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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Treasury

First Solution Money Transfer

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher): In light of the recent financial difficulties experienced by the money transfer company, First Solution Money Transfer Ltd, the Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) of the Insolvency Service, within the Department for Business; Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, is carrying out an examination of the facts of the case. CIB has powers to investigate companies where there is suspicion of some form of misconduct, or where the facts need to be substantiated.

The BERR Minister, Stephen Timms, also met with representatives of the affected community last week to hear their concerns.

An insolvency practitioner has not yet been formally appointed to act as voluntary liquidator. However, the company has asked customers who have been affected by the financial difficulties experienced by First Solution Money Transfer Ltd to contact their nominated insolvency practitioners, Panos Eliades Franklin & Co on 020 8815 4000.

The Government have already committed, following agreement reached on the EU Payment Services Directive (PSD) in April 2007, to bring money transfer companies into regulation from November 2009. HM Treasury will launch a public consultation on the implementation of the PSD in autumn 2007. The Government encourage money transfer providers and users to participate actively in this consultation.

The Government recognise that international remittances through formal channels are an increasingly important source of development finance, and can have a significant positive economic impact in developing countries, particularly in low-income countries. The Department for International Development (DFID) recognises the challenges associated with sending remittances to developing countries, and is currently supporting a project to improve the transparency and lower the cost with which migrants are able to remit funds home to Bangladesh. DFID also funds the UK Remittances Task Force, which aims to promote greater transparency, competition and better information within the UK remittances market, and has developed a voluntary Customer Charter to improve remittance services in the UK.

In HM Treasury's document “Financial Inclusion: the way forward”, published in March 2007, the Government stated that they would approach the UK Remittances Task Force, to ask if it will consider how remittance services fit with existing financial service products offered to migrant communities by various providers. In taking forward this work, the Government will ask the Task Force to consider whether there are any lessons from the First Solution case for access to remittances and wider financial services by migrants in the UK.


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Defence

Agency Key Targets

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): Key targets for the financial year 2007-08 for the following Ministry of Defence agencies and trading funds have been placed in the Library of the House.

ABRO

Defence Aviation Repair Agency

Service Children’s Education

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): Anne Lambert (UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU) represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 28 June.

The Council reached a unanimous political agreement on the draft directive on waste. The UK supports the agreement reached and the agreed text will now be negotiated with the European Parliament. In particular the Council agreement meets two of the UK's key concerns, namely that the single market for waste materials for recycling should not be impeded, and that the Commission should carry out proper impact assessments before introducing any new EU-wide minimum standards for waste treatment operations. Political agreement was also reached on a draft Directive establishing environmental quality standards (EQS) in the field of water policy. The UK supports this which provides a high level of protection for the environment with a risk-based and cost-effective approach in line with the Water Framework Directive. The Council also reached political agreement on a draft regulation banning exports and ensuring the safe storage of metallic mercury. At the request of Sweden, Ministers agreed that metallic mercury should only be eligible for underground storage after the development of specific environmental criteria through the EU’s comitology process.

The Council agreed a set of Conclusions to inform the Commission's forthcoming legislative proposal on reducing CO2 emissions from cars. Ministers endorsed the general thrust of plans set out by the Commission in February and gave their backing to a target to reduce average CO2 emissions to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012 for new cars sold in the EU. Council Conclusions were adopted on the Review of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the Commission will now aim to present legislative proposals by the end of 2007. With regard to preparations for the Convention on Biological Diversity (Bonn, 19-30 May 2008), Environment Ministers adopted the Council Conclusions. The Council also adopted Conclusions on new perspectives for EU environmental policy which deals with three specific issues: the 6th Environmental Action Plan, market-based instruments, and eco-innovation.


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The Council adopted by qualified majority a mandate for the Commission to negotiate an international regime on liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The UK voted against, because we have political, legal and practical concerns. A planned vote on whether to approve a genetically modified potato for cultivation in the EU was withdrawn from the agenda by the Presidency.

Under ‘AOB’, the German Presidency provided progress reports on: the inclusion of aviation activities in the EU ETS, the Fuel Quality Review, and the Soil Directive. The Presidency also provided information on the sustainable use of pesticides Directive, the Environment for Europe process, the proposed Regulation on marketing of Plant Protection Products and the outcome of the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The Commission provided information on emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI), ship dismantling, the Green Paper on adaptation and on the deliberate release of GMOs.

Information on the risk assessment of GMOs, the Commission for the protection of the Danube river, the Midnight Sun Dialogue on climate change, the Council of Baltic Sea States meeting, the Aarhus Convention
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and Natura 2000 was requested by Member States. Information on the Workshop on the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and VII Ibero-American Forum of Ministers of the Environment was provided by Member States.

Leader of the House

State Opening of Parliament

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Her Majesty the Queen will open the new Session of this Parliament on Tuesday 6 November. I plan to announce the date of prorogation as soon as I am able.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Prison Service

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): I have today placed copies of the Northern Ireland Prison Service's Annual Report and Accounts for 2006-07 in the Libraries of both Houses.


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