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Written Statements

Volume 707: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

Written Statements

Wednesday 4 February 2009

ECOFIN

Statement

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 20 January 2009. The following items were discussed:

Presidency work programme

The Czech presidency presented its ECOFIN work programme for the first half of 2009, which received full backing from Ministers.

Follow-up to the December European Council: impact on council work

The presidency took stock of the work arising from the European economic recovery plan (EERP) agreed by the December European Council. Ministers discussed the next steps for two particular issues. The first was reduced rates of VAT. The presidency pledged to find a compromise at ECOFIN in the coming months. The second was how the EU Budget can best support infrastructure and energy efficiency projects. Ministers agreed to return to this issue in February. On both issues the Government support the presidency's strategy for finding agreement.

Economic and budgetary policy strategy for 2009, including economic and financial situation and implementation of European economic recovery plan

Ministers exchanged views and adopted an external communication on the economic and budgetary policy messages for ECOFIN's work in 2009. This included discussion of the impact of fiscal stimulus packages on budgetary rules under the stability and growth pact. The presidency will use the messages at this ECOFIN to inform discussions at the spring European Council in March.

Introduction of the euro in Slovakia

The European Commission and the representative of Slovakia presented a first assessment of the introduction of the single currency in Slovakia on 1 January 2009. The council congratulated Slovakia on its success.

Western Balkans investment framework

The council heard a report and adopted council conclusions on progress towards the establishment of the western Balkans investment framework by 2010.

AOB

Balance of payments assistance—Latvia

Ministers adopted council decisions granting balance of payments assistance to Latvia. The UK supports this loan, which is part of an overall package of support agreed with the IMF, World Bank, and bilateral lenders.

Financial rescue packages and bank capital

The Czech presidency reminded Ministers of ECOFIN's commitment to ongoing monitoring of the progress and effectiveness of national financial rescue measures. The presidency emphasised the need for member states to continue to co-ordinate their actions. Ministers adopted council conclusions on bank capital, agreeing to take strong and decisive actions to stimulate their economies, provide liquidity, strengthen the capital of financial institutions, protect savings and deposits, address regulatory deficiencies and unfreeze credit markets. The Commission will prepare reports on the implementation of rescue packages and on troubled assets for the March meeting of ECOFIN, when the matter will be revisited. The UK strongly welcomes this work, which is an essential part of wider efforts to restore stability to financial markets.

National Anti-doping Organisation

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe MP, will at today’s UK Sport anti-doping conference propose that the UK’s anti-doping function be removed from UK Sport and established as a stand-alone NADO. This follows his agreement in principle, in December 2007, to this recommendation from the UK Sport board.

The department and UK Sport have been working to agree a funding package for the new body and I am pleased to announce that this has been concluded, with a budget for the new NADO of £7 million for 2009-10 and 2010-11 up to the next spending review.

We have tasked UK Sport with responsibility for the delivery of this project, and it informs me that they expect the new functions of the NADO to be operational by the end of the year.

The department will undertake a formal consultation and impact assessment on the proposals, and will report to Parliament in due course.

National Offender Management Service Agency: Strategic and Business Plans

Statement

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing the strategic and business plans for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Agency. The document sets out the strategic priorities for the agency to 2011 and the activities and targets to be achieved during 2009-10.

Copies have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available on the NOMS website at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/corporateinformation.htm.

The NOMS agency was established as an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice in July 2008. It has the twin aims of protecting the public and reducing reoffending. The agency is central to the Ministry of Justice’s work to achieve better outcomes for society, to improve further the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and to ensure the delivery of efficient and effective offender management.