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Written Statements

Tuesday 9 December 2014



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 9 December 2014. Ministers will discuss the following items:

Financial transactions tax

The presidency will present a short state of play update on this file, both in light of work carried out during its semester and work which will be taken forward under the next presidency.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency will provide an update on the status of current legislative files.

Single resolution mechanism—single resolution fund contributions

The presidency will seek political agreement on a proposed regulation regarding ex ante contribution by participants to the single resolution fund.

Measures in support of investment

Ministers will discuss measures to support investment ahead of discussion at December European Council.

Review of the Europe 2020 strategy

The Council will hold a follow-up discussion on the Europe 2020 review ahead of General Affairs Council in December.

Economic governance

Ahead of discussion at December European Council the Commission will present a suite of documents, including the annual growth survey 2015, the alert mechanism report 2015 and a communication on the six-pack and two-pack review. Ministers will then hold an exchange of views on these items.

Annual report of the Court of Auditors on budget implementation

The President of the European Court of Auditors will present the court’s annual report on the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2013.

Code of conduct (business taxation)

The Council will be invited to endorse the report on the progress of the code of conduct group during the Italian presidency, and to adopt accompanying Council conclusions.

Letter by Finance Ministers Sapin, Schaeuble and Padoan to Commissioner Moscovici

The presidency will provide information on a letter from France, Germany and Italy to Commissioner Moscovici outlining views on ways forward to tackle tax avoidance.

Communities and Local Government

Birmingham City Council

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): To address the wider weaknesses that were highlighted in Birmingham’s

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governance culture by the report into the allegations concerning Birmingham’s schools, the leader of Birmingham city council Sir Albert Bore and I asked Sir Bob Kerslake to lead a review of the governance of the city council to report by December 2014 (as outlined in the written statement of 22 July 2014,

Official Report

, Column 109WS).

Sir Bob’s review has been supported by an expert advisory panel comprising senior local government leaders and chief executives. Sir Bob and the panel have spent a significant amount of time in the city meeting over 350 people including citizens, business leaders, community and faith leaders, the voluntary and community sector, local politicians, council officers, frontline staff and representatives of the other public services. They have also spoken to each of the hon. Members representing the city and received around 80 submissions of written evidence.

The review has found a series of deep rooted and serious problems that are stopping both the city and the council from fulfilling their potential. These include:

the council has to change its corporate culture. Its size acts as both a badge and a barrier: it has led to a not invented here, silo based and council-knows-best attitude. Trojan Horse was symptomatic of a culture, under successive administrations, that has too often swept deep rooted problems under the carpet rather than addressed them;

for years Birmingham city council’s members and senior officers have failed to collectively take the big decisions needed to tackle the problems the city faces and to be sufficiently clear with residents about the choices that need to be made;

the clear boundaries that should exist between the roles of members and officers have become blurred; and

the city council has 15 of the 20 wards with the largest population in the country and the council is the largest metropolitan borough. There are also very few town and parish councils within the city’s boundaries. The sheer number of councillors (120) means the council is difficult to run and the large size of the multi-member wards has meant councillors have found it hard to represent their communities effectively.

The primary responsibility to address these challenges lies with the city council. However, as was the case in Stoke-on-Trent, the current electoral arrangements of elections with large three member wards in Birmingham are not helping. A combination of single member wards, a smaller number of members and all-out elections will make the council stronger, save taxpayers’ money and become much more directly accountable to the people it serves.

I therefore intend to change the electoral cycle of the council to all-out elections and ask the Local Government Boundary Committee for England to conduct an electoral review with a view to completing its work to enable elections by May 2017.

The review makes clear that there are fewer town and parish councils in Birmingham than in other cities. The Government want to make it easier and simpler for people to set up town and parish councils where they do not exist. Where local people express popular support for the creation of a town or parish council, the city council should work with local residents to help that happen not frustrate them.

Parts of Birmingham are among the most deprived in the country and as a result there are more poor children in the city than anywhere else in England. This will not change while so many adults remain low skilled and are

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locked out of the new jobs the city’s businesses are creating and these are the conditions in which distrust and division can thrive. The Government will therefore also consider supporting the review’s recommendation to create a new high powered partnership vehicle focused on increasing employment and improving skills, starting in the most deprived parts of Birmingham.

