The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): On 7 December 2009 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the launch of the Asset Protection Agency (APA), an Executive Agency of HM Treasury.
After careful consideration of the APA's activities in managing the Asset Protection Scheme ("the Scheme") since its launch, the Chancellor has decided on a further delegation of decision making to them from HM Treasury. Previously the APA were authorised to make decisions or exercise rights delegated to them in furtherance of the asset management objective. Under the new delegation they will also be able to consider the reduction of risk to the taxpayer when making decisions or exercising any of the rights that have been delegated to them.
An amended framework document that reflects this change has been published today and deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The document is also accessible via the HM Treasury website: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): The Government have published a discussion paper on building society capital and related issues, as announced in the Budget 2010. It will be available from the House Libraries from today and is on the Treasury website.
The discussion paper seeks views on the issues raised by the building societies experts' group convened by the Government in 2009, including future options for capital raising by building societies in the light of ongoing regulatory reform.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): A Double Taxation Agreement with Germany was signed on 30 March 2010. The text of the agreement has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs' website. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.
To achieve overall customer satisfaction of 90 per cent.
To determine 95 per cent. of housing benefit claims where no inspection is required in three working days.
To enable prompt issue of tax assessments, for inheritance tax and capital gains tax, by clearing all HMRC initial appraisal cases within an average of five days.
To contain reductions in the 2005 rating lists to a maximum of 4.2 per cent. of the total compiled list rateable value, over the entire life of the lists.
To contain reductions in the 2010 rating lists to a maximum of 3.6 per cent. of the total compiled list rateable value, over the entire life of the lists.
To ensure that 96 per cent. of new council tax bandings are right first time.
To complete the compliance reviews of broad rental market areas in England for local housing allowance purposes.
To achieve income from non-statutory services of at least £19 million.
To improve overall value for money on local taxation work by 3 per cent. a year.
To achieve full cost recovery reflecting a 5 per cent. reduction in budget for the year on all work for HMRC.
To have zero data incidents reportable to the Information Commissioner.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): In a written ministerial statement on 10 October 2006, Official Report, column 11WS, the then Economic Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Ed Balls), undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK's counter-terrorism asset-freezing regime. This is the 14th of these reports and covers the period January to March 2010(1).
In the quarter January to March 2010, the Treasury issued no directions designating persons under the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. As a result of the quashing of this order, the one extant direction under the order has no effect.
Maintaining an effective licensing system is important to ensure the overall proportionality and fairness of the asset-freezing regime, whether the individuals concerned are subject to an asset freeze in accordance with a UN or EC listing, or domestic terrorism legislation. A licensing framework is put in place for each individual on a case-by-case basis. The key objective of the licensing system is to strike an appropriate balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and meeting the human rights and humanitarian needs of affected individuals and their families.
On 9 February 2010, during the debate on the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill, the Treasury committed to reporting on proceedings taken for any offences under the asset-freezing regime.
The Supreme Court Judgment and the Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010: As referred to in the 13th quarterly report to Parliament for the period October to December 2009, on 4 February 2010 the Supreme Court quashed the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. The Government fast-tracked temporary legislation to prevent suspected terrorists' assets from being unfrozen. The Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010 came into force on 10 February 2010 and temporarily validates the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Orders 2009, 2006 and 2001, ensuring that asset freezes under those orders remain in place. The Act expires on 31 December 2010. Before then, the Government intend to introduce more permanent legislation that will establish the terrorist asset-freezing regime in primary legislation. A draft of the legislation, the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill, was published on 5 February 2010. The Bill can be found at:
On 11 March 2010, the Government published a public consultation document which sets out the Government's approach to terrorist asset freezing and their proposals for more permanent terrorist asset-freezing legislation and seeks the views of the public and other interested parties on the proposals. The consultation document can be found at:
Al-Qaeda and Taliban (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2010: On 4 February 2010, the Supreme Court also quashed the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order. Assets previously frozen under that order remain frozen under EC Regulation 881/2002. The EC regulation is directly applicable in UK law, but secondary legislation is required to provide for penalties for failing to comply with the prohibitions in the EC regulation and to establish a UK framework for the effective administration of asset freezes against persons listed by the EU as being associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
(1)The detail that can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.
(2)This figure reflects account balances at time of freezing and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 30/03/10. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Barbara Follett): The Government are grateful for the Communities and Local Government Committee's second report of session 2009-10, "Local authority investments: the role of the Financial Services Authority".
