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The protection of the welfare of performing wild animals in circuses is a matter that the Government take very seriously. Rigorous standards for the protection of animals kept by man are already set in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but there are a few areas-including the use of wild animals in travelling circuses-where additional safeguards are necessary.
The Austrian Government have recently been taken to court for their attempt to ban wild animals in circuses. This Government want to take action as soon as possible to protect wild animals in circuses without waiting for the outcome of that judgment. For this reason we propose to introduce a strict licensing regime using powers provided under the 2006 Act.
Any circuses that perform in England that wish to have wild animals such as tigers, lions and elephants performing in them will need to demonstrate that they meet high animal welfare standards for each animal before they can be granted a licence to keep those animals.
Most circuses choose not to feature wild animals in their shows, and I believe that most people would prefer not to see them performing in circuses. But where circuses do choose to show wild animals, people expect those animals to be kept in the best possible conditions.
In the summer of 2009 there were 39 wild animals being used by circuses in the UK, which included elephants, tigers, lions, camels, zebras and crocodiles. There are now no longer any elephants kept in circuses in the UK.
The previous Government were similarly concerned and that is why they launched a public consultation. This consultation closed in 2010 and a summary of the responses can be found on the Defra website.
I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to Section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (as amended), the State of the Estate in 2010. This report provides an assessment of the efficiency and sustainability of the Government's civil estate in 2010. It provides early insights into the progress Government are making since introducing the national property controls and moratorium on leaseholds. In the report I set out the future direction for using the Government estate more efficiently, including our commitment to meeting the 10 per cent reduction in carbon emissions target. The report is published on an annual basis.
The regulations will ensure that, as far as possible, the level of protection afforded under Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 is extended to those working at sea. This was not done at the time that Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 was commenced because further consideration needed to be given to the issue of seafarers' pay.
As the law currently stands, Section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976 provides that it is not unlawful for seafarers to be paid different rates of pay on the basis of their nationality if they were recruited outside Great Britain. This includes seafarers from EEA states and designated states, which are states with particular bilateral agreements with the European Union. The European Commission has been investigating a complaint that UK law does not comply with European Law and in January this year it issued a reasoned opinion on that basis. In order to meet their treaty obligations, the Government are obliged to bring UK law into line with European law.
The regulations which I have laid before the House today will, if approved, apply Part 5 of the Equality Act to work on ships and hovercraft and to seafarers. The Government are already committed to the Equality Act 2010, most of which, including Part 5, was commenced
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The power within Section 81 of the Act is also wide enough to legislate in respect of differential pay. The regulations will, if approved, provide that it is not unlawful to offer to pay or pay different rates of pay to seafarers (applicants, employees and contract workers), other than those from EEA or designated states, if a person applies for work as a seafarer or is recruited as a seafarer outside Great Britain.
Under Section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 (indirect discrimination), where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice has an effect which particularly disadvantages seafarers from EEA or designated states in terms of a difference in pay, this will nevertheless be lawful if the employer can show that the provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified. If differential pay were challenged by a seafarer from an EEA or designated state, it would be for the employer to satisfy an employment tribunal as to that justification.
The Government have consulted with shipowners and the Chamber of Shipping as well as the trades unions before proceeding with this measure and have prepared an impact assessment. In preparing these regulations, we have applied the principles of our reducing regulation initiative and taken every care to ensure that the regulations meet the requirements of EU law without unwarranted elaboration, the better to safeguard the continued competitiveness of the UK fleet. We remain committed to the Red Ensign and to maintaining a sizeable, high quality and highly competitive fleet under the UK flag.
In accordance with government policy on transforming the role of regulation in our society and reducing regulation, these regulations will be reviewed every five years and the conclusions of such reviews will be published.
The updated business plans now include actions from the plan for growth and social mobility strategy and reflect the current assessment of when the Government
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Where departments have amended text from the versions published on 8 November 2010, they have provided the reason for the change. These reasons are set out in an annexe which I have placed in the Library of the House. Please note that this list does not include new actions, but details any changes to existing text or deadlines. The numbering of the list is based on the revised business plans.
The business plans are all available on the No 10 website at www.number10.gov.uk and can also be accessed via departmental websites. Copies have also been placed in the Library of the House. Departments will continue to publish their monthly progress updates which are also available on the No 10 website and from the Vote Office.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Henry Bellingham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am announcing today the outcome of a review of the government wine cellar. Government hospitality provides corporate hospitality services for the whole Government, and has done so for over 80 years. It is administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As part of its functions, it includes a wine cellar. On 18 June 2010 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs instituted a thorough review of the cellar's functions to ensure that the purchase, retention and use of wines and spirits for official government events hosted by senior members of Government was appropriate to the contemporary environment and would provide value for money for the taxpayer.
That review has now finished. It concluded that retaining a government wine cellar remains the most cost-effective way to supply wine for government hospitality functions and state banquets, but that substantial reform was needed.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, visited London on Thursday 12 May. Mr Abdul Jalil met the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for International Development, the shadow Foreign Secretary and me.
In line with our assessment of the NTC as the legitimate interlocutor in Libya representing the aspirations of the Libyan people, the Government have invited the NTC to establish an office in the UK. This will enhance our existing relationship with the NTC, and better enable us to fulfil our commitment to protect civilians under threat of attack from the Gaddafi regime. It will help us to work more closely together on sharing information and formulating our policy towards Libya. This arrangement does not affect our position on the legal status of the NTC: the British Government will continue to recognise states, not governments. The UK will also strengthen its presence in eastern Libya when our new Permanent Head of Office in Benghazi John Jenkins arrives in the near future.
In parallel to this, the UK will be a key contributor to the deployment of a multinational team of experts to Benghazi. With the UN still unable to deploy, this team will conduct a stabilisation assessment, and advise and assist the NTC on meeting its longer-term needs. I also intend to provide further practical and material support to the NTC in the form of further communications equipment, bulletproof vests and uniforms for the civilian police authorities. I also intend to provide support for the NTC's fledgling media and broadcasting operations.
As with all the material and advisory support we are providing to the NTC, this support is within the terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya. This support has been requested by the NTC and will help it ensure that it administers territory under its control to international standards and to protect the aspirations of the Libyan people.
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