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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 23 November 2009


Economic and Financial Affairs Council (18 November)

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ian Pearson): On 18 November 2009, I represented the UK at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Budget ECOFIN).

Finance Ministers agreed to adopt Preliminary Draft Amending Budget 10 (as updated by the Commission and amended during the course of negotiations) to the 2009 EC Budget. This amends the 2009 Budget to reflect latest implementation capacity, thus reducing the level of funding required from member states in 2009.

Finance Ministers agreed to adopt amending letter 2 to the Commission's preliminary draft Budget for 2010, as amended during the negotiations. This included the latest information on agricultural market prices and other developments, support to nuclear decommissioning in Bulgaria and additional provisions for dairy sector support. In parallel, Finance Ministers also agreed to adopt the Commission's proposal to amend the inter-institutional agreement of 17 May 2006 as regards the multi-annual financial framework, again as amended during the negotiations.

During a conciliation meeting between the Council and the European Parliament, agreement was reached on the 2010 EC Budget and to finance the outstanding €2.4 billion tranche of the European economic recovery plan, in full, with no increase to the 2007-2013 financial framework. Financing was secured through a substantial reduction to the agriculture heading ceiling and smaller reductions to other ceilings including administration. This was matched by a corresponding increase to the spending ceiling for the Budget's competitiveness for growth and employment heading.

The agreement establishes total payment levels of €122,937 billion (1.04 per cent. of EU GNI). The European Parliament is scheduled to vote on its own Second Reading between 14 and 17 December, after which the 2010 EC Budget will be formally adopted. By working with our like-minded partners the Government secured a 2010 budget that was €4.6 billion (4 per cent.) lower than that proposed by the European Parliament and lower than the Commission's proposals.

Four joint statements relating to the Budget were also agreed at Budget ECOFIN. These concerned: the continuity of the 2010 budgetary procedure, the simplification and more targeted use of structural funds in the context of the economic crisis, EU buildings policy and the administration heading in 2010. The Government are supportive of these statements, which reaffirm the importance of community assistance through the structural and cohesion funds, and call for sound financial management and budget discipline in key areas of concern.

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ECOFIN (10 November 2009)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 10 November 2009. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury represented the UK. The following items were discussed:

Exit strategies from support measures to the financial sector

ECOFIN held an initial discussion on exit strategies from the measures taken by member states to support the financial sector, focusing on methods and timing for the phasing out of bank guarantee schemes put into place during the financial crisis. The Economic and Financial Committee (EFC) has been asked to take forward work on principles and possible timings, and report back as soon as possible. The UK believes that the design of successful exit strategies will need to take account of four high-level elements: co-operation, timing, sequencing and communication.

Follow-up to the October European Council

The presidency gave Ministers a de-brief on the outcomes of the October European Council.

Follow-up to the G20 Finance Ministers' meeting

The UK provided a de-brief of the G20 meeting in St. Andrews on 6 and 7 November, where G20 Finance Ministers discussed climate finance, exit strategies, and the framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth. The Prime Minister's calls for a rebalancing of risk and rewards in the financial sector were reiterated, as well as the options proposed to address this, which are to be further examined by the IMF: an insurance fee to reflect systemic risk; a resolution fund; contingent capital arrangements; and a global financial transactions levy. The Council emphasised the importance of continuing to ensure strong co-ordination between the EU and G20.

Sustainability of public finances

Ministers discussed and agreed a set of conclusions on the sustainability of public finances. The Government remain committed to a return to sustainable public finances when the recovery is fully secured, as set out in Budget 2009.

Better regulation-Reduction of administrative burdens

Ministers agreed conclusions on a Commission action programme, calling for more work to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent. by 2012.


The Council reviewed progress made in relation to priorities established on statistical governance, the reduction of administrative burden related to statistics and the status report on information requirements, and endorsed an EFC opinion.


ECOFIN discussed the draft directive, which is aimed at improving exchange of information and brings the EU into line with OECD standards by removing the right to refuse information on grounds of bank secrecy. It noted political reservations by Austria and Luxembourg and the need for further work on automatic exchange of information. It will return to ECOFIN in December.

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The Council reached political agreement on a draft directive aimed at updating EU rules on the structure and minimum rates of excise duties on tobacco products. The Government are pleased with the outcome. The directive should ensure a higher level of public health protection by raising minimum excise duties on cigarettes and fine-cut tobacco, which will also help to reduce revenue lost to the Exchequer from cross-border shopping and smuggling of tobacco products into the UK from low tax EU member states.


