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Written Statements

Thursday 25 February 2016

Business, Innovation and Skills

Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Lord Maude of Horsham) has today made the following statement.

I represented the UK at the informal EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) in Amsterdam on 2 February 2016. A summary of those main discussions follows.

China Market Economy Status (MES)

Trade Commissioner Malmstrom presented the arguments on both sides of the EU granting China “market economy status” (MES) within the WTO and set out how to do so would change the methodology for calculating new anti-dumping measures. The Commission would carry out further impact assessment work on this matter and continue to consider the different approaches the EU could take to granting MES to China.

Discussion revolved around the need for good evidence gathering and analysis, and consideration of how to protect a sufficiently wide range of EU industries going forward from any unfair competition.

I said that if we wanted China to abide by its international obligations, then we needed to do the same. That said, the EU was right to continue to explore how to tackle unfair trade and to continue encouraging the Chinese to address domestic distortions and overcapacity, notably in the steel sector.


Malmstrom said conclusion by the end of the Obama Administration would require us to address all but the most sensitive “endgame” issues before the summer. Progress had been better in some areas than others. The Commissioner referred to a possible “stock-take” before the summer. It was within the context of tough negotiations on procurement with the US and others that the Commission had revised its proposal for an International Procurement Instrument (IPI) which would be considered by future Trade FACs.

All member states spoke in favour of an ambitious and balanced agreement. I said the US seemed genuine about wanting a deal this year and that we should seize the opportunity lest it disappear for some time.

The WTO Agenda

The Commissioner said that the outcome of Nairobi had surpassed expectations, demonstrating that the WTO could still deliver. Discussions in Davos had confirmed this view. It was in the EU’s interest to try to reinforce the multilateral agenda but there was a need for debate on which issues to pursue and how. The Commissioner mentioned digital trade and e-commerce, investment and competition as possibilities, preferably for multilateral negotiations; open plurilaterals were the next best option. Member states broadly welcomed the Commissioner’s assessment.

Member states also underlined the importance of WTO members ratifying and implementing of the agreement on trade facilitation, agreed at the Bali Ministerial in 2013. Around a further 40 ratifications are needed for the new agreement to enter into force.


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Pre-Competitiveness Council

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) has today made the following statement.

The Competitiveness Council is taking place in Brussels on Monday 29 February. The Council will discuss matters relating to the internal market and industry. There will be no discussion of research, innovation or space. I will be representing the UK.

There are no legislative items on the agenda for this Council.

The first item will be a “competitiveness check-up” during which the Commission will give a presentation on the state of play of the real economy, focusing on start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs.

The next item is a policy debate on the circular economy package. This issue will be discussed in parallel by the Environment Council on 4 March.

We then expect to receive a presentation by both the Commission and the presidency of the Council of the EU (“the presidency”) on the steel industry before an exchange of view among member states. This item follows from the stakeholder conference on energy intensive industries which was held on 15 February and itself was an action arising from the extraordinary Competitiveness Council on steel in November 2015 last year. Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, the right hon. Anna Soubry, represented the UK at the conference and sought faster action by the Commission to deal with unfair trade practices. Single Market and Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska underlined that the Commission did not tolerate practices such as dumping and would continue to use trade defence instruments where necessary.

The next item on the agenda is presentation by the presidency on the European semester and the implementation of country specific recommendations to tackle barriers to growth. The discussion is likely to focus on how recommendations can help support the competitiveness agenda.

The final substantive item on the agenda is a policy debate and adoption of the Council conclusions on the single market strategy for services and goods.

There are four any other business items on the agenda: information from the presidency on the state of play of the unitary patent and unified patent court; information from the presidency on patents and plant breeders rights; information from the Commission on the current state of play of the renewed framework for transatlantic transfers of personal data (EU-US privacy shield) and an update from the Commission on the current legislative proposal of cross-border portability.

Our objectives for the Competitiveness Council are to:

Ensure that it gives a strong steer to the Commission that rapid and ambitious implementation of the single market strategy is a priority; and build on the discussions regarding the steel sector held at the extraordinary Competitiveness Council (November 2015) and stakeholder conference on energy intensive industries.



Multinational Peacekeeping: Egypt

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The UK will deploy a squadron of Royal Engineers to provide short-term engineering support to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), a non-UN multilateral

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peacekeeping organisation in Egypt. The MFO was created by an agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel to monitor the terms of the 1979 Treaty of the Peace and continues to make an important contribution to peace and stability in the region. The deployment begins in March 2016 and will involve approximately 100 personnel from the Corps of the Royal Engineers carrying out a range of infrastructure improvement works at the MFO main operating base in Sinai for up to 12 weeks.

The UK has a long history of supporting the MFO, and currently provides the MFO with an Engineer Officer of the rank of Major to serve on the Force Commander’s Staff.

