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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 7 February 2013


Finance Bill 2013

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The Finance Bill will be published on Thursday 28 March.

Explanatory notes on the Bill will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and placed in the Libraries of both Houses on that day. Copies of the explanatory notes will be available on the Treasury’s website.


International Defence Engagement Strategy

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I am making a joint statement with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Together we wish to inform the House that the Government are today publishing the “International Defence Engagement Strategy”. Implementing this new strategy will maximise the contribution that defence can make towards the achievement of our foreign policy objectives.

The national security strategy and strategic defence and security review (SDSR) in 2010 set out our goal to bring together and use all the instruments of national power in a co-ordinated and coherent manner, ensuring that the sum of our efforts to safeguard our security, extend our influence, and build our prosperity is bigger than its component parts.

The international defence engagement strategy sets out how defence assets and activities fit within this goal, and how they can better contribute to wider Government objectives. It looks out over a horizon of 20 years to identify both the major risks that we will face and opportunities that we will have.

In implementing this strategy we will use our network of defence attachés and other defence representation overseas, together with our diplomatic network and the Defence and Security Organisation of UK Trade & Investment, to ensure that we are developing the right relationships and achieving the right influence for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

On occasion, we will cement these relationships in the form of a treaty, as we did with France in 2010. But the influence we can achieve through defence engagement goes far broader than this. This strategy therefore includes traditional defence diplomacy activity of senior-level visits and international defence training; Ministry of Defence contributions to regional stability, conflict prevention and stabilisation activities; security and non-combat operations; and MOD support for defence and security exports. The scope of this strategy is ambitious and it will be implemented in conjunction with other related Government initiatives, such as the building

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stability overseas strategy, the Gulf initiative and the emerging powers initiative. The implementation of the international defence engagement strategy will build on existing relationships and on work already under way, but we will also be making some significant advances in the development of our relationships with some states.

We have already taken steps to ensure that we use our defence engagement to promote our values through contributing to the institutional capability of other nations. We will have an accredited non-resident defence attaché for Burma next month and will establish a defence section in our Embassy in Rangoon later this year. The Burmese Government have taken some very positive and welcome steps towards reform which we should assist. The Burmese military continues to play an influential role in government, so we will use military to military dialogue where we can, complementing diplomatic and development efforts, to encourage reform and support democracy. During her meeting with the Prime Minister in June 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi specifically recommended the appointment of a defence attaché to Burma as a key channel for engagement with the Burmese military.

We are increasing our efforts to support security and justice sector reform and capacity building, which contribute to regional peace and security. We will be opening a defence section in our embassy in Libya this year. During the transition in Libya we established a defence advisory team to assist the national transitional council in developing their organisational and planning capacity. This team has remained in place post-conflict, to support the democratically elected General National Congress. The defence section will build on relationships established by them. Also, we have recently established a defence section in Juba in South Sudan. We are working alongside other Government Departments to assist this newly independent state to establish national institutions and implement security and justice reform, contributing to regional security in a relatively unstable region.

Similarly, when the British embassy is opened in Mogadishu this year we will be establishing a defence section there, enabling us to provide a greater focus for our support to the Government of Somalia and to AMISOM, the African Union force in Somalia, as they make progress in driving out al-Shabaab. Importantly, taking advantage of our transition from combat operations in Afghanistan and the resulting increase in available forces, we are exploring innovative ways of using some army capabilities on a wide range of defence engagement tasks and intend to pilot this as the army restructures its adaptable brigades. We will exploit our recent operational experience, develop our capabilities, our cultural understanding and language training, and demonstrate our commitment and support for our allies and partners including the UN, NATO and EU.

We recognise the importance of developing our bilateral relationships with emerging powers—nations we see as growing long-term partners in regional and global defence and security issues. The international defence engagement strategy allows us to focus our efforts, and as examples of this over the last two years we have signed defence co-operation and defence technical arrangements with Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Turkey and Brazil. Supporting our Gulf initiative and security in the middle east region we have intensified defence co-operation across the region and we are increasing our training and exercise activity with Gulf nations throughout 2013.

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We are continuing to develop our bilateral relationships more broadly, and have recently signed defence co-operation agreements or memoranda of understanding with Canada, Norway, Denmark and Mongolia. Since the SDSR in October 2010, the UK has signed no fewer than seven new defence treaties and over 50 new memoranda of understanding and other subordinate agreements which contribute to our network of international alliances and partnerships in line with the vision set out in the SDSR. The most recent new agreement is a defence co-operation treaty with Australia, signed in Perth on 18 January 2013. This will see our two nations co-operating on a range of defence-related topics such as cyber security, defence reform, personnel exchanges, equipment and science and technology.

