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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform (Mark Harper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 4 October 2011 Mr Paul Loveluck CBE and Professor Robert McNabb were appointed as members of the Boundary Commission for Wales (BCW), following the resignation of two former members of that commission earlier this year.
Mr Loveluck's career has included spells as president of the National Museum and Libraries of Wales, CEO of the Wales Tourist Board, and CEO of the Countryside Council for Wales. Professor McNabb is professor of economics at Cardiff University, a fellow of the Higher Education Authority and Learned Society of Wales, and a former dean of Cardiff Business School.
The appointments are for five years and made following a fair and open public appointments process competition, in accordance with the code of practice published by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Ministers made the appointments in line with the recommendations of a panel which comprised a Cabinet Office official, the deputy chair of the BCW (Mr Justice Lloyd Jones) and an independent assessor approved by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
The Boundary Commission for Wales has stated that it will publish its initial proposals for the 2013 review of parliamentary constituencies in January 2012 and that it expects to complete the 2013 review within the deadline stipulated by Parliament. The Government made the replacement appointments as quickly as possible and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure there is no risk to this deadline.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that regulations to amend the cold weather payment scheme will be laid later today. The changes will come into force on 1 November this year, in time for the beginning of the winter period.
Following advice from the Meteorological Office the amendments will introduce four new weather stations to the scheme for winter 2011-12 and withdraw the current stations at Dundrennan, St Catherine's Point
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The amendments resulted from the department's annual review of the cold weather payments scheme. The review drew on expert advice from the Meteorological Office and took account of representations from benefit claimants and Members of Parliament.
I wish to make the House aware of the 2011 update to HMG's strategy on global abolition of the death penalty and provide an update on progress which the Government have made against the strategy since it was publicly launched on 11 October 2010.
Promoting human rights and democracy is a priority for the UK Government. It is the long-standing policy of the UK to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe that its use undermines human dignity; that there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value; and that any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.
Since the publication of the strategy for abolition of the death penalty, the Government have raised the death penalty bilaterally with a number of our priority countries at both official and ministerial level in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the USA, Europe and the Caribbean.
We have had some success through our project work. The British high commission in Uganda is currently supporting a project which aims to provide access to justice for those who have been on death row for over three years, and through this we have funded work by an organisation which has applied to the courts for those on death row to have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The FCO is also currently funding a project in the Middle East and north Africa region covering Tunisia, Morocco and
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Consular staff in London and at our overseas missions continue to work hard, in collaboration with the NGO Reprieve and local lawyers, to make progress on the cases of British nationals facing the death penalty. For each case, we have agreed with the key stakeholders our handling strategy, to ensure that our representations are targeted and appropriate. In recent months we have made ministerial and head of mission representations on cases in the US, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan.
We have also worked with the EU to create an international voice for abolition. We have raised the death penalty with a number of countries, through statements, dialogues and project work. We have also raised many cases of third-country nationals who are facing the death penalty.
In November 2010 the UN General Assembly resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted with record support. As part of an EU campaign, the UK lobbied several states to vote in favour of the resolution or at least move from voting against to abstention. We have also made recommendations to several countries on the death penalty through the universal periodic review process since October 2010.
We have welcomed a number of other positive developments over the past year. Illinois became the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty in March, and in China we welcomed the return of the power of final review to the Supreme People's Court and the reduction of the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty from 68 to 55 in February. The international momentum towards abolition continues to grow and the Government will continue to work to make progress against their strategy in order to achieve their ultimate objective of global abolition of the death penalty.
A copy of the updated strategy to 2015 will be placed in the Library of the House and published on the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk) on 10 October.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology (Peter Luff) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 26 January 2011 (Official Report, col. 11WS) I announced that Lord Currie of Marylebone would chair an independent review of the regulations used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in single source, non-competitive procurement, the so-called Yellow Book. Lord Currie has now submitted his independent report, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House. I would like to thank Lord Currie and his team for the report. The MoD and other interested parties will now consider his recommendations.
The Government welcome Lord Currie's recommendations. In broad terms his report focuses on achieving a more open relationship between MoD and defence industry, ensuring standardised high-quality cost data are provided by contractors to the MoD. This will help ensure greater transparency of costs and should improve the MoD's ability to negotiate realistic prices. Industry will be incentivised to deliver efficiency by the opportunity to make greater returns should they deliver cost savings for the MoD. Making industry more efficient should not only achieve value for money to the taxpayer, but also lead to a more competitive role for the UK defence industry in the export market.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be offered fewer data reporting requirements and a simplified profit-rate process. Larger contractors will provide an annual statement on how they have engaged SMEs in their supply chain.
