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Today's Written Statements Update

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Mr David Gauke - HM Treasury

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Luxembourg on 6 October 2015. Ministers discussed the following items:

Mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation

Ministers reached a political agreement on the text of a Council Directive on mandatory automatic exchange on information on tax rulings.

Current Legislative Proposals

The Council took note of ongoing work on financial services dossiers.

Implementation of Banking Union

The European Commission provided an update to Council on the status of transposition of the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), on ratification of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Single Resolution Fund and on the transposition of the Directive on Deposit Guarantee Schemes.

Capital Markets Union

The European Commission presented its action plan on Capital Markets Union as released on 30 September, followed by an exchange of views.

European Semester Lessons Learnt

Council held an exchange of views on ways to improve the European Semester, based on lessons learnt from the 2015 Semester process.

Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers received an update on the current state of play on discussions on common positions on flexibility in the Stability and Growth Pact.

Preparation and follow-up of international meetings

Council received an update on discussions at the G20 Finance Ministers meeting on 4-5 September in Ankara. Ministers then endorsed EU Terms of Reference for a meeting of G20 Finance Ministers in Lima on 8 October and endorsed an ECOFIN statement for the IMFC meeting in Lima on 8-11 October.


Stephen Crabb - Wales Office

The Secretary of State for Wales (Stephen Crabb): I am pleased today to publish the draft Wales Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The draft Bill sets out the Governments plans for a stronger, clearer and fairer devolution settlement for Wales that will stand the test of time. It implements the commitments made in the St David's Day Agreement and set out in the Command Paper Powers for a Purpose: Towards a lasting devolution settlement for Wales (CM 9020), published in February.

The key measures include a new reserved powers model for Welsh devolution, similar to the one which currently operates in Scotland, providing a clear and complete boundary between devolved and reserved subjects. The draft Bill devolves important new powers for Wales in areas such as energy, transport and local government and Assembly elections. It also provides greater powers to the Assembly over its own affairs, including the ability to change its name.

The new devolution settlement provided for in the draft Bill will create a stronger Wales within a strong United Kingdom. It will work better for the people of Wales and allow more time for the Welsh Government to focus on delivering growth, jobs and better public services.

I am grateful to the Welsh Affairs Committee for agreeing to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and I look forward to receiving their report. The Government will continue discussions with the Welsh Government on the detail of the reserved powers model alongside Pre-Legislative Scrutiny. It is vital that we deliver a robust new devolution settlement that works for the people of Wales.


James Brokenshire - Home Office

I am announcing today the roll out of the second phase of the measures relating to the private rented sector as prescribed by sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014, otherwise known as the Right to Rent scheme. Where these provisions apply, landlords are prohibited from renting accommodation to people who are disqualified from a right to rent by virtue of their immigration status.

The provisions will come into force across the whole of England as of 1 February 2016.

The provisions were implemented on a phased basis starting on 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell, in line with the commitments made by the then Government. The impacts of the first six months of the scheme have been subject to an evaluation exercise. I have considered the findings of the evaluation and the advice of a panel of experts in arriving at this decision. The evaluation can be found on GOV.UK.

The Government has continued to engage with the private rented sector and the new Immigration Bill 2015, introduced to Parliament on 17 September 2015, provides new powers to evict illegal immigrants and offences where unscrupulous or rogue landlords choose to flout the law and are exploiting illegal immigrants for their own gain.

This demonstrates the Governments determination to control immigration in the interests of the whole country and in ensuring that people here unlawfully are not able to enjoy a settled life here in defiance of our laws.


Sajid Javid - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The steel industry across Europe and around the world is facing challenges on a scale unprecedented in recent history. The situation facing the people of Redcar, Scunthorpe, and other communities across the UK where the local economy is built on steel, is unbearably difficult.

There is no straightforward solution to any of the complex issues involved, but this Government has no intention of simply standing aside.

We have already announced a package worth up to 80 million to support people who have lost their jobs as a result of SSIs liquidation, and mitigate the impacts on the local economy.

