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Mr Sam Gyimah - Department for Education

Today I announced 13 million to allow councils across the country to deliver 30 hours of free childcare for hard-working parents of three- and four-year-olds a year ahead of schedule. As a result, some working parents in York, Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, Newham and Hertfordshire will benefit from the offer from this September. The extra hours of childcare will make it easier for these parents to work and is another move designed to meet the Governments commitment to make work pay. These councils will develop practical solutions to the barriers that parents face in accessing the childcare they need for work - for example, childcare to support non-standard shift patterns, in rural areas, for homeless working parents, and for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Their experiences will be used to support full rollout in 2017, with the aim of removing significant barriers to parents taking up their entitlement. In York, parents will test a new joint online application system being developed for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare. The Department for Education ran an open competition to test how the 30 hours would work, and received 69 applications from local authorities working with childcare providers.

I have also announced 4 million to support an additional 25 early innovator Local Authorities to develop innovative, flexible childcare for working parents, and to make sure that the 30 hours works for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, in homeless working families, and in rural communities ahead of full roll-out. The 33 local authorities will work together in regional clusters, enabling joint working and generating national learning. As part of this Governments commitment to helping hardworking people, it will be investing more than 1bn extra per year by 2019-20 to fund the extension of the free childcare entitlement.


Mr Philip Hammond - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

It is the normal practice when a Government department proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding 300,000, for the department concerned to present to the House of Commons a Minute giving particulars of the gift and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the gift until fourteen Parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the Minute, except in cases of special urgency.

Jordan faces growing internal and external threats to its immediate stability and security as well as longer-term risks of instability. Conflict in the region, particularly in Syria, has the potential to spill over into Jordan, which is an active partner in the fight against Daesh. As host to around 630,000 registered refugees from Syria Jordan is at the forefront of the humanitarian response, but this has placed huge pressure on public services and increased tensions between refugees and host communities.

The UK remains firmly committed to Jordans stability and in supporting the Jordanian authorities to minimise contagion from the Syrian conflict. Building on work carried out over the past 18 months, we aim to contribute to increasing public and community safety and security by enhancing the delivery of effective policing in the refugee camps.

We intend to gift a package of 352,993.99 of radios and communication equipment to support the Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate of the Jordanian Public Security Department. The radio equipment provided will improve the radio coverage in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, allowing for effective police management of the camp. The proposed gift will be funded by the Governments Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) Programme.

The proposed gift has been scrutinised to ensure that it is consistent with export controls under the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and complies with our international obligations. The proposed gift has also been scrutinised and approved by a senior, cross-Whitehall CSSF Approval Board, which has confirmed that it fits with the Governments strategic and delivery objectives. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have assessed the project for human rights risks, using the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidelines established by the Foreign Secretary in 2011.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a Parliamentary Question or a Motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.


Mrs Theresa May - Home Office

An informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held on 25-26 January. 25 January was the Interior day, and I attended on behalf of the UK. 26 January was the Justice Day, and my Rt. Hon Friend James Brokenshire MP, the Immigration Minister, attended.

The Interior day began with a presentation by the Dutch Presidency on information sharing, and an updated threat assessment from the Chairman of the Counter Terrorism Group of Member States security services (CTG). I welcomed the work of the CTG, but indicated that EU information systems had an important complementary role to play, stressing that this was why the UK fully supported the EU PNR Directive and had now opted in to the Prm framework. I pushed for an information sharing framework that includes common, measureable deliverables and clarifies what would be shared via SIS II, Europol, Eurodac, ECRIS and Prm. The Dutch Presidency concluded that it would hold an expert meeting to follow up on the discussion and would report back at the March JHA Council.

The Council discussed local approaches to counter terrorism. The Mayor of the Hague explained the work undertaken in the Hague to counter radicalisation. I set out the objectives of the UKs Prevent strategy and explained how it is accompanied by a wider counter-extremism strategy, which seeks to promote an alternative to extremist ideology and to build partnerships with non-government institutions opposed to extremism. The Commission confirmed that the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), which the UK supports, was being turned into a Centre of Excellence. The Presidency reported it would take the issue forward at a conference on counter radicalisation in Amsterdam in February, and would report back at the March JHA Council.

