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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 20 January 2006


Finance Bill Measures

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): Legislation will be included in the next Finance Bill to stop financial institutions and share dealers claiming wholly artificial losses by buying and selling the right to a dividend on shares and claiming that the sale proceeds are exempt from tax.

Schemes have been disclosed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) under the legislation in Part 7 Finance Act 2004 which seek to exploit a perceived weakness in section 730 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act. HMRC believes that the schemes may not work, but to put the matter beyond doubt, subsection (3) of section 730 will be repealed.

The repeal will be effective in relation to any sale, transfer or other realisation of a right to receive a dividend taking place on or after today.


Grey Squirrels

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Knight): I am pleased to advise that we will, on Sunday 22 January, publish a Policy and Action Statement for the management of the Grey Squirrel in England's Woodlands. This has been prepared jointly by the Forestry Commission England and Defra.

The grey squirrel was introduced into this country in the 19th century and has spread widely. Grey squirrels are enjoyed by many as part of our wildlife but also represent a serious and growing threat to our native woodland and priority species.

This policy will set out the rationale and actions for the control of grey squirrels.

The Forestry Commission will continue to provide best practice guidance on the control of grey squirrel populations and will be targeting support where it will be most beneficial.

Copies of the Policy and Action Statement will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses on Monday and will also be available on Sunday from 7.30 am on the Forestry Commission website at: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/greysquirrel.


Rendition Allegations (Inquiries)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): Some media reports over the
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last 48 hours, based on a leaked Government document, have suggested that the Government may be aware that there have been cases of "extraordinary rendition" through UK territory or airspace about which it has not informed Parliament.

This is not the case. I have given Parliament clear answers, updated as information has become available to me. The following chronology makes this clear:

To summarise the position:

Since before September 2001 we have worked closely with the US to achieve our shared goal of fighting terrorism. As part of that close co-operation, we have made clear to the US authorities, including in recent months:

We are also clear that the US would not render a detainee through UK territory or airspace (including Overseas Territories) without our permission. As noted above, the US has sought such permission in the past.

The Government are committed to fulfilling their obligations under United Kingdom and international law. I have sought throughout to keep the House informed of developments. And shall do so again if new information comes to light.
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Military-listed Exports (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): In December 2005, the Government issued one licence for the export of 20 units of body armour to the Ministry of Justice, Judicial Police in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The equipment will be used by the Judicial Police in operations to protect against crime and preserve the safety of the civilian community or for humanitarian activities.

An EU arms embargo has been in place against Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1996. The purpose of the embargo was to aid the establishment of peace and stability for the people of the region, taking into account
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in particular the need to ensure the safety of international troops and civilian personnel deployed. The embargo was amended in 1999 to exclude de-mining equipment and the transfer of small arms to the police.

We fully support the EU embargo. However, we are, in limited circumstances, prepared to make exceptions where denying an export would frustrate the purposes of the embargo. The UK has been active in encouraging Bosnia and Herzegovina to take greater responsibility for maintaining the rule of law and strengthening civilian policing. I am confident that granting this exception is fully consistent with this responsible approach of supporting the development of civilian policing whilst respecting the aims of the embargo.