Friday 16 March 2018
European Union Finances
I have today laid before Parliament the European Union Finances 2017: statement on the 2017 EU Budget and measures to counter fraud and financial mismanagement (Cm 9576).
This is a routine annual publication. It is the 37th in the series.
The statement gives details of revenue and expenditure in the 2017 European Union Budget, recent developments in EU financial management and measures to counter fraud against the EU Budget. It also includes a chapter and annex updating on the use of EU funds in the UK over the period.
This Government are committed to ensuring that every child—regardless of their circumstances—can benefit from their education, ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to fulfil their potential, and the resilience they need for future success.
Since 2010, thanks to Government reforms and the hard work of teachers, we have made significant progress in raising standards in the education system. There are now 1.9 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010 and last year 154,000 more six-year-olds were on track to be fluent readers than in 2012.
Today, I am announcing a programme of work to improve our understanding of the educational experiences and outcomes of all children with additional needs, and those who live in challenging circumstances.
These children perform less well at school on average, are at greater risk of being excluded and are overrepresented in alternative provision. This is an overlapping cohort whose needs are often complex—many have special educational needs and disabilities, or are children in need of help and protection and so are supported through the social care system. This work is about understanding what works for these children and spreading effective practice to ensure they can fulfil their potential.
This programme of work includes:
An external review of school exclusions, led by former Children’s Minister Edward Timpson CBE. It will help us to understand how and why schools use exclusion, what drives the variation in exclusion rates and, particularly, the disproportionate exclusion rates of some groups—including black Caribbean boys, children in need, looked after children, and those with special educational needs;
Taking forward reforms to Alternative Provision (AP). AP educates children who are unable to attend mainstream or special schools, for example due to illness or exclusion. Today the Government are publishing “Creating Opportunity for AH: Our Vision for Alternative Provision”; it outlines our plan to ensure consistently high quality education is provided to all children in AP, across the country, and determine a clear role for AP as an integral part of the education system. This package includes a £4 million innovation fund to develop effective practice;
Reviewing the outcomes of and support for children in need, as set out in our manifesto. We are already reforming children’s social care to improve children’s safety and stability, but our ambition must be for children in need to achieve their full potential. New data published today sets out the challenges they face, and their outcomes through school. The review will develop evidence to understand what works to improve these children’s educational outcomes in practice. This starts today with launching a call for evidence.
I will respond fully to the recommendations of Dame Christine Lenehan’s review of residential special schools, “Good Intentions, Good Enough?”, later this year. I will take that opportunity to set out how the Government will continue working to achieve the vision of a reformed special educational needs and disabilities system, underpinned by the Children and Families Act 2014.
We will focus on what is effective—using evidence to implement successful policy, and to spread best practice. These measures should help to ensure that all children and young people benefit from their education, transforming their experiences and outcomes.
“Creating Opportunity for All: Our Vision for Alternative Provision” and terms of reference for the exclusions review will be placed in the House libraries, and published on the Department for Education’s website. The website will also contain links to supporting documents for both the exclusions and children in need reviews.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on 19 March in Brussels.
As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries will be an exchange of views regarding a regulation on a multi-annual plan for demersal species in the western Mediterranean sea.
The primary focus for agriculture will be the adoption of Council conclusions on “The Future Of Food And Farming”:
There are currently two items scheduled under any other business:
working conditions and safety on board fishing vessels—ratification and transposition of international instruments.
joint declaration of 10 Member States (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain) on future development of freshwater aquaculture in the EU after 2020.
Parliament voted to trigger article 50 and leave the European Union. Until we leave the EU, all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of our negotiations with the EU on a future partnership will determine what arrangements apply in future.
I attended the EU Environment Council in Brussels on 5 March. Hannah Blythyn AM, Welsh Minister for Environment, also attended.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Communications on delivering on the circular economy action plan—exchange of views:
European strategy for plastics in a circular economy;
monitoring framework for the circular economy;
implementation of the circular economy package: options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation.
Ministers exchanged views on the presidency’s questions regarding the plastics strategy and the interface between chemicals, product and waste legislation. The UK referenced the industrial strategy, clean growth strategy and the 25-year environment plan, highlighting UK actions including eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 in England; a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in Scotland and a reduction of around 80% of single-use carrier bags in Wales since a charge was introduced. Several member states called for the reopening of the packing and packaging waste directive, others highlighted the role of eco-design for plastics and the role of taxation on plastics.
On the EU’s proposed monitoring framework, the UK welcomed the recommendations but called for greater emphasis on the development of indicators earlier in the waste hierarchy to help design out waste. Some member states regretted the lack of concrete measures to address chemicals in the plastics strategy and wanted further references to a non-toxic environment. Others wanted to improve the traceability of chemicals in plastics.
The presidency stated it plans to adopt Council conclusions on the European strategy for plastics, and on the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation at the June Environment Council in Luxembourg.