During lunch, the Council discussed the migration crisis, with particular focus on Schengen and external border issues, and specifically whether Member States could maintain internal border controls under Article 26 of the Schengen Border Code during the current migration crisis. The next step will be for the Commission to produce an evaluation report on the performance of Greek controls at the external border.

The Commissions forthcoming proposal to reform the Dublin system was also discussed. Member States expressed a range of views, with some in favour of a new burden sharing regime based on relocation of asylum seekers, but many expressing support for retaining the existing principles of the Dublin Regulation. The Government does not support relocation as it is the wrong response to the migratory pressures the EU faces. It undermines the important principle that asylum should be claimed in the first safe country and does not address the causes of illegal migration.

Finally, the Commission introduced its proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard. The UK is not taking part in the Border Guard proposal. However, the UK supports our European partners in ensuring the full and proper management of the EUs external border. Member States were broadly supportive of the proposal, including the proposed obligation for participating Member States to provide border guards to the new Agency. Member States were more cautious about the proposed right for the Commission to decide that the Border Guard should intervene directly in Member States. The Presidency concluded that there was support for the right to intervene in limited circumstances, but that the decision should be for the Council rather than the Commission.

The Justice Day began with a presentation on the Commission proposal to extend the use of the ECRIS system to third country nationals, including the mandatory obligation to collect fingerprints. There was broad support for the proposal from Member States. The UK welcomed the Commission proposal, in particular the inclusion of mandatory fingerprints, and called for even more ambition, specifically the inclusion of a minimum retention period for fingerprints of 10 years. The Presidency concluded that it would seek a general approach on the ECRIS proposal by the end of March.

On Cybercrime, the Presidency set out the challenges relating to cybercrime. Many Member States felt that further action was needed at global, EU and national level, and supported the need for a common approach to deal with this. The UK agreed, but injected a note of caution into taking further action at EU level, and suggested the focus should instead be on sharing best practice and bilateral agreements. The Presidency concluded that many Member States wanted to see an EU common approach to dealing with the jurisdictional challenges faced by prosecutors and service providers, but noted that the UK was more cautious. The issue will subsequently be considered by a High Level Expert Conference in March, which will be followed by a paper for consideration at the June JHA Council.

Over lunch, the Council had a high level discussion on a European Forensic Science Area for exchanging forensic knowledge and expertise. The UK supported the sharing of forensic science data, but urged caution about any move towards common standards, best practice manuals and common competence criteria in this area.


Greg Hands - HM Treasury

Public service pensions in payment and deferment are indexed annually, and the legislation requires them to be increased by the same percentage as additional pensions (State Earnings Related Pension and State Second Pension). The Consumer Prices Index up to September 2015 was minus 0.1 per cent and, in the same way that additional pensions will not be increased this year, public service pensions in payment and deferment will also not be increased this year.

Separately, in the new career average public service pension schemes, pensions in accrual are revalued annually in relation to either prices or earnings depending on the terms specified in their scheme regulations. The Public Service Pensions Act 2013 requires HMT to specify a measure of prices and of earnings to be used for revaluation by these schemes.

The prices measure is the Consumer Prices Index up to September 2015. Public service schemes which rely on a measure of prices, therefore, will use the figure of minus 0.1 per cent for the prices element of revaluation.

The earnings measure is the Whole Economy Average Weekly Earnings (non-seasonally adjusted and including bonuses and arrears) up to September 2015. Public service schemes which rely on a measure of earnings, therefore, will use the figure of 2.0 per cent for the earnings element of revaluation.

Revaluation is one part of the amount of pension that members earn in a year and needs to be considered in conjunction with the amount of in year accrual. Typically, schemes with lower revaluation will have faster accrual and therefore members will earn more pension per year. The following list shows how the main public service schemes will be affected by revaluation:

Scheme Police Fire

Civil

Service

NHS Teachers LGPS

Armed

Forces

Judicial

Revaluation

for active member

1.15% 2.0% -0.1% 1.4% 1.5% -0.1% 2.0% -0.1%

 


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