The Council will hold a policy debate on the legislative proposals on economic governance. The Government agree that member states should have robust national fiscal frameworks. However, it will continue to work to ensure that any legislation on fiscal frameworks does not impinge upon UK fiscal sovereignty.
Following agreement on the Administrative Co-operation Directive at ECOFIN in December, the Council will hold an orientation debate on proposals to amend the Savings Directive and to pursue anti-fraud and tax information exchange agreements with Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland. These are related measures which aim to improve transparency and exchange of information to combat cross-border tax evasion. The measures have been discussed on previous occasions but progress has been difficult due to political reservations by two member states. The Government support the presidency's aim to maintain momentum on the good governance in taxation package with a view to legislative agreement in May.
Ministers will adopt Council conclusions on macro-economic and fiscal guidance for the EU, under the new European semester. The conclusions focus on implementing a rigorous fiscal consolidation, correcting macro-economic imbalances, ensuring stability of the financial sector, growth and job-enhancing structural reforms, and mobilising community level growth drivers. The Government believe the reform priorities set out in the conclusions are important and necessary steps to help promote economic growth in the EU and its member states.
Council will also adopt a recommendation for the European Council on the appointment of an Executive board member of the European Central Bank. Two candidates have officially been put forth to replace Austria's Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell when her eight-year term on the ECB's Executive board expires 31 May: Peter Praet, executive director of the National Bank of Belgium; and Elena Kohutikova, former member of the
Slovak central bank's monetary policy board. The Government support strong governance for the ECB, although as a non-euro area member state, the UK will not vote on this item.
The Council will discuss the assessment of action taken by Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland and Denmark in the context of their excessive deficit procedures, on the basis of a communication from the Commission. The Government expect the Council to agree that these member states have taken effective action regarding their deficits.
The Council will discuss and agree a terms of reference which will form the basis of the EU's contribution to the meeting of G20 Finance Ministers on 18-19 February. The meeting is scheduled to discuss: the global economy and framework for strong sustainable and balanced growth; reform of the international monetary system; commodities; financial regulation; follow-up of the report from the UN advisory group on climate change financing; and development issues.
Finance Ministers will discuss the Council's recommendation to the European Parliament on the 2009 discharge procedure following the report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on implementation of the 2009 EU budget. The Government consider it unacceptable that the ECA has not been able to grant a positive statement of assurance on the EU budget as a whole for the 16th year in succession.
Ministers will adopt conclusions on the budget guidelines for 2012. These note that rigorous fiscal consolidation efforts will continue in 2012, and it is therefore essential that the 2012 budget take into account member states' economic and budgetary constraints. They also stress the need for realistic budget estimates. The Government are determined that the efforts made to curb the EU budget's growth in 2011 must be stepped up for the 2012 budget.
I have also placed in the Libraries a number of legal documents relating to the APS which RBS and HM Treasury have executed since RBS's accession to the scheme in December 2009. These reflect changes to the implied write down trigger for long-dated assets, revised
arrangements for the assessment of APS performance-related remuneration for relevant RBS staff, a move from annual to quarterly fee payments and a number of operational matters.
"a new "public reading stage" for Bills to give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation online, and a dedicated "public reading day" within a Bills Committee stage where those comments will be debated by the Committee scrutinising the Bill".
In their first report to the House, the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (the "Wright Committee") noted there have been "very few individual submissions" made to Public Bill Committees. While individuals are not discouraged from participating, the Committee warned that:
"nowhere are the public positively invited to comment in any detail on the provisions of Bills or to propose amendments which might at least be worthy of debate".
The Government have an interest in ensuring that the process of making law is more transparent and open to the public, so that their legislative policies have been publicly tested at every stage from the initial proposal through to implementation.
The Government have already involved the public in generating some of the ideas contained in the Protection of Freedoms Bill through the Your Freedom website. So that this involvement can be maintained, the Government are today launching a website (www.publicreadingstage. cabinetoffice.gov.uk) that will allow the public to comment on the Protection of Freedoms Bill online, before the House of Commons commences its considerations at Second Reading.
The public's comments will be published in an appropriate form and made available to the House to assist and inform its debate and scrutiny of the Bill. The pilot will not involve changes to Standing Orders or the procedures of the House; nor will it affect the scheduling of the Bill. This pilot will allow the technology to be tested that could, subject to the views of the House, facilitate the introduction of a "public reading stage", as outlined in the coalition's programme for Government.
The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): I have made an authorisation under paragraph 17(4)(a) of schedule 3 to the Equality Act 2010, to enable the UK Border Agency to give greater scrutiny or priority to particular nationalities in carrying out entry clearance, border control and removals functions.
The authorisation allows the UK Border Agency to target its resources effectively in managing UK immigration controls. In particular, it lets entry clearance and border control staff give greater scrutiny, and staff removing immigration offenders greater priority, to particular nationalities on the basis of statistical and intelligence-based evidence of the risk they pose to those controls.
The authorisation is made under the nationality exception for immigration functions contained in the Equality Act 2010. It replaces an equivalent authorisation for border control functions and removals made in 2004 under the Race Relations Act 1976, and allows a similar evidence-based approach to risk assessment and targeting to be applied overseas by entry clearance staff. The nationalities covered by the authorisation will be reviewed each quarter by the UK Border Agency and submitted for ministerial approval.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I am pleased to announce the following appointments to the Ethics Group which provides Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the national DNA database (NDNAD):
Professor David Latchman CBE
Dr Nina Hallowell
Dr Derrick Campbell
Mrs Wendy Coates
Ms Madeleine Colvin
Dr Jane Pearson
Dr Clive Richards
Dr Sameer Sarkar
Ms Sarah Thewlis
Dr Suzy Walton
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): Subject to parliamentary approval, the Department for Transport departmental expenditure limit (DEL) for 2010-11 will be decreased by £792,000 from £12,730,039,000 to £12,729,247,000.
|(*)Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL, since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.|
(i) Decrease of £792,000 by transfer to the Office of the Rail Regulation, of which £550,000 is to cover the cost of releasing provisions for early departures in 2010-11 and the remainder £242,000 to meet other costs.
Costs of capital charges (CCC) have been removed from accounts, budgets and supply estimates in accordance with HM Treasury's consolidated budgeting guidance (CBG). However the Department had liabilities greater than its assets so attracted a cost of capital credit. The removal of the CCC increases resources in DEL. The prior period adjustment (PPA) in respect of the previous two years is:
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): Subject to parliamentary approval, the Office of Rail Regulation departmental expenditure limit (DEL) and annually managed expenditure (AME) will be increased as follows:
The change in the resource element of DEL arises because ORR is unable to record more income than cost from the industry. £242,000 budget cover is required so that ORR can reduce the recorded negative DEL to a token vote of £2,000.
The spring supplementary also reflects ORR's cash payment £550,000 towards releasing provisions for early departures in 2010-11. ORR does not require cash to make these payments but needs to reflect the cost in non-voted DEL so that ORR does not exceed its overall DEL limit for 2010-11.
ORR needs to increase its provision due to staff changes that will take place. The spring supplementary shows a further £243,000 (non-cash) being added to a provision initially created in the main estimate. These AME costs will be recovered from the rail industry.
These changes are of a technical nature to ensure that ORR keeps within its DEL and AME limits. ORR is funded by the railway industry and anticipates an underspend against its gross budget of circa £2,000,000 this year.