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From 1 November 2011, the rate of APD for direct long-haul passengers departing from airports in Northern Ireland will be cut to the short-haul rate, which is currently £12 in economy and £24 in business and first class.
This measure is a response to the unique challenge facing Northern Ireland and is designed to ensure local airports remain competitive, demonstrating the Government's commitment to stimulating and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy.
In parallel the Government are also launching a process for the devolution of aspects of APD to the Northern Ireland Assembly to provide a lasting solution to the unique circumstances Northern Ireland faces.
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.
I wish to update the House on recent changes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's overseas network. As I said in the House on 11 May 2011, there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain's diplomatic influence overseas. I made clear in a speech in London on 8 September that I intend to strengthen the long-term capability and international effectiveness of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to improve our country's capacity to pursue effective foreign policy for years and even decades to come.
So I am pleased to confirm to Parliament the opening in 2012 of a British consulate-general in Calgary, as announced by the Prime Minister during his visit to Canada on 22 September. The new consulate-general will maintain our existing UK trade and investment operation in Calgary, while adding significant new capability for pursuing our wider political and environmental interests within this dynamic province. This measure underscores my determination to extend the UK's global reach and strengthen our influence in the world. It also supports my commitment to deepen and refresh our relationship with Canada, an important ally and long-standing friend of the UK. I intend to appoint a fully accredited, resident British consul-general to take up position from summer 2012.
The Province of Alberta is Canada's third largest internal economy, and has led Canadian growth for 20 years. This growth is fuelling commercial opportunities across a diverse range of sectors, including telecoms, agrifood, biotech, chemicals, electronics, energy and corporate services. British companies are heavily involved in the automotive sector, financial services, creative media, chemicals, advanced engineering, IT, and healthcare, as well as in energy and power. Some 50 Albertan companies have UK investments. Opening a consulate-general will add value to our existing trade and investment operations in support of British commercial interests.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office will meet the cost of appointing and maintaining a resident British consul-general in Calgary through the reallocation of existing resources and without any detrimental impact on frontline activities.
The strength of our embassy network is a signal to the world of our engagement and commitment to international peace and security. Through strengthening and in some places by expanding Britain's diplomatic network beyond Europe, we will ensure that the UK has the necessary reach and capacity to respond quickly and effectively when British companies need our assistance or British nationals are in danger. The extension and strengthening of our global diplomatic network, with staff who have the necessary abilities and diplomatic skills, are key objectives of this Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made funding these goals a priority.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy (Charles Hendry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In my Statement of 21 January, I informed the House that I wrote to ask the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to bring forward its off-grid energy market study. I subsequently advised the House that the OFT had agreed to this. I can now report that the OFT has today published its findings from the market study into the off-grid energy market.
The market study focuses on the three main off-grid energy sources: heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and microgeneration. The study examined the available evidence to find few competition concerns in the heating oil market with 97 per cent of consumers having access to four or more independent suppliers. Nevertheless, OFT will continue to look at any evidence of specific market abuse and will take action as necessary.
The study did find that action is needed to protect heating oil consumers in some areas. In September the OFT acted against some heating oil price comparison websites as to their independence-consumers need to
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Different issues arise in the LPG market where the study has commented on the generally positive initial impact of the Competition Commission Orders from 2009 to make it easier for consumers to switch supplier and that the OFT will continue to monitor this area. The study also comments upon consumer issues in the microgeneration market. Here the Government are supporting the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS), an industry-led certification scheme with an OFT-level consumer code of practice. Only MCS certified installers and products are eligible for the renewable heat premium payment grant scheme.
The study recognises the hugely challenging conditions in December 2010 with 20 per cent of annual heating oil demand being delivered in three working weeks of that month when snow/ice disrupted the road network. Ahead of next winter, my department has been working with industry and consumer bodies, in a national campaign launched in mid-September, to encourage heating oil customers to order early and ensure they are well prepared for winter. We have also reminded the downstream oil industry to ensure that they have sufficient salt to maintain access at their terminals and depots.
