The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): Amendments will be tabled to schedule 6 to the Finance (No 2) Bill 2006 for Report stage to block a tax avoidance scheme used by companies and others to obtain relief against corporation tax or income tax for the capital element of loan repayments.
The scheme involves arrangements which in substance are loans and are accounted for as financial arrangements but in form involve the transfer of expected income or payment streams in exchange for a lump sum, with the income or payments continuing until they equal the amount of the lump sum plus interest.
The measures to be included in the Bill will treat the transferor for tax purposes as if it had taken out a conventional loan, so that relief will only be given for the interest element. Any chargeable gain arising on the transfer will be disregarded. It will also apply to more complex schemes where the income is shifted by adjusting partnership profit shares.
Further details of the measure with draft legislation and explanatory notes are published on the HMRC website. The measure has effect in relation to transfers taking place on or after 6 June 2006. It will also apply to transfers that have taken place before that date but will only have affect in relation income or payments arising on or after that date.
Enlargement of the Euro areaECOFIN will discuss the convergence reports prepared by the Commission and the European Central Bank as well as the draft Council decision to abrogate Slovenia's derogation for fulfilling the necessary conditions for Economic and Monetary Union Membership.
EU-US Dialogue: Preparation of the EU-US SummitMinisters will discuss economic issues in the run up to the EU-US summit on 21 June in Vienna. The Commission is also expected to report on the EU-US financial markets regulatory dialogue.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): I have today issued a consultation paper, Draft Marine Minerals Dredging Regulations and Procedural Guidance. This seeks comments on a proposed statutory scheme of regulation, which will formally transpose the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Habitats Directives, in relation to marine minerals dredging in waters around England and Northern Ireland. Subject to consultation comments, we are hoping that the final Regulations implementing the new statutory scheme will come into force by the end of 2006.
The Crown Estate owns most of the seabed out to the 12 mile territorial limit and has rights to all the non-energy minerals within the remainder of the UK share of the Continental Shelf. It currently licences marine minerals dredging from the seabed under its control on a commercial basis, but only if a favourable Government View (GV) on the environmental acceptability of the proposal has first been issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The GV procedure is a voluntary, informal process which already incorporates the various requirements of the EIA and Habitats Directives. The proposed Regulations will replace this informal procedure and formally transpose the Directives.
Separate Regulations transposing the Directives in relation to marine minerals dredging in Scottish waters and Welsh territorial waters are, respectively, being prepared and are intended to be prepared by the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government.
Copies of the consultation paper are being sent to a wide variety of organisations including marine dredging companies, organisations representing the fishing industry, environmental and amenity groups, coastal local authorities, Government Departments and agencies. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The paper is also available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at: www.communities .gov.uk. The consultation period ends on Monday 28 August 2006.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom Watson): To better support the RAF Hercules fleet a contract was awarded by the Ministry of Defence on the 30 May to Marshall of Cambridge Aerospace Ltd. valued at £1.52 billion. This contractual arrangement will provide integrated operational support over the next 20 years, saving in excess of £171 million for the defence budget. The contract represents a partnered approach, as envisaged in the defence industrial strategy, bringing together industrial collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce, the Defence Logistics Organisation and the RAF. It will enable MOD to sustain the Hercules fleet as a key support to our operational activities.
Carrying out surveillance and monitoring programmes to agreed standards.
Facilitating the development of regional action plans in England and supporting specific programmes in Wales and Scotland.
Scrapie: to contribute to a reduction in the level of Scrapie through the Ram Genotyping Scheme and the Compulsory Scrapie Flocks Scheme.
BSE: to identify and locate all traceable animals suspected of being exposed to BSE infection and prevent them from entering the food chain within agreed response times.
Bovine TB: to implement the surveillance testing and control regime to agreed standards in order to quickly identify and remove infected cattle, reducing the risk of transmission to animals and humans.
Implementing a coordinated programme of large-scale contingency planning exercises involving operational partners.
Meeting agreed standards of readiness and resilience as set out in the Emergency Readiness Management Assurance Scheme by March 2007.
Enhancing poultry culling capability to agreed levels by September 2006.
Responding to urgent welfare complaints by visiting the premises within one day.
Taking appropriate remedial action in all known cases where farmed welfare law has been breached but no unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress has occurred (C scores).