Lord Currie recommends these arrangements are overseen by an independent single source regulations office (SSRO) which would replace the existing review board to provide stronger oversight over both MoD and industry.
The department will now consider the report's recommendations as part of the next stage of consultation, which will run until 6 January 2012. Responses to all aspects of the report are welcome, but the Government particularly seek views on the merits of the establishment of the SSRO or possible alternatives such as the strengthening of the existing cost assurance and analysis service. A final report will then be produced which we intend to publish in early 2012, when I shall report back to the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Under the last Administration, thanks to policies engineered in Whitehall, millions of homes saw cuts to their local rubbish collections. Weekly rubbish collections are the most visible of all front-line services and I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week.
In June, the Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011 stated: "The Government will be working with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish collections and make it easier to recycle, and to tackle measures which encourage councils specifically to cut the scope of collections".
On 30 September, my department announced a new fund of up to £250 million to support councils to deliver weekly collections of household waste. The new weekly collections support scheme will support councils which switch from fortnightly to better weekly collections, and will support weekly collection councils which wish to keep and improve the weekly service they offer, such as through better procurement, new technologies and reward schemes like Recyclebank and others.
Councils will be able to bid individually or in consortiums, and with the private sector, where that increases value for money. In order to encourage the most innovative and locally tailored solutions, authorities will be able to bid for a mix of revenue and capital funding.
In due course, I will make a further Statement on the detail of this scheme, and the details for inviting councils to submit innovative bids for funding. This initiative will help councils deliver better weekly collections, and in the process make it easier for families to go green and improve local amenity and local environment. It also builds on the abolition of bin taxes through the Localism Bill and our plans to abolish unfair bin fines introduced under the last Administration.
Under the last Administration, while bin collections halved for many homes, across the country council tax more than doubled. In 2011-12, the coalition Government introduced a council tax freeze, which was taken up by all participating councils.
On 3 October, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £805 million support to help freeze council tax bills for a further year. The support for local authorities, on top of the existing freeze, means that taxpayers living in an average band D home in England could save up to £72 compared to a 5 per cent rise in council tax. In addition to providing real help to households in difficult times, this provides a positive contribution to those local authorities that wish to keep council tax down while protecting vital front-line services.
I will shortly make a Written Statement setting out the provisions for English local authorities and my officials will then write to the authorities with full
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Transparency is at the core of delivering efficient and accountable government. On 29 September, my department published the final Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency. The code of practice calls on local authorities such as councils and fire and rescue services to shine a light on every part of their business, from employees' salaries over £58,200 and details of all their contracts and tenders to details of grants to voluntary organisations, spending data and the locations of public land and building assets.
Subject to consultation, Ministers will consider making the code a legally binding requirement to ensure authorities are fully accountable to the people they serve. The coalition Government have abolished top-down inspection and increased local autonomy making local accountability more important than ever. Central government has a role in ensuring that local people can exercise their right to know how their money is being spent and have the information they need to question that spending. Decentralisation and a robust local democracy needs greater local accountability.
On 5 September, I informed the House that I had asked the Audit Commission to outsource its audit work from next year, as the first step towards disbanding the Commission and introducing a new, decentralised audit regime which will allow local authorities to appoint their own auditors. Following careful consideration of the options, we determined that outsourcing was likely to offer the best value for money for the taxpayer. In line with our commitment to transparency, on 10 October my department published on its website a summary of the independent report we commissioned to inform our decision.
In September and October my department published two further groups of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration. The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency. The first group was published on 29 September and relates to immigration; a summary of the reports and their cost to taxpayers can be found online at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/statements/corporate/legacyresearchimmigration1.
The second group, published on 6 October relates to housing; a summary of the reports and their cost to taxpayers can be found online at: http://www.communities .gov.uk/statements/newsroom/legacyresearchhousing.
The cost of local government pensions to the taxpayer has risen from £1.8 billion in 1997 to £6 billion in 2009-10 increasing burdens on council tax-and in turn, hitting pensioners the hardest. In light of changing demographics, this growing burden is not sustainable or fair on the taxpayer. Moreover, Lord Hutton's report sets out why public sector pensions need to be reformed to more fairly protect taxpayers.
