The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): My written statement of 26 January 2007 announced the terms of reference for the independent review of issuer liability that I invited Professor Paul Davies QC, Cassel Professor of Commercial Law at the London School of Economics to carry out.
His discussion paper "Liability for Misstatements to the Market" is being published today. This sets out his analysis of the problem and invites comments on the issues arising. Copies of the paper are available in the House Library and can be downloaded from the HM Treasury website at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/davies.
Ministers will be invited to adopt Council Opinions on the Stability Programmes of Belgium and Spain, and on the Convergence Programmes of Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania. The UK supports a prudent interpretation of the SGP that takes account of country-specific factors including debt sustainability, the economic cycle and public investment.
Ministers will be invited to adopt Conclusions agreeing the Council's Budget Guidelines for the 2008 EC Budget. These guidelines are a set of broad principles that are designed to inform the subsequent and more detailed discussions on the level of appropriations required for the different areas of the Budget. These guidelines reflect the UK's desire to see a greater emphasis on the principles of budgetary discipline and sound financial management in the establishment of the 2008 EC Budget. Through these principles, the Council has underlined the importance it attaches to compliance with the financial framework and the strict respect of the annual limits therein.
Ministers will hear a presentation from Commissioner Almunia updating them on the European Commission's progress in implementing its Action Plan towards an Integrated Internal Control Framework. The UK Government support the
Commission's efforts to improve financial management of the EU Budget and announced to Parliament on 20 November 2006 that the UK would take a lead in showing how member states could improve their own management of EU funds.
Ministers will be asked to approve text amending the supervisory review process for cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the financial services sector, as adopted by the European Parliament on 13 March, and thus to confirm political agreement on the directive. The UK welcomes moves to bring greater transparency to the supervisory approvals process.
Ministers will be asked to discuss the Presidency's proposal for harmonising the legal and technical provision of payment services across the EU, ahead of a vote in the European Parliament in April. The UK Government support a Directive that encourages competition and innovation in a single market for payment services.
Enable prompt issue of correct bills by local authorities through clearance of rating reports within an average of 18 working days and council tax reports within an average of 14 days (England) and 16 days (Wales)
(1 )Work undertaken in Local Taxation network and excludes rating appeal and other associated work
The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): I am pleased to announce that the review by Government (the UK Government and the devolved administrations) of the long term management of the UK's solid low level radioactive waste (LLW), started on 18 March 2005, has been completed and that the revised policy statement is being published today. Copies of the policy statement have been placed in the Library of the House.
The LLW policy review process complements the ongoing work Government are carrying out on the policy for the management of higher activity radioactive wastes under our Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme, following recommendations made by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in July 2006.
The public consultation on the review of solid LLW management policy was held between 28 February 2006 and 31 May 2006. Some 150 responses were received and a summary of the Government's response to them is also being placed in the Library of the House. As made clear when the consultation was announced, unlike the higher activity wastes, paths for the long term management and disposal of LLW already exist but the review was needed for the following principal reasons:
With the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA's) decommissioning and clean-up programme underway, there will be greatly increased arisings of LLW over the coming decades, and this is already starting to happen;
there will be insufficient long term capacity at the national LLW disposal facility near Drigg in Cumbria to deal with this waste, and the future capacity of this facility is currently under review;
while other disposal routes for certain types of LLW have been used (eg by disposal on or near the site of arising, by controlled and uncontrolled burial to landfill and by incineration), the availability of these other routes has diminished in recent years;
finding small scale treatment and disposal routes for the least radioactive LLW, which are very important for the non-nuclear sectors (hospitals, research and education establishments, and the oil and gas industry) is proving increasingly difficult.
The revised policy puts providing public safety at the forefront of dealing with LLW, and recognises that much LLW has very low levels of radioactivity and can be disposed of in a variety of ways while posing a negligible risk to human health or the environment. The revised policy will:
require very high levels of safety to be maintained through the use of a risk assessed approach, and the preparation of plans and safety cases that are acceptable to the regulatory bodies (including the Environment Agencies and the Health and Safety Executive);
allow greater flexibility in the management of the wide range of LLW that already exists, and will arise in future from the NDA's activities and other nuclear and non-nuclear industry arisings;
seek to minimise the amount of LLW for disposal by application of the waste hierarchy applied in other areas of waste management - avoidance of generation, minimisation, reuse and recycling - prior to disposal;
emphasise the need for effective consultation and public involvement in the development and delivery of LLW waste management plans
make the NDA responsible for development of a UK-wide strategy for the management of nuclear industry LLW, including the identification of the need for additional LLW disposal capacity and facilities;
initiate the first steps towards development of a UK-wide strategy for the management of non-nuclear LLW. The first step in this will be for Government, in conjunction with the NDA, to undertake a study which will give a clear picture of arisings across the UK.
Further information, including the full policy statement, is available at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/radio activitv/waste/index.htm.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have today placed in the Libraries of the House papers relating to decisions that have been taken during the period 28 October 2006 - 1 March 2007 which relate to the North/South Implementation Bodies and Tourism Ireland Ltd under the terms of the Exchange of Notes of 19 November 2002 (Cmnd 5708).
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): EU Heads of State and Government met in Berlin over the weekend 24-25 March to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. The Berlin Declaration recalls the historic achievements of the last 50 years, and looks ahead to the challenges that we the countries of the European Union need to face together. Copies of the Declaration have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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