in these schemes.

To be able to operate in the pensions market as a master trust, schemes, of which NEST is one, are required to meet five authorisation criteria prescribed in the Pension Schemes Act 2017.

One of the criteria is that the scheme must be financially sustainable and that in the event of a triggering event, an event that would put the scheme at risk of needing to wind up, the scheme must hold sufficient financial reserves to cover its gradual closure without putting these additional costs on to the scheme members.

As NEST is currently funded through a Government loan and, therefore, holds no financial reserves, the Pensions Regulator, which oversees the authorisation process, has suggested a “letter of comfort” from Government could provide a solution, which for Government accounting purposes is described as a contingent liability.

The letter confirms that, in the remote possibility of a triggering event occurring, Government would fund NEST through to closure and meet any one-off associated closure costs. This gives a remote contingent liability of £329 million. The expected loss as calculated by the Department is £16.45 million (based on the liability multiplied by risk).

DWP as sponsoring Department will manage the governance and risk associated with the contingent liability.

[HCWS1260]