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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Business, Innovation and Skills

Post Office Banking (Government Consultation)

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr. Pat McFadden): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills has made the following statement:



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 2 December 2009. The following items are on the agenda:

Legislative deliberations

Regulations establishing three European Supervisory Authorities

Ministers will discuss regulations establishing three European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs): a European Banking Authority, a European Insurance
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and Occupational Pensions Authority and a European Securities and Markets Authority. At June European Council the UK supported the establishment of a European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) and the three new ESAs. The Government will now be looking to ensure those agreements are upheld.


a) VAT: Draft directive on reverse charge on emission allowances and certain goods

The Council will seek a general approach on a draft VAT directive regarding an optional and temporary application of the reverse charge mechanism in relation to supplies of certain goods and services susceptible to fraud. The presidency has tabled a compromise proposal which includes emissions allowances, mobile phones and computer chips and extends the application until June 2015. The Government support the draft proposal.

b) VAT treatment of postal services

Following its removal from the November ECOFIN agenda, the Council will be asked to provide political guidelines on the possible way forward for VAT on postal services.

c) Savings Tax Directive

ECOFIN will be asked to reach political agreement on proposed amendments to the Savings Tax Directive, which is the main EU instrument for tackling cross-border tax evasion on savings income, by automatic exchange of information. The proposal closes loopholes in the directive and extends its scope to cover income substantially equivalent to savings interest, such as income from life insurance products and low risk securities. This and the following items have strong links to the international transparency agenda, including work by the G20 on tax havens and non-co-operative jurisdictions, which has been led by the UK under its G20 presidency in 2009.

d) Recovery Directive

The recovery directive is aimed at improving existing procedures for recovery of direct and indirect tax debts, including on income tax, VAT, excise duties and EU agricultural levies. The Government support the extended provisions, which will reduce the opportunities for businesses and individuals to escape paying tax which is legally due in one member state, by moving to another member state.

e) Administrative Co-operation Directive

After discussions in November, ECOFIN will try to agree a general approach on this directive. The directive improves exchange of information and brings the EU into line with OECD standards by removing the right to refuse information on grounds of bank secrecy. The Government support these goals.

Non-legislative activities


Anti-fraud agreements with third countries

The Council will reopen ECOFIN discussions on the draft anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein, and a negotiating mandate for anti-fraud agreements with Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland and San Marino. The proposed agreements provide for exchange of information to international standards in administrative and criminal matters in the tax field and related areas.
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Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Following preparation by the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC), ECOFIN will sign off decisions and recommendations for the revised Excessive Deficit Procedures of the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece. The recommendations are in line with recent agreements in ECOFIN and the European Council on the EU's framework for fiscal exit strategies.

Preparations for the 10 and 11 December European Council

a) Financial supervision

The presidency will indicate how the December European Council will be informed on progress, taking into account the results of the Council deliberations on the micro-and macro-supervisory elements of the package.

b) Contribution from ECOFIN to the discussion on the post-2010 Lisbon agenda

Ministers will agree a set of conclusions on the direction of a successor to the Lisbon strategy. The Government support the conclusions, which help build momentum towards the December European Council, where EU Heads will discuss a set of principles for a new European strategy for jobs and growth.

c) Exit strategies

Following on from discussions in November, Ministers will be asked to agree a set of conclusions on financial exit strategies. The UK is content with the conclusions as they stand, which recognise that it is important to start designing the strategy for a transparent and coordinated phasing out of the different support schemes, but emphasise that it would be premature to initiate an exit from the support schemes while markets are still fragile.

Financial stability arrangements

ECOFIN will discuss and agree conclusions on financial stability, focusing on improvements in cross-border crisis management in the banking sector. The Government are content with the conclusions, which recognise the value of co-ordination among member states and with external partners. They also endorse the principles of firm-specific recovery and resolution plans.

Energy and Climate Change

Smart Metering

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): My noble Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change today made the following statement:

Home Department

Policing White Paper

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): I am publishing a White Paper on policing today, copies of which are available in the Vote Office. "Protecting the Public: Supporting the Police to Succeed" builds on the radical reform programme set out in the Green Paper published last year by my predecessor, my right hon. Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith). The Green Paper put the public's priorities at the heart of policing, replacing top-down targets with a sharp focus on public confidence.

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