We are deepening our relationships with long-standing allies.

The United States will remain our pre-eminent security partner, and our armed forces continue to work closely together operationally. The UK currently stations over 750 British defence personnel in the US, conducting a broad variety of activities. These include a wide range of senior personnel serving in advisory or command positions in US headquarters. Approximately 200 British officers are on exchange with all four of the US services, developing capability and increasing interoperability. As close allies the US and UK host each other’s forces in order to conduct training, be prepared to forward-deploy when necessary, and in many cases conduct current operations. In November 2012 alone over 500 UK military personnel visited the US to conduct a joint exercise with US counterparts.

We are pursuing a programme of enhanced bilateral defence co-operation, focusing on areas of mutual benefit such as carrier-strike, cyber, space, land forces interoperability, science and technology, defence education, intelligence and the nuclear deterrent. These will be progressed through regular strategic dialogue at the most senior levels, supported by a reorganised British defence staff, United States.

Following our signature of the UK-French defence co-operation treaty in 2010 we have been increasing our bilateral defence activity with France. In spring last year we established the British defence staff in France in Paris. We set up five new strategic exchange officer posts with France in September 2012 and will establish a further five posts by 2015. We are increasing our joint exercises. This was exemplified by the Corsican Lion exercise last October, building towards the final validation of the concept of the combined joint expeditionary force in 2016. Our ambassador in Paris, Sir Peter Ricketts, has been consulted during the preparation of the French livre blanc security review and has offered advice drawing on the UK experience during our 2010 strategic defence and security review (SDSR).

We have rewired the existing defence attaché presence in Europe to establish three “networks” covering the Nordic/Baltic, central Europe and the western Balkans which will enable us to have a more strategic approach. We will also work increasingly closely with our northern European neighbours through the Northern Group of 12 nations established at UK’s initiative in 2010 to improve understanding on common security issues and identify opportunities for enhanced co-operation.

Recognising the importance of international defence engagement to wider Government objectives, on current plans we have reprioritised our existing budgets to dedicate

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a further £2.5 million in 2012-13 for this purpose. From 2013-14 this reprioritisation will enable a further £3.5 million on top of existing resources to be available to pursue these activities, for the four years of the defence planning cycle.

In such a cross-cutting area of work it is important to ensure that we have clarity of governance. We have therefore established a new high-level defence engagement board which will consult with and take guidance from Foreign and Commonwealth Office and MOD Ministers, the National Security Council and the National Security Adviser, and provide updates to them. It is jointly chaired at director-general level by FCO and MOD, and includes membership from across Whitehall.

We have deposited a copy of the strategy in the Library of the House. It is also available on the FCO and MOD websites.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (England)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I am today, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, announcing details of flood and coastal erosion risk management schemes going ahead in the next financial year in England.

A total of 93 new flood defence schemes are being funded to move into construction in 2013-14, which when completed will provide better protection from the devastating effects of flooding to 64,000 homes.

This Government are on course to spend £2.3 billion on flooding and coastal erosion risk management in England over this spending period (April 2011 to March 2015). This is being supplemented by up to £148 million, contributed by local councils, businesses and private investors under the new partnership funding system introduced in May 2011. This extra investment is helping to deliver better protection to more communities than previously thought possible. Risk management authorities are now on track to deliver better protection to 165,000 homes by March 2015, exceeding the target set at the start of the spending period by 20,000.

I can also announce that nine schemes, including Leeds, Sheffield, Ipswich, Exeter and Derby, will receive a share of the funding announced in the autumn statement last year. These schemes will unlock economic growth, create jobs and grow the economy. For example, Exeter’s new flood defences will create over 1,000 jobs and protect businesses which employ 4,700 people. The defences will provide better protection to land for business development as well as major rail and sewerage infrastructure and over 2,000 homes. In Ipswich, a tidal barrier will improve flood protection to 10 hectares of development land attracting more business to the area and creating 4,000 jobs.

Last year I announced that the new partnership funding system had brought forward £72 million of contributions over the three years to March 2015. During its second year the figure has now doubled to £148 million over the same period. This is enabling more schemes to

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proceed than would have been possible if the old all-or-nothing funding system had remained. Schemes with significant partner contributions include the £50.5 million growth scheme in Leeds that will protect 250 businesses and create over 18,000 jobs. To supplement Government’s investment, Leeds city council is contributing £10 million towards the cost of the scheme, with a further £5 million proposed to be raised from local businesses.