Childhood Obesity

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): On the 19 November 2009, the NHS Information Centre issued the following errata statement:

While the data error is unfortunate, we are confident that the data on childhood obesity have been updated and will be reported accurately in future. Our predictions for childhood obesity remain the same.

A copy of the table has been placed in the Library.

NHS Staff Health and Well-being

The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): I am today placing in the Library the Government response to Dr. Steve Boorman's review into "NHS health and well-being".

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Dr. Boorman was commissioned by the former Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West and Hessle (Alan Johnson). following Dame Carol Black's review of the health of Britain's working age population: "Working for a healthier tomorrow". His review also supports the commitment to NHS staff in the NHS constitution that: "The NHS commits to provide support and opportunities for staff to maintain their health, well-being and safety".

Dr. Boorman, supported by his independent review team, has engaged widely with NHS stakeholders and has gathered and analysed a large amount of evidence about staff health and well-being in the NHS. He makes 20 recommendations to improve staff health and well-being, which we welcome and fully support and accept.

Improving health and well-being is one of the staff pledges in the NHS constitution and Dr Boorman's report contributes to the case for staff engagement and well-being as vital if the NHS is to meet the quality and productivity challenge. Dr. Boorman's report emphasises the impact of staff health and well-being on the quality of care that they give patients. Organisations that have better staff health and well-being indicators also have better patient satisfaction scores.

In terms of productivity, the business case for reducing sickness absence is unquestionable: there are 10.7 million days lost to sickness absence each year in the NHS-at a cost of £1.7 billion. Dr. Boorman proposes that the NHS could-as a whole-reduce sickness absence by one third and save the NHS £550 million a year. This has been achieved by other large organisations following strategic health and well-being initiatives.

Dr. Boorman's findings demonstrate clearly to the NHS that investing in staff health and well-being will reap long-term benefits. NHS organisations need to be exemplars in promoting the health and well-being of their staff. By doing this, they support the NHS to play its key role in promoting public health.

I expect NHS organisations to take action to implement the recommendations in the Boorman report. They will be supported by national and regional action to ensure system incentives support delivery of the changes needed.

Dr. Boorman's report, "NHS health and well-being", and the Government's response have been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. All related documents are also available at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/ Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_ 108799


Government Olympic Executive Quarterly Economic Report

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and for the Olympics, and Paymaster General (Tessa Jowell): I am publishing today the Government Olympic Executive's Quarterly Economic Report-"London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Quarterly Economic Report November 2009".
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This report explains the latest budget position as at 30 September 2009, and outlines some of the many wider economic benefits to the UK.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games remain on time and within budget. The overall £9.325 billion public sector funding package for the London 2012 games remains unchanged. Within this there has been some movement in the anticipated final cost (AFC) of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) programme which, as of 30 September, was £7.241 billion compared to £7.234 billion at the end of the last quarter (30 June), against the maximum funding available of £8.1 billion. This is a consequence of the potential requirement for upgrading local facilities for games-time training venues and increases in cost pressures. Savings have also been made on areas including site preparations and logistics.

The majority of contingency remains unreleased and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) continues to make strong progress in preparing the venues and infrastructure in the Olympic park. The external structure of the main stadium is complete as is the roof structure of the aquatics centre.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games are continuing to help businesses and people through the recession. More than 1,000 companies have won direct contracts from ODA worth more than £5 billion and, as of September 2009, a total of 7,270 people were working on the Olympic park and village. Ten per cent of these workers are undertaking a traineeship, apprenticeship or work placement.

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I would like to commend this report to the Members of both Houses and thank them for their continued interest in and support for the London 2012 games.

Copies of the "Quarterly Economic Report November 2009" are available at: www.culture.gov.uk and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prime Minister

Informal European Council (Brussels)

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I attended an informal meeting of the European Council in Brussels on 19 November with other EU leaders, in which we agreed unanimously the appointments to the posts of: President of the European Council; the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; and the Secretary-General of the Council.

Leaders agreed on the nominations of Herman van Rompuy as the first President of the European Council and Baroness Ashton as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She will also be vice-president of the European Commission and Head of the External Affairs Service. She will represent Europe on the world stage in international negotiations.

Leaders also agreed on the nomination of Pierre de Boissieu as the Secretary-General of the Council. The Secretary-General is the permanent official advising the new full-time President of the European Council on transition to the new working arrangements.

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