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Written Statements

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Business, Innovation and Skills

Enterprise Bill

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): I am today placing in the Library of the House the Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order 83L in respect of the Government amendments tabled for Commons Report stage for the Enterprise Bill.

Analysis on application of Standing Order 83L (Enterprise Bill—Analysis on the application of Standing Order No 83L), can be viewed online at:



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 took place in Brussels on Monday 29 February. I represented the UK for the internal market and industry discussion.

The Council started with the “competitiveness check-up”. The discussion focused on the issue of scale-up within the European Union. Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for the internal market and industry, gave a presentation which highlighted the importance of young firms for job creation. Member states were asked to comment on the challenges faced by firms trying to scale up and to identify what more could be done at EU and national level to support them.

I led the interventions by member states, highlighting the action taken by the UK Government to support SMEs and scale-ups. I drew attention specifically to: growth hubs, enterprise zones, “Catapult” centres, and the British Business Bank. I also emphasised that the proposed services passport and better enforcement of single market rules are both areas where the EU could add value.

The following item focused on the text of Council conclusions prepared by the Dutch presidency. Commissioner Bienkowska opened the debate by noting the existing barriers to trade despite the economic evidence that suggests a deeper single market, particularly in services, would bring significant benefits. The Commissioner announced that she would propose a services passport by the end of the year. In my intervention I said that the UK supported an ambitious services passport that would tackle disproportionate regulatory barriers. The majority of member states were supportive and wanted to secure ambitious language on the use of mutual recognition. However, some member states remained concerned in the absence of a clear proposal from the Commission. As such, the presidency was required to offer a compromise text, removing reference to mutual recognition and qualifying how regulatory barriers should be tackled as part of the passport. All member states ultimately accepted this and agreed the conclusions but expressed regret that it had not been possible to agree a more ambitious text.

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The next item on the agenda was on the steel industry. This opened with the Commission arguing that both member states and the EU could help create the environment for the steel industry to grow but industry would also need to play its part. The Commission further noted that a record number of trade defence measures had been applied on steel cases and the modernisation of trade defence instruments (MTDI) package would help accelerate future investigations. I, along with other member states, intervened strongly to stress that the reduction of trade defence investigations time scales from nine months to seven would not be enough. I went on to say that while provisional investigation into cold-rolled steel had been welcome, now was the time for urgent EU action. Several member states argued that the stalemate on MTDI needed to be broken and that market economy status (MES) for China needed to be considered carefully.

The presidency concluded that there was agreement in Council that the period for anti-dumping measures should be shortened; access to EU funding should be simplified to facilitate investment in breakthrough technologies; and the burden of regulatory costs, especially for the EU emissions trading scheme, should be significantly reduced for the best performing plants. Presidency conclusions were later distributed.

The European semester and the implementation of country-specific recommendations (CSRs) to tackle barriers to growth were discussed over lunch. Several member states noted that it was important there was a role for the Competitiveness Council and the high-level group on competitiveness and growth. The presidency reported back to Council that it had been a fruitful debate with member states exchanging experiences and agreeing that effective implementation was indeed important for economic growth.

The afternoon session started with a policy debate on the circular economy. The presidency set out the handling arrangements for the cross-cutting circular economy package, which was released in December. It explained that while the legislative aspects would primarily be dealt with in Environment Council the Competitiveness Council had an important role to play in examining the proposals and considering the opportunities and challenges created by the proposed action plan. The Commission noted that both national and local level engagement would be needed. I intervened to support the ambition behind the circular economy action plan and stressed that action should be prioritised to ensure ambitious use of voluntary approaches and measures to improve the coherence between existing EU legislation and initiatives. Several other member states suggested that flexibility was needed to take account of differing member state circumstances: a one-size-fits-all approach would not be appropriate.

A number of items were discussed briefly under “any other business”. In a change to the published agenda the unitary patent and plant breeders’ rights were discussed before the Council considered the update on the portability legislative proposal and the recently announced “Privacy Shield” agreement between the EU and the United States of America.

