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Written Statements

Thursday 10 April 2014

Business, Innovation and Skills

Regional Growth Fund

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): Today my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will announce that 50 projects and programmes have been awarded a total of £300 million in round 5 of the regional growth fund (RGF).

This support will help an increasing number of companies to invest in long-term job creation in communities where the need is greatest, and bring in £1.9 billion in private investment. I am publishing a list of all 50 projects and programmes that have been selected for support in round 5 at annex A.

In the June 2013 spending round allocation, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government announced a further £600 million to be available for bids in rounds 5 and 6 of the RGF, bringing the fund total to £3.2 billion. Of this £600 million, £100 million was passed to the local growth fund which will support local enterprise partnership (LEP) initiatives from 2015-16. The remaining £500 million is available to fund rounds 5 and 6. The application window for round 5 ran from October to December 2013 and the fund appraised 129 bids seeking a total of £650 million. Unlike previous rounds, following the creation of the local growth fund for LEPs, round 5 was only open to private sector-led bids.

Since the start of the RGF over £1.5 billion has been made available to SMEs in England through RGF-supported programmes. Further details on how the RGF helps support SMEs can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/regional-growth-fund-a-guide-for-small-and-medium-enterprises-smes

Round 6 of the RGF will continue to help secure private sector investment and job creation when it opens to bids in the summer of 2014.

Annex A—list of selected bidders in round 5

East Midlands

Dalepak Ltd

Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry

University of Derby

East of England

Hayward Tyler Ltd (HTL)

Millbrook Proving Ground Ltd

Nationwide

Avanti Communications Group plc

Close Brothers Ltd

Compass Business Finance Ltd

Finance For Industry Ltd

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc

North East

Cleveland Potash Ltd (CPL)

Cummins Ltd

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Fine Industries Ltd

Gestamp Tallent Ltd

Huntsman Polyurethanes (UK) Ltd

Hydram Engineering Ltd

JDR Cable Systems Ltd

Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies Ltd (JM Davy)

Let’s Grow

Tinsley Special Products Ltd

TRW Systems Ltd

North West

Absynth Biologies Ltd

Glen Dimplex Home Appliances Ltd

GT Energy UK Ltd

Nice-Pak International Ltd

North West Logistics Ltd (“NWL”)

Redx Pharma Ltd

Unilever UK Central Resources Ltd

South East and London

Elekta Ltd

Farnborough International Ltd (FIL)

KEWS Kent Woodland Employment Scheme

South West

Becton Dickinson UK Ltd

Cornwall Marine Network Ltd

Dyson Technology Ltd

Fine Tubes Ltd

Gooch and Housego (Torquay) Ltd

North Devon+

SPP Pumps Ltd

West Midlands

Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd

Bournville College/Trinity Mirror Midands

HydraForce Hydraulics Ltd

Maier UK Ltd

MTCE Ltd

Sense and Sense International

Sertec

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce

Yorkshire and the Humber

Anglia Metal Ltd

Really Useful Products Ltd

Reckitt Benckiser (Brands)

Ltd UK Steel Enterprise Ltd

UK Coal Production Ltd

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): I want to update the House on matters concerning UK Coal Production Ltd.

The directors of UK Coal Production Ltd (UK Coal) approached the Government at the end of January 2014 to report that they were concerned that, due to a combination of an unfavourable coal price, exchange rates and other factors, the viability of the business was potentially in doubt.

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On 21 March a private sector-led consortium submitted proposals to Government for a managed closure of the operational deep mines by autumn 2015 and the sale of the surface mining business. The proposals require funding from a number of parties, including Government, to provide the liquidity necessary to enable the managed closure. The proposal involves the Government contributing an interest-bearing loan of £10 million alongside additional contributions from other parties.

The taxpayer would face significant losses and liabilities in the event of an immediate insolvency of UK Coal, principally relating to redundancy and unpaid tax liabilities. Considering this, the taxpayer is better served by supporting a managed closure of the mines. The proposal is for the Government to invest alongside private sector organisations, including an experienced coal operator. This provides reassurance on the deliverability of the closure plan and therefore the repayment of the Government loan. However, deep coal mining remains an inherently risky business. There is no value-for-money case for a level of investment that would keep the deep mines open beyond this managed wind-down period to autumn 2015. Private sector investors who wish to put in the substantial investment that would be needed to maintain the mines beyond autumn 2015 without Government support remain free to do so.

It is the Government’s intention, in principle, to participate in the private sector-led consortium created to avoid the immediate insolvency of UK Coal. This participation is conditional on negotiation of final terms that provide adequate protection to taxpayers, and the Government securing assurance that all parties (including trade unions) are committed to successful delivery of the closure plan.

The Jobcentre Plus rapid response service will be made available to help support the employees into new employment, and to arrange re-training where needed.

