8 Jan 2014 : Column WS193

8 Jan 2014 : Column WS193

Written Statements

Wednesday 8 January 2014

The following Written Ministerial Statement should have been printed on Tuesday 7 January 2014.

European Council

Statement

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister has made the following statement to the House of Commons:

I attended the European Council meeting in Brussels on 19 and 20 December. Discussion focused on defence; economic and monetary union; and EU enlargement and association agreements. The opening session was addressed by the Secretary General of NATO.

Defence

Protecting our national security is our first priority. At this European Council, the United Kingdom was clear that when it comes to defence issues and decisions about national armed forces, policy must be driven by nations themselves, on a voluntary basis, according to individual priorities and needs; not by the EU Institutions.

For the UK, this means that NATO has been, and will continue to be, the foundation of our national defence. We are pleased to be hosting the 2014 NATO summit - the first time such a summit has been hosted in the UK since 1990.

It is of course also right for European neighbours to cooperate on defence issues and in this respect I am proud that the UK is always in the vanguard when our European allies are in need of practical help, including supporting French efforts in Mali and the Central African Republic and coordination of the EU’s counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa.

I made these points at the Council and the agreed conclusions make clear that there will be no EU ownership of defence assets and no EU headquarters. I removed references to Europe’s armed forces, to a European pooled acquisition mechanism and to EU assets and fleets and made clear that equipment such as drones and air-to-air refuelling tankers are to be owned and operated by the Member States. The conclusions of the European Council are clear that nations, not the EU institutions, are in the driving seat of defence and must remain there.

Economic and Monetary Union

The Council also held important discussions on the future of the Eurozone and measures to strengthen economic and monetary union. Britain is not in the Eurozone and will not be joining the euro, but it is in our interest for those that are to have a strong and stable single currency. We therefore support efforts to achieve that as long as the UK’s interests are protected. My priority at this Council was to ensure that, just as the UK is out of the EU Eurozone bailout mechanism, so there can be no financial liability for the UK from banking union or from any future euro area mechanism of loans or guarantees for Eurozone countries. This is

8 Jan 2014 : Column WS194

reflected in the conclusions which make clear there will be no financial obligations on countries not participating in these areas. The conclusions also reiterate the importance of making the EU more competitive, completing the single market and cutting red tape for business.

Leaders also agreed to build on the UK’s G8 agenda with an explicit commitment to agree further measures on tax transparency as swiftly as possible.

Enlargement and Association Agreements

The UK has long supported enlargement as one of the EU’s greatest strengths. The prospect of EU membership has proved a huge driver for peace, prosperity and progress across our continent. But the EU of today is very different to the European Community of 50 years ago and it was never envisaged that the accession of new countries would trigger mass population movements across our continent.

So I made clear that when future countries join the EU we must look again at the transitional arrangements for the free movement of workers, and my preference to look at options such as much longer transitional periods and new benchmarks that would need to be met. I also made the case for returning the principle of free movement to a more sensible basis and making clear that it should never be a completely unqualified right but should be what the EU first envisaged - the free movement of workers, not of those after the best benefit deal. This is not just the view of the UK. At the recent meeting of interior ministers, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands all made clear that we need to find a better approach to tackle free movement abuse. In this spirit, we can now look forward to continuing these discussions in the coming year and ensuring that future enlargements proceed in a way that regains the trust and the support of our peoples.

Copies of the Council conclusions are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Aviation: Air Navigation Guidance

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Robert Goodwill) has made the following Ministerial Statement:

Today I am pleased to announce the publication of a revised version of the Air Navigation Guidance. I am grateful for the technical assistance of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the input of those who responded to the consultation – carried out in summer 2013. A summary of the responses to the consultation and the Government’s reply to these responses is being published alongside the new guidance.

Under the Transport Act 2000, the CAA is required to take account of environmental guidance given to it by the Secretary of State when exercising its air navigation functions. The new guidance has two key objectives. The first is to provide the CAA with additional clarity on the Government’s environmental objectives relating to air navigation in the UK, including the need to improve the efficiency of our UK airspace network.

8 Jan 2014 : Column WS195

The second is a reaffirmation of the need to consult local communities near airports when airspace changes are being considered in the vicinity of these airports. The guidance now reflects significant developments such as the creation of the Future Airspace Strategy and Single European Sky, and the Aviation Policy Framework.

Although this guidance has been prepared, consulted on and revised by the Government separately from the Airports Commission’s work, it is notable that the clarity it brings around the introduction of performance-based navigation routes at our major airports and the

8 Jan 2014 : Column WS196

need for greater delegation of decision-making powers over airspace changes to the CAA are in line with the findings of the Commission’s recently published Interim Report. The Government’s full response to the Report will follow in the spring. In the meantime, this publication demonstrates the Government’s desire to act quickly to make the best use of existing capacity.

A copy of the guidance can be found on my Department’s website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-navigation-guidance and I will place copies in the Libraries of both Houses.