Commissioner Bienkowska stressed that she was keen to see the unitary patent ratified as soon as possible. And in respect to plant breeders’ rights the Commissioner stressed that the Commission had no intention of reopening the Biotech directive.

There was then an update on the portability of digital content, Commissioner Günther Oettinger, responsible for the digital economy and society, set out that rapid progress had been made on the proposed legislation. I intervened to welcome the Commission’s approach and spoke about the importance of speedy implementation of the portability package, subject to the necessary technical changes.

Commissioner Oettinger informed member states that the draft text of the new EU-US “Privacy Shield” agreement had been published. The new agreement would facilitate the transfer of personal data between the EU and the US following the invalidation of the previous “Safe Harbour”

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agreement. The Privacy Shield would provide updated safeguards, including a more robust framework for citizens to seek redress, and an annual review. The UK did not intervene.




The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 8 March 2016. EU Finance Ministers are due to discuss the following items:

Mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation

The Council will hold a discussion on a presidency compromise text on the Commission’s proposal to amend the directive with regards to the mandatory exchange of information in the field of taxation as part of the EU taking forward the recommendations from the OECD.

Current legislative proposals

The presidency will update the Council on the state of play of financial services dossiers.

State of play of the banking union

The Commission will give an update on several dossiers linked to the banking union: the single resolution fund, the bank recovery and resolution directive and the deposit guarantee scheme directive. Following this, the presidency will update the Council on progress to establish a European deposit insurance scheme which the UK is not participating in.

Fiscal sustainability report 2015

Ministers will adopt conclusions outlining the Council’s position on the Commission’s fiscal sustainability report.

Follow-up to the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and central bank governors on 26-27 February 2016

Following the first G20 of the Chinese presidency in Shanghai on 26-27 February, the Commission and the ECOFIN chair will debrief Ministers on discussions.

European semester 2016: implementation of country-specific recommendations drawing on the country reports and in-depth reviews.

The Commission will report to ECOFIN on the implementation of 2015 country-specific recommendations with a particular focus on removing the barriers to investment. Also, the Commission will present the country reports, published 26 February. This will be followed by an exchange of views.



Armed Forces' Pay Review Body Report

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The 2016 report of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB) has now been published. I wish to express my thanks to the Chair and members of the review body for their report.

The AFPRB recommendations are to be accepted in full and will become effective from 1 April 2016. Copies of the AFPRB report are available in the Vote Office.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I would like to update the House on recent developments on the Korean peninsula, the international response and what actions the Government are taking.

I remain deeply concerned by North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and its sustained prioritisation of these programmes over the well-being of its own people. Following the nuclear test on 6 January and the satellite launch using ballistic missile technology on 7 February, the UN Security Council has now unanimously agreed resolution (UNSCR) 2270. This was adopted on 2 March. In his statement of the same day, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) welcomed the adoption of this resolution, which contains robust measures to tackle North Korea’s illegal nuclear programme.

UN Security Council resolution 2270 expands and strengthens the sanctions against DPRK. It contains a range of measures that: tackle proliferation networks; increase inspections of North Korean cargo, and controls on shipping; add new sectoral bans on the export of coal, iron ore, gold and other metals, and on the import of aviation fuel; and the mandatory closing of North Korean financial sector entities and banks that we suspect could be contributing to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes. It also designates additional North Korean individuals, entities, registered vessels, as well as certain luxury goods. These measures provide strengthened means to tackle North Korea’s illicit proliferation and its illegal nuclear programmes and are a strong signal that the international community is prepared to take tough action in response to violations of UNSC resolutions.

We are working to ensure all states fully implement UN Security Council resolution 2270, along with their obligations under all previous UN Security Council resolutions. The UK is not a member of the Six Party Talks but we will remain in close touch with the US, the Republic of Korea, China, Russia and Japan on their approach towards North Korea. The Foreign Secretary has spoken in recent weeks to the South Korean Foreign Minister, the Japanese Foreign Minister, and the US Secretary of State to confirm the UK’s strong backing for a united and robust international response to the DPRK’s provocations and reaffirm the support of our allies in the region.

