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Written Statements

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 22 March 2018

Written Statements

Thursday 22 March 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UK Register of Overseas Entities’ Beneficial Ownership

I have today published a document summarising the responses we received to last year’s call for evidence, which set out proposals for a new world first beneficial ownership register of overseas companies and other legal entities that own UK property or participate in UK Government procurement. This follows the commitment made at the anti-corruption summit in 2016, in order to combat money laundering and achieve greater transparency in the UK property market.

The response to the call for evidence outlines several areas in which policy development has progressed since the publication of the call for evidence. These include proposals for more frequent updates to ensure the timeliness and relevance of the information, and changes in the proposed sanctions to be applied through land registration law to ensure there are no adverse consequences for innocent third parties.

The new register will be the first of its kind in the world, and builds upon the UK’s global leadership in tackling corruption. As stated in the call for evidence, the downside of demonstrating such leadership is that the Government do not have an existing model to work from. The Government will therefore look to strike the right balance between improving transparency and minimising burdens on legitimate commercial activity.

The Department is currently working on the preparation of a draft Bill to deliver these proposals, which the Government intend to publish by summer recess this year. Following consideration of comments received post-publication, the Government intend to introduce the legislation early in the second session of this Parliament.

I have placed copies of the Government response to the call for evidence in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS576]

Treasury

Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993

I am today announcing that the Government intend to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to amend the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993. This amendment will enable an extension of the cover provided by the Government-backed terrorism reinsurer Pool Re to include business interruption losses that are not contingent on damage to commercial property. I will announce further details in due course.

This Government remain committed to ensuring that businesses can continue to secure insurance against the financial costs of terror attacks.

[HCWS579]

Communities and Local Government

Local Government Policy

On 30 November 2017, I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the locally led proposal I had received from West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to merge, and I invited representations before I took my final decision on this proposal.

Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the proposal to merge West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to become a new single district council named Somerset West and Taunton District Council.

I have reached my decision having regard to the criteria for district council mergers that I announced to the House on 7 November 2017. I am satisfied that these criteria are met and that the new district council is likely to improve local government and service delivery in the area, commands a good deal of local support, and that the new council area is a credible geography.

I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decision. My intention is that if Parliament approves this legislation the new council will be established on 1 April 2019 with the first election to the council held on 2 May 2019.

[HCWS578]

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 15 March 2018 in Brussels. I represented the United Kingdom.

Under an agenda item on the European semester, the Council adopted the joint employment report (JER) and Council conclusions on the annual growth survey (AGS).

The Council received a presentation on the 2018 country reports on the implementation of 2017 country specific recommendations.

The Council endorsed the opinion of the Employment Committee (EMCO) on the latest biennial assessment of member states’ progress against the non-binding Council recommendation of 2013 on a youth guarantee for tackling youth unemployment.

The Council adopted a recommendation for a European framework for quality and effective apprenticeships.

The Council then conducted policy debates on the future of social Europe post 2020 and closing the gender pay gap: contributing to the achievement of the goals of the European social pillar.

Under any other business, the Commission presented information on its awaited social fairness package, the Commission and the President presented information on the tripartite social summit, and the chairs of the EMCO and the Social Protection Committee (SPC) provided information on their respective 2018 work programmes.

[HCWS575]

Universal Credit

The implementation of universal credit continues to make good progress. The full service is now operating in 250 jobcentres and we expect to complete national coverage and be in all jobcentres as planned by December 2018. Within this timetable, I am announcing today some modifications to reflect local considerations and discussions.

We continue to make progress in delivering a Welsh language capability within the full service. While it has always been possible to speak to DWP in Welsh, either in jobcentres or on the telephone, and to have dialogue in Welsh on online journals, we want to be able to offer full Welsh functionality as soon as we can for those areas of Wales with the highest density of Welsh speakers. In order to increase the chances that functionality will be in place in time with local roll-out, we are moving the 13 jobcentres with the highest density of Welsh speakers to December 2018.

In addition, Barrow Council has asked if its roll-out date could be changed to December to reflect the fact that it is bringing its housing benefit administration back in-house and it would like to sequence that change before universal credit rolls out. This is sensible planning and we have agreed to meet that request.

Finally, in order to balance resources more effectively within DWP we are making several other modifications to the roll-out timetable, as set out in the table available as an online attachment. We will modify the master schedule on gov.uk to reflect these changes. District managers are contacting local stakeholders about these changes and writing to their local MPs with details.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament. uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-03-22/HCWS577/.

[HCWS577]