On 7 October, my department published a consultation that proposes how to deliver the £900 million of savings required by the spending review 2010 to the local government pension scheme in England and Wales by 2014-15.
The paper proposes a progressively phased increase in employees' contribution tariff from April 2012 that would raise an additional £450 million, or 1.5 per cent of pay, and a change in the accrual rate from April 2013 to raise an additional £450 million, or 1.5 per cent of pay. This provides a balance between increasing employee contributions and adjusting the accrual rates while making the necessary savings to better protect the taxpayer.
To ensure the scheme continues to be an attractive scheme to all existing and future members, any increases in contribution rate will protect low earners, with no increase for those earning less than £15,000, and mean high earners pay in proportionally more, reflecting their more generous pensions.
We will continue to engage with local government and trade unions throughout the consultation as they have a key role to play. We hope all parties will take the time to consider these proposals in a constructive manner.
On 3 October, the coalition Government invited the Lancashire and Hull and Humber local enterprise partnerships to develop proposals for two new enterprise zones. This is in response to the recent announcement by BAE Systems on its sites in Brough, Warton and Samlesbury. The zones will benefit from simplified planning rules, super-fast broadband and tax breaks for new business for the next four years. The Government will work closely with these local enterprise partnerships to develop strong and viable proposals for enterprise zones that will accelerate local growth, generate hundreds of jobs and attract many new start-up firms.
On 10 October, my department published a consultation on reforming the community infrastructure levy to provide that a proportion of the money raised from development will go directly to the neighbourhood where it takes place. Local people will have the freedom to spend this money to deal with the demands that new development places on their community-for example by providing facilities such as parks, playgrounds and community centres or new and improved transport.
The levy will also continue to be used to contribute to larger infrastructure projects across areas like new roads, transport, or hospitals. Developers will benefit from a system that ensures they know up-front how much they will be expected to contribute towards the infrastructure needed to support new development, and communities will benefit because they will be able to decide for themselves how the demands placed on their area are best addressed.
The Government are also moving ahead with plans to release disused public land and empty offices with enough capacity to build up to 100,000 new homes by 2015. On 5 October, four departments with significant
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Over the summer these departments have moved swiftly to identify land and property that could be released for new development. This builds on the 11,000 housing starts that will be achieved through the release of land owned by the Homes and Communities Agency. The amount of previously developed land owned by the public sector is more than twice the size of Leicester, and its development could support as many as 200,000 construction and related jobs.
At the same time, my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government announced fresh steps to help communities across the country reclaim and develop hundreds of acres of unused public sector land and buildings, which could be used to deliver the schemes communities want to see in their areas. Members of the public will now be able to request a sale of public land and buildings by filling in a simple and user-friendly form. It will replace a system that is so obscure and restrictive that it has hardly ever been used, with only one successful application in the past 13 years.
The improved process for requesting the sale of public land and property will be one way of applying for land to be released by government departments, and will also apply to land owned by councils and other public bodies.
The Government also want to support people to meet their aspirations of home ownership. Since 1980, nearly 2 million social homes have been bought by their occupants under right to buy, improving social mobility and building mixed communities. The right to buy gave something back to families who worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules. It allowed them to do up their home, change their front door, improve their garden-without getting permission from the council. It gave people a sense of pride and ownership not just in their home, but in their street and neighbourhood. Yet under the last Administration, right-to-buy discounts were cut significantly.
On 2 October, the Prime Minister announced the intention to raise right-to-buy discounts to a level which will make the scheme attractive to tenants across England. The receipt from the right to buy will be used to pay off the housing debt and build more housing for affordable rent-for every home bought under right to buy, a new affordable home will be built, over and above our existing plans. Further details of this will be set out in the forthcoming housing strategy. The reform of the housing revenue account system is and remains a coalition priority and the timetable for the reform remains unchanged.
Tackling the 700,000 empty homes across the country is a top priority for my department. On 20 September, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced more powers for community groups to bring empty homes back into use. Community and voluntary organisations will be able to bid for a part of £100 million of government funding for pioneering
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My department will also consult in due course on plans to allow councils local discretion to introduce a council tax premium on homes in their area that have been empty for more than two years, to provide a stronger incentive to get the homes back into productive use and remove the blight from such properties on local neighbourhoods.
