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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 28 June 2011


Double Taxation Agreement (United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China)

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A new Double Taxation Agreement with the People’s Republic of China was signed on 27 June 2011. 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.

Publication of Tax Policy 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 will today publish the following consultation document:

VAT cost - sharing—A consultation on workable options for implementing a VAT relief for services shared between bodies with VAT exempt or non-business activities such as universities and charities.

The Government will on 29 June publish the following consultation document:

Gifts of works of art A consultation on proposals to encourage donations of pre-eminent objects and works of art to the nation in return for a tax reduction.

HMRC and HM Treasury will on 30 June publish the following consultation documents:

Controlled foreign companies (CFCs) reform A consultation on detailed proposals for new CFC rules to be introduced in 2012.

High - risk areas of the tax code: relief for income tax losses—A consultation on proposals for improving legislative defences against tax avoidance.

High-risk areas of the tax code : u nauthorised unit trusts A consultation on proposals for improving legislative defences against tax avoidance.

Updates to dates for some consultations planned for June and July have been made to the tax consultation tracker.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council (28 June)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) who is responsible for the natural environment and

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fisheries will be representing the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 28 June.

There is one fisheries and one agriculture item on the agenda. Discussions will take place on the following:

Communication from the Commission concerning a consultation on fishing opportunities—The annual report setting out the scientific background and principles that the Commission will use to formulate their annual proposals for fishing opportunities to be agreed later in the year.

Follow - up to the Extraordinary Council on 7 June 2011 on the E . c oli outbreak—Information from the Commission on proposals it has put in place to provide aid to affected growers.

There are currently five items under any other business

Unrestricted fishing of mackerel by Iceland and Faroe Islands—A request from the Irish delegation for EU action to bring Iceland and Faroe Islands back inside the multilateral management of the fishery.

Conference on the future of the common fisheries policy—A report from the Dutch delegation on the recent high-level conference held in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

European funding for the fisheries sector post-2013—Joint declaration by Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania, on the budget and objectives of the successor to the European fisheries fund.

Future of the food aid for deprived persons scheme—A request from the Hungarian and Italian delegations for the Commission to present proposals to amend the current deprived persons programme.

NGO conference on trade, development and sustainability in the European animal sector A report from the presidency on the conference of officials and NGOs that took place in the ministerial meeting at the informal Agriculture Council in Debrecen (26-28 May 2011).

Meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): The House will be aware that on 22 and 23 June, France as presidency of the G20, convened the first ever meeting at G20 level of Agriculture Ministers, to consider an action plan on food price volatility and agriculture.

The action plan which we agreed recognises that market fundamentals—supply and demand—are the key causes of price volatility in wheat, corn, maize and soya and that both increasing production sustainably and reducing shocks to supply such as those caused when policymakers respond to poor quality information are the means to ensure a healthier relationship of supply to rising demand.

We emphasised the need to trade openly and remove distorting measures, and that export bans in particular should not impede calls for humanitarian aid.

We are taking steps to improve market information and transparency, by establishing an agricultural market information system (AMIS) in order to encourage major players on the agri-food markets to share data, to enhance existing information systems, to promote greater

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shared understanding of food price developments, and further policy dialogue and co-operation. G20 countries committed to disclose reliable, quality, accurate and timely data for this initiative.

We also agreed to establish a senior officials’ group to act as a “Rapid Response Forum”, to share views and plans for immediate actions in order to prevent or mitigate world food price crises. Taken together with the improvement in market information which we anticipate that AMIS will bring, this improved co-ordination should reduce the extent to which G20 members are themselves the source of avoidable supply shocks in future, as happens for example when panic buying takes place or export restrictions are imposed.

G20 Ministers committed themselves to implementing a broad scope of actions to boost agricultural growth, including a strengthening of agricultural research and innovation. In particular, we launched an international research initiative for wheat improvement to co-ordinate our efforts on this major crop for food security.

We recognised the need for further analysis of the relationships between biofuels production and food availability and price volatility, as well as potential policy responses.