Our message to North Korea is clear. If it is willing to stop its provocations, fundamentally change its approach and take concrete steps towards re-engagement, it will find that the international community will respond positively. If it continues on its current course, prioritising the development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes over improving the well-being of its own people, it will face further isolation and international action. We continue to urge DPRK to engage in credible multilateral talks on denuclearisation and for North Korea to fully abide by its UNSCR obligations.


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NHS Pay Review Body

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt): I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the 29th report of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB). The report has been laid before Parliament today (Cm 9210).

Copies of the report are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office, to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office and is also available online. I am grateful to the Chair and members of the NHSPRB for their report.

We welcome the 29th report of the NHS Pay Review Body. The Government are pleased to accept its recommendations in full.

We will take forward NHSPRB’s suggestions for how we can continue to improve our support for its important work.

Report of NHSPRB (Cm 9210) (54488 Cm 9210 NHSPRB 2016), can be viewed online at:



Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration Report

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt): I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the 44th report of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB). The report has been laid before Parliament today (Cm 9211). Copies of the report are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office, to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office and is attached. I am grateful to the Chair and members of the DDRB for their report.

We welcome the 44th report of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration. The Government are pleased to accept the recommendations in full.

We will take forward DDRB’s suggestions for how we can continue to improve our support for its important work.

Report of the DDRB (Cm 9211) (54290 Doctors and Dentists Pay Review 2016), can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-03-08/HCWS590/.


Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs (Pre-Council Statement)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is due to be held on 10 and 11 March in Brussels. I will be attending Interior Day on behalf of the United Kingdom.

Thursday (Interior Day) will begin with a discussion on migration, continued over lunch, during which the Council will evaluate the implementation of measures taken by the EU and member states to address the

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migration crisis. The discussion will also consider what further action should be taken. I will use this discussion to reinforce our longstanding messages on securing the external EU border and the effective implementation of “hotspots” in Greece and Italy and the UK’s ongoing contribution to joint efforts in these areas. I will set out our view that we should not replace the longstanding principles of the Dublin regulation, and that any reform should focus on making the existing principles work better. I will also urge EU colleagues to consider whether current EU asylum systems allow member states to respond effectively to the migration crisis and will use the discussion to encourage more radical thinking on how the EU collectively restores control over the system. Lastly, I will reaffirm the importance of a coherent approach along the migration routes, from countries of origin through to countries of destination. In this regard it is essential that the EU and member states continue collective efforts to address migratory flows further upstream, both on the eastern Mediterranean and the central Mediterranean routes, including implementation of the priorities agreed under the Valletta action plan.

This will be followed by discussion on the proposal for a regulation setting up a European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which is likely to focus on the “right to intervene” and concerns that some member states have around national sovereignty. The presidency are aiming for a general approach in April and political agreement by June in order to make the new system operational as soon as possible. The Government support the strengthening of the external border but, as the proposal builds on provisions of the Schengen aquis in which the UK does not participate, the UK will not be bound by this regulation. The Government’s policy priorities in this negotiation are to ensure a continuation of our current relationship with Frontex, whereby the UK participates in operations and other activities on an ad hoc basis by mutual consent, to maintain our seat (as a non-voting observer) at the Management Board, and to protect and ensure no adverse impact on our existing bilateral arrangements such as those in operation at the juxtaposed controls. The UK supports the proposal that the Council take a greater role in the decision making process, rather than that decision resting with the Commission.

There will then be a first reading on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. The presidency will seek a steer from the Council on a number of policy issues.

The counter terrorism agenda item will commence with a presentation, based on a paper, by the counter terrorism co-ordinator. The presentation reviews progress made against the 20 November 2015 Justice and Home Affairs Council conclusions. The UK will continue to push for our priorities on the firearms directive including a prohibition on certain high powered semiautomatic weapons. I will outline our priorities of the effective and reciprocal sharing of information between Schengen and non-Schengen states as concerns refusals of entry, removals and visa revocation.