The coalition Government will stand by and help families who work hard and play by the rules, while tackling the small number of people who abuse the system. In this context, it has been estimated that there could be 6,000 households living in this taxpayer-funded social housing with incomes greater than £100,000. This is not fair to the millions of people in genuine housing need and those who work hard, earn a modest income, yet still remain on a housing waiting list. On 4 October, the Minister for Housing and Local Government indicated that he will be looking at introducing a "pay to stay" scheme for social tenants on incomes greater than £100,000 who want to stay in those properties. A consultation on this will be published in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The first item on the agenda was a policy debate on the future shape of the European Social Fund (ESF) and its role in the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Commission confirmed that it would publish its draft regulation on the ESF in 2014-20 later in the week. The presidency stressed that it was vital to strengthen the role of the ESF in cohesion policy. Member states agreed that the ESF should contribute in helping to achieve Europe 2020 targets and that the ESF should be more efficient and targeted at the most disadvantaged. For the UK, Andy Lebrecht intervened to stress the need to focus EU resources on the less developed member states, to improve value for money, and that the ESF should add value to national investment in employment and skills. The UK also raised concerns about the effectiveness and added value of the European globalisation fund.
Under any other business, a debate on the EU aid for the needy scheme took place. France and Slovenia had circulated a joint paper asking Employment Ministers to lobby their agriculture counterparts to agree a short-term continuation of the programme, which would allow food to be sourced from the open market as well as from increasingly limited intervention stocks, and to introduce an element of co-financing. The Commission reiterated its support for the scheme and indicated that it would table a revised proposal with a dual cohesion and agriculture legal base, reverting to 100 per cent EU funding. A number of member states expressed support for the scheme and the Commission's efforts to find a solution. The UK, along with Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, stressed that measures such as these should be delivered at national level. A Europe-wide scheme raised competence issues and was not as effective as national measures. The presidency noted the positions in council and would send a note on the discussions to the Agriculture Council.
The other items under any other business were reports on Polish presidency conferences and the EPSCO informal which took place in July. The presidency also reported on preparations for the first annual convention of the European platform against poverty and social exclusion, which takes place in October. The French reported back on the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers' meeting, which took place in Paris, and the Germans reported back on the meeting of an informal Ministerial Group on Employment and Social Policy, which took place in Potsdam.
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 latest report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today. Copies have been laid in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk). The report covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2011. I commend the report to the House.
The Government are today laying before the House a statement of changes in the Immigration Rules. The first change will allow the UK Border Agency to refuse entry or stay in the UK to those subject to immigration control with outstanding unpaid NHS charges of £1,000 or more. This change will be phased in from 1 November.
On 18 March 2011, I announced the Government's response to the 2010 consultation on refusing entry or stay to NHS debtors and signalled my intention to lay a new rules change in respect of outstanding NHS charges. This will deter overseas visitors from misusing the NHS and encourage overseas visitors to meet their obligations to pay for the NHS services that they use. The UK Border Agency will continue to work closely with the Department of Health on a range of measures to prevent health tourism.
I can also confirm that we are publishing the impact assessment for the changes in respect of outstanding NHS charges on the UK Border Agency website and I will arrange for a copy to be placed in the House Library.
A minor technical change to the evidential requirements for settlement is also being made which will oblige economic migrants to provide supporting documents to show they are earning a minimum amount before they are granted settlement.
I am also making minor changes to Rule 317 on parents, grandparents and other dependent relatives to improve the drafting and transparency of the rule. Consequential changes will be made to Rule 319(v), which deals with the dependent relatives of refugees and those with humanitarian protection.
We are also making some technical corrections to the rules for other dependent relatives of a refugee or beneficiary of humanitarian protection. We are deleting a provision in the rules that requires an applicant to be refused if he or she has one or more unspent convictions within the meaning of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 when they apply for entry clearance or further leave to remain in this route. This provision was included in error, as government policy is that indefinite leave to remain (ILR) should be refused to people with unspent convictions, but not that an application for entry clearance or limited leave to remain should be refused. We are also clarifying the existing rules to ensure that other family members who wish to switch into the further leave to remain or settlement route in this category can do so. The amendments will also affect the criteria for granting settlement as we are clarifying the need for an applicant to have valid leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom so that those who have overstayed do not qualify under the rules.
A minor correction is being made to the rules laid on 6 April to make provision for spouses and civil partners of a British citizen or settled person in the United Kingdom in line with the policy intention relating to in-country switching.
Minor changes are also being made to the Immigration Rules relating to unmarried and same sex partners of a British citizen or settled person in the United Kingdom to enable in-country switching into this route, reflecting the policy intention.