Other schemes made possible as a result of the new system include new sea defences at Anchorsholme in Lancashire, which will reduce the risk of flooding to 6,000 homes and highway, tramway and sewerage infrastructure. Blackpool borough council is contributing £4 million toward the total cost of £28.4 million. The combination of extra funding in the autumn statement, backed by partnership funding contributions, will allow a £9.7 million scheme to go ahead in Skipton, North Yorkshire. This will reduce flooding to over 350 residential and 165 business properties in the market town with £2 million coming from local authorities and businesses.

The full programme of schemes going ahead in 2013-14 alongside a provisional programme for future years will be published on the Environment Agency website later today.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council/General Affairs Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 31 January. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Commissioners Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), Georgieva (International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response) and Füle (Enlargement) were in attendance for some of the discussions. The President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, attended lunch with the Foreign Ministers.

I attended the General Affairs Council on 4 February in Brussels. The General Affairs Council was chaired by the Irish Presidency, the Foreign Minister for Ireland, Eamon Gilmore.

Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa. eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/135155.pdf.


Baroness Ashton briefed the FAC on the EU-CELAC summit which took place on 26 and 27 January in Santiago, Chile. She said the summit had focused on the importance of trade and investment for growth and stability in the region, and the need to collaborate more closely on shared values such as human rights, including in multilateral fora. CELAC countries had welcomed the high level of EU engagement displayed throughout the summit.

EU-Russia Summit

Baroness Ashton reported back on the EU-Russia summit on 21 December. She said that the EU needed to work more closely with Russia on protracted conflicts in the common neighbourhood, and stressed the importance

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of the eastern neighbourhood remaining high on the EU-Russian agenda in the run up to the eastern partnership summit in Vilnius in November.


There was widespread support for France’s actions in Mali, and France was congratulated on its success so far. France stressed the need for African troops to work alongside French forces and to help hold the territorial gains. The Council adopted Council conclusions that welcomed recent military and political developments, reaffirmed the aim of launching the EU training mission (EUTM) Mali by mid-February, and noted that the adoption of the road map permitted the gradual resumption of EU development assistance.

Commissioner Georgieva said that a humanitarian crisis had existed in Mali prior to recent events, but that the French intervention had averted a worsening of the situation. But greater humanitarian access was needed. The donor conference in Addis Ababa had been very positive, with the African contribution particularly notable.

The Foreign Secretary said that the UK would provide up to 40 people for the EUTM Mali, and stressed the importance of providing training in human rights and protection of civilians. The UK would also provide up to 200 trainers for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) troops in the Anglophone contributing countries.

Southern Neighbourhood

The FAC prepared the 7 and 8 February European Council discussion on EU support to the Southern Neighbourhood, and accepted the need for the EU to assess how successful its approach had been since the Arab spring.

The FAC also agreed conclusions endorsing the joint EEAS-Commission communication on EU support for regional integration in the Maghreb. The conclusions noted the communication’s emphasis on democratic reform and inclusive economic development, looked ahead to a high-level EU-Arab Maghreb Union dialogue and welcomed proposals on co-operation in the security sector, given recent Sahel-linked terrorism.

On Syria, Ministers discussed three areas: the lack of progress as set out in joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi’s latest report to the UN Security Council; the deteriorating humanitarian situation; and the EU sanctions package. The humanitarian and security situation remained dire. Ministers agreed on the need to support Brahimi’s efforts. Brahimi’s presence at the Foreign Affairs Council on February 18 would provide an opportunity for a more detailed discussion.

The Foreign Secretary set out the extraordinary scale of the humanitarian crisis, highlighted by the UN level 3 emergency status. UK humanitarian assistance now totalled £140 million, and, while assistance from the EU had been impressive, member states needed to give more: Europe had to set an example to the rest of the world.

Ministers discussed the issue of amending the EU sanctions regime, and agreed to return to it at the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 February.

Ministers expressed their concern at the political and economic turmoil in Egypt, and focused on the importance of conditionality in the EU’s approach.

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Ministers discussed the EU’s priorities with the US during President Obama’s second term, focusing on the strategic and political importance of an EU-US free trade agreement (FTA) and its growth-boosting potential. Other shared priorities were co-operation on Asia-Pacific, the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, and Africa, in particular the Sahel and the horn of Africa.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers considered the middle east peace process within the broader discussion of EU-US relations. It was agreed that it was important to engage with the US Administration to encourage them to engage fully on the middle east peace process. High Representative Ashton said the European External Action Service was also focused on working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League, and Egypt in this context.