I should also like to acknowledge the ongoing support the company is receiving from its work force, customers, suppliers and creditors during this challenging period.

Defence

24 Commando Engineer Regiment

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): On 5 July 2012, Official Report, column 1085, the Defence Secretary made a statement to the House on the outcome of the Army 2020 review and laid out the future structure of the British Army. The announcement explained the need to restructure the Army to face an increasingly uncertain world and to create the agile and adaptable armed forces as set out in the 2010 strategic defence and security review. Included in the statement was the withdrawal of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment.

At the time of the Army 2020 announcement, the Army acknowledged that engagement with the Royal Navy was still ongoing, and this would refine the allocation of Army manpower available to support Royal Navy tasks. This process is now complete and it has been decided that 24 Commando Engineer Regiment will be retained although the regiment will be reduced in size. This change will be achieved by rebalancing Army manpower within 3 Commando Brigade and allows for the best use of available resources to deliver the strategic defence and security review and Army 2020 capability.

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We envisage that these structural changes will be implemented by no later than July 2015. 24 Commando Engineer Regiment will remain in Royal Marines Barracks, Chivenor (Barnstaple).

Armed Forces Pay Review Body (Triennial Review)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry): On 27 February 2014, Official Report, column 25WS, I announced in a written ministerial statement, the commencement of the triennial review of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB). I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.

The AFPRB plays an important role providing independent advice to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary, and the review has concluded that the body remains fit for purpose, delivering relevant and beneficial functions for Defence, in an appropriate governance framework. The review report makes some minor recommendations to improve the governance arrangements for the AFPRB, which will be taken forward by the Department in conjunction with stakeholders across Government and with the AFPRB. The report also notes that as the management framework for dealing with service personnel issues within the Department undergoes significant change, the relationship with the AFPRB may also need to evolve over time.

The triennial review has been carried out with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders across the Defence community, including the AFPRB. I am grateful to all those who contributed to the review. The final review report has been placed in the Library of the House.

Education

Careers Guidance

The Minister for Skills and Enterprise (Matthew Hancock): As part of plans to reform the education and skills systems we need better support to prepare young people for the world of work.

Today I am publishing revised statutory guidance, “Careers guidance and inspiration in schools”, which will be effective from September 2014.

As evidence shows that the best people to inspire and guide young people are those in good careers themselves, this guidance strengthens the requirement for schools to build links with employers to inspire and mentor pupils, helping them to develop high aspirations and fulfil their potential.

The guidance sets a clear framework for the provision of advice and guidance, giving schools clarity on the required approach to ensure that expectations are set high, and all young people can access the support they need to understand and navigate an ambitious range of career options.

The guidance emphasises the need to provide pupils with direct experience of the world of work, a clear view of the labour market and a good understanding of progression routes through education, including apprenticeships and university. The guidance highlights the benefits of pupils having face-to-face discussions to explore career ideas with a range of people including alumni, careers advisers, coaches, mentors and other

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inspiring individuals. There is now no excuse for schools and colleges not to engage local employers to support students in the transition from education to employment.

Departmental advice published alongside the guidance provides examples of inspiring activities that can be embedded within a clear advice and guidance strategy linked to outcomes for pupils. It also contains details of organisations that help to broker relationships between schools and employers, and case studies demonstrating high-quality advice and guidance. This paints a clear picture of what good careers guidance looks like, offering evidence of what works.

The guidance sets out clearly how schools will be held to account, confirming Ofsted’s intention to take greater account during school inspections of the quality of careers guidance and of pupils’ destinations. This sits alongside the new accountability structures published last week, which will hold schools to account for pupil destinations, as well as English and Maths and exam results.

The new guidance is available on the Government website www.gov.uk and copies have been placed in the House Libraries.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Human Rights and Democracy Report

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I have today laid before the House a copy of the 2013 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report on human rights and democracy (CM 8842).

The report is a comprehensive assessment of the global human rights situation in 2013. It sets out what the Government are doing through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to promote human rights and democratic values around the world in three principal ways. First, it documents how we are seeking to exert a positive influence in a range of countries where we have serious concerns about the human rights situation. Secondly, it assesses progress on a number of thematic issues that cut across geographical boundaries. And thirdly, it reports on the benefits for UK citizens of our work on human rights, in terms of prosperity, security, and human rights for British nationals overseas.

The primary criterion for inclusion as a country of concern continues to be the gravity of the human rights situation in the country, including both the severity of particular abuses and the range of human rights affected. This year we introduced a list of human rights indicators and indices in order to ensure that our analysis of this criterion was strictly evidence-based. As a result of this analysis, no countries were removed from the countries of concern category, and the Central African Republic was added to the list.

