Friday 27 April 2018
An informal meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Sofia on 27-28 April 2018. The Council will discuss the following:
Working Lunch - Deepening of the economic and monetary union
Based on a presidency issues note, the Council will exchange views on the ECOFIN Council roadmap of June 2016 on completing the banking union. This will be followed by an update from the Eurogroup president on reform of the European stability mechanism.
Working Session I
The Council will then be joined by Central Bank Governors for the first working session.
a) Convergence in the EU - Inside and outside the euro area
Following a presentation from the Centre for European Policy Studies, the Council will discuss the possibilities to increase convergence in the EU among both euro area and non-euro area member states
b) Further reducing fragmentation within the capital markets union
Following a presentation from Bruegel on deepening the capital markets union, the Council will discuss measures to further reduce capital markets fragmentation.
The Council will then be debriefed on the outcomes of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting on 19 -20 April.
Working Session II - Improving revenue collection and fighting tax fraud in the single market
The Council will exchange views on improving revenue collection and fighting tax fraud in the single market.
Working Session III - Corporate taxation and tax challenges of the digital economy
Following the recent publication of Commission proposals regarding fair taxation of the digital economy, the Council will exchange views on the approach to corporate taxation in the single market and the tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the economy.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill: EVEL
I am pleased to announce the publication of our analysis of English votes for English laws in relation to Government amendments tabled to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill for consideration at Report stage.
The English votes for English laws process applies to public Bills in the House of Commons. To support the process, the Government have agreed that they will provide information to assist the Speaker in considering whether to certify that Bill or any of its provisions for the purposes of English votes for English laws. Bill provisions that relate exclusively to England or to England and Wales, and which have a subject matter within the legislative competence of one or more of the devolved legislatures, can be certified.
The memorandum provides an assessment of Government amendments tabled to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, for the purposes of English votes for English laws, ahead of its Report stage in the House of Commons. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s assessment is that the amendments do not change the territorial application of the Bill, for the purpose of Standing Order No. 83L of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
This analysis reflects the position should all the Government amendments be accepted.
The memorandum will be published on the Bill documents page of the Parliament website and I will place a copy in the Library of the House.
Syria: UK Response and Brussels Conference
The Syrian regime’s continued and systematic blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law has resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. Medical facilities, schools and aid workers appear to have been deliberately targeted, aid has been blocked to starve communities into submission, and rape and sexual violence have been deployed as routine weapons of war.
13.1 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance, including 5.6 million with acute needs. In addition, over half of Syria’s population has been displaced by the violence, with 5.6 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Since the conflict began seven years ago, the UK has been at the forefront of the international response. We are the second largest bilateral donor to the crisis. Our support to Syria and the region since 2012 has provided humanitarian assistance to 17 million people, including over 27,000,000 monthly food rations and over 10,000,000 vaccines, and helped over 7.1 million children gain a decent education.
But now, in the eighth year of the conflict, the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people remain as grave as they have ever been. It is clear that the regime has no intention of ending its people’s suffering. The barbaric chemical weapons attack in Douma on innocent civilians, including young children, was yet another example of the regime’s flagrant disregard for its responsibility to protect civilians.
We must not turn our backs on their suffering. That is why at this week’s Brussels conference for Syria and the region, I announced that the UK will provide at least £450 million this year, and £300 million next year to alleviate the extreme suffering in Syria and provide vital support in neighbouring countries. We have now committed £2.71 billion to the Syria crisis since 2012, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
Our pledge will help keep medical facilities open so doctors and nurses can save lives, and will help support the millions of Syrian refugees sheltering in neighbouring countries.
Our friends in the region, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in particular, continue to demonstrate extraordinary generosity in opening their doors and communities to millions fleeing the conflict in Syria.
We must continue to offer them our fullest support. Not least because as the trajectory of the Syrian war has worsened, our collective interests in a stable and prosperous region have increased. Jordan’s resilience and prosperity are critical to the long-run interests of the region. That is why, in addition to the support to the region provided in our pledge, I announced that the UK will host an international conference with Jordan in London later this year: to showcase Jordan’s economic reform plans, its aspiration to build/enable a thriving private sector, and to mobilise support from international investors and donors.
But money alone is not enough. We continue to support the UN-mediated process as the surest path to peace. But while we work towards a political solution in the future that can end this suffering once and for all, we must not give up on improving conditions in the present. In this spirit, I called upon those present at the conference to join the UK in calling for concrete actions to enable greater protection for civilians and aid workers now. That means an immediate ceasefire and immediate safe access so that brave aid workers and medical staff can do their jobs and help the most vulnerable and the most desperate without fear of attack.
The UK is a global leader within the Syria response. I am proud that at this week’s conference, we demonstrated clearly that we will not turn away from the suffering of the Syrian people—we will continue to lead the response in working with others to call out atrocities, mobilise funding, demand access for aid, protect civilians and ultimately, work towards a solution that can put Syria on a path to peace.
I wish to inform the House that an error has been identified in the closing speech of the end-of-day debate on Thameslink upgrades across the south-east. [Official Report, 18 April 2018; Vol. 639, c.431]. The correct information should have been:
“As part of this upgrade, a fourth track and other improvements are being built north of Bedford, which will provide space for an additional train path from December 2020. Unfortunately, until these works take place, some difficult decisions have to be taken. East Midlands Trains’ fast peak-time services will not call at Bedford or Luton from May 2018 to December 2020.”
Work and Pensions
Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit
I can today announce that we will extend the existing support within universal credit and child tax credit for children who would otherwise be likely to be in local authority care, including children who are adopted or looked after by non-parental carers, also known as kinship carers.
The policy to provide support in child tax credit and universal credit for a maximum of two children ensures parents in receipt of benefits face the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.
We recognise that not all parents are able to make the same choices about the number of children in their family. That is why exceptions have been put in place to protect certain groups. Exceptions apply to third and subsequent children who are part of a multiple birth; adopted or in non-parental caring arrangements when they would otherwise be in local authority care; or likely to have been born as a result of non-consensual conception.
For children who would otherwise be likely to be in local authority care, these exceptions will be applied regardless of the order in which they joined a household.
The Government recognise the immense value of the care that non-parental carers and adoptive parents provide. The role that those parents and carers play in helping to bring children up who could otherwise find themselves in local authority care is vital. It is for this reason that we are ensuring that they are supported by enabling them to access benefit entitlement in the same way as birth parents.
Since becoming Secretary of State, I have been reviewing this issue carefully to ensure that the exceptions, as they apply to non-parental carers and adoptive parents, provide the right level of support.
Last week, I welcomed the High Court ruling that the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children was lawful overall. I have considered the part of the judgment that pertains to non-parental carers alongside internal reviews that the Department for Work and Pensions carried out in parallel to the legal case, and I consider that it is right that this change should be extended, not just to those in non-parental caring arrangements, but to include children who are adopted who would otherwise be in local authority care.
This change will reassure those non-parental carers and parents who adopt and are eligible for this child support, that it will be available to them regardless of the order in which their children joined the household.