"the Government bring forward the necessary legislative changes to place within the remit of the Financial Services Authority the provision of advice or information relating to deposit taking..." (paragraph 16).
Having carefully considered the recommendation, the Government are not persuaded that such a course would be appropriate. The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued revised statutory guidance on investments that came into force on 1 April 2010. This includes a new recommendation that authorities' investment strategies should comment on their use of Treasury management advisers. This will encourage officers to make explicit their procedures for using advisers and will give elected Members the opportunity to scrutinise those arrangements.
The revised "Guidance on Local Government Investments" is available at: http://www.communities. gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/1501971.pdf
The Government remain committed to the Sustainable Communities Act. Local authorities put forward proposals to improve their local area to the Local Government Association (LGA), in its capacity as the selector, last summer. In December the LGA produced a shortlist of 199 proposals which Government are required to consider and respond to under the Act. The Government are working to try to reach agreement with the LGA on which proposals should be implemented. My officials
worked very closely with their counterparts from the LGA to set up three discussion panels which provided an opportunity for the proposals to be discussed in further detail between LGA and Government officials. These panel meetings proved to be very helpful in clarifying issues behind proposals from both a Government and LGA perspective and gathering further useful evidence. Consideration of the proposals is ongoing with other Whitehall Departments. Many of the proposals are complex and the Government are investigating further issues raised by the LGA as part of the process. Once again I would like to thank the LGA for their continuing efforts in assisting the Government in this significant task.
The London borough of Islington asked the Government to make it compulsory for owners of empty business premises (mainly shops) to talk to councils about the possibility of premises being used by the community, if they have been empty for six months. In response we will carry out a consultation, involving Islington and other relevant stakeholders, looking at the challenges behind engaging with landlords and owners.
Wirral metropolitan borough council and South Hams district council asked for communities to have the right to buy privately or publicly owned assets put up for sale in order to develop opportunities for communities to buy redundant buildings and land for community benefit. The Government will undertake an investigation into the challenges and barriers that a community right to buy approach would solve and what other solutions would help.
The London borough of Redbridge, who suggested relaxing the rules on the illumination of some road signs to reduce costs of installation, maintenance, energy consumption and light pollution. The Government are now considering further relaxations to lighting requirements beyond those they made in their 2002 review on this matter and will be undertaking further research into lighting through the national traffic signs policy review to assess the relative performances of lit and unlit signs in a number of environments.
Brighton and Hove city council put forward a proposal requesting a freedom that would allow surplus produce from allotments to be sold to local markets and shops. In response the Government have been able to clarify that there are no legal restrictions on allotment holders selling genuinely surplus produce. This clarification was made on 3 March within a package of measures that set out the Government's support for gardeners and growing food in the community. This package also provided clarification to the London borough of Waltham Forest, Birmingham and Sheffield city councils, who have also put forward proposals about allotments under the Act, highlighting existing powers around allotments and the opportunity offered by new "meanwhile" lease arrangements that will make it easier for people to take control of abandoned land while it is waiting to be used.
Newcastle city council, Ryedale district council, and Darlington borough council wanted action to address the problem of large pub and retail companies imposing restrictive covenants on pubs preventing them from operating as pubs when sold. The Ministry of Justice will consult on removing the right of pub owners to impose such restrictions that are leading to pub closure.
Kettering borough council and Redcar and Cleveland borough council asked for changes to rules that would allow the council's community protection officer service to carry out civil and crime related duties in a combined manner without fear of legal challenge and to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided. They want to change the statutory guidance to allow local authorities to employ single teams of wardens capable of dealing with all civil enforcement issues. The Government recognise this issue and the potential benefits of this request
and have committed to undertaking a review of the current rules and any changes that may be needed to allow this idea to move forward.
Kent county council asked for recourse to Government funding to build a lorry park with 3,000 parking places to address lorry traffic problems locally which arise when the Kent police implement "Operation Stack" which enables them to close the M20 in order to hold large volumes of freight traffic.
The Department for Transport and Highways Agency are currently reviewing the existing policy (circular 01/2008) on motorway service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and all-purpose trunk roads and trying to find ways to remove barriers to the development and use of lorry park facilities, rest facilities and improved signing to existing lorry parks. A public consultation on the revised policy is expected to be published within the next few months.