The Government believe that, where locally-supported, combined authorities can help co-ordinate and drive through policy to stimulate economic growth and plan strategically across the city and their natural economic area. I note the steps that the city council is taking with its neighbouring authorities to form a new locally-led combined authority. However, as the review makes clear they are falling behind other places. Local leaders should put aside their differences and reach agreement on a combined authority quickly so the locality can once again become a powerhouse for innovation, jobs and growth.

The scale of the problems Sir Bob has found means the city council is unlikely to be able to address them alone. I will therefore be appointing an independent improvement panel that will provide the support and robust challenge the city council needs. I intend that this will help the people of Birmingham to hold the council to account for how they are improving. It will report formally on progress in December 2015.

Sir Bob has published his review today and I have placed a copy in the Library of the House. It is also available online at: http://www.parliament.uk/ writtenstatements.


UK-Bahrain Defence Arrangement

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The UK and Bahrain have agreed to enhance the naval and logistics facilities that are used by British forces in Bahrain and that support our basing and operations in the Gulf region. The new arrangement was signed at the Manama dialogue on 5 December, 2014.

This agreement will improve facilities at the Bahrain defence force Mina Salman port in Bahrain, where the UK has mine hunters permanently based and from where British destroyers and frigates in the Gulf are supported. Under the arrangement, the UK and Bahrain will work together to enhance the facilities at the port, and provide a bigger base for ships on operations, store equipment, and accommodate service personnel. Bahrain will make a significant contribution to the cost of the new facilities.

The UK will maintain a defence presence in Bahrain for years to come. The agreement reaffirms the UK’s and Bahrain’s joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of enduring and emerging regional challenges. The expansion of Britain’s footprint builds upon our 40-year track record of Gulf patrols and is just one example of our growing partnerships with the Gulf states to tackle shared strategic and regional threats.

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A World-class Teaching Profession (Government Consultation)

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): The Minister of State for Schools and I are today launching a consultation on proposals to support the teaching profession in England in becoming truly world-class.

Evidence from around the world consistently shows that the quality of teaching is the single most important school-based factor determining how well children achieve. There is much to celebrate in the quality of teachers in our schools, but there is also more that can be done if our teachers and teaching are to be truly world-class.

Increasingly, the teaching profession is becoming a powerful force for its own improvement. The best schools are driving up standards in others, with outstanding teachers leading the way in modelling practice within their own schools and beyond. But there is more that we, as Government, can do to promote and support a self-improving schools system to build on the successes that it has already made.

So we are now proposing a number of measures designed to help teachers to go even further in raising standards. Our proposals centre on the development of teaching as a mature and confident profession whose members are committed to their own development and improvement, and who consequently are accorded the status as professionals that they rightly deserve.

We are consulting on two key areas. First, we are setting out our commitment to supporting the establishment of a new professional body for teaching—a college of teaching. We agree with the many teachers and school leaders who have called for such a body to be established as part of the process of putting greater power and authority in the hands of the teaching profession itself. The consultation proposes a number of ways in which Government might support the initial set-up of a college while guaranteeing its long-term independence, which will be crucial to its success. We are inviting expressions of interest from groups who are interested in establishing the college, through which we can channel appropriate support.

Secondly, we are proposing measures to improve the quality of professional development undertaken by teachers. High-quality, evidence-based professional development is the hallmark of leading professions; too often, however, teachers tell us that they are being let down by the opportunities available to them. We want to support teaching to become a truly “learning profession”, whose members are committed to career-long development. We are therefore proposing to establish a new fund to support the development and delivery of high-quality professional development programmes, led by the teaching schools network but reaching out to those schools which require the greatest additional support to improve. All programmes will be robustly evaluated and the evidence generated will be made widely available to teachers, helping to build and spread a sound knowledge base about the effectiveness of different approaches to professional development.

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The full proposals are available online at www.gov.uk and the consultation will be open until 3 February 2015. A copy of the consultation document is also available online at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements

Energy and Climate Change

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd): In May this year, I published a formal consultation setting out our proposals to review the biomethane injection to grid tariff under the renewable heat incentive (RHI). Since then DECC has engaged extensively with stakeholders on our proposals and received over 60 responses to the consultation.

Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of the formal Government response to our consultation which sets out how we will revise the biomethane injection to grid tariff. Biomethane is set to be an important contributor to renewable heat under the RHI and I want to ensure the scheme allows the burgeoning biomethane injection to grid market to grow sustainably and offer good value for money to the taxpayer. Copies of the response will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

New tariffs

DECC intends to implement a tiered tariff structure to the biomethane injection to grid tariff based around three tiers. We intend to pay 7.5p for the first 40,000 megawatt hours (MWh) injected into the grid (the “tier 1” tariff), 4.4p for the next 40,000 MWh (the “tier 2” tariff) and 3.4p for any subsequent biomethane injected over a period of 12 months from the date of registration. The tariff will be paid up to the maximum volume of biomethane the producer is entitled to inject under the Network Entry Agreement (NEA). Tiering was overwhelmingly popular among consultation respondents, particularly a three tier approach. Tiering is less prone to unintended consequences such as gaming, as opposed to the alternative option we consulted on, a banding solution which encourages clustering around band thresholds which could lead to inefficient sizing of plants. Tiering the tariff also means there is no longer a requirement to accurately determine the system capacity of the plant. This is because the meter readings relating to volume of gas injected can be used to determine the “tiered” payments.

The tariffs have been modelled based on a feedstock mix of 70% unpackaged food waste and 30% energy crop. Feedback from the responses indicated that it is necessary to include some energy crop in the feedstock mix to hedge against the risk inherent in short-term waste contracts.

Feedback from the consultation revealed a broad consensus that the gate fees presented in the consultation document were too high, that contracts offering that level of income are no longer available, and there is limited opportunity to secure the long-term contracts for food waste which have been available in the past. The tariffs have been modelled based on gate fees of £15 per tonne for unpackaged food waste based upon evidence received during the consultation. Evidence from the consultation supported a crop feedstock cost of £35 per tonne.

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RHI expenditure is controlled within agreed limits through a budget management mechanism known as degression. When the new tiered tariffs are introduced, the biomethane degression triggers will remain unchanged and committed expenditure—for the purposes of assessing degressions—will be based upon expenditure for plants registered under both the old tariff and new tariffs; and that if a degression for the biomethane tariffs is triggered, it will be applied to all tiers equally, e.g. for a 5% tariff degression, the tariff in each tier would be reduced by 5%. This means that the relative levels of the tiers will be maintained. We consider this approach avoids introducing further complexity into the scheme and creating uncertainty for industry.

In order to avoid the new tariff being degressed soon after its introduction, which would be destabilising for investor certainty, the new biomethane tariff will have temporary protection from degression between the introduction of the tariff and the end of June 2015. However, there is a balances to be struck between providing tariff stability and enforcing budget control. As such, the new tariff, once introduced, will be eligible for degression from 1 July 2015 inclusive. The outcome of the degression assessment for both 1 January and 1 April 2015 will still apply for the purposes of assessing the level of any degression to be applied on 1 July 2015. The new tariffs will also be subject to any retail price index uplift on 1 April 2015.

Additional capacity

Any additional capacity added to existing plant will receive the prevailing tariff at the time the additional capacity is registered, e.g. if additional capacity is registered after the tiered tariffs have been introduced, it will receive the tiered tariff, or a degressed tiered tariff.

Consistent with the announcement we made this summer, that any new tariff will not be introduced before 1 December 2014, we plan that the implementing regulations will come into force in February 2015 subject to parliamentary approval and will apply to all new installations and additional capacity only.

I will lay the necessary statutory instruments to implement these changes before the House as soon as possible.


Gosport Independent Panel

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): On 10 July, Official Report, column 33WS, I announced the establishment of the Gosport independent panel, chaired by Bishop James Jones, set up to review documentary evidence held across a range of organisations concerning the initial care of families’ relatives and the subsequent investigations into their deaths in Gosport War Memorial hospital.

Since then, the Bishop has begun working with affected families to ensure their views are taken into account in shaping the terms of reference.

I can now announce the Gosport independent panel’s agreed terms of reference and the appointment of four further members of the panel.

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In summary, the remit of the Gosport independent panel will be to:

Consult with the families of the deceased and of those treated to ensure that the views of those affected are taken into consideration;

Obtain, examine and analyse documentation from all relevant organisations and individuals—governmental and non-governmental.

Produce a report which will provide an overview of the information reviewed by the panel and will illustrate how the information disclosed adds to public understanding of these events and their aftermath.