Country case studies are a way to report on countries that do not meet the overall threshold for a country of concern, but which we judge nonetheless to be facing human rights challenges, or to be on a trajectory of change with regard to their human rights performance. The Gambia has been removed from this category, and the report features Swaziland and India as thematic case studies this year. The remainder of country case studies is unchanged from 2012: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

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Our topical theme for the report is “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict”. Rape as a weapon of war needs to be removed from the world’s arsenal of cruelty, and the culture of impunity that surrounds the issue put to an end. It is an issue of fundamental importance to international peace and security and conflict prevention. Since the launch of the preventing sexual violence initiative, the UK has worked with many Governments around the world, the UN and other multilateral organisations, and a wide range of committed NGOs and civil society organisations to achieve greater global awareness of the scale of sexual violence in conflict, and to promote changes in how the international community perceives and responds to the issue. I am determined that political will now turns to practical action. In June, I am co-hosting the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, with the special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, in London. Over 140 countries will be represented and it will be the biggest meeting ever held on this issue.

Human rights are at the heart of our foreign policy, and remain a priority for the Government as a whole. In 2013, we were successful in our bid for election to the UN Human Rights Council, giving us a greater opportunity to support countries working to improve their human rights record, and to call to account those nations that commit serious and systematic violations against their citizens.

In 2014, the UK will continue to work on our six global thematic priorities: women’s rights; torture prevention; abolition of the death penalty; freedom of expression on the internet; business and human rights; and freedom of religion or belief. We will aim to protect those most vulnerable in society, promote human dignity for all, and respond proactively to the many existing and, as yet unforeseen, challenges on human rights that 2014 brings.

The full report can be read at: www.hrdreport.fco.gov.uk

Foreign Affairs Council/Defence Foreign Affairs Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 April. The Minister for International Security Strategy will attend the European Defence Agency Steering Board and the Defence Foreign Affairs Council on 15 April. Both Councils will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. The meetings will be held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

Introduction

Baroness Ashton is expected to cover a number of topics in her introductory remarks, including the outcomes of the EU/US summit which took place on 26 March in Brussels; her meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brussels on 1 April; the outcomes of the EU/Africa summit which took place on 2 and 3 April in Brussels; the first round of the presidential elections in Afghanistan which took place on 5 April; and the talks between the E3+3 and Iran on a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme on 8 and 9 April in Vienna. We do not expect substantive discussion on any of these topics.

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Ukraine

Ministers will discuss the situation in Ukraine. The UK will focus on how to support Ukraine in the crucial pre-election period and also longer term. Free and fair elections are crucial to build confidence in a new Government that will carry out the deep reforms Ukraine needs to become the prosperous and stable independent country that it aspires to be. The presidential elections on 25 May represent both opportunity and risk for Ukraine. The election process is likely to be fraught with difficulty; Russia will seek to undermine and possibly even delay the process. The UK will be proposing ideas to mitigate the risks and help the new Government engage with the Ukrainian people including those regions which have concerns about protecting their cultural and linguistic rights. We will also be stressing the importance of further preparatory work on restrictive measures against Russia to ensure EU preparedness for any further escalation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ministers will discuss the latest developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). They will also adopt conclusions urging Bosnian leaders to address immediately the legitimate socio-economic grievances of their population, making clear the EU’s strong commitment to supporting BiH in implementing the wide range of reforms needed for the country to progress, should BiH’s leaders demonstrate their commitment to immediate reform. The UK supports a broadened and reinvigorated EU effort in BiH, in response to the recent protests and the political and economic stalemate which they reflect. The UK will emphasise strongly the need for BiH’s leadership to respond rapidly and comprehensively to the population’s legitimate demands for change. The UK will also emphasise its continued commitment to BiH’s territorial integrity as a united sovereign country, and make clear that it regards recent secessionist rhetoric as entirely unacceptable.

Syria

Ministers will discuss the situation in Syria, focusing on humanitarian access, elections, sanctions and humanitarian aid.

The UK will emphasise the importance of the Syrian regime complying with all the demands of the UN Security Council Resolution 2139 on humanitarian access, in particular allowing cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access. We will also stress the importance of the UN and other international aid agencies, including EU aid agencies, scaling up their cross-border and cross-line aid deliveries, given the legitimacy of carrying out cross-border work without regime consent in these circumstances. The UK will stress its support for the political track, including delegitimising the regime-held presidential elections. In support of the political and humanitarian efforts, the UK will ask member states to consider putting pressure on the regime through further sanctions measures, and to contribute more funding for humanitarian aid.

European Defence Agency Ministerial Steering Board

The EDA Ministerial Steering Board is likely to focus on work to date developing the policy framework for systematic and long-term co-operation, called for in the December 2013 European Council conclusions. The UK supports efforts to encourage EU member states to invest in defence capabilities and co-ordinate requirements

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where appropriate, to help deliver efficiencies and address critical shortfalls. Any EU framework must not duplicate existing NATO defence planning activities and must not cross the UK’s established defence red lines.