In the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, the Government strengthened the UK’s commitment to international peacekeeping. This deployment further underlines our support to regional peace and security.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils

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 on 15 February and I attended the General Affairs Council on 16 February. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Dutch presidency. The meetings were held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:


In her introductory remarks Ms Mogherini welcomed the application from Bosnia for its application for EU membership and urged Bosnia to maintain the pace of reforms. On Libya, Ms Mogherini welcomed as a positive development the presidency Council’s revised list of Cabinet Ministers. Ms Mogherini also updated the Council on the recent meeting in Munich of the middle east peace process quartet. She also welcomed the launch of NATO’s maritime operation in the Aegean.

Climate Diplomacy

The Council underlined the importance of European climate diplomacy in encouraging implementation of the global agreement on climate change reached in Paris in December 2015. It set out the parameters for a 2016 climate diplomacy action plan, prioritising implementation of the Paris agreement and addressing the causes of climate change.


The Council discussed the situation in Moldova and adopted Council conclusions on the reforms Moldova needed to carry out in line with its association agreement.

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In discussion Ms Mogherini emphasised the need for the EU to refrain from taking sides or intervening directly in Moldova’s internal affairs.


The Council discussed the political, security and humanitarian situation in Syria. Ministers were briefed on the outcome of the Syria donors conference held in London on 4 February, and the international Syria support group (ISSG) meeting in Munich on 11 February. The Foreign Secretary made clear in an early intervention that Russia had the power to end the violence and bring the Syrian regime to the negotiating table. He warned that the situation in Aleppo risked creating a massive humanitarian crisis and a new wave of migration. He highlighted the importance of implementing the outcomes of the London conference, and praised the commission and member states for their generosity. The financial pledges and commitments to provide education and jobs to Syrian refugees was vital.

Lunch with the Lebanese Foreign Minister

Over lunch, Ministers exchanged views with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, on the situation in Lebanon and the region, including the refugee and migration situation. The Foreign Secretary emphasised the need to focus both on humanitarian and development support. Member states expressed support to Lebanon, in particular for hosting over 1.1 million refugees, and to the Lebanese armed forces for maintaining stability. Member states also urged Lebanon to break the political deadlock in regard to the presidential vacuum.


Council conclusions were adopted on Belarus. In conclusion Ms Mogherini said EU-Belarus relations had for many years been trapped in a cycle of hope, disappointment, sanctions and difficult engagement. However, trends had been more positive over the last few years, including on Ukraine and important, albeit limited, steps on human rights and democracy. The Council reached a political decision not to extend restrictive measures for 170 individuals and three companies whose listings are currently suspended. However, it left in place the arms embargo and restrictive measures for four individuals involved in unresolved disappearances.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on climate diplomacy.

The Council adopted conclusions on EU priorities at UN Human Rights Fora in 2016.

The Council adopted conclusions on Burundi.

The Council adopted conclusions on Somalia.

The Council approved the EU’s position regarding the agenda set for the 14th meeting of the EU-Kyrgyz Republic Co-operation Council.

The Council prolonged EU restrictive measures against two persons and one entity in Zimbabwe until 20 February 2017, while removing the names of 78 persons and eight entities from the list of those targeted by the measures.

The Council set a financial reference amount of €825,000 to cover the expenditure related to the mandate of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights from 1 March to 28 February 2017.

The Council extended the mandate of the civilian EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya by six months, until 21 August 2016.

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The Council adopted the draft European Union programme of exercises and exercise-related. activities under the CFSP 2016-20.

General Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:


The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 16 February 2016 focused on follow up to European Council conclusions, preparation of the February and March European Councils and the inter-institutional agreement on better regulation.

European Council Follow up and Preparation of the February European Council

The GAC prepared the agenda for the European Council on 18-19 February, which the Prime Minister attended. The agenda included the UK’s EU renegotiation, migration and eurozone recommendations as part of the European semester process. I emphasised that more work needed to be done before the February European Council on both renegotiation and migration. On migration, I called for a more strategic approach and a focus on full implementation. I also highlighted the contribution made by the London conference on Syria and called for pledges made at the conference to be honoured.

Preparation of the March European Council

The GAC also briefly prepared the agenda for the European Council on 17-18 March, which the Prime Minister will attend. The agenda will again cover migration and the European semester. The Council noted that discussion would also flow from outcomes of the February Council.

Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Regulation (IIA)

The presidency updated the GAC on the ongoing IIA negotiations, with a view to a more detailed discussion at the March GAC.

Under any other business, Bulgaria updated the GAC on the recent blockades by Greek farmers at border checkpoints on its border with Greece.


Home Department

State of Policing: England and Wales

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Yesterday, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary laid before Parliament his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales in accordance with Section 54 of the Police Act 1996. Copies are available at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic and in the Vote Office.