The four additional panel members I have appointed are:

Dr Bill Kirkup, CBE, former member of the Hillsborough independent panel and currently the chair of an independent investigation into neonatal and maternal deaths at Morecambe Bay hospital. Dr Kirkup will finish this work before taking up his place on the Gosport panel substantively.

Dr Colin Currie, as a geriatrician, has wide experience in the care of older people in acute, rehabilitation and respite settings; and also has expertise in clinical governance, hip fracture care, and policy on the integration of health and social care.

David Hencke is an investigative journalist and writer.

Duncan Jarrett, OBE, is a former Scotland Yard commander and an experienced mediator.

Christine Gifford is a recognised expert in the field of access to information. She joined the panel in July, and has started work to ensure maximum possible disclosure of the documentary evidence to the panel.

I am making these appointments in view of the skill set required for the panel’s work. The new panel members are experts in their respective fields and I am grateful to each of them for agreeing to take on this task. Other panel members may be appointed at a later date. I will announce any future appointments through a press release.

This announcement marks the beginning of very important work for the independent panel members, relevant organisations and individuals in addressing the concerns and questions raised by family members over the years.

The review by the independent panel is expected to complete by the end of 2017. The Secretary of State for Health will make arrangements for publication of the final report to Parliament.

A copy of the detailed terms of reference has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. It is also available online at: http://www.parliament.uk/ writtenstatements

Health Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council met in Brussels to discuss health issues on 1 December. The UK was represented at the meeting by the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.

The Italian presidency provided a progress report on the medical devices regulations. Member states recognised the importance of making swift progress under the

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upcoming Latvian presidency. The UK underlined that it did not see the value in introducing an additional pre-market scrutiny mechanism.

Council conclusions were adopted on: vaccination as an effective tool in public health; patient safety and quality of care, including the prevention and control of health care associated infections and antimicrobial resistance; and innovation for the benefit of patients.

There was an exchange of views on the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy, and the value of including health in the strategy. The UK argued against expanding the strategy to include health policy on the grounds that the management and delivery of health care is a national competence and stated that a strategy focused on jobs and growth would be the most effective.

Under any other business, the Health Commissioner gave an update on the work being done by the Commission to combat the Ebola outbreak. Spain called on member states and the EU to sign the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking in human organs. There was discussion on an agenda item tabled by Luxembourg which focused on the admission criteria for men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood. The Italian presidency provided information on the outcomes of conferences held during their tenure.

The incoming Latvian presidency discussed its priorities. There will be three overarching priorities: competiveness and growth, the digital economy, and the EU’s role in the global arena. On health, they will prioritise:

Healthy lifestyles;

the medical devices regulations;

the new EU alcohol strategy;

the upcoming Eastern Partnership conference on multi-resistant tuberculosis.

During the ministerial lunch, there was a discussion on Ebola. The UK outlined the action it had taken so far and encouraged other member states to make further contributions.

The Italian presidency also drew attention to the fact that the meeting coincided with World AIDS day.


Civil Legal Advice

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): During the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 the Ministry of Justice committed to report to Parliament on the operation of the Civil Legal Advice (CLA) mandatory gateway within two years of its implementation.

This review is being published today and consists of four research reports and, separately, the Government’s response. The research is in four parts:

Civil Legal Advice mandatory gateway: Overarching research summary,

Findings from interviews with users,

Findings from interviews with service providers,

Analysis of management information.

These reports, and the separate Government response, when taken together constitute the review of the Civil Legal Advice mandatory gateway. I have placed copies of these reports in the Library of the House. They are also available online at, http://www.parliament.uk/ writtenstatements

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EU Transport Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I attended the second Transport Council under the Italian presidency (the presidency) in Brussels on Wednesday 3 December.

The first item under consideration was on TEN-T, where the presidency opened proceedings by outlining the link between the conclusions and both the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 package and the launch of the Juncker investment package. Former commissioner Christopherson gave an overview of his interim report which he thought could provide transport projects for support from the Juncker package which is seeking to leverage investment from the private sector. Member states expressed their support for the conclusions which were adopted. Commissioner Bulc welcomed the conclusions and asked for transport to be the subject of the spring European Council next year and to be at the heart of the Europe Council 2020 strategy.

