7 Nov 2014 : Column 57WS

7 Nov 2014 : Column 57WS

Written Statements

Friday 7 November 2014

Business, Innovation and Skills

Competition Appeal Tribunal and Competition Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Jo Swinson): The triennial review of the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) and the Competition Service (CS) commenced on 21 August 2013 and I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.

The CAT was established by the Enterprise Act 2002, which came into force on 1 April 2003, to hear appeals against certain decisions of the UK competition authorities and economics regulators. It is a specialist body with cross-disciplinary expertise in law, economics, business and accountancy. The Enterprise Act 2002 also created the Competition Service: a body corporate and executive non-departmental public body whose purpose is to fund and provide administrative and legal support services to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The review has concluded that the CAT has a vital role to play in determining regulatory and competition appeals, which have important consequences for the wider economy and the Government’s growth agenda; and should therefore remain as a specialist tribunal NDPB.

The review also concludes that the functions performed by the Competition Service should be retained but should be merged with those of the CAT to form a single body, a specialist tribunal NDPB with its own support functions. The merger should be taken forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Stage 2 of the review examined the governance arrangements for both the CAT and the CS to assess compliance with statutory accountabilities and confirm that appropriate governance arrangements were in place. The review concluded that overall compliance with recognised principles of good corporate governance was good and should be rated green. However, the review also identified a number of recommendations to improve how the governance functions will operate in the context of the new merged body.

The full report of the review of the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the Competition Service can be found at: https://www.gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Council for Science and Technology (Review)

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities (Greg Clark): Commencement of the Triennial Review of the Council for Science and Technology (CST) was announced in Parliament through a written ministerial statement on 15 April 2013 and I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.

7 Nov 2014 : Column 58WS

The Council for Science and Technology was established in 1993 in response to the Government White Paper “Realising our potential: a strategy for science, engineering and technology”. It replaced the Advisory Council on Science and Technology. It is an advisory non-departmental public body to the Prime Minister but, for administrative purposes, it is sponsored by BIS and was therefore included in the programme of triennial reviews undertaken by BIS.

The review concludes that the functions performed by the Council for Science and Technology are still required and that it should be retained as an advisory non-departmental public body. The review also examined the governance arrangements for the Council of Science and Technology in line with guidance on good corporate governance set out by the Cabinet Office. The review concluded that the council operates in line with the principles of good corporate governance for an organisation of its size, but there are a number of opportunities to improve it functions.

The full report of the review of the Council for Science and Technology can be found at: https://www.gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held on Brussels on 7 November 2014. Ministers are due to discuss the following items:

Revision of VAT and gross national income (GNI) own resources balances 1995 -2013

The Commission will provide information on adjustments to EU budget contributions, focusing on the revision of VAT and GNI own resources balances between 1995 and 2013.

Financial transaction tax

The Council will hold a state of play discussion on the proposal for a Council directive implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of a financial transaction tax.

Standard VAT return

The Council will hold a state of play update on the proposal for a Council Directive amending directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value-added tax, as regards a standard VAT return.

Parent subsidiaries directive

Ministers will aim to reach political agreement on the proposal for a Council directive amending directive 2011/96/EU on the common system of taxation applicable in the case of parent companies and subsidiaries of different member states.

EU statistics

Ministers will be asked to agree the annual set of Council conclusions on EU statistics.

Preparation of the 20th conference of parties to the United Nations Framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC).

Ministers will be asked to agree a set of Council conclusions in preparation of the 20th conference of parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Lima from 1 to 12 December 2014.

7 Nov 2014 : Column 59WS

Employment Allowance

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Today I am announcing the latest figures for take up of the Employment Allowance scheme that came into effect in April this year.

The Employment Allowance allows businesses and charities across the UK to claim an allowance of up to £2,000 every year to reduce their National Insurance contributions (NICs). The allowance is part of the Government’s commitment to support small businesses: by reducing the cost of employment, the Employment Allowance will help small businesses seeking to grow by hiring their first employee or expanding their existing workforce.

Today I can confirm that take-up of the Employment Allowance has been very positive. The most recent HMRC figures to 5 October 2014 show that around 856,000 employers have benefited from the allowance. That represents around 68 % take up across the UK as a whole after only 6 months of the operation of the allowance.

In total around £900 million of employer NICs relief has been claimed by businesses through the allowance.

These latest figures demonstrate our commitment to increase employment by reducing burdens for small businesses and show that businesses have recognised this and are responding to Government policies in this area. I will update the House in due course about the Employment Allowance when more information becomes available.