Greening the European Semester—exchange of views
The Commission noted that there has been increased focus on greening the European Semester, with the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) providing better information in this regard. Ministers also responded to presidency questions on compliance and sustainable finance. Several member states thought there was a role for the new multi-annual financial framework in supporting a transition to a sustainable, low carbon economy. The Commission noted the need for actions to be integrated strategically.
The following items were also discussed under any other business.
21st European forum on eco-innovation for air quality (Sofia, 5-6 February 2018)
The Commission noted that urgent action needed to be taken at national and EU level to tackle air quality. They stated that a co-ordinated approach together with strong regulation and enforcement were required to succeed.
Global Pact for the Environment
The Council took note of the AOB on the global pact for the environment from the French, supported by Luxembourg. Many delegations supported its aims, and the Commission stated it would propose a draft negotiating mandate for the areas within its competence.
Amsterdam declarations—combating imported deforestation
Delegations took note of the joint AOB from France, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and the UK on eliminating deforestation from supply chains. The UK intervened to support the declaration and to encourage other member States to join this initiative.
Implementation of the regulation on invasive alien species
The Danish delegation, supported by the Lithuanian and Greek delegations, provided information on the implementation of the EU regulation on invasive alien species.
Review of the regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
The Commission provided information on the review on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
Current legislative proposal (public deliberation in accordance with Article 16(8) of the Treaty on European Union) regulation on CO2 standards for cars and vans
The Commission introduced its proposal for a regulation on emissions standards in cars and vans, with the intention of reaching a general approach at the October Environment Council. The presidency confirmed it will table a policy debate for the June Environment Council.
Developments regarding shipping and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
The Commission provided an update on progress ahead of the April IMO meeting in London.
24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (COP 24, Katowice, 3-14 December 2018)
Poland introduced an AOB on the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24). They noted the importance of adopting the implementing rules underpinning the Paris Agreement and acknowledged the Talanoa dialogue as a fundamental step towards achieving the Paris temperature goals. Many delegations, including the UK, agreed on these two priorities with several member states calling for the publication of a Commission communication on the EU’s long-term strategy in early 2019.
Commercial trade in raw ivory within the EU
The UK introduced a joint AOB with France calling for a ban on the intra-EU trade in raw ivory. This received support from Germany and Luxembourg. The Commission noted it will release a progress report on the EU action plan against wildlife trafficking in July, detailing its next steps.
Parliament voted to trigger Article 50 and leave the European Union. Until we leave the EU, all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of our negotiations with the EU on a future partnership will determine what arrangements apply in future.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 19 March. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting will be held in Brussels.
Prior to the FAC there will be an informal meeting, over breakfast, with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. The Foreign Secretary will brief EU Ministers on developments in our response to the incident in Salisbury. The FAC will then discuss Ukraine, Syria and Iran. There will also be a lunch with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea to discuss recent events.
Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers will have a substantive discussion on Ukraine. This will address the twin strategic challenges facing Ukraine: its crucial reform agenda and ongoing Russian aggression, including in Crimea. The UK remains fully engaged in Ukraine, and will focus on continuing our support to Ukraine in tackling these fundamental challenges.
Ministers will be joined by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to discuss Syria, including implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2401 and support for the UN-led Geneva talks. Ministers will also discuss preparations for the second Brussels conference, which will take place on 24-25 April and will focus on humanitarian support and bolstering the UN-led political process in Geneva.
Ministers will discuss shared concerns around Iran’s destabilising regional activity and the EU’s role in responding to this.
Informal Trade Foreign Affairs Council
The EU Foreign Affairs Informal Council (Trade) took place in Sofia on 27 February 2018. I represented the UK at the meeting. A summary of the discussions follows:
On follow up to the 11th WTO ministerial conference held in December 2017, Ministers discussed the lack of negotiated outcomes at the multilateral level. Nonetheless, there was a broad welcome for the new joint initiative statements at MC11. The objective was for a critical mass of interested WTO members to make progress in the areas addressed by the joint statements. These discussions should be open to everybody to join. Developments around the WTO appellate body were also discussed.
Commissioner Malmström updated the Council on the state of play of the EU’s free trade agreements, stating that Japan and Singapore would be presented to Council imminently, and that negotiations with Indonesia and Chile were ongoing. Negotiations with Malaysia were set to resume in the near future.
Discussion revolved around Mexico and Mercosur, which were both reported to be in the end game but with a number of issues remaining to be resolved. I called on the Commission to show ambition on data flows in the Mexico agreement.
Under AOB, and after I had had to leave, the Commission gave an update on EU-US relations, and assessed that the US’s likely imposition of import tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminium on national security grounds was unjustified. The Commission and member states agreed to continue to engage the US Government and Congress in order to argue against any measures, highlighting the knock on impact of safeguards on global markets. Since the President’s announcement on 1 March that he intends to impose tariffs, discussions with the EU have continued and the UK will stay closely engaged on this live issue.