We have asked Amanda Skelton, chief executive of Redcar & Cleveland Council, to chair a local Task Force. We have ensured money is in workers pockets quickly via the Redundancy Payments Service. We have brought workers and opportunities together at a jobs fair, at which more than 1,000 vacancies were showcased by more than 50 local employers. We have provided additional flexibilities to local FE colleges to allow people to take up training to enhance their future job prospects. And we have set aside money to fund those proposals from the Task Force which will make an immediate and lasting impact on the local economy.

We will do what we can to soften the blow of any further redundancies amongst steelworkers.

Alongside our immediate help for laid-off steelworkers, we are also taking steps to ensure there is a future for Britains steel industry in what is an exceptionally difficult market. Excess capacity in global steel is enormous about 576 million tonnes last year, almost 50 times the UKs annual production. The price of steel slab has fallen by a half in the past year alone. And in the three years since SSI restarted production at Redcar, the plant has lost more than 600 million.

There are limits to what we can do in response. No government can change the global price of steel or dictate foreign exchange rates.

To identify where progress can be made, on Friday I hosted a top-level summit with the key players from the UK steel industry. Bringing together industry leaders, trade unions, Members of Parliament and senior figures from government, the summit created a framework for action that will help us to support steelworkers now and in the future.

We will drive up the number of public procurement contracts won by UK steel manufacturers and their partners through fair and open competition. This government is committed to a major programme of infrastructure spending, and while we must always secure the best possible deal for British taxpayers that doesnt have to mean the lowest price. The new Public Contracts Regulations give us more scope to offer greater flexibility around how we include social and environmental considerations in our procurement activities. We intend to help other Departments and business take full advantage of these flexibilities building on what was learnt from projects like Crossrail.

We will consider what lessons can be learned from other countries in the EU and beyond. This will include the resilience of the steel sector in competitor countries and market penetration of national manufacturers.

And we will look at what government can do to boost productivity and cut production costs. This includes addressing energy and environmental costs, regulation, skills and training. An extensive review of business rates is already underway and the Government will look very closely at all proposals.

These steps will come on top of action we have already taken. For example, we have already paid out more than 50 million in compensation to Energy Intensive Industries in the steel sector. We also plan to offer further compensation in respect of feed-in tariffs and the renewables obligation; this constitutes state aid, which must be approved by the European Commission. The approval process is underway but it is taking longer than anticipated, and longer than I would like. My department is working closely with the Commission to answer their concerns and impress upon them the importance of prompt approval.

I also plan to meet with Commissioners next week to reinforce our concerns about unfair trade issues and gain their support for further action. We have already taken action by voting to support the extension of duties on wire rod and will continue to consider future cases on their merits where there is clear evidence to support doing so.

We showed, following SSIs closure, that we will not hesitate to support local partners in dealing with the impacts of large-scale redundancies. I am sure that also applies in Scotland and Wales where some of the responsibilities are devolved.


Chris Grayling - Leader of the House

The Government wrote to the Procedure Committee on Monday 19 October 2015, in response to the publication of its report on 'Government proposals for English votes for English laws Standing Orders: interim report (First report of Session 2015-16 - HC410). The Government is grateful to the Chair of that Committee for agreeing that the Government response, reproduced below, could be unusually published by Written Ministerial Statement. This allows speedy and transparent publication of this information to Members of Parliament, and others, ahead of the debate on the issue on Thursday 22 October 2015.

The Government is grateful to the Procedure Committee for publishing its interim report in advance of the debate and decision on the proposed Standing Order changes to implement English votes for English laws on 22 October 2015. The Government is also grateful that the Committee was willing to indicate its initial findings by way of a letter of 10 September to the Leader of the House of Commons, subsequently published on its website. This letter was important in allowing the Government to reflect the Committees views in the updated proposals published on 15 October 2015.

