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Written Statements

Volume 714: debated on Tuesday 10 November 2009

Written Statements

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Antarctic Bill (Draft)

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chris Bryant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to inform the House that the draft Antarctic Bill has been laid today, as Command Paper (Cm 7635). The draft Bill will now be open for public consultation until 12 February 2010 and key stakeholders have been written to requesting their views. The Command Paper is available from the Vote Office and on the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk/antarcticbill.

Armed Forces: Defence Planning

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In my Written Ministerial Statement of 21 July announcing the appointment of a Defence Advisory Forum, I undertook to inform the House of the membership of the forum once this was confirmed.

I have appointed to the forum:

the right honourable Sir Menzies Campbell MP;

Professor Malcolm Chalmers;

Professor Colin S Gray;

Professor Mary Kaldor;

Sir David Manning;

Sir David Omand;

Sir John Parker;

the right honourable Lord Robertson of Port Ellen;

Paul Skinner;

General (Retired) Sir Rupert Smith;

the honourable Nicholas Soames MP; and

Philip Stephens.

British Indian Ocean Territory

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are today launching a public consultation into a proposal put forward by the Chagos Environment Network to establish a marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

The Chagos Environment Network’s proposal The Chagos Archipelago: its Nature and the Future advocates the creation of one of the world’s greatest natural conservation areas and is a remarkable opportunity for Britain to create one of the world’s largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world’s oceans benefiting from protection.

The purpose of the consultation is to seek views from stakeholders and interested parties to help the Government assess whether a marine protected area is the right option for the future environmental protection of the territory and we are, therefore, strongly encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the consultation. We are also arranging for a facilitator to travel to Port Louis and Victoria early next year to listen to the views of the Chagossian communities and other stakeholders in Mauritius and Seychelles. The consultation will run until 12 February 2010.

Copies of the consultation are available on www.fco.gov.uk, www.ukinmauritius.fco.gov.uk and www.ukinseychelles.fco.gov.uk and are being disseminated widely to interested groups.

ECOFIN

Statement

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary (Ian Pearson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I plan to attend the Budget ECOFIN to be held on 19 November in Brussels. Items on the provisional agenda include:

Preliminary draft amending budget No. 10 for 2009—Ministers will be invited to adopt this preliminary draft amending budget, which would amend the 2009 EC Budget to reflect latest implementation capacity and to contribute to financing the second part of the European economic recovery plan.

Letter of Amendment No. 2 to the preliminary draft budget for 2010—Ministers will be invited to discuss this amending letter, which reflects latest information on agricultural prices and other developments influencing future implementation capacity and expenditure. It also provides for appropriations for the second part of the European economic recovery plan, and for continued support to nuclear decommissioning in Bulgaria.

Draft budget for 2010: the council will seek to agree its second reading position on the draft budget in preparation for the subsequent conciliation with the European Parliament. Council will then conclude its second reading and finalise figures for compulsory expenditure (mainly agriculture). The UK will seek a budget that respects the principles of budget discipline and sound financial management, and reflects realistic forecasts for agriculture and structural funds spending.

Proposal to amend the interinstitutional agreement of 17 May 2006 as regards the multiannual financial framework—the council will consider a Commission proposal to revise the ceilings for expenditure set down in the financial framework 2007-13, in order to secure financing for the European economic recovery plan. The UK will seek a financing solution that ensures the required funding for projects, and avoids an increase to the overall financial framework ceiling.

EU: Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My honourable friends the Minister for Marine and the Natural Environment (Huw Irranca-Davies), and the Minister for Food, Farming and Environment (Jim Fitzpatrick) represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 19 and 20 October. Richard Lochhead MSP also attended.

On agriculture, France, spearheading a large group of member states, had deposited a paper with the presidency calling for an active policy of dairy market management, and specifically, a €300 million dairy fund. This latter point complemented a call from the European Parliament in its first reading on the 2010 budget for a fund of the same proportion.

Responding to the paper, the Commission observed that each of the measures called for had either been addressed, or was the subject of ongoing study, or discussion. As for the dairy fund, the Commission said they would make €280 million available for the dairy sector from the 2010 ceiling, subject to a few conditions. First, as competence for budgetary matters rested with ECOFIN, it would be for finance Ministers to decide whether to take the proposal forward. Second, should the fund be adopted, there would be no further money available as provision against other crises in 2010. Third, the Commission asserted that it had done all it could to respond to the crisis and no further action would be possible.

Greece and Belgium called for the full €300 million fund to be made available. France acknowledged that short-term measures were on track, but insisted that more needed to be done and that a new regulatory framework was necessary for the dairy sector—a point rejected by the UK who clarified that it did not support the French paper or the dairy fund. Only the Netherlands, Denmark and Malta agreed with the UK.

The Commission also presented its quarterly report on the sector, confirming a boost in prices for most dairy commodities (only cheese was lagging and that was in the normal order of things); as well as its proposal to assume new emergency powers to respond to dairy market disturbances, and to provide funds for dairy market restructuring by way of new rules on calculating the superlevy.

Turning to poultry meat, the presidency secured a qualified majority on the proposal to extend marketing standards to preparations. Voting against the proposal, the UK made a statement to the council minutes, noting the disproportionate cost impact on the UK market (some 66 per cent of the Community market), as well as criticising the Commission's failure to carry out an impact assessment before adopting the draft legislation. The presidency noted both the UK's comments and the fact that the proposal had been adopted.

With the Standing Committee failing to reach a qualified majority for or against approval for use in food and feed (not planting) of three new GM maize varieties, the dossiers came to council for confirmation of voting intentions. The presidency noted that, with no qualified majority for or against, the dossiers would now revert back to the Commission to complete the decision-making process.