The last change relates to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The UK needs to effectively manage the entry and stay of persons accredited for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games such as athletes, umpires, technical staff and broadcasters and other individuals before, during and after the Games in order to deliver a safe and secure Games. Such persons are referred to as Games family members.
In order to do this, and fulfil contractual agreements reached with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), it is necessary to make two sets of changes to the UK's Immigration Rules.
The first change amends appendix 1 to the Immigration Rules by exempting certain holders of the Olympic identity and accreditation card (OIAC) and Paralympic identity and accreditation card (PIAC) from visa requirements during the accreditation period of the Games, which runs from 30 March 2012 to 8 November 2012, providing the card is presented with a valid national passport or other document satisfactorily establishing nationality and identity and providing the requirements set out in the statement of changes to the Immigration Rules have been met.
The second change amends the visitor category of the Immigration Rules by creating two new categories of visitor-an Olympic or Paralympic Games family member visitor and an Olympic or Paralympic games family member child visitor. Leave in these two visitor categories will only be available during the accreditation period of the Games to Games family members who meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules. Individuals granted leave to enter or remain as an Olympic or Paralympic Games family member visitor and Olympic or Paralympic Games family member child visitor during the period of 30 March 2012 to 8 May 2012 will be admitted for up to six months, while those who are granted leave to enter or remain during the period of 9 May 2012 to 8 November 2012 will be admitted up until and including 8 November 2012. In both cases conditions prohibiting recourse to public funds and restricting employment to employment only related to Olympic and Paralympic Games will be attached to the leave.
These changes to the Immigration Rules will help the UK facilitate the entry and stay of Games family members in the UK during the Games while also allowing the UK Border Agency to maintain a robust immigration control.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am publishing the Liberating the NHS: Greater Choice and Control- Government Response: Choice of Named Consultant-led Team and associated guidance. The response, the contract implementation guidance and the impact assessment have been placed in the Library. Copies of the response are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
This is the response to the questions associated with the proposal to offer patients choice of named consultant-led team in Liberating the NHS: Greater Choice and Control-A Consultation on Proposals. The response to these questions is being published now to help the NHS plan for the next financial year. A fuller response covering all of the remaining questions in the greater choice and control consultation document will follow later this year.
This consultation sought views on the choice commitments first set out in the White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (Cm 7881). The consultation period ran from 18 October 2010 until 14 January 2011 and I am delighted to report that hundreds of engagement activities were undertaken and 617 unique responses were received. We have heard from patients, service users, clinicians, care professionals, systems providers, voluntary sector organisations and many others. All these contributions have been analysed and have informed the ongoing development of our policy direction reflected in today's publication.
A significant majority of respondents supported our proposed approach to implementing proposals to offer patients a choice of named consultant-led team at referral as set out in the consultation document. A range of issues were also raised around: the need for good-quality information to support choice; the impacts on providers' ability to manage capacity and waiting times; and the development of specialist knowledge by consultant-led teams.
The issues raised in the responses to choice of named consultant-led team have been taken into account in drafting the contractual guidance published alongside this response, and the accompanying impact assessment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I will be making an announcement on new schools this afternoon via an Oral Statement in the House of Commons. A list of new schools will be placed in the House Libraries to coincide with this Oral Statement.
I am pleased to confirm to the House that the Scotland Office is now leading efforts to secure a long-term replacement for the emergency towing vessels (ETV) service in waters surrounding the Northern Isles and Western Isles.
It has been agreed that interim funding will be provided from the UK Government to support the service for up to three months while this work continues. The contract will be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and every effort will be made to ensure value for money for the public purse.
The Scotland Office, drawing on technical and operational advice from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Scottish stakeholders from the UK ETV Working Group, will lead efforts to broker a long- term replacement for the service. Timescales are tight and this work will be progressed as a matter of urgency. I will convene a meeting of a Scottish ETV Working Group on Monday 17 October, comprising representatives of Highlands and Islands local authorities, Marine Scotland, KIMO (Kommunenes Internasjonale Miljøorganisasjon) and other interested parties. An announcement will be made by the end of the year notifying the House of the outcome of this work.
On 6 October the Government signed an agreement with the Swiss Confederation on co-operation on tax matters. The agreement seeks to tackle tax evasion by UK residents through the use of Swiss financial services. It will clear up past tax liabilities through the imposition of a significant one-off levy, safeguard future revenues through a new withholding tax on investment returns, and expand the powers of HM Revenue and Customs to find out about Swiss assets.
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