The Government's proposals deliver its commitment to introduce English votes for English laws. The Government is determined to strengthen the Union and is devolving more powers across the United Kingdom, and now is the time to give the English more say. These plans provide a fair balance by giving England, and Wales, more control over decisions which they alone are affected by, while ensuring that Westminster continues to be a place where those from across the UK govern in the best interests of those living within the Union.

The Governments responses to the recommendations of the Committee are indicated below.

Recommendation: In the experimental phase following the introduction of any new Standing Orders, we consider that the Speaker should not give the reasons for his decisions on certification to the House. We nevertheless consider it inappropriate that the role of the Speaker should be confined in this way through Standing Orders proposed by the Government, and we recommend that the matter should be left to the Speakers discretion, so that he may choose to enter into the spirit of this experiment by being himself free to experiment. (Paragraph 45)

The Government is content to give the Speaker the discretion on whether or not to give reasons for his decisions on certification to the House. The Government will reflect this when it tables updated Standing Orders by omitting the phrase without giving the reasons for the decision from Standing Orders 83J(9), 83L(6), 83O(10), 83P(5) and 83U(7). We note the Committees view, following evidence, that the Speaker should not give the reasons for his decisions on certification during the experimental phase following the introduction of any new Standing Orders.

Recommendation: We recommend that provision should be made for the Speaker to consult two senior members of the Panel of Chairs, to be appointed by the Committee of Selection, if he chooses before determining his opinion on certification, but should not be obliged to do so. This provision would, we believe, help underpin the Houses confidence in the Speakers decisions. (Paragraph 47)

In response to earlier discussions, the Government considered this issue and the updated Standing Orders published on 15 October 2015 contain an additional sub-paragraph relating to the certification of Bills, clauses and schedules (SO 83J (8)(a)), and similar additional paragraphs at SO 83P(4), SO83U(6), SO 83L(8) and SO 83O(13).

These new additions enable the Speaker to consult two members of the Panel of Chairs to assist him in the process of certifying bills, clauses and schedules as relating exclusively to England or England and Wales, should he wish to do so. The two members of the Panel of Chairs should be appointed on a session by session basis by resolution of the Committee of Selection. We agree that this will help underpin the Houses confidence in the Speakers decisions.

Recommendation: We recommend that, in considering the interaction of the proposed new procedures with the present procedure for programming stages of Bills, the Government should allocate set periods of time for the consideration of amendments or groups of amendments, for elements of Consent Stage and for Third Reading. Without such protected time, there is a high risk of bringing the procedures of the House in considering legislation into further disrepute and of failing to show the electorate that we take our task of making the law seriously and are prepared to give sufficient time to do the task properly. (Paragraph 92)

The Government accepts the principle of the Committees recommendation, that adequate time should be given for the scrutiny of legislation. The Government will consider all legislation on a case by case basis and notes that the Committee will undertake detailed monitoring of the time spent on the various elements of the new Consent Stage, as part of its review following the introduction of the revised Standing Orders.

Recommendation: We recommend that the Government amend its proposals for Standing Orders to provide that Bills and instruments be sent for the Speakers decision on certification only after the House has debated and agreed to a motion to this effect moved by a Minister of the Crown. (Paragraph 98)

The Government has given this matter careful consideration, and notes the Committees desire to ensure that the Houses time and resources are allocated to items which are politically important. However, the Committee also recognises that there are implications for the development and drafting of legislation, which needs to be undertaken in the anticipation that these proposals will apply to it. The requirement for a separate decision having the effect of applying the procedure to Bills and instruments could add additional time and complexity to the system, and introduce uncertainty. The consequence of these proposals on the resources of the House, in the longer term, is a matter that the Procedure Committee may wish to consider.

Recommendation: We recommend that Departments should as a matter of course instruct Parliamentary Counsel to draft legislation intended to apply to England or England and Wales only with the express intention of meeting the certification tests. (Paragraph 99)

The Government will be as helpful as possible to Members in identifying those provisions of a Bill which are likely to be certified. In practice, this information will be in supplementary material to a Bill such as the Explanatory Notes rather than in the Bill itself but Parliamentary Counsel will, so far as practicable, take account of the need to assist Members when drafting the Bill.

