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Written Statements

Thursday 20 March 2014


Double Taxation Convention (Germany)

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A protocol to the double taxation convention with Germany was signed on 17 March 2014. The text of the protocol 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.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (Closure)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): On 9 September 2013, I updated Parliament, Official Report, column 40WS, on the work of the Helmand provincial reconstruction team (PRT) as it prepared for closure in late March; this was in line with President Karzai’s request that all PRTs in Afghanistan must close by the end of 2014.

Today is the final working day for the Helmand PRT, having operated for over seven years as a UK-led platform. I would like to acknowledge the team’s accomplishments and the dedication of the staff who served it, in improving the lives of people in Helmand.

Working closely with Afghan partners, the Helmand PRT has helped almost 18,000 young people to benefit from vocational training courses, including 5,000 women. Over 800 community elders involved in mediation have attended workshops in Afghan law and the constitution, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women and children. The teacher training colleges in Lashkar Gah and Gereshk currently have almost 700 students enrolled, 446 of which are female. All health facilities and 61% of schools in the province are now open. Many more advances have been made in the delivery of public services and the PRT has worked closely with the Afghan provincial government to improve administration, planning and budgeting.

The United Kingdom’s presence in Helmand has been part of a wider strategy to help rebuild Afghanistan, which involved 33 PRTs led by 15 different countries. All but three of these PRTs will be closed by the end of March, as part of the political and security transition in Afghanistan.

The UK has put a particular emphasis on the sustainability of its reconstruction work in Helmand to ensure our investment continues to deliver benefits into the future. Training trainers within the Afghan uniformed police and using local designs and materials

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for infrastructure projects are just two examples. We have also helped prepare the provincial government to assume its full range of responsibilities.

The draw down of the PRT has involved the handover of many activities to the Afghan Government, while other work programmes will be led from the British embassy in Kabul. The UN is also becoming increasingly active in Helmand, delivering programmes including on justice, human rights and gender, supported by UK, Danish and Estonian funding. The PRT has helped to build a strong platform for future governance and development in Helmand. It is right that the Afghans take increasing responsibility for their future prosperity and security and we will continue to support them as they do so.

Closure of the PRT marks a change in the UK’s relationship with Helmand, but does not mark its end. The UK has made an enduring commitment to Afghanistan and the British embassy in Kabul will continue to work with the Afghan Government and the Helmand provincial governor to ensure public services in the province continue to improve.

Afghanistan: Gifting of Bridges

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): UK military operations in Helmand province involved the extensive use of temporary logistical support bridges. While temporary in nature and used to support military movements, the local populations have in some instances become highly reliant on these bridges for access over the Helmand canal and river systems. Ownership of these assets is therefore being transferred to the Helmand department for public works (DPW) to help sustain economic and security benefits made to date in Helmand province. The bridges will support freedom of movement in Helmand, which underpins commercial links and the provision of security and basic services for the local population.

The departmental minute laid today sets out our plans to gift six logistical support bridges, costing £1.633 million; and one spares pack for maintenance of the bridges, costing £1.014 million, to the Helmand DPW. The gift will be acknowledged by a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the UK Government and the Helmand DPW.

In addition to provision of the bridges and maintenance packs themselves, the UK is also providing funding for the Helmand Government to maintain the bridges and other infrastructure. The UK Government are also building the skills of the Helmandi work force to operate and maintain the bridges. This work is part of the Helmand provincial reconstruction team’s “sustaining economic infrastructure in Helmand” project and supports the wider conflict pool objective that,

“effective district administrations ensure that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan control over districts in the Central Helmand River Valley is sustained without reliance on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)”.

The gift has been assessed against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. The MOD has confirmed that the UK Government have no objections to the release of these items to the Afghanistan Helmand department for public works.

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The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which the departmental minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.


Advisory Council on National Records and Archives (Triennial Review)

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): On 17 July 2013, Official Report, column 112WS, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), made a written statement announcing the triennial review of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives. I am pleased to announce the conclusion of the review and publication of the report today.

The ACNRA is an independent advisory non-departmental public body which provides independent advice to the Lord Chancellor on matters relating to records and archives in the United Kingdom, and in particular England and Wales. The functions of the ACNRA are written into statute in the Public Records Act 1958 section 1.2 and in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 schedule 5, which amends the Public Records Act.

The ACNRA, chaired by the Master of the Rolls, advises the Lord Chancellor on issues relating to public records that are over 30 years old under the Public Records Act (PRA) 1958, including access to them, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. From January 2013, following implementation of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, Government began a 10-year transition to a new “20-year rule”, with the previous 30-year rule being reduced progressively until the new rule is in effect. The ACNRA also advises on general policy issues linked to the public records system.

The triennial review has concluded that there remains a need for the ACNRA to continue its current functions, in its current form and that the current model offers good value for money. The review found that the case for retaining the ACNRA as an independent advisory NDPB is widely and strongly supported. The role played by the ACNRA in the public records system is an essential one and no other model for delivering the statutory duties of the ACNRA offers the same level of assurance to government and the public that these duties will be discharged independently, impartially and with consideration of the public interest as the primary concern.

The ACNRA meets all three of the tests set by the Government for the delivery of functions by an NDPB. The review has also found that the ACNRA may benefit from reviewing its recruitment processes and its reporting arrangements in respect of wider archives sector responsibilities, and has made recommendations to address these.

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The triennial review has been carried out with the participation of a range of stakeholders and users, in addition to the ACNRA itself. The review was publicised on The National Archives’ website and stakeholders were invited to contributethrough a call for evidence and through meetings. In addition to the project board which oversaw the review, a critical friend group challenged the evidence used to make conclusions.

