21 Oct 2008 : Column 7WS

21 Oct 2008 : Column 7WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Treasury

Double Taxation (UK-Netherlands/UK-Isle of Man)

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A new Double Taxation Convention and Protocol with the Netherlands was signed on 26 September 2008. A new Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the Isle of Man was signed on 29 September 2008, alongside an arrangement amending the 1955 Double Taxation Arrangement with the Isle of Man.

After signature, the text of each of these instruments was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs’ website. The texts will be scheduled to draft Orders in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and I will represent the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 20 and 21 October.

At this Council, the French presidency will hold a policy debate on the preparation for the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the fourth meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4) to be held in Poznan on 1 to 12 December 2008. Ministers are then due to adopt Council conclusions, which will emphasise our ambitions for Copenhagen and Poznan, covering mitigation action in developed and developing countries, adaptation, technology and funding and investment. The European Commission will also present its communication on deforestation.

There will be a progress report by the presidency on the climate-energy legislative package. Ministers will also discuss the key aspects of the package over lunch.

The presidency will hold a policy debate on genetically modified organisms, and a policy debate for public deliberation on a proposal for a regulation concerning trade in seal products.

Ministers are due to adopt Council conclusions following a policy debate on the sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and sustainable industrial policy (SIP) action plan. The policy debate is likely to focus on next steps for delivering the plan, eco-labelling, lifestyles and behaviour, and carbon content display for products.
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The conclusions, which were also considered by the Competitiveness Council on 25 September, are due to welcome the SCP-SIP action plan and identify some next steps.

Ministers are also due to adopt the annex to the Euro-Mediterranean declaration on water (the ‘Barcelona process’).

Under ‘any other business’, the presidency will update the Council on: the common agriculture policy (CAP) health check; the EU-Africa climate meeting due to be held in Algiers on 20 November 2008; the Reunion Conference on Europe’s overseas areas faced with climate change and loss of biodiversity; the proposal for a regulation setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars (C02 from cars); GMES (global monitoring for environment and security) services; and a proposal for a soils directive.

Under ‘any other business’, the presidency and the European Commission will also present information on proposals for: substances that deplete the ozone layer; industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control); the outcome of the conference on soil and climate change held in Brussels on 12 June this year; and a Commission communication and legislative proposal to prevent marketing in the EU of unlawfully harvested timber and timber products.

Prime Minister

Intelligence and Security Committee

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): In accordance with section 10 of the Intelligence and Security Act 1994, I have appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Kim Howells) to be the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) for her distinguished leadership of the Committee in providing effective and independent parliamentary oversight of the work of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.

Work and Pensions

Social Fund/Social Fund Commissioner (Annual Report)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Kitty Ussher): The Secretary of State’s Annual Report on the Social Fund for 2007/08 (Cm 7483) was published today and has been laid before Parliament.

The report records that total gross expenditure in 2007-08, excluding winter fuel payments, was £944 million. This included over 247,000 non-repayable community care grants and over 2.6 million interest free loans together worth over £771 million, funeral and cold weather payments totalling almost £50 million and more than 243,000 Sure Start maternity grants worth more than £123 million. In addition 8.8 million households benefited from a winter fuel payment at a cost of around £2.1 billion.


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