Recommendation: We recommend that the Governments proposals be amended to provide that certified amendments, new clauses and new schedules, whether made in committee or proposed on Report, only pass Report stage if they are unopposed or, if put to a vote, when an appropriate double majority in the House has voted in favour. (Paragraph 100)

The Committees proposal to introduce double majority voting as suggested aims to make the procedure simpler. However, the Government believes that the proposal would actually increase complexity and unbalance the proposals away from Members of the relevant constituencies having a specific body through which to have their voice heard.

As outlined in the report, the suggestion does not indicate how it would deal with clearing unamended certified provisions at Report. In the absence of a clause or schedule stand part debate, a legislative grand committee would still be needed to clear these.

Where there has been amendment since second reading, a different sort of certification would be required depending upon whether the amendment had been made in committee or on report. If made in committee, it is not clear what the subject of the vote would be at Report stage. It could not be on the clause/schedule as amended because there is no clause/schedule stand part debate. A separate procedure would need to be devised and separate votes at Report on clauses amended in committee which would alter the nature of Report stage.

For amendments proposed on report, there would be added complexity because these amendments would have to be certified before, and as they are tabled, during Report Stage. A new process would have to be devised for certifying amendments because, except on Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments and for special cases (SO83L(4)), it is bills, and clauses and schedules that are already in bills, that are certified and not amendments. The test for the amendments would have to be whether, if agreed, they would produce an England or England and Wales clause or schedule. This would not be easy for Members to follow during what is the most important stage of the bill.

Finally, the proposal suggests, if there were a disagreement between the House and Members of the relevant constituencies, that there would be a full and nuanced debate on the substantive issues at the Legislative Grand Committee stage. However, this would introduce another stage to the process because, even after this, there would still have to be a process for resolving the disagreement.

Recommendation: We recommend that the Governments proposals should be amended to make it clear that all Members can speak and intervene in legislative grand committee proceedings in the Chamber at the discretion of the Chair. We note that in common with analogous proceedings in Delegated Legislation Committees, Members who are not members of a legislative grand committee will not be able to move motions, propose amendments or vote. (Paragraph 103)

The Government was grateful for an indication of the Committees view on this issue in its letter of 10 September 2015 and was able to reflect this in the updated proposals published on 15 October 2015. New text has been proposed in paragraph SO 83W(8) in the Standing Order relating to legislative grand committees. This paragraph makes clear that any MP may take part in debate at legislative grand committee stage, though only members of the legislative grand committee may vote, make any motion or move any amendment.

Recommendation: We recommend that the procedures be piloted on statutory instruments, and no more than three bills, in the remainder of the 2015-2016 Session. The House should be invited to agree to the Bills to be piloted under these procedures, using the process we have outlined in paragraph 98 above. (Paragraph 104)

The reality is that it seems likely that there will be a limited number of Bills to which the proposals will apply in the remainder of this session of Parliament, and the Government and relevant Committees will be able to undertake the necessary review based on the experience of those bills and instruments. Whilst this is not a pilot in the exact terms of the Committees report, the outcome will be very similar.

Recommendation: We recommend that the new procedures should not be applied to any bill in the 2016-17 Session until after we have reported on our evaluation. (paragraph 105).

The Government is seeking to implement a manifesto commitment. Introducing a system in the knowledge that it will be concluded at the end of a session and then re-introduced, possibly in amended form, half way through the next session of Parliament may cause confusion for Members of Parliament, Government Departments and members of the public. Not least in the example of carry-over bills, which might be part way through their amending stage at the end of the current session.

The Government takes the work of the Procedure Committee seriously, and will reflect fully on any evaluation of the proposals the Committee may choose to undertake in order to make the proposals work as effectively as possible.

 


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