Today, HMIC has updated its website with the judgments from the 2015 Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy (PEEL) inspections. This is the first full PEEL assessment that has been published and it forms a key element of HMIC’s role in shining a light on police performance and informing the public about performance across a broad range of policing activities. The information is available at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic.

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I am very pleased to see that more than half of forces have been judged as “good” or “outstanding” across all three key areas. Those forces that have received an “outstanding” judgment should be congratulated for the service they provide to the communities they serve.

I am, however, disappointed to see that so many forces are judged to “require improvement” for at least one of the key areas. Police and Crime Commissioners must hold Chief Constables to account for delivering high quality policing that meets the needs of communities. Those communities will expect action to address the areas for improvement identified by the inspectorate and will, I am sure, be looking for strong improvement over the coming year.


International Development

Turks and Caicos Islands

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Desmond Swayne): I wish to bring the House up to date with respect to the loan guarantee from the Department for International Development (DFID) to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG).

On 28 February 2011, my right hon. Friend, the then Minister of State for International Development (Alan Duncan) informed the House that DFID had finalised a guarantee in favour of Scotiabank (Turks and Caicos) Ltd to provide TCIG with access to a maximum capital amount of US$260 million over five years. He argued that the assistance would allow TCIG to implement budget measures which would lead to achieving a fiscal surplus in the financial year ending March 2013.

I am pleased to announce that on 22 February TCIG repaid its remaining borrowing under this guarantee on schedule and with an outstanding borrowing need of just US$28 million. It was able to raise this amount without further recourse to the UK Government for support and is expected to repay that loan over the next three-and-a-half years.

TCIG has progressed from deficits of US$77 million in financial year 2010-11 and US$29 million in 2011-12 to a surplus the following year and strong surpluses thereafter. TCIG and the TCI public service had to make a number of difficult decisions and sacrifices. Financial management and oversight has been strengthened. Essential investment was maintained, including an expansion of the international airport that has allowed a significant increase in flights from US cities. The successful conclusion of DFID’s guarantee is a credit to the resolve of the TCI public service, TCIG, the Governor’s Office and UK-financed technical experts.



Offender Management

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Dominic Raab): I would like to provide the House with an update on the progress of our electronic monitoring

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programme which will introduce new satellite tracking technology to improve the supervision and management of offenders and suspects.

This is a huge opportunity to reduce reoffending, cut costs for taxpayers and keep the public safe.

That is why we are committed to delivering a new generation of tags through contracts designed to encourage innovation, deliver an end-to-end system for monitoring offenders and provide for future technological developments.

With this new technology we can be creative and look at how we can use satellite tags to devise new sentencing options for the courts. We want to use technology to make sure we not only deliver the punishments that society rightly expects but also improve supervision in the community and support offenders to change their lives.

The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), announced to the House on 13 July last year that there had been significant problems with this programme, leading to considerable delays. As a result, we initiated a review into the programme, looking at how to get the programme back on track. This review examined progress made on the programme to date and how best electronic monitoring technology can meet our ambitions for the future, and considered the experience of other jurisdictions around the world that have developed GPS tagging schemes.

Developing bespoke tags has been challenging and it is now clear that it will be more appropriate to pursue our goals using off-the-shelf technology which is already available. That is why the Ministry of Justice will be terminating our contract to develop a bespoke tagging product with Steatite Ltd and will shortly begin a new procurement process for proven tags already on the market.

This decision will mean we can proceed with wider changes to the way we manage the programme. We will simplify our approach in order to meet the challenges of technical and business integration and continue to drive and monitor delivery from the other suppliers.

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This remains a challenging programme, which we will continue to keep under review.

As the Prime Minister announced during his speech on prison reform on 8 February, we will begin pilots later this year which will inform how we use GPS tracking technologies to best effect in the future. These pilots will be run in a variety of settings in conjunction with criminal justice partners and will be designed to test how GPS technology is used and how it affects behaviour. The pilots will be independently evaluated and the results will inform policy decisions on the future use of this important tool.

Furthermore, following the conclusion of the pilot in south London of sobriety tags as part of an alcohol abstinence monitoring requirement, the Secretary of State for Justice has approved the expansion of the scheme to the whole of London to give courts in the capital the means to tackle the damaging effects of crime committed while under the influence of alcohol. An evaluation of sobriety tagging in London will inform our decisions about wider national roll-out.


Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Dominic Raab): My noble Friend the Minister of State for Civil Justice, Lord Faulks QC, has made the following written statement.

I have today laid the draft Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Regulations (“the draft Regulations”) before both Houses of Parliament. The draft regulations have to be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before they can be made. Subject to that approval being given, I intend to make the regulations without delay. I will announce the commencement date of the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010 (“the 2010 Act”) as amended by both the Insurance Act 2015 and the regulations in due course but the date will not be earlier than three months after the regulations have been made.