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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 13 June 2011


Financial Services Authority (Annual Report)

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Mark Hoban): The annual report 2010-11 of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has today been laid before Parliament.

The report forms a key part of the accountability mechanism for the Financial Services Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), and assesses the performance of the Financial Services Authority over the past 12 months against its statutory objectives.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anne Milton): The Health Council met on 6 June in Luxembourg. Andy Lebrecht, deputy permanent representative to the EU, represented the UK.

Council conclusions were adopted on:

The European pact for mental health and well-being: results and future action;

Successes and challenges of European childhood immunisation and the way forward;

Towards modern, responsive and sustainable health systems; and innovation in the medical device sector.

The Commission provided an update on:

Progress of the proposals on information to the general public on medicinal products;

The active and healthy ageing partnership; and

The forthcoming evaluation of the EU health programme and the EU health strategy.

The Commission provided an update on the recent E. coli outbreak and the actions being taken to control it. There was also a discussion on the public health dimension of migration from the middle east and north Africa.

Home Department

Animals in Scientific Procedures (Consultation on European Directive)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): The Home Office is today publishing a consultation paper seeking views on the options for transposing European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Directive 2010/63/EU will replace Directive 86/609/EEC on which current United Kingdom legislation—the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986—is based. In common with other member states, the UK must transpose the provisions of the new directive

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into legislation by 10 November 2012. The consultation paper invites views on the options for transposing the new directive and on the accompanying impact assessment.

The Government welcome the new directive which strengthens the protection of animals used in scientific procedures and promotes the development, validation, acceptance and implementation of methods and strategies that replace, reduce and refine the scientific use of animals (the three R’s). It also sets down detailed rules to ensure harmonisation and the proper functioning of the internal market. These are intended to rectify variations in the implementation of Directive 86/609/EEC which have tended to create barriers to trade in products and substances developed using animals in research and testing.

The consultation paper seeks views on the detailed provisions of the directive with a view to informing the preparation of transposing legislation. The consultation closes on 5 September 2011. A copy of the consultation paper and related impact assessment will be placed in the House Library.

Changes to the Immigration Rules

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in the immigration rules that will bring about the second of the changes to the student visa system, which the Home Secretary announced on 22 March, and were set out in detail in the statement of intent published on 31 March.

The changes will take effect on 4 July and will tighten the rules on the entitlements of students to work and bring dependants, will tighten the requirements around maintenance funds and require students to show academic progression to get a further visa. The new rules also introduce a streamlined application process for low-risk students.

I can also confirm that we are publishing the impact assessment for the changes to tier 4 on the UK Border Agency website, and I will arrange for a copy to be placed in the House Library.

The Home Secretary has previously announced that from the end of 2012 all tier 4 sponsors will need to have had a satisfactory inspection or audit by one of a number of specified bodies who are involved in the regulatory framework for educational standards in the UK. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) have agreed in principle to extend their remits to carry out additional inspections to cover privately funded providers. Further information is available on the UK Border Agency website.

This statement of changes also includes changes to the tier 4 rules to extend the list of courses where an academic technology approval scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate is required from the counter-proliferation department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We are also making some minor amendments to rules laid on 16 March on intra-company transfers and maintenance funds so they achieve the intended policy intention.

There are also minor changes to the immigration rules laid on 1 October 2010 in respect of the English language requirement for spouses and partners of British citizens and persons settled in the UK.

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Lastly, the Government are also making new provisions in part 8 of the immigration rules to allow other dependent family members of refugees with limited leave in the United Kingdom to join them from abroad. Currently, only those who have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom are able to sponsor their other dependent relatives from abroad and those refugees with limited leave must make their applications outside of the rules and these are considered at the Secretary of State’s discretion. We want to ensure that refugees with limited leave have the same opportunity to sponsor their other dependent family members as those coming through the normal route and this will also include a requirement that they be able to maintain and accommodate them.


Scotland Bill

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Michael Moore): The Chancellor and I are today announcing changes to the Scotland Bill and accompanying package that will further strengthen Scottish devolution and provide greater financial responsibility to the Scottish Parliament.

The coalition Government’s “programme for government” set out that the Government would implement the proposals of the Calman commission. The Scotland Bill currently progressing through Parliament delivers this key coalition commitment.

The Scotland Bill will introduce a new Scottish rate of income tax, fully devolve stamp duty land tax and landfill tax, introduce a new capital borrowing power and extend current borrowing powers.

When combined with the existing tax-raising powers of the Scottish Parliament, the Bill will provide Scottish Ministers with a total of £12 billion-worth of financial powers and it represents the largest ever transfer of financial power from Westminster to Scotland. Through taking on responsibility for raising the taxes required to fund the spending decisions they make, the Scottish Parliament will be more accountable to the Scottish people. Once the measures are fully implemented the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers will have more powers, will be more accountable, and will be better equipped to respond to Scotland’s needs within the United Kingdom.

Since the introduction of the Scotland Bill in November 2010, the Bill has been subject to detailed consideration in both the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. The Bill has successfully passed through Committee stage in the House of Commons and in March 2011 the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a legislative consent motion agreeing to the measures set out in the Bill, by a margin of 121 to 3.

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The UK Government have considered carefully the recommendations made by the Scottish Affairs Committee in the UK Parliament, and the Scotland Bill Committee in the Scottish Parliament. They have also committed to listen carefully to any detailed proposals put forward by the Scottish Government.

Based on the evidence received so far, the Government continue to believe that the package set out in the Scotland Bill, and the supporting Command Paper, meets the objectives of strengthening Scottish devolution within the United Kingdom and in particular providing strong financial accountability to the Scottish Parliament. However, the UK Government have decided to make some amendments to the Bill and supporting package that ensure that Scottish Ministers have greater flexibility to exercise their new powers effectively.

Therefore, the Chancellor and I propose the following changes to the Scotland Bill and accompanying package:

Bringing forward to 2011 pre-payments, a form of “cash advance”, to allow work on the Forth replacement crossing to begin;

Removing the requirement for Scottish Ministers to absorb the first £125 million of tax forecasting variation within their budget, giving Scottish Ministers more flexibility to decide how best to respond to any variations in tax receipts compared to forecasts;

Allowing Scottish Ministers to make discretionary payments into the Scottish cash reserve for the next five years, up to an overall total of £125 million, to help manage any variation in Scottish income tax receipts compared to forecasts in the initial phase of the new system;

Introducing a power in the Scotland Bill which will enable the Government to amend, in future, the way in which Scottish Ministers can borrow to include bond issuance, without the need for further primary legislation. The Government will conduct a review of the costs and benefits of bond issuance over other forms of borrowing, and will consider extending Scottish Ministers’ powers where this does not undermine the overall UK fiscal position or have a negative impact on total UK borrowing.

In addition, a number of changes will be made to the non-financial sections of the package:

Enabling Scottish Ministers to approve the appointments of MG Alba board members;

Providing for reciprocal consultation between UK Ministers and Scottish Ministers when either makes changes to electoral administration that impact on their respective responsibilities;

Devolving the power to make an order disqualifying persons from membership of the Scottish Parliament;

Implementing the findings of the expert group appointed by the Advocate General to consider the working of the Scotland Act in relation to devolution issues concerning the Lord Advocate as head of the system of criminal prosecution in Scotland;

Strengthening inter-governmental dialogue in areas of mutual interest in welfare.

The Government believe the Scotland Bill provides the right balance of additional powers for Scotland. But we will study any further proposals by the Scottish Government based on robust evidence on how these proposals would benefit both Scotland and the rest of the UK.