There were three AOB agriculture items. Poland tabled its paper urging council to consider its request to continue financing agricultural land purchases through to 2013. Portugal, supported by the UK, called on the Commission to suspend import duties on cane sugar. Austria called for activation of export refunds for landlocked cereals producers, as well as help with transport costs and the opening of intervention for maize in response to falling cereals prices.

Turning to fisheries, council reached political agreement on the text of the new regulation to update the monitoring and enforcement framework for EU fisheries. The Commission, referring to a recently tabled presidency compromise that resolved some concerns of member states, highlighted a number of remaining issues.

The presidency and Commission then held trilateral meetings with nearly all member states during the day to fashion a final compromise. The UK had the first trilateral and in response to the president’s request for member nations we focussed on three significant priorities that had to be resolved, which comprised an offending provision on recreational fishing; demands on weighing tolerance; and the removal of the provision on minimum levels. The Commission also confirmed in the trilateral that pelagic weighting would be addressed.

When council reconvened, the presidency tabled a final compromise which included all the points prioritised by the UK. In a final table round, the compromise was adopted by unanimity.

Council also reached political agreement on the regulation governing fishing opportunities in the Baltic for 2010. Trilateral meetings were held with interested member states during the day and agreement was reached on a compromise, of which the main elements were reduced TAC cuts for western herring, main Baltic herring, Atlantic salmon and sprat; 10 per cent fishing effort limitations in some zones, a high grading ban and increased selectivity.

Ministers then had an exchange of views on the priorities for the forthcoming negotiations on the annual EU-Norway fisheries agreement which is of significant importance to UK fisheries. The Commission emphasised the difficult context for the negotiations, and the need for member states’ support in the negotiations. The UK stressed the need for a fair solution on Arctic cod, and also the difficult situation on mackerel because of autonomous quotas set by Norway and the Faroes.

Under other fisheries business, Lithuania tabled a paper seeking support for financial assistance for the renewal of outdated fishing vessels. The Commission sought support for a firm EU position in the forthcoming meeting of ICCAT (International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna). Finally, the Commission raised the EU-Guinea (Conakry) Fisheries Partnership agreement signed late 2008. It referred in strong terms to the recent attack on protestors by public authorities and noted international condemnation. Therefore, in these circumstances, the Commission said it was not appropriate to proceed with the legal adoption of the agreement and it would now go through the necessary processes formally to withdraw the relevant proposals.

NHS: Patients' Rights

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Department of Health has today published the consultation document The NHS Constitution: a consultation on new patient rights.

The NHS constitution brings together in one place what the NHS does, what it stands for and the commitments it should live up to. It describes the values and enduring principles of the NHS. To guarantee that the NHS constitution is relevant and up to date it will need to change over time to reflect public priorities and developments in medical technology and evidence.

Today’s consultation sets out and seeks views on proposals for new rights to be included in the constitution, including a right to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of referral by a general practitioner, or to be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of GP referral. Where this is not possible the NHS will have to take all reasonable steps to offer the patient a range of alternative providers where they could begin treatment or be seen sooner.

This consultation also proposes that our commitment to the NHS health check programme, which assesses an individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease becomes a right for all people aged 40 to 74.

The consultation also welcomes views on areas where we believe we will soon be able to offer rights, such as dentistry, evening and weekend access to GPs, personal health budgets, the ability to choose to die at home and rapid access to diagnostic tests.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members from the Vote Office.

Railways: London Midland

Statement

The performance of London Midland on 6 September 2009 fell short of its customers’ expectations and was unacceptable to both passengers and Government.

I can now outline the measures I have taken, and the actions I have agreed with London Midland in respect of London Midland’s breach of its franchise agreement.

First, I have issued London Midland with a remedial plan notice for exceeding the franchise agreement threshold on cancellations. This requires London Midland to submit to me a remedial plan for addressing the level of cancellations. Discussions are at an advanced stage on a range of measures to be implemented within the remedial plan.

The remedial plan will be contractualised as a remedial agreement.

Secondly, a package of additional benefits for passengers has been agreed, including:

an additional franchise agreement obligation to invest in new, and additional, high-quality information equipment, spending no less than £4.4 million over the life of the franchise in addition to the investment that has already been committed in the franchise agreement; and

a promotion for 50,000 day-rover tickets for travel over the Christmas period and London Midland will also make available an additional 400,000 advance purchase tickets over the next two years on some of the most popular routes.

Waterways: British Waterways Board

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister for Marine and Natural Environment (Huw Irranca-Davies) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In accordance with the provisions of paragraph 8(2) of the First Schedule to Transport Act 1962, the following information is furnished by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In exercise of the powers conferred by paragraph 8(1) of that schedule, and now vested in him the Secretary of State has determined, with the approval of the Treasury, that, with effect from 1 July 2009, the salaries of the members of the British Waterways Board shall be as follows:

Fees (£)

Allowances (£)

Annual Remuneration (£)

Tony Hales (Chair)

51,359

51,359

Richard Bowker (Vice Chair to September 2009)

17,442

2,500

19,942

Margaret Carver

13,225

2,500

15,725

Eric Prescott

13,225

2,000

15,225

John Bridgeman (Vice Chair from 1 October)

17,442

4,500

21,942

John Bywater

13,225

2,000

15,225

Prodaman Sarwal

13,225

2,000

15,225

Rodney Green

13,225

1,000

14,225

Nigel Hugill

13,225

3,500

16,725

Duncan Sutherland*

13,225

3,000

16,225

Jonathan Hargreaves*

13,225

3,500

16,725

* Scottish Ministers' Appointee