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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 17 June 2011


Tax Consultations

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Budget 2011 announced a number of tax policy changes and longer-term tax reforms that will be subject to consultation. These are summarised in the tax consultation tracker, which is available on the HM Treasury website at:


HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and HM Treasury have today published the following consultation documents:

“Statutory definition of tax residence: a consultation”—a consultation on the introduction of a statutory definition of tax residence to provide greater certainty for individuals.

“Reform of the taxation of non-domiciled individuals: a consultation”—a consultation on the detail of reforms to the taxation of non-domiciled individuals.

Simplification of regulatory penalties—a consultation on reforms to penalties that HMRC can impose for failure to comply with administrative obligations across the tax and duty regimes.

The tax consultation tracker has been updated to reflect latest planning assumptions for future publications in June and July.

Culture, Media and Sport

Topical Oral Question (Correction)

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): In my reply to the topical question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) in yesterday’s DCMS topical question session, Official Report, column 914, I inadvertently gave a figure for Olympic ticket allocation to guests of the Government as 2,900.

I should have given the ticket allocation as 3,300.


Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Fort Halstead Site)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has recently completed a review of the operations at its Fort Halstead site. As a result of this review, DSTL has proposed that these operations should be relocated to its other two sites—Portsdown West and Porton Down—and that the Fort Halstead site should be closed.

I have approved the proposed relocation programme, which will take around five years. DSTL’s current activities at Fort Halstead include support to operations in Afghanistan and to counter-terrorism activity in the UK. By bringing together DSTL’s facilities and capabilities,

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the programme will result in more robust and resilient scientific support to national defence and security and will offer better value to the taxpayer.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils (20-21 June)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 June. I will attend the General Affairs Council on 21 June. Both meetings will be held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council (Foreign Ministers)


Ministers will focus on Sudan in the run-up to the secession of South Sudan on 9 July. They are likely to discuss the worrying violence in the Abyei and southern Kordofan regions of Sudan and the lack of progress on key issues under the comprehensive peace agreement. Ministers will also have the opportunity to welcome the EU’s comprehensive approach strategy for Sudan, setting out the EU’s approach to supporting the emergence of two viable, peaceful and prosperous states in North and South Sudan.

Western Balkans

We expect Ministers to discuss the ongoing political stalemate in Albania, compounded by the dispute over recent local election results. On a visit to Tirana on 9 June, I outlined the UK’s concerns at the continued impasse to the political leaders, and stressed the need to find consensus-based solutions to put Albania back on its reform path to the EU. The UK has also supported Baroness Ashton’s and Commissioner Fule’s recent joint statement (see link below) that called for a fair and transparent legal process, and for Albania’s leaders to live up to the European aspirations of the Albanian citizens. We are working for conclusions that stress similar concerns.


We expect Baroness Ashton to raise two information points: on Bosnia and Herzegovina on the appointment of a new EU Head of Delegation; and on Serbia/Kosovo she will update the FAC on developments following the arrest of Mladic, and on her visit to the region.


Ministers are due to discuss the worsening political and human rights situation in Belarus. They will consider applying further targeted restrictive measures in order to put pressure on the regime to release all political prisoners and cease the continuing repression of human rights defenders. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement on the sentences passed against former presidential candidates in Belarus on 27 May:

“I utterly condemn the sentences passed against former presidential candidates, Mikolai Statkevich and Dmitry Uss, on 26 May. Whatever the official reason given for their conviction it is clear that their real “crime” was the exercise of their right to protest against the flawed elections of 19 December.

I equally condemn the sentencing on 20 May of former presidential candidates, Vladzimir Neklyayev and Vytaly Rymasheuski. This trial is the latest in a series of politically-motivated show trials which have seen the conviction of 43 people. The Belarusian

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authorities need to understand that there can be no normalisation of relations with the international community without respect for the most basic of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

European Neighbourhood Policy

Ministers will consider conclusions on the European neighbourhood policy, on the basis of the recent communication from the European Commission and External Action Service. This precedes a likely discussion of the new policy by Heads of Government at the European Council on 23-24 June. The revised European neighbourhood policy forms the centrepiece of the EU’s response to the events of the last months in the southern neighbourhood. The communication, which we broadly support, was the subject of an explanatory memorandum submitted to Parliament on 3 June.

Southern Neighbourhood (Libya/Syria/Yemen)

Ministers will discuss progress on Libya since the contact group held in Abu Dhabi on 9 June, where participants agreed to increase pressure on Gaddafi’s regime. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), represented the UK at that meeting. Ministers may also assess the latest humanitarian situation and stabilisation plans.

My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for International Development travelled to Benghazi on 4 June to demonstrate their support for the national transitional council and discuss the council’s plans for a political road map for the future of Libya. Following the visit, the Foreign Secretary updated the House on the middle east and north Africa on 7 June (see link below).


On Syria, we expect Ministers to consider recent developments on the ground. We are considering proposing further names of individuals and entities to add to the EU sanctions list. We believe it is vital that the EU keeps up the pressure on Syria while the violence continues. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said to the House on 7 June, Bashar al-Assad is losing legitimacy. He should either reform or step aside.

Ministers will also discuss the current situation in Yemen. If conclusions are agreed, we expect them to repeat the EU’s call for President Saleh to stand down. We continue to call on all sides to renew dialogue and pursue the Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered initiative as the only solution for smooth political transition in Yemen. On 6 June, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a joint statement with his German, French, Spanish and Italian counterparts calling for transition to take place on the basis of the GCC initiative. The statement said:

“We take note of President Abdullah Ali Saleh’s departure from Yemen and are grateful to Saudi Arabia for receiving him on its territory for urgent medical assistance. After months of troubles and violence that have inflicted considerable suffering to the people of Yemeni and caused much destruction, we urge all Yemeni civilian and military leaders to respect the truce initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

We call on the Yemeni people to find the way to reconciliation in a spirit of dialogue and national unity, in particular on the basis of the proposals presented in the framework of the Gulf Co-operation Council’s initiative, which we fully support, in order for the Yemeni people to be able to democratically choose its leader. We stand ready to fully support the Yemenis in this move.”