The FAC adopted comprehensive conclusions, the first since the political transition ended, setting out a new EU relationship with Somalia. The conclusions welcomed the announcement of the London and EU conferences, and reaffirmed readiness to maintain significant EU support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Over lunch, Foreign Ministers had an exchange with the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The president stressed the need for improved international and regional co-operation. He made a plea for continued EU financial support to AMISOM, noting that parallel support to the Somali National Security Forces was also required for them to be in a position to take over in due course. The Foreign Secretary set out his plans for the forthcoming London conference on Somalia, to be co-hosted with the Somalis, which will focus on immediate needs: security, justice, public financial management and continued political progress. Baroness Ashton outlined plans for an EU conference later in the year, which will address medium and long-term Somali needs.

The Arctic

High Representative Ashton and Commissioner Damanaki emphasised the importance of member state support for the Commission’s application for Arctic Council observer status. Ministers also focused on the impact of climate change on the Arctic, and the importance of protecting the rights of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples. High Representative Ashton concluded that whether or not the Commission secured observer status, the EU would continue to engage on the significant challenges and opportunities arising in the Arctic.

South Caucasus

Under AOB, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mladenov reported on his joint visit with his Polish and Swedish counterparts to the south Caucasus in December. The three Foreign Ministers urged partners to focus on two issues in particular: the risk of increased conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh; and the need to press Georgia’s President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Ivanishvili to achieve a constructive cohabitation.

Other business

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of others measures, including:

Amending restrictive measures on Iraq;

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Extending the validity of national permits for the temporary reception of certain Palestinians in the EU;

Amending restrictive measures on Afghanistan;

Approving the six-monthly progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

Extending the sanctions against persons responsible for the misappropriation of Tunisia state funds;

Adopting conclusions on support for sustainable change in transition societies;

Approving the EU crisis management exercise programme for 2013-15; and

Approving the crisis management concept for a possible civilian common security defence policy (CSDP) border security mission in Libya.

General Affairs Council (GAC)

With the February European Council taking place on 7 and 8 January, the focus of the GAC was on preparing for this meeting. There was a short presentation on the Irish Presidency’s work programme and a first look at the agenda for the March European Council. After the Council, Ministers had lunch with the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy.

Presentation of the Presidency Work Programme

Eamon Gilmore presented the programme for the Irish EU Presidency. He noted the emphasis on measures which would promote jobs and growth. The presidency would focus on the single market, and on regulatory measures—for instance the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. On enlargement, they hoped to open new chapters with Turkey, Montenegro and Iceland.

Preparation for the 7-8 February European Council

The plenary session of the General Affairs Council discussed trade and external relations. The Commission set out the link between trade, growth and jobs and presented the findings from their recent paper on trade. The Commission emphasised the importance of trade in delivering urgently needed growth and jobs.

Although the overall tone of the discussion was clearly oriented towards the need to promote further trade, there were differences on how this should be done. Many Europe Ministers pressed for an ambitious trade agenda based on sending positive messages to those with whom we wish to work. Some warned against mercantilist conditionality tied to access to the single market, which would send out the wrong signal and enable member states to pursue a protectionist agenda.

Conversely, other member states argued that the European Council conclusions should include stronger references to the trade defence instrument. They underlined the importance of reciprocity and the need for a strong industrial policy and called for Japan to dismantle its non-tariff barriers. Several member states called for a specific reference to the public procurement instrument in the European Council conclusions.

I argued that when the European Council conclusions were agreed, they would send a strong signal to those with whom we sought to do business. Did we want this signal to be a lukewarm welcome to trade, with caveats, exceptions and conditions, or should we send a clear signal that we were serious about doing business? I further emphasised that trade is not a zero-sum game. This applied to trade within the single market as well as trade between the EU and others.

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When discussing the Southern Neighbourhood, I stressed that the European Council should call for progress in launching deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTAs). A differentiated approach to these DCFTAs was warranted, where some countries such as Tunisia and Morocco were more advanced than others.

Finally, Ministers discussed whether the Syrian arms embargo was achieving its humanitarian aims. I said that the UK would raise this at the European Council.

Presentation of the Annotated draft agenda for 14-15 March European Council

The presidency introduced the March European Council agenda, which would focus on the European semester. The Commission said they hoped the European Council could endorse a balanced set of conclusions that would give further impetus to the process. On the planned discussion of strategic partners, the Commission suggested that this could be used to discuss relations with Russia.

