The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): It was announced in the Nuclear White Paper 2008 that, in parallel with the energy Bill, the Government will publish for public consultation two sets of draft guidance on what an approvable funded decommissioning programme should contain.
I have today issued a consultation document which contains both sets of draft guidance. We want to hear from members of the public, industry, financial and other institutions that may be involved in the financing of new nuclear power stations, non-governmental organisations and any other organisation or body with an interest.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy): I am pleased to tell the House that Her Majestys Revenue and Customs will shortly publish a draft of the tax law rewrite projects fifth Bill, the corporation tax Bill, which is the first of two Bills which will rewrite substantially the whole of the primary legislation relating to corporation tax. This Bill will cover the basic provisions relating to the charge to corporation tax and includes the main provisions used by companies in computing their income. It is planned to introduce the Bill in Parliament by the end of 2008. The projects four previous Bills were enacted as the Capital Allowances Act 2001, the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005 and the Income Tax Act 2007.
The scope of this new Bill and the timing of consultation were agreed with the projects consultative and steering committees which together include the main representative bodies and other users. It benefits from a style and structure that has been developed as a result of consultation over the previous rewrite Bills. Earlier versions of the legislation in this new Bill have been revised in the light of comments and suggestions from tax professionals and others who engaged in the consultation process. There has been extensive dialogue on them between the project team and business interests, tax practitioners, the legal profession and HMRC specialists.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and Kim Darroch (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels.
The Council discussed preparations for the European Council on 13-14 March. The European Council is expected to focus on the launch of a new three-year cycle of the EUs strategy for growth and jobs; an integrated climate and energy policy; and the stability of financial markets. The Government support the presidencys focus on delivering for the EUs citizens, and broadly agrees with the priorities identified for action.
Commissioner Mandelson briefed the Council on prospects for negotiations on the World Trade Organisations Doha development agenda (DDA) negotiations, following the release of revised papers on agriculture, non-agricultural market access and services. Ministers agreed to return to the issue at a later date. The Government support the Commissions efforts to engage constructively in negotiating for an ambitious and pro-development conclusion to the DDA. Progress in the DDA would give the global economy a welcome boost.
The Government agreed Council conclusions firmly condemning the renewed attacks of armed groups against the Government of Chad, calling on all Chadian parties to renounce the use of force unconditionally and engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at finding a peaceful solution, and supporting the African Unions efforts to resolve the crisis.
The conclusions also underlined the EUs deep concern regarding the regional ramifications of the conflict in Darfur and attempts to overthrow the Chadian Government and fully backed the African Union and the United Nations call for the respect of the sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of Chad. It called on the Governments of Sudan and Chad to stop supporting and equipping armed groups immediately and to improve their relations.
The Government agreed Council conclusions adopted by the Council, expressing deep concern that the violence, uncertainty and instability in Kenya continues; reiterating the urgent need for Kenyas leaders to engage seriously and flexibly in order to bring an immediate end to the violence and to ensure security, stability and protection of human rights; strongly supporting the efforts by the panel of eminent African personalities, led by Kofi Annan; and reaffirming that the EU stands ready to assist those efforts.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner updated the Council on the European neighbourhood policy (ENP), stating that trade, increasing mobility and resolving regional conflicts would now be the EUs priorities. The Commission would publish progress reports on the ENP countries in April 2008. The Government strongly support the ENP as a policy that is distinct from EU enlargement but keep the door to EU membership open for eastern partners.
The Council adopted conclusions welcoming the Commission communication A Strong European Neighbourhood Policy as a useful basis for further reflection on making the ENP more effective and attractive to ENP partners, with the aim of making full use of the ENPs potential.
The Government agreed Council conclusions underlining that the EU remains deeply concerned by the situation in Burma and urging the authorities to take rapid steps to move to a democratically elected government. The conclusions noted the authorities announcement on 9 February of a referendum on a new constitution in May 2008 and multi-party elections in 2010.
The Government strongly support the clear message in the conclusions that only a process that involves the full participation of the opposition and ethnic groups will lead to national reconciliation and stability. The conclusions reiterate the EUs call for the release of all political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the start of a substantial time-bound dialogue with all political stakeholders, and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
High representative Javier Solana briefed the Council on his recent visit to Egypt. The Commission gave Foreign Ministers an update on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and next steps following the Paris donors conference in December 2008.
The Governments view is that the EU must actively continue to support the reopening the crossings under Palestinian authority control. A controlled reopening of the crossings is vital for Palestinian welfare and Israeli security. The EU should therefore continue to explore how it can provide practical support.
Commissioners Mandelson and Michel briefed the Council on the state of play in the economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The key challenges would be to secure full signature of initialled agreements and to broaden and deepen those agreements that had been established. The Commission stood ready to have high-level talks in 2008 to achieve
the goal of full regional EPAs. Delivering on development finance would be key. The Council will return to this issue in May, during a joint session with Development Ministers, prior to the June ACP-EC Council in Addis Ababa.
The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne): Over the next year, the Government will deliver the biggest shake up of the immigration system for over 45 years. At the beginning of the year I said reform would include new measures to attack the cause of illegal immigrationillegal working.
To stop illegal journeys we must stop illegal jobs. For this reason I am bringing into force new powers to stop illegal migrant working. Employers who employ illegal migrants as a result of poor recruitment and employment practices from 29 February will face civil financial penalties of up to £10,000 per worker. Those who knowingly employ illegal migrants will face an unlimited fine and/or a maximum two year prison sentence.
Secondly, we will require businesses who want to employ skilled workers from outside the EEA to apply for a licence, to help safeguard against deliberate undercutting of UK wages and exploitation of migrant workers. We will begin accepting applications for these licences from 29 February. To earn and hold a licence businesses must satisfy us that they are trustworthy, and must agree to fulfil certain duties. We published a statement of intent setting out our detailed policy last November. We have carefully studied and taken account of responses to that statement in finalising the sponsorship rules, which I am publishing today. We are also publishing an assessment of the impact of sponsorship on employers and others affected. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library of the House. Other prospective sponsors, including educational institutions, will be able to apply for a licence from the summer.