Defence Foreign Affairs Council

Maritime security

Ministers will discuss the recent joint communication on maritime security from the Commission and Baroness Ashton, which sets out elements that could be incorporated in an EU maritime security strategy. We support developing a more co-ordinated and coherent approach to existing Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) work in this field, and will seek to ensure the final strategy, expected in June, takes full account of the roles of other international organisations, particularly NATO.

Central African Republic

Ministers will receive an update on the deployment of the EU’s operation in the Central African Republic, EUFOR RCA. The UK is concerned about the ongoing security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, and EUFOR RCA will contribute to security in Bangui until a successful hand-over to the African Union mission or a possible UN peacekeeping operation can be completed. We would like to see the operation deployed and having effect on the ground quickly, and are examining in detail possible logistic support to help achieve this. The UK has provided a staff officer to the operation headquarters in Larissa, but will not be contributing any combat troops.

Eastern Partnership

In the context of recent events in Ukraine, Baroness Ashton is likely to provide an update on the EU’s support to its eastern partners, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. We will continue to encourage co-operation with eastern partners in the context of the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP), building on existing EU work to support and facilitate eastern partners’ contributions to CSDP missions and operations.

EU Foreign Ministers (Informal Meeting)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the informal Foreign Ministers meeting on 4 to 5 April in Athens, Greece.

The informal format of the Gymnich allows EU Foreign Ministers to engage in a free-ranging discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to arrangements in the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Ministers do not agree any formal written conclusions. The next FAC is due to be held on 14 April.

The Gymnich was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Discussion centred on issues in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods.

Commissioners Füle (enlargement and European neighbourhood policy) and Georgieva (international co-operation, humanitarian aid and crisis response) were in attendance for some of the discussions. Elmar Brok MEP, chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, attended lunch with the Foreign Ministers.

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Foreign Affairs Council

Ukraine

Ministers discussed the situation in the eastern neighbourhood countries, focusing in particular on Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The Foreign Secretary emphasised the importance of support for Ukraine, in particular in this crucial pre-election period. He also stated the importance of rebalancing the EU’s relationship with Russia and over the long term reducing our energy dependency; the immediate tasks were to continue the preparatory work on the possible next phase of sanctions, and on the consequences of annexation for Crimea. Discussion among Ministers ranged widely over these topics.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ministers discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Foreign Secretary made a strong case for increasing EU engagement, aimed at supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development into a fully functioning state. Baroness Ashton ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina alongside Ukraine and Syria as one of the EU’s main external policy challenges.

Syria

Ministers discussed the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria, and the regime’s non-compliance with UN Security Council resolution 2139. They underlined the importance of the resolution being fully implemented. Ministers also discussed progress on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.

Home Department

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): On 10 September 2013, the then Minister with responsibility for agriculture and food, the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) made a written statement to Parliament announcing the triennial review of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA)—Official Report, column 44WS. I am pleased to announce the conclusion of the review. Responsibility for the GLA has now moved from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Home Office under a machinery of government change.

The GLA is an organisation which regulates the supply of labour to the farming, food processing and shellfish gathering sectors and protects workers in those sectors from exploitation. The GLA works to embed a framework through which workers are treated fairly and labour providers and labour users operate on a level playing field. The GLA also plays a significant role

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in enforcing the protection of workers and directly tackling those who choose to abuse the system.

The review has concluded that there is a continuing role for the GLA.

The review concludes that the functions performed by the GLA are still necessary, that the GLA remains the right body for delivering them and that it should be retained as an non-departmental public body (NDPB). The review also looked at the governance arrangements for the body in line with Cabinet Office principles of good practice. It further suggested that the GLA should develop mechanisms for continued effective communication and engagement with stakeholders. The report makes some recommendations in this respect; these will be implemented shortly.

By moving sponsorship of the GLA to the Home Office, the Government are seeking to strengthen the GLA’s law-enforcement functions, supporting the Home Office’s work to tackle modern slavery and worker exploitation.

The full report of the review of the GLA can be found on the gov.uk website and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Work and Pensions

Personal Independence Payment Assessment

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): The Government have committed, through the Welfare Reform Act 2012, to carry out an independent review of the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment within the first two years of operations.

I am pleased to announce today that Paul Gray CB has been appointed to carry out the first independent review.

Paul Gray has held the position of chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) since November 2011. Prior to his retirement from the civil service in 2007, he held a number of senior positions including executive chairman of HM Revenue and Customs and managing director, pensions and disability in the Department for Work and Pensions.

During the period of the review Paul Gray intends to stand aside from any consideration by SSAC of issues relating to personal independence payment.

The review will provide valuable independent insight into the how the assessment process is operating in its early stages.

Paul Gray will present his report to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions before the end of 2014.