Wednesday 14 November 2018
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) was held in Brussels on 6 November 2018. The UK was represented by Mark Bowman (Director General, International Finance, HM Treasury). The Council discussed the following:
European Free Trade Association (EFTA) dialogue
EU Finance Ministers were joined by representatives of the EFTA countries and held an exchange of views on the opportunities and challenges of FinTech to the financial sector and economic growth.
Early morning session
The Eurogroup President briefed the Council on the outcomes of the 5 November meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission provided an update on the current economic situation in the EU. The Council also held an exchange of views on the annual report of the European Fiscal Board.
Digital services tax
The Council held an exchange of views on the state of play of the negotiations on the digital services tax directive.
Current financial services legislative proposals
The Austrian presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.
European Court of Auditors’ annual report
The President of the Court of Auditors presented the auditors’ report on the implementation of the budget of the European Union for the 2017 financial year.
EU statistical package
The Council adopted Council conclusions on the autumn EU statistical package.
Conclusions on climate finance
The Council adopted Council conclusions on climate finance as part of the annual process in the run up to the United Nations framework convention on climate change conference of parties in Poland on 2 to 14 Dec.
Follow-up to the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and of the IMF annual meetings in Indonesia
The Austrian presidency and the Commission presented the main outcomes of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and of the IMF annual meetings between 11 and 12 October in Bali, Indonesia.
Following the 100-year anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, the time is right to review how we continue to support and empower veterans in the future. Veterans are an asset to our nation and demonstrate some of the best qualities in our society: responsibility, duty and hard work. We are proud of the care, support and respect our society gives to veterans and have a long history of supporting those who step up to serve their country.
We want to make sure we continue to support veterans and want to do more. By 2028 we will do more to ensure that each veteran is valued, contributing and supported. Today we publish the “Strategy for our Veterans” (Cm 9726) and supporting “UK Government Consultation Paper” (Cm 9727) that outlines what we aim to do and consults on how we will achieve it. This strategy is part of the armed forces covenant, introduced in 2011 to ensure all service personnel, military families and veterans are treated fairly in accessing public and commercial services. Through the covenant, we have radically improved the support we give to veterans across Government, in terms of priority healthcare pathways, access to housing, employment support, and more.
The cross-Government “Strategy for our Veterans” is a remarkable joint statement of strategic intent for UK and devolved Governments. It is the first time Governments across the UK have clearly stated collective tangible outcomes for veterans’ services, and indeed the first time that all four nations of the UK have come together on such a far-reaching topic. It sets a vision and principles for support to veterans, as well as tangible outcomes in a variety of areas. The vision and principles are enduring and extend beyond the horizon of the strategy. Together, they state the long-term goal against which we will organise services for veterans throughout the UK. To deliver the vision and principles we have set outcomes for a number of cross-cutting factors and themes that will give us tangible aspiration to measure success. There are five cross-cutting factors that provide a backdrop to the overall system of veterans’ service provision as well as six identified themes. For each of the cross-cutting factors and themes there is an outcome for 2028 towards which all UK nations will work to deliver.
Today we also publish the complementary “UK Government Consultation Paper” that seeks the public’s view on how to build upon existing services. We would like comments from any public organisation that provides a service for veterans, from charities in the armed forces sector and other sectors who assist veterans, from private sector companies, and of course from veterans themselves. This consultation is UK-wide, although the Scottish Government and Welsh Government will consult separately on devolved matters.
The “Strategy for our Veterans” and accompanying “UK Government Consultation Paper” will be debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords on 15 November 2018.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals
The Government are today announcing that the implementation of changes to reduce the stakes of B2 gaming machines from £100 to £2 will take place in April 2019. This will be done through a statutory instrument, laid before the House this week.
Following the consultation on gaming machines and social responsibility measures, the Government decided to cut the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals to £2 to help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
After a thorough consultation with interested parties, including charities, campaigners and the gambling industry, across government we reached a decision to make this significant change in October 2019.
The Government have been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible Government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly transition.
Parliament has, however, been clear it wants this change to be made sooner. The Government have listened and will now implement the reduction in April 2019.
In order to cover the negative impact on the public finances, and to protect vital public services, this change is being linked to an increase in remote gaming duty, paid by online gaming operators. The Finance Bill will also be amended so that the increase to remote gaming duty comes into effect in April 2019.
The Government will expect the gambling industry to work with it to reduce the effect of any impact on jobs and to support employees that may be affected by this expedited timeline. The cross-government group that has been set up is ready to assist.
Finally, the Government will continue to take action to protect vulnerable people, including strengthening protections around gaming machines, online gambling, gambling advertising and treatment for problem gambling.