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Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)

We are expecting the discussion to be conducted in an informal session over lunch, looking at the latest developments in the MEPP.

General Affairs Council

June European Council

The General Affairs Council will help prepare the June European Council, which takes place in Brussels on 23-24 June 2011. The agenda will cover migration, Croatian accession and economic policy. On the latter point there will be an update by the Commission about the national reform programmes, submitted by member states in April. In this context there may also be a discussion about growth-enhancing structural reforms, following the commitments made by member states at the March European Council. There may also be discussion on the eurozone crisis and the latest situation in the middle east and north Africa. The Council is expected to approve conclusions about the Danube strategy and the integration of Roma communities.

The EU’s overseas development assistance (ODA) targets may also be raised at the European Council. The Foreign Affairs Council adopted conclusions in May (see link below) which set out actual performances against EU aid targets (0.7% of EU gross national income by 2015).


The conclusions of the last European Council in March, where the focus was on economic policy, Libya/north Africa and Japan, can be found at:


18 - Month Programme of the Council

Ministers will discuss the 18-month programme of the Council. This sets out the combined programme of the Polish, Danish and Cypriot presidencies of the Council covering the period July 2011 to December 2012. We expect the programme to be published on the Council’s website in the next few days.

I will deposit copies of this note in the Libraries of both Houses when we receive it, and I will update Parliament on Foreign and General Affairs Councils after the meetings.


Registration of Primary Medical Care Providers

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): I wish to inform the House of a proposal that the Department is today publishing to defer the registration of NHS GP practices with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) until April 2013.

CQC is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. All providers of a regulated activity are required to register with the CQC. In order to be registered and to remain registered, providers are required to comply with a set of registration requirements that establish the essential levels of safety and quality.

Where a registered provider fails to meet these registration requirements the CQC has a range of enforcement powers that it can use to bring about improvements. In the case of persistent and/or serious failings, the CQC has the power to stop providers operating.

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The role of registration with CQC is central to the Government’s plans for the future delivery of health care and adult social care in England. It forms the foundation on which high-quality services can be built.

Since April 2010, the CQC has registered around 20,000 health and adult social care providers. This has been a major programme of work which the CQC has carried out well.

In April 2012, providers of primary medical care are due to enter the registration system. This covers providers of primary medical care services for the NHS including GP practices, out-of-hours primary care services and NHS walk-in centres. This final wave comprises registration of around 8,000 providers.

We have reconsidered the timing of the registration of primary medical services providers for the NHS and believe there are strong reasons to move the start date for the registration for most of these providers to April 2013.

Postponing the registration of most primary medical services providers for the NHS will afford the opportunity to ensure that, when it does go ahead, the CQC’s systems, tools and processes will have been refined in the light of the experience of the earlier registration rounds and piloting with primary medical services providers.

A pause will also allow for the further development of accreditation schemes for primary medical services providers to be used as evidence of their compliance with the registration requirements.

For these reasons, we are seeking views on a proposal that the registration of most primary medical services providers should be deferred until April 2013.

The Government have made a commitment to bring out-of-hours providers into registration at the earliest opportunity. I am therefore proposing that the registration of dedicated providers of out-of-hours care should go ahead as planned, in April 2012, together with registration of NHS walk-in centres which do not provide primary care to a list of registered patients.

I believe that phasing the registration of NHS providers of primary medical services will strike the right balance between protecting the safety of patients and making the registration process more streamlined for both providers and the CQC.

The consultation has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (17 June 2011)

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 17 June 2011 in Luxembourg. I will represent the United Kingdom on all agenda items.

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There will be two round-table discussions at this meeting. The first will be a policy debate on the Commission’s proposal for Council recommendations on member states’ employment policies. I will stress that the United Kingdom wishes to strike the right balance, between acknowledging the Commission’s right to propose these recommendations to all member states, and ensuring Council’s input to the final text. Ownership by Council, with recommendations reflecting national priorities, will best secure the commitment of member states to deliver, and challenge each other, on the pace and depth of our labour market and welfare reforms.

The second discussion will be on demographic change and family policies where member states will be asked to give their views on how to support families most effectively. I will highlight the UK’s policy approaches and stress that while European Union level-discussion can help to inform national decisions, this is not an area of policy that will ever lend itself to a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Discussion at European Union level needs to take account of the individual contexts in different member states and member state competence in this area.

There will be a progress report on the pregnant workers directive. I will stress that the United Kingdom will not accept a directive which would fundamentally change our system of maternity pay and impose significant and unjustified costs on member states. Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the co-ordination of social security systems (Miscellaneous Amendments) is also on the agenda for a progress report. I will acknowledge progress made on this dossier, and make a statement about the importance of clarifying the interaction between the social security co-ordination and the free movement directive. There will also be a progress report on equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, an area in which the United Kingdom has comprehensive legislation.

Ministers will consider a number of Council conclusions. These will cover promoting youth employment to achieve the Europe 2020 objectives, reconciling work and family life in the context of demographic change, and tackling child poverty and promoting child well-being.

Under any other business, the Hungarian presidency will report on conferences they have hosted and provide information on social and employment-related aspects of the legal migration directives. The Commission will report on the United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities and will also provide an update on electromagnetic fields. The Cypriot delegation will provide information on the forum on the future of democracy. The French delegation will outline plans for the G20 meeting of Labour and Employment Ministers and the incoming Polish presidency will provide information on their work programme.