Lunch with President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy

The focus of the February European Council will be on the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) at which the Prime Minister will be arguing for at most a real-terms freeze and to protect the UK rebate. Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, set out his plans for how the negotiations on the MFF would be handled on 7 and 8 February. The role of the European Parliament in agreeing the MFF was also discussed. Both the Irish Presidency and Herman van Rompuy touched on the consent of the European Parliament, which would be required for any MFF deal.

Home Department

CCTV and other Surveillance Camera Technology

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): My hon. Friend the Minister for criminal information, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has today made the following written ministerial statement:

On 13th September 2012, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for crime prevention (Jeremy Browne), issued a written statement to the House announcing arrangements for the implementation of provisions within the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for the regulation of surveillance camera systems.

The Government favour the use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems as a crime-fighting and public protection tool. They support the use of overt surveillance in a public place wherever its deployment is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, necessary to meet a pressing need, proportionate and compliant with any relevant legislation. Like the public, the Government expect that where CCTV is deployed it is as effective as it can be in meeting its stated purpose and has appropriate privacy safeguards.

The public must, however, have confidence that such surveillance is appropriate and proportionate, and that those who operate the camera systems, or use the images and information they capture, demonstrate integrity in so doing and can be held to account.

This is why the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 now requires Government to put in place a regulatory framework for surveillance camera systems comprising a code of practice and a surveillance

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camera commissioner. The appointment of Mr Andrew Rennison as surveillance camera commissioner was announced in the previous written statement.

A period of statutory consultation in relation to the preparation of the code of practice will launch today, and close on 21 March 2013. The draft code is built upon 12 guiding principles, and for the first time introduces a philosophy of surveillance by consent. The Government see an important parallel with the well-established concept of policing by consent, which is based upon a presumption of transparency and accountability to assure the integrity of police officers and staff in exercising their powers on behalf of their fellow citizens. This Government will ensure that, for the first time, there is a robust framework in place to protect the public from any excessive or irresponsible use of CCTV or ANPR.

This consultation will seek views on the scope and clarity of the draft code and its likely impact, and also seeks to ensure that proper consideration is given to the position of the three non-territorial police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in relation to the code. Namely whether they should be added to the existing list of relevant authorities who will be placed under a duty to have regard to the code when exercising any functions to which the code relates.

Copies of the consultation document, the draft code of practice and the impact assessment will be placed in the Library of the House. I will report to the House on the results of the consultation exercise after the Easter recess, and in anticipation of laying the necessary draft order which carries the affirmative resolution procedure seeking to bring the code into force.


Bus and Coach Passenger Rights

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I have today laid before Parliament a statutory instrument applying exemptions to EU regulation 181/2011 on the rights of passengers in bus and coach travel. The exemptions are as follows:

with the exception of certain mandatory provisions in the EU regulation, member states may on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, exempt domestic regular services from the application of the regulation for four years from 1 March 2013, which may be renewed once (article 2(4));

for a maximum period of four years from 1 March 2013, member states may, on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis, exempt from the application of the regulation particular regular services because a significant part of such regular services, including at least one scheduled stop, is operated outside of the EU. Such exemptions may be renewed once (article 2(5));

a member state may for a maximum of five years from 1 March 2013 grant an exemption in respect of drivers from the requirement for disability awareness training for personnel of carriers and terminal managing bodies (article 16(2)).

The statutory instrument will apply in Great Britain. In line with Government policy on European regulations, these exemptions will be applied in full. However, in response to concerns from the public about disability awareness training for bus and coach drivers, I will review the use of this exemption after one year to see whether drivers are receiving adequate training under the voluntary measure being undertaken by the bus and coach industry. I will be introducing further legislation to designate enforcement bodies later in the year.

Member states can also permanently exempt domestic regular services from the majority of chapter III on the “Rights of disabled persons and persons with restricted mobility” where their national rules provide the same or better level of protection. As I explained when we consulted on transposing this regulation, it cannot always

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be guaranteed that the level of protection will be the same as under the EU regulation, and therefore I do not believe we can make use of this exemption.

Work and Pensions

International Labour Conference

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): The 101st session of the International Labour Conference 2012 adopted recommendation 202 concerning national floors of social protection. International Labour Organisation (ILO)

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recommendations, adopted following negotiation among ILO member state Governments and business and union representatives, serve as non-binding guidelines. The Government welcome this recommendation and recognise its importance in its global context, as it acts as a guide for all countries in their work towards providing basic social protection for their populations. The recommendation is primarily aimed at those countries with less developed social security systems. It is not envisaged that this recommendation will have any impact on the UK as it is consistent with UK Government policies.

The constitution of the ILO requires that the Government bring the recommendation before Parliament. I will place an explanatory memorandum and the text of the recommendation in the House Libraries later today.