Friday (Justice Day) will begin with discussion of the draft EU directive on combating terrorism, which will revise the 2002 framework decision on combating terrorism (2002/JHA/475), as amended, with a view to reaching a

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general approach. The UK has decided not to opt in to the directive. The UK has, however, been an active negotiator and continues to support international collaborative efforts to tackle foreign fighters. The Government broadly support the aims of the directive, which seeks to ensure further compliance with UN Security Council resolution 2178, and the Council of Europe additional protocol to the 2005 convention on the prevention of terrorism. The Government have decided not to opt in to this draft directive, as the UK is already compliant with those international obligations.

There will follow a progress report on the digital single market, specifically on the proposed supply of digital content directive and the distance sales of goods directive. In December the Commission published two new draft directives as part of the digital single market strategy to harmonise consumer contractual rights for the sale of digital content. The Government welcome this approach, which should align progress on the tangible goods proposal with the result of the Commission’s research for the consumer protection regulatory fitness and performance programme (REFIT programme) which aims to cut red tape, remove regulatory burdens, simplify and improve the design and quality of legislation.

This will be followed by a policy debate on the proposal for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The UK will not participate in the proposal, and the discussions are not expected to cover how the European Public Prosecutor’s Office might seek to work with non-participating member states such as the UK.

The Commission will be providing an update on the progress of the EU-US umbrella agreement which is a draft agreement between the US and the EU on the protection of personal information; on its proposals for the EU to sign and conclude the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; and on its dialogue with IT companies on tackling online hate speech. The presidency will provide an update on the outcomes of its 7 March conference on securing, exchanging and using e-evidence.

Over lunch, the Commission intends to present a short update on the “EU-US Privacy Shield”, intended to provide a renewed framework for the transatlantic transfer of personal data, on work on radicalisation in prisons and on proposal to authorise enhanced co-operation in relation to matrimonial property regimes. The UK will not be participating in any such enhanced co-operation.


Violence against Women and Girls

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): On Tuesday 8 March, to mark International Women’s Day, the Government are publishing their Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy for this Parliament. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

We have made progress since publishing the original “Call to End Violence against Women and Girls” in 2010. Data from the crime survey for England and Wales shows a general downward trend in sexual assaults since 2005-06 and that 8.2% of women were a victim of

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“any domestic abuse” in the last year—the lowest estimate since these questions were first asked in the 2004-05 survey.

At the same time, reporting of what often continue to be hidden crimes is increasing which the Office for National Statistics attributes to greater victim confidence and better recording by the police. The number of prosecutions and the number of convictions for VAWG crimes were all higher than ever before in 2014-15.

But there were still an estimated 1.35 million female victims of domestic abuse in the last year, and over 300,000 victims of sexual violence. This is wholly unacceptable and we remain determined to end violence against women and girls.

Over the next four years, we will support a transformation in service delivery and a step change in social action to do more still to achieve a long-term reduction in the prevalence of these terrible crimes, to help women and girls rebuild their lives, and to break the inter-generational consequences of abuse. We will continue to ensure victims get the help they need, when they need it, and drive a shift from a model of crisis intervention to prevention and early intervention. We will develop the evidence base on, and embed, what works to tackle the causes of offending behaviour to achieve sustainable reductions in violence and abuse.

Over this spending review period, we are providing £80 million of dedicated VAWG funding to continue to provide a bedrock of critical services for VAWG, and to support the a transformation in local service delivery to support local areas to build coherent pathways of support for victims at every stage.



England and Wales Prison Service Pay Review Body Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Andrew Selous): The fifteenth report of the Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) (Cm 9206) has been laid before Parliament today. The report makes recommendations on the pay for governing governors and other operational managers, prison officers and related support grades in England and Wales in 2016-17. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

I am grateful to the chair and members of the PSPRB for their hard work in producing these recommendations.

The recommendations for 2016-17 will be implemented in full.


