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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 26 October 2010


Aggregates Levy Credit Scheme (Northern Ireland)

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening): Today the Government are announcing the suspension of the Aggregates Levy Credit Scheme in Northern Ireland from 1 December 2010, as a result of the recent European General Court ruling which annulled the European Commission's state aid approval for the scheme in response to action taken by the British Aggregates Association.

The effect of this is that quarry operators in Northern Ireland who are part of this scheme will have to pay the full rate of aggregates levy on supplies they make on or after 1 December. This date achieves a balance between complying with the Court's judgment and giving industry fair and reasonable notice of the change.

The Government remain a strong supporter of the scheme and continue to believe that it is the best way to drive the environmental improvements in the Northern Ireland quarrying industry that it was designed to stimulate.

Regulations to enact the change are being laid before Parliament today and are accompanied by an explanatory memorandum. The regulations are being published on the Office of Public Sector Information website, with links available on the HMRC website.

Cabinet Office

Electoral Commission (Additional UK MEP)

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): On behalf of the Lord President of the Council, I requested the Electoral Commission last month to make a recommendation on which one of the 12 UK electoral regions as defined in the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 should be assigned the additional MEP seat allocated to the UK by virtue of the transitional protocol concerning the composition of the European Parliament, agreed by the member states of the EU on 23 June 2010.

Under the terms of the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003, the Electoral Commission in making this recommendation was obliged to ensure that the ratio of electors to MEPs is as nearly as possible the same in each electoral region.

The Electoral Commission is publishing today its recommendation, which has now been laid before Parliament. The recommendation is that the extra seat should be allocated to the west midlands electoral region.
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I am grateful to the Electoral Commission for its work in producing this recommendation which, in its usual way, it has undertaken entirely independently and without regard to the outcome.

The Government will include the necessary provisions to implement the Electoral Commission's recommendation in the forthcoming European Union Bill, as indicated in the Minister for Europe's statement of 13 September 2010. In the event that any changes to the electoral registration would result in a different UK electoral region gaining the seat while the European Union Bill is being considered by Parliament, the Government are clear that the Electoral Commission would be asked to make a further recommendation on the basis of the most recent data.

The Bill will also provide that the seat will be filled by reference to the results of the west midlands region at the last European parliamentary elections held on 4 June 2009, as if the extra seat had been available in the west midlands electoral region in those elections. This method of filling the seat is in accordance with the terms of the transitional protocol and is in line with the practice of most of the other member states which gain additional MEPs under the protocol.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the additional UK MEP provided for by the transitional protocol will be elected once the relevant provisions in the European Union Bill have entered into force, and once all EU member states have ratified the transitional protocol. The protocol cannot enter into force, and the additional MEPs provided for by the protocol cannot take up their seats, until all member states have ratified the protocol.

This is an interim measure until the next European parliamentary elections take place in June 2014. At those elections all UK MEPs, including the MEP for this extra seat, will then be elected as usual.


Serious Case Review Overview Reports (Peter Connelly)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): I confirmed on Thursday 10 June 2010 the Government's decision that the overview reports of serious case reviews (SCRs), initiated on or after 10 June, would be published. The Government's aim in publishing SCR overview reports is to restore public confidence and improve transparency in the child protection system, and to ensure that the context in which the events occurred is properly understood so relevant lessons are learned and applied as widely as possible.

I also confirmed on 10 June the Government's commitment to publishing the overview reports of both the SCRs on the case of Peter Connelly. Today the Government are fulfilling that commitment.

The SCR reports have both been carefully and appropriately redacted and anonymised to protect the privacy and welfare of vulnerable children and their families.

The publication of these reports is not about apportioning blame but about allowing professionals to understand fully what happens in each case, and most
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importantly what needs to change in order to reduce the risk of such tragedies happening in the future.

I welcome the progress that Haringey and local partners have made over the past two years and it is essential that this progress continues.

I have placed a copy of both SCR overview reports in the House Library.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council (26 October)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The Under-Secretary of State responsible for natural environment and fisheries, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) will represent the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 26 October.

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There are three items on the agenda relating to fisheries and a joint item on agriculture. Discussion will take place on the following:

There are currently five items under any other business:

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