Ensuring that in cases where unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress is disclosed (D scores) the average time for resolution by the agency is no more than 21 days.
Issuing 95 per cent. of export health certificates within agreed timeframes.
Issuing the necessary documentation for live cattle exports within agreed timescales.
Benchmarking customer satisfaction levels and meeting key service standards.
Delivering the efficiency savings profiled for 2006-07.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The following performance targets for 2006-07 have been set for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS).
1. Fulfil commitments on time, within budget and to agreed standards of quality: Delivery of R&D milestones to exceed 90 per cent. score.
2. Enhance scientific capability and reputation: Achieve high standard of excellence based on indicators of scientific and technical quality with an overall score to exceed 75 per cent.
3. Provide a high standard of services to the satisfaction of customers: Customer Satisfaction Survey overall score to exceed 82 per cent.
4. Recover the full cost of our services and invest for the future: 100 per cent. cost recovery.
5. Operate with simple, reliable and effective processes: Achieve agreed Gershon Efficiency Plan savings.
6. Respect and help the agency's people to develop: Annual staff survey satisfaction score to exceed 63 per cent.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): On behalf of the Home Secretary and the Minister for the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Peter Hunt and Dr. Mark Prescott as members of the Animal Procedures Committee from 1 April 2006, each for a four year term. Dr. Hunt is Biological Standards Officer at Cardiff University. He has experience in promoting and implementing the replacement, refinement and reduction in the use of animals in scientific procedures (the three Rs). Dr. Prescott is a programme manager at the National Centre for the three Rs. He has expertise in animal welfare, primatology and a strong interest in alternatives to the use of animals in scientific procedures. I welcome the contribution that each will bring to this important advisory Committee.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins): I have today laid before this House a copy of the Oversight Commissioner's first statutory report for the year 2006 which is being published today, in accordance with section 68(4)(a) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The Cabinet Secretary and the First Civil Service Commissioner are today launching a new civil service code. This follows a 12-week period of consultation on a draft code in which over 2,150 responses were received.
The civil service code was introduced in 1996, largely based on a draft provided by the Treasury and Civil Service Committee, and sets out the duties and responsibilities of civil servants. The new code is the result of work between the Government and the Civil Service Commissioners. The aim has been to make the new code more relevant and accessible to all civil servants, whatever their jobs and wherever they work. It is also more outward facing in terms of customers of public services than the previous version.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that I have approved the appointment of the right hon. Sir Charles Mantell as a Surveillance Commissioner in accordance with section 91 of the Police Act 1997.
The appointment will be from 1 July 2006 until 30 June 2009. The remit of each Surveillance Commissioner covers the whole of the United Kingdom so that any Surveillance Commissioner can act in jurisdictions other than his own.
The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge): I will be representing the UK at the Telecoms Council in Luxembourg on the afternoon of 8 June 2006. This is the only Telecoms Council under the Austrian presidency of the EU.
The first item on the agenda will focus on EU e-Government policy. In response to a recently
published Commission e-Government action plan, the presidency have prepared a set of Council conclusions looking at the priorities that need to considered in the area of e-Government policy. I intend to endorse these Council conclusions which are compatible with the UK Government's Transformational Government Strategy.
The presidency will then introduce a policy debate on the future challenges for the electronic communications regulatory framework. This anticipates the Commission's forthcoming review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications markets. A Communication on this issue is expected in July and negotiation will formally begin under the German presidency. I will highlight some of the specific challenges that the UK would like to see addressed in the review of the framework. In particular, I plan to stress the need for effective implementation of the existing regulations and the importance of striking the right balance between maintaining competition, encouraging investment and protecting consumers.
The Austrian presidency may also informally ask for the views of Ministers on the Commission's forthcoming International Mobile Roaming Regulation. If they do, I will present the UK's initial views on this dossier, that we support the objective of reducing charges to consumers but have reservations about the Commission's approach on the regulation of retail prices.
There will then be a short exchange of views on network and information security issues. If time allows, I may intervene under this agenda item to highlight the importance of discussions on this key issue and the need to consider carefully the most effective and proportionate way to address security concerns.
Finally, under Any Other Business, the Commission will provide some information on the first annual report on the i2010 strategy and on their recently published Communication on the World Summit on the Information Society. I do not expect to intervene under either of these items.
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