Prime Minister

EU-Turkey Summit

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I attended the EU-Turkey summit and informal European Council meeting in Brussels on 7 March. The context for this summit was the significant increase in the number of

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people crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece in the early months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015, and the recent actions by EU member states to restrict the numbers travelling on the western Balkans route. From the beginning of this crisis we have been arguing that a comprehensive approach is essential. An approach which tackles the drivers of migration at source; which helps refugees live in dignity as close as possible to their homes; and which reduces the risks to human life by breaking the link between getting on dangerously overcrowded boats and securing entry to the EU. We made important progress in this direction at the London conference on Syria last month, which raised $11 billion to help refugees in the region. This EU-Turkey summit demonstrated clearly that our argument is now widely accepted. It also established the outlines of a new deal with Turkey which, if implemented as envisaged, could finally break the people smugglers’ business model and dramatically reduce the number of illegal border crossings from Turkey to the EU. We began with the EU-Turkey summit meeting with Prime Minister Davutoglu, which discussed the main elements of a potential new agreement. EU heads and Prime Minister Davutoglu made clear that their shared aim was rapidly to reduce the flow of illegal migration from Turkey to the European Union. Prime Minister Davutoglu brought a very significant set of new proposals to this summit. For the first time, Turkey offered to accept the return of all those illegally crossing from its territory to the Greek islands, in return for steps by the EU to help it cope with the very large number of refugees it is currently hosting, and certain wider advances in the EU-Turkey relationship. We also discussed the importance of free speech and an independent media. This summit meeting was followed by an informal meeting of the European Council to discuss the EU’s response to Turkey’s new proposals. Good progress was made in the course of these meetings in establishing broad agreement on the principles which should underpin a new EU-Turkey agreement. These principles will be worked on intensively over the coming week, with the aim of reaching final agreement at the 17-18 March European Council.

Among the key principles were that Turkey would take back all those crossing illegally from Turkey to the Greek islands, whether from Syria or from other countries; and that the EU would reinforce this deterrent to people smuggling by resettling an equivalent number of Syrians to those returned in this way directly from refugee camps and elsewhere in Turkey. The aim would be definitively to break the business model of the people smugglers and to end illegal crossings by boat within a short period, by making clear to all concerned that paying people smugglers to get on a boat would not result in securing access to the EU. The UK would not be obliged by this agreement to resettle any additional

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refugees: we are already resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrians directly from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan through our own national scheme.

The EU made clear in parallel that it was determined to take wider steps, effective immediately, to close the western Balkans route for illegal migration. It was also agreed that the members of the Schengen area would speed up the process of visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens; and that the EU would in due course consider extending the current financial support to help Turkey cope with the costs of hosting such a large number of refugees from Syria from 2018. The EU agreed to prepare for a decision on the opening of new chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council.

If these principles can be turned into a final agreement, and that agreement is then implemented as envisaged, it could provide the basis for a breakthrough in the resolution of this crisis, by breaking the link between getting on boats and securing access to the EU. This is what this Government have been arguing for for over a year now. The agreement envisaged would not impose any new obligations on the UK in respect of the resettlement or relocation. Because we are not members of the Schengen area, we are able to maintain our own border controls and make our own decisions on asylum. We will not be part of the process of liberalising visas, and will still require visas for Turkish citizens to visit Britain. The single biggest factor driving the very large-scale migration we have seen in the last two years has of course been the ongoing conflict in Syria. Between the EU-Turkey summit and informal European Council, I hosted a meeting with Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, Prime Minister Renzi, Prime Minister Davutoglu and EU High Representative Mogherini to discuss the situation in Syria. Along with my EU counterparts, I updated Prime Minister Davutoglu on the phone call we had jointly made to President Putin last week. We agreed on the importance of all sides respecting the current truce to provide space for genuine peace talks and to allow humanitarian access to those areas most in need. We also agreed on the need to continue our support for the moderate opposition, so that they are able to play a full role in the political process. Their participation is essential if a lasting settlement is to be achieved, and a new transitional Government put in place which can represent all the Syrian people. A copy of the statement by the EU Heads of State or Government has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be found at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-03-08/HCWS591/