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Mr Robert Goodwill - Department for Transport

The Government has decided to opt in to the proposed Council Decision on the ratification and accession by Member States, in the interest of the Union, to the Protocol of 2010 to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea, with regard to aspects related to judicial cooperation in civil matters.

The 1996 International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by sea (the 1996 HNS Convention) was agreed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to fill a gap in international law on the treatment of HNS at sea. A 2002 Council Decision agreed that EU Member States would take the necessary steps to ratify the 1996 HNS Convention within a reasonable time and, if possible, before 30 June 2006. Despite this, due to the concerns that many EU Member States, including the UK, had over the 1996 HNS Convention, none of them ratified it and it has never been brought into force.

The 2010 HNS Protocol consolidates the 1996 HNS Convention and amends it to address concerns with the initial agreement. However, the 2010 HNS Protocol created new concerns and made the implementation process complex. As a result, no state has yet ratified the 2010 HNS Protocol, and although some would like to do so, in practice none are likely to until the outstanding concerns with the Convention are resolved in the International Maritime Organization, and unless the Convention comes into force in other countries simultaneously (it will not enter into force until it has been ratified by at least 12 countries with enough contributing cargo).

The Commission has proposed two Council Decisions, one relating to matters of judicial cooperation in civil matters and one with the exception of matters related to judicial cooperation in civil matters. These Decisions, when combined, lift any barriers within EU legislation that were preventing EU Member States from ratifying the 2010 HNS Protocol and so EU Member States will now be able to ratify if they wish to do so.

The Government took the view in this instance that UK interests would be best served by opting in to the proposed Decision that deals with aspects related to judicial cooperation in civil matters, as this would retain the UKs ability to fully ratify the HNS Protocol, and the removal of any binding deadline from the proposal has the effect of maintaining the UKs current flexibility to be able to ratify and accede to the HNS Protocol if and when we are ready to do so.

Greg Clark - Department for Communities and Local Government

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has reached devolution agreements with local authorities in the Liverpool City Region and in the West Midlands. These agreements are another significant step in the Governments ambition for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine respectively.

Both agreements will give local leaders far-reaching new powers and enable voters in each region to directly elect Mayors in 2017, who will take on new powers over local transport budgets, adult skills funding, and strategic planning.

The deals also include local control over investment funds for the next 30 years, which will help realise the economic potential of each area.

As part of the agreement, the new, directly elected Mayors of the Liverpool City Region and West Midlands will act as Chair of their respective Combined Authorities and will exercise the following powers and functions devolved from Ministers in Central Government:

  • Responsibility for devolved and consolidated transport budgets, with multi-year settlements to be agreed at the Spending Review.
  • Responsibility for franchised bus services, which will support the Combined Authorities delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across the city regions.
  • Powers over strategic planning.
  • The Mayors will also have the option, on the basis of support from local business, to raise business rates. Further details will be set out following the Spending Review through a place-based settlement.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and West Midlands Combined Authority will, working with their Mayors, receive the following powers:

  • Control of multi-million pound investment allocations over 30 years, to realise the economic potential of their local areas as well as maximise the opportunities from HS2.
  • Greater control over local skills provision including control over the 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19.
  • Joint responsibility with Government to co-design employment support for the harder-to-help claimants.
  • More effective joint working with UKTI to boost trade and investment.
  • Develop and implement a devolved approach to the delivery of national business support programmes from 2017.

Liverpool City Regions deal will build on the success of International Festival for Business 2014 and International Festival for Business 2016, and Liverpool City Region and the Government, and in particular UKTI and the GREAT Britain campaign, will continue engagement to establish International Festival for Business Liverpool as a vital feature of the international business calendar in 2018 and 2020.

As part of the West Midlands devolution deal, the Government will support the Combined Authority Shadow Boards HS2 Growth Strategy, and will approve the business case for a significant extension of the Enterprise Zone at Curzon Street.

Local Enterprise Partnerships have played a key role in the negotiation of these agreements. The Government welcomes and supports co-operation between businesses and local government, and will work with both areas to ensure that devolution supports both the public and private sectors to deliver strong, sustainable local growth.

These agreements mark the next step in an ongoing process to devolve funding, responsibilities and powers from central government to the Liverpool City Region and West Midlands. I look forward to both areas continuing to hold discussions with government in the future, to build upon todays agreements.

Copies of both agreements will be placed in the Library of the House.


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