Finally, we welcomed and endorsed the importance of the work of the G20’s development working group—on risk management and the potential use of pre-deployed emergency food stocks—and that of G20 Finance Ministers on financial regulation.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Western European Union (Closure)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): On 30 March 2010 the UK announced its intention to withdraw from the Western European Union (WEU). A 12-month notice period followed our and the other nine WEU member states’ denunciation of the modified Brussels treaty and the WEU will be formally closed on 30 June 2011.

The WEU has played a valuable role in discussion on European security. It embedded the principle of mutual defence in post-war Europe, promoted consultation and co-operation on defence and security matters in Western Europe and has conducted operations in a number of vital theatres. But the WEU’s mutual defence role became largely symbolic as soon as NATO was established; its operational role has long since been succeeded by the EU through the common security and defence policy; and we could no longer justify the cost of over €2 million a year to UK taxpayers.

The European Security and Defence Assembly within the WEU will also close. It has provided an important forum for parliamentarians to meet and debate European defence issues with their peers. The Government recognise the value of such debate and in order to see that continue we have been working with the relevant parliamentary committees to facilitate the establishment of a new forum for parliamentarians from across Europe to meet and debate common foreign and security policy issues. Quite rightly this is a matter for national Parliaments,

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but the Government will continue to provide support where required to help ensure suitable inter-parliamentary debating arrangements are in place.

After the closure of the WEU, outstanding tasks will be overseen by a board of the EU Satellite Centre composed of representatives of the 10 former WEU member states. This is the most cost-effective way of managing the WEU’s legacy tasks. These tasks include our continuing obligations to former WEU staff and making arrangements for the final liquidation of the WEU assets. This will include the sale of the WEU building in Paris, which is jointly owned by the 10 WEU member states.

Home Department

Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): On 5 April 2011 the Government brought into force the public sector Equality Duty, contained in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, for public authorities in Great Britain.

The Equality Duty requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. It supports good decision-making by ensuring that public authorities understand how different people will be affected by their activities, so that services are appropriate and accessible to all, and meet different people’s needs.

To assist public authorities in the better performance of the Equality Duty, the Government have today laid before Parliament for approval the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011. These regulations will promote the better performance of the Equality Duty by requiring those public authorities to publish:

equality objectives, at least every four years;

information to demonstrate their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually.

The latter will need to include, in particular, information relating to their employees (for authorities with 150 or more staff) and others affected by their policies and practices, such as service users.

The publication of this information will ensure that public authorities are transparent about their performance on equality. This transparency will drive the better performance of the Equality Duty without burdening public authorities with unnecessary bureaucratic processes, or the production of superfluous documents. Public authorities will have flexibility in deciding what information to publish, and will be held to account by the people they serve.

With the exception of schools, public authorities will be required to publish relevant information demonstrating their compliance by 31 January 2012, and their first equality objectives by 6 April 2012. Schools will be required to publish both their information and their equality objectives by 6 April 2012.

The Government will work closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that clear non-statutory guidance is available to public authorities to help them to comply with these regulations.

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The Government are committed to reviewing the working of these regulations in two years’ time, to check they are delivering the transparency and accountability that we are seeking, and driving the better performance of the Equality Duty.


Court of Protection (Authorised Court Officers)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): The Government have today published a consultation paper on proposals that some straightforward applications to the Court of Protection should be delegated to authorised court officers.

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At present, all applications to the court have to be decided by a judge, even when the issue involved is straightforward and non-contentious—such as an undisputed application to become a property and affairs deputy. Judges will continue to take all decisions which relate to health and welfare issues, but some types of application for property and affairs deputyships (which form a large proportion of the court’s work) could be dealt with by authorised court officers. This would free up judicial time to focus on the more difficult and sensitive issues the court has to deal with, and reduce the time it takes to deal with routine matters, thereby improving the service to users.

The consultation runs until 20 September 2011. Copies have been placed in the House Libraries, and the paper is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/decisions-court-protection.htm.