The latest figures are available on HMRC’s website and, in line with the commitments made during the passage of the National Insurance Act 2014, a copy of this statement and the latest figures have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I know that all Members have an interest in promoting business opportunities in their constituencies, so I would urge Members to help make businesses aware of the benefit of the Allowance.

Financial Policy Committee(Leverage Ratio Framework)

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom): The Government have today published a consultation on granting the independent Financial Policy Committee (FPC) new powers over a leverage ratio framework for UK banks, building societies and investment firms.

On 26 November 2013, the Chancellor wrote to the Governor asking that the FPC undertake a review of the leverage ratio and its role in the regulatory framework. On 11 July 2014, the FPC published a consultation paper setting out its initial proposal for a leverage ratio framework and sought the views of the industry. On 31 October 2014, following almost a year of work and extensive consultation with stakeholders, the FPC published its response, the Review of the Leverage Ratio. The review recommended that the FPC be given new powers of direction over the leverage ratio framework for the UK banking sector. Specifically, the review recommended that the FPC should have a power of direction to set:

The minimum leverage ratio requirement to be set at 3%;

7 Nov 2014 : Column 60WS

The supplementary leverage ratio buffer rate to be set as a proportion of the systemic

risk-weighted capital buffers using a scaling factor of 35%; and

The countercyclical leverage ratio buffer rate to be set as a proportion of the countercyclical capital buffer rates using a scaling factor of 35%.

In response to this recommendation by the FPC, the Government are consulting on legislating to give the FPC powers of direction over leverage ratio requirements. Currently, the FPC can only make recommendations in relation to these tools.

The consultation that has been published today contains draft secondary legislation that will provide the FPC with the new powers of direction. The Treasury seeks responses to the consultation by 28 November 2014, in advance of laying the secondary legislation before Parliament in early 2015.

The consultation document The Financial Policy Committee leverage ratio framework has been published on the Gov.uk website and found using the following link:



Religious Studies (GCSEs and A-Levels)

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): In April this year, the Government announced that GCSEs and A-levels in religious studies, design and technology, drama, dance, music and physical education––and GCSEs in art and design, computer science and citizenship––would be reformed for first teaching in September 2016.

The Department has already consulted on proposed subject content for art and design, computer science, dance, music and physical education, and is currently consulting on proposed subject content for drama, design and technology and cooking and nutrition. Today, we are publishing for consultation new subject content for religious studies. At the same time, Ofqual, the independent regulator of qualifications and examinations for England, will consult on the proposed assessment objectives for this subject.

These new qualifications are intended to provide students with the knowledge and understanding that will prepare them for further and higher education and future employment. In common with all our reformed GCSEs and A-levels, they will be high-quality, demanding and academically rigorous qualifications.

The revised content for religious studies GCSE and A-levels is designed to provide students with a broader and deeper understanding of religion than previous specifications. For the first time, students studying the religious studies GCSE will be required to study two religions. As well as studying key scripture and religious texts, students will have the opportunity to learn about critiques of religion and other non- religious beliefs through the study of philosophy and ethics. In addition,

7 Nov 2014 : Column 61WS

it will be a requirement for students to be aware of the diverse range of religious and non- religious beliefs represented in this country and the fact that the religious traditions of Great Britain are, in the main, Christian.

For the thousands of church and faith schools in this country these reforms will enable them to build on their strong academic performance and the important role they play in their communities and wider society.

In future, all RS GCSE students will spend at least half their time engaging in an academically rigorous study of two religions. In all, students will have the option to spend up to three-quarters of their time studying one religion. These changes are an important part of ensuring the new GCSE is as broad and rigorously demanding as other GCSE subjects. In the same way that a well-educated GCSE history student would be expected to learn about more than just British history, we expect well- educated religious studies GCSE students to know about more than one religion. It will also help to prepare students for life in modern Britain, foster an awareness of other faiths and beliefs, and encourage

7 Nov 2014 : Column 62WS

tolerance and mutual respect––key British values that are non-negotiable and a vital part of a secure future for Britain.

At A-levels, students will study at least one religion in depth through two of the following three areas of study: the systematic study of religion; textual studies; and philosophy, ethics and social scientific studies. These broadly reflect the main areas of study at higher education and will ensure that students have sufficient breadth and depth of understanding to support progression to higher education.

This consultation is an important part of the reform process enabling all those with an interest in this subject to provide their views. We will consider carefully all responses received in determining the final content. The consultation on reformed subject content for religious studies GCSE and A-levels will be available today at: https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations. Ofqual’s consultation on assessment arrangements will be available on its website at: http://ofqual.gov.uk.