Work by the Department for Transport to improve winter resilience has ensured that the country will enter this winter season well prepared-this includes having a national strategic salt reserve; setting up a salt stock portal to monitor how much stock local highway authorities hold; as well as making sure councils make best use of their salt supplies. While we have to acknowledge there may be some transport disruption in the event of severe winter weather, this work ensures that the country's transport systems are better equipped to cope.
I am today announcing the publication of an independent review of the UK's extradition arrangements, a copy of which has been placed in the House Library. The review was announced to Parliament on 8 September 2010.
The coalition's Government's Programme for Government document, published on 20 May 2010, stated that: "We will review the operation of the Extradition Act-and the US/UK extradition treaty-to make sure it is even-handed".
There are a number of areas of the UK's extradition arrangements which have attracted significant controversy in recent years. The Government understand that these are long-standing concerns and I accordingly asked the independent panel to consider the following issues:the breadth of Secretary of State discretion in an extradition case;the operation of the European arrest warrant, including the way in which those of its safeguards which are optional have been transposed into UK law; whether the forum bar to extradition should be commenced; whether the US-UK extradition treaty is unbalanced; andwhether requesting states should be required to provide prima facie evidence;
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Jonathan Djanogly) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Under Section 10(2) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (the Act), an individual who is bankrupt may not be appointed as donee of a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in relation to P's property and affairs.
The bankruptcy of a donee is also one of the prescribed grounds for an objection to be made to the Public Guardian against the registration of a lasting power of attorney, where the power relates to P's property and affairs.
"We have therefore decided that the Office of the Public Guardian will check to see if prospective financial attorneys are bankrupt when an LPA is to be registered. That information will be available to the Office of the Public Guardian throughout and should make it unnecessary for the donee to agree a statement to that effect or for it to be included on the notification. If the donee is bankrupt, then the LPA is invalid. That will achieve the noble Earl's objective".
In light of this Statement, and although there is no statutory obligation to carry out these extra insolvency checks, this has been the practice of the Office of the Public Guardian since the implementation of the Act in 2007.
The Public Guardian has recently made an assessment of the effectiveness and value of this checking process. From 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011, over 152,000 LPAs were registered and subject to a search on the ISBR. Out of all these checks however, only one attorney was found to have been bankrupt at the point of registration. In addition, these checks can only ever identify bankruptcy at the point of registration-not at any other point in the ongoing life of the LPA as a legal document.
Given the nugatory work and the additional bureaucracy, this practice will cease with immediate effect. Objections to registration of an LPA on the grounds of a donee's bankruptcy may still be made and in such circumstances the Public Guardian will not register the instrument in line with the Act's requirements.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Anne Milton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The review was an outcome of the Department of Health's review of arm's-length bodies (ALBs), which concluded that there were strong arguments for retaining the majority of NHSBT's functions within a single national system. However, it also concluded that there could be opportunities for more cost-effective operations and commercial arrangement within the divisions of NHSBT.
The review has made a number of recommendations to support the continued improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation, which includes working with NHS and other organisations to make more efficient use of voluntarily donated blood.
Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (the Act), the Treasury is required to report quarterly to Parliament on the operation of the UK's asset-freezing regime mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373.
As of 30 September 2011, a total of just over £200,0002 of funds were held frozen in the UK. This covers funds frozen under the UK's domestic terrorist asset-freezing regime, mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373, and also funds frozen under the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime, mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1989.
The UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime, established under UNSCR 1267, is implemented in the UK by Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002. Following the split of the UNSCR 1267 al-Qaeda and Taliban regime into two separate regimes in June, this quarterly report will cover just the UN al-Qaeda regime mandated by UNSCR 1989.
As of 30 September 2011, a total of 41 accounts containing just over £100,0003 were frozen in the UK under the al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime. The unfreezing of 43 accounts since the previous quarter was a result of a number of delistings by the UN (see the listings section below).
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