I am grateful to all who contributed to this triennial review. The final report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Law Commission (Triennial Review)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks, has made the following written ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce the publication of the report of stage 2 of the triennial review of the Law Commission. I have placed a copy in the Libraries of both Houses. When the stage 1 report was published in July 2013 the Government undertook to report back to Parliament on the outcome of stage 2 of the review.

In line with Cabinet Office principal aims for triennial reviews, stage 2 has involved an assessment of the Law Commission’s governance arrangements against best practice standards to ensure that, as a public body, it is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.

The review identified a number of areas of good practice by the Law Commission and its sponsor team at the Ministry of Justice. In particular, it commended the Commission’s open and transparent approach to law reform and policy making.

Although there are few problems in practice, the review identified there was scope for improvement in the corporate governance arrangements in place in relation to the Commission and made a number of recommendations. These include developing a framework document that will codify the Commission’s terms of reference and sponsorship arrangements with the Ministry of Justice, as well as updating the Commission’s code of best practice to ensure it is line with current guidance. Progress towards implementation will be reviewed six months after the publication of the stage 2 report.

Leader of the House

Government Bills: Drafting Guidance

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley): I am pleased to announce that new guidance has today been published by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel recommending that powers to make delegated legislation conferred by Government Bills should generally take the form of regulation-making powers and not order-making powers.

At the moment, Government Bills often give Ministers the power to make delegated legislation by order or by regulations but there is no clear distinction between these two forms. The guidance, which will affect the drafting of Government Bills introduced in the next session of Parliament, will make a modest contribution to simplifying legislation and eliminating a source of potential confusion for readers who are currently faced with two forms of delegated legislation where one would do.

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One area where the new practice may be particularly noticeable is that Bills will provide for commencement regulations rather than commencement orders. The recommendation will not affect rules or Orders in Council.

Copies of the new guidance will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The latest drafting guidance can also be found at:



EU Transport Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I attended the first Transport Council under the Greek presidency (the presidency) in Brussels on Friday 14 March.

The Council reached a general approach on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Railways. There was strong member state support for the presidency text—it was seen as a key step towards breaking down barriers to a single market and supporting the efficiency, transparency and increased competitiveness of the European rail industry. This important piece of legislation completes the technical pillar of the fourth railway package and will help to further develop the single European rail area. The Commission called on the Council to begin discussions on the remaining market opening and governance pillars to retain the “package” concept of the fourth railway package. I strongly supported this position.

There was a positive discussion on a proposal for a Council regulation establishing the Shift2Rail joint undertaking which resulted in the adoption of the Council position on the proposal. The joint undertaking would lead to the development of a co-ordinated approach to research and innovation in the rail sector, enhance the competitiveness of the EU rail sector and further support the completion of the single European rail area.

A wide-ranging policy debate was held on the Commission communication entitled “Together towards a competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility”. While there were varying views on funding options, there was unanimous support from member states for the Commission’s plans in so far as they remain flexible and respect the principle of subsidiarity. The Commission confirmed that it had no plans for legislative action in this area. I welcomed the communication which provides a helpful framework for urban mobility planning and highlighted that the UK already met most of its objectives.

Under any other business, the presidency provided information on three legislative proposals. First, on the political agreement that was reached on a proposal for a regulation on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Union airports. This was the first political agreement reached on the airports package under the Greek presidency. The European Parliament plenary vote is scheduled to take place in April. Secondly, on

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their achievement on a proposal for a regulation on community fleet capacity policy to promote inland waterway transport. This regulation does not apply to the UK as we have no inland waterways which meet the criteria for inclusion. Finally, the presidency informed member states that an agreement was within reach on a proposal for a directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure—clean power.

Also under any other business, France supported by Germany and Czech Republic urged member states to commence discussions on how best to prepare for and exploit the benefits of using the European Galileo system in civil aviation by 2025. The Commission provided a brief summary on the successful outcome of the EU-ASEAN aviation summit held in Singapore on 11-12 February. Estonia presented a proposal on state aid for rescuing and restructuring non-financial undertakings in difficulty.

I used the opportunity of my attendance to hold bilateral discussions with Transport Secretaries from Greece, Italy and Germany.


Wales Bill

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr David Jones): The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I have today published the Wales Bill and the accompanying Command Paper, “Wales Bill: Financial Empowerment and Accountability”.

The Wales Bill will provide the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales with more levers and incentives to deliver greater economic growth in Wales. The Bill will make the Welsh Government more accountable to the people of Wales, as they will be responsible not only for the money they spend but also, for the first time, how they raise some of that money. The Bill will also provide the Welsh Government with the mechanism to borrow in order to fund improvements in Wales’s infrastructure and reforms the Assembly’s electoral arrangements to make them fairer and more equitable.

Alongside the Bill the Command Paper, “Wales Bill: Financial Empowerment and Accountability” explains the effects of the finance elements in part 2 of the Bill in more detail and sets out further actions that the Government are taking, following the recommendations of the Silk Commission’s part 1 report, that do not require legislation. A Welsh language version will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/wales-office

I have also written to my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, enclosing a memorandum responding to the Committee’s report on its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Wales Bill. The Government have accepted most of the Committee’s recommendations, and I wish to place on record my thanks to the Committee for its timely and thorough scrutiny of the draft Bill. For the convenience of the House, and with the Committee’s permission, I have placed a copy of the memorandum in the Libraries of both Houses.