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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 27 February 2006


Tax Avoidance

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): Legislation to prevent companies making arrangements in order to obtain corporation tax relief in the UK for losses of a company established outside the UK will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2006. The legislation will apply to claims for loss relief by UK resident companies, and UK branches of companies which are not UK resident, and will deny loss relief in the UK where there are arrangements which either result in losses becoming unrelievable outside the UK that were otherwise relievable, or give rise to unrelievable losses which would not have arisen but for the availability of relief in the UK, if the main purpose or one of the main purposes of those arrangements is to obtain UK relief.

The legislation will have effect from 20 February 2006. A press notice issued by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on that date giving the relevant background to, and further detail on, this measure was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 20 February 2006 and is also accessible on HMRC's website.

Tax Law Rewrite Project

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey): I am pleased to tell the House that the Government's tax law rewrite project will soon reach another major milestone. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will shortly publish a draft of the project's fourth Bill, the Income Tax Bill, which will in practice complete the rewrite of income tax. More specifically, it covers the core provisions of income tax, the mechanics of the tax computation and a variety of reliefs and other provisions. It is planned to introduce the Bill in Parliament by the end of 2006. The project's three previous Bills were enacted as the Capital Allowances Act 2001, the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 and the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005.

Earlier versions of the legislation in this new Bill have been revised in the light of comments and suggestions from tax professionals and other interested parties. There has been extensive dialogue on them between the project team and business interests, tax practitioners, the legal profession and HMRC specialists.

ECOFIN: 14 February 2006

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): At its meeting of 14 February 2006 the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) adopted opinions on the stability programmes of Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria and on the convergence programmes of Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia.
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ECOFIN discussed the Commission's annual progress report on the Lisbon agenda and held a first debate on the ECOFIN key issues paper for the spring European Council.

The Council discussed the role the European Investment Bank can play in promoting jobs and growth.

ECOFIN examined a report from the Economic Policy Committee on the impact of ageing populations on the sustainability of public expenditure and agreed Council Conclusions on the basis of that report.

ECOFIN was de-briefed on a Conference held on 6–7 February to discuss VAT fraud issues.

The Council was briefed on a forthcoming Conference on innovative methods of financing for development.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, represented the UK.


"Hearing the Relatives of Murder and Manslaughter Victims"

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) has made the following ministerial statement:

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FA Cup Final

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): On 21 February 2006, the Football Association (FA) confirmed that the venue of the 2006 FA Cup Final will be the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff rather than, as everyone had hoped, Wembley Stadium.

Although Multiplex, the builders, are working hard to finish Wembley Stadium as quickly as possible, it is the FA's judgment that the risk that it may not be ready to host the Final itself is just too great. I therefore welcome the FA's decision to put in place now a firm arrangement on which fans can plan and avoid any further speculation or uncertainty.

Wembley Stadium is a huge and complex project; it will be the best stadium in the world and a great piece of construction engineering.

Millions of people will enjoy Wembley Stadium and the whole country will take pride in it.

Women and Work Commission

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I am pleased to inform the House that today the Prime Minister received the final report of the Women and Work Commission: "Shaping a Fairer Future". The Women and Work Commission was launched on 27 September 2004 as an independent taskforce, chaired by Baroness Prosser, to make recommendations to the Government on tackling the pay and opportunities gap between men and women.

The Commission proposes a wealth of practical ideas on how to close the gender pay and opportunities gap. These are founded on a thorough analysis of all the available evidence. The Commission has described a complex problem which requires progress on a number of fronts. This is an imperative, not least because of the waste of women's skills and potential and the negative impact this has on the UK economy. We must also remove the unfair disadvantages women face, in our quest for social justice. The Government are determined to take action to address all causes of the pay gap highlighted in the report.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House. Further announcements on specific actions will be made in due course.
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The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The General Affairs and External Relations Council decided on 30 January to renew the European Union's sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe, with effect from 21 February, for a further 12 months. The European Union's sanctions are an arms embargo, and a travel ban and assets freeze on Mr. Mugabe and leading members of his regime. The renewal of these measures sends a powerful message of the European Union's continued concern about the erosion of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. The European Union's measures are specifically targeted against the Mugabe regime rather than the economic interests of ordinary Zimbabweans. Indeed, the European Union and its member states continue to provide considerable humanitarian aid to ordinary Zimbabweans. The United Kingdom is one of the three largest cash donors to Zimbabwe, alongside the European Union and the United States, providing £38 million in the 2005–06 financial year on humanitarian assistance and tackling HIV/AIDs.

In the last 12 months the situation has deteriorated, with two flawed elections, further human rights abuses, woeful economic mismanagement, an unchecked food crisis, and country-wide destruction of informal settlements and markets, affecting more than 700,000 people. These developments have created growing international concern, with the United Nations, European Union, African Union and neighbouring states seeking an urgent resolution of the crisis. Sadly, Mr. Mugabe's policies continue to damage his country. In the last few weeks his regime has underlined its contempt for basic human rights and for the welfare of its people. They have launched a sustained programme of intimidation against an independent radio station, Voice of the People, and are preventing journalists, for both foreign media organisations and Zimbabwean newspapers, from legally carrying out their work. There has been a renewed campaign of violent land seizures, including for the first time in urban areas, aimed to benefit Mr. Mugabe's cronies. There have also been attacks on opposition-led local councils. Most recently they have arrested hundreds of women and children taking part in peaceful demonstrations. We are strongly concerned by these developments. A free media is essential to the healthy development of any country, and media repression is the hallmark of regimes attempting to hide their failings. Continued land seizures destroy Zimbabwe's agricultural productivity, and underline Mr. Mugabe's contempt for property rights and the rule of law. Vibrant and independent local government, and the right to freely express views through peaceful demonstrations, are the building blocks of healthy democracy.

We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to respond without delay to the concerns set out by the international community, including the United Nations, European Union and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. The Government of Zimbabwe needs to demonstrate commitment to the restoration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the pursuit of sustainable economic policies. We will continue our pressure on the
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Government of Zimbabwe to reform, and will continue to provide support for the long-suffering Zimbabwean people.

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