However the Council’s proceedings were dominated by discussions on the proposed general approaches on the two legislative proposals under Single European Sky II+. The general approach on the SES Council related amendments to the EASA regulation was agreed without comment and the related Commission declaration on the applicability of the EASA regulation to Gibraltar airport was accepted.

On the SES recast, I supported the presidency’s ambition of reaching a general approach on the condition that it respected in full the EU treaties and included Gibraltar airport within scope. Spain sought the exclusion of Gibraltar airport. In an astonishing move, the presidency proposed (i) to put in square brackets the current text in article 1, paragraph 5, which notes that the application of the regulation is without prejudice to the respective legal positions of the UK and Spain with regard to the dispute over sovereignty over the territory in which the airport is situated and (ii) to add a footnote stating that,

“the question on how to reflect the Gibraltar issue in the text is awaiting the outcome of discussions between Spain and UK.”

I objected in the strongest possible terms, emphasising that Gibraltar was included in the current SES framework, that any exclusion of Gibraltar was unjustifiable under the treaties and that I could not accept any proposal that did not make clear that Gibraltar was within scope.

At my request, the Council legal service opined that the Council’s agreement on the aviation content amounted to a general approach, but the consequence of the part not agreed by all member states, that is the part concerning Gibraltar, resulted in the general approach being partial.

Overriding my protest and the opinion of the legal service, the Commission welcomed the presidency’s proposal, and the presidency concluded that a general approach had been reached. I left the Council in protest at what was a completely unacceptable situation.

The Government are clear that EU aviation legislation applies to Gibraltar as is clearly set out in the EU treaties. We will continue to defend the inclusion of Gibraltar in EU aviation legislation. We reserve our position on the lawfulness of any other outcome and on our response, including the possibility of pursuing legal proceedings.

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Following the Council, the Foreign Secretary spoke to his Italian counterpart last week to express our view that the dossier could not proceed to the next stage— discussions with the European Parliament—until the question of application to Gibraltar had been resolved. I am pleased to report that the Italian Foreign Minister gave his assurance that the Italian presidency would not seek to do this.

Although I was not present for the remainder of the Council, the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU continued to occupy the UK seat. I can report that the following discussions also took place.

On Standards of training, certification and watch-keeping for fishing vessel personnel (STCW-F), the Commission restated its position with regards to the reservation considering that this was the only legally sound approach. One member state intervened to support the Council decision but indicated that they would make a declaration in respect of the legal base.

The presidency’s progress report on the fourth railway package was broadly welcomed by member states but led to an echoing of comments made by member states in October. Several member states made it clear that for them the technical pillar remained the priority. The presidency and Commission were clear that the technical pillar on its own was not enough and that the package should stay together. Many member states remained sceptical about mandatory competitive tendering and called for more flexibility on direct award provisions. Latvia stated the fourth railway package would be a priority for their forthcoming presidency. The Commission took on board member state comments and looked forward to progressing work under the Latvian presidency. In addition, a general approach was reached on the repeal of regulation 1192/69 on common rules for the normalisation of the accounts of railway undertakings, a welcome simplification measure.

Under any other business, the presidency informed the Council about the EASA event on remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) that recently took place in Rome which the presidency hoped would serve as a useful basis to continue discussions under the Latvian presidency.

Commissioner Bienkowska updated the Council on Galileo and EGNOS. She made very clear she was committed to ensuring the success of the space sector, that transport was a key user underpinning the success of EGNOS and Galileo and looked to member states to continue their support.

Lithuania drew Council’s attention to their recent experience of detailed inspections of Lithuanian registered vehicles at the Russian border and the negative impact this was having on the Lithuanian haulage sector. They called on the Commission and other member states to agree a common solution to help resolve the situation. The Commission took note although recognised the limited ability for action in the wider political context.

Finally, Latvia set out the priorities for their presidency. The fourth railway package would be one of their main priorities. On road, Latvia recognised the importance of weights and dimensions and cross-border enforcement files and indicated that the review of the Commission’s road safety strategy would be the subject of a policy debate. Latvia was explicitly clear that they would only continue work on SES II+ and airport slots if there was

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a consensus among member states. They also did not rule out the possibility of continuing work on air passenger rights. Finally, the incoming presidency would focus on technical requirements for inland waterways and would

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progress negotiations on the ports services regulation subject to progress made in the European Parliament. Latvia would hold three high-level events in Riga on EU-Asia transport links, RPAS and TEN-T corridors.