Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

Written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. They also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Mr David Gauke (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Justice and Home Affairs post-Council statement

The final Justice and Home Affairs Council of the Romanian EU Presidency recently took place in Luxembourg. I attended on 6th June for Justice Day, and Sir Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the EU, and Chris Jones, Director of the Europe Directorate at the Home Office, attended on Interior Day on 7th June.

Justice Day began with a discussion on the Regulation on the Assignment of Claims, which has far-reaching implications for financial markets, including the ability of small businesses to access credit. It was agreed that work in this area will need to continue under the Finnish Presidency. The Council then discussed digitalisation of judicial cooperation, where the Presidency considered the UK’s position that a thorough cost benefit analysis was needed before proceeding, along with plenty of time for Member States to implement this measure effectively. In general, however, Member States supported a mandatory and de-centralised approach to digitalisation in the interests of speed and efficiency of justice systems.

Ministers then discussed the future direction of substantive criminal law co-operation. Member States were clear that implementation of existing criminal law measures should be prioritised before considering new legislation and a thorough analysis of the benefits of these measures would be needed before further harmonisation. Nonetheless, momentum began to form around the harmonisation of criminal law on environmental crime, identity theft, and manipulation of elections.

After a working lunch discussing the use of judicial training to foster mutual trust, there was a policy debate on mutual recognition in criminal matters. Discussions focused on facilitating the practical application of existing legal instruments, including by means of judicial training, rather than on new legislative proposals. The Commission stressed the importance of fundamental rights, and an independent judiciary to enable mutual recognition tools, like the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), to operate. The UK underlined our commitment to continued co-operation in this field and several Members States supported the idea of common guidelines on this. Some advocated EU legislation on the transfer of criminal proceedings to close loopholes, particularly where suspected criminals cannot (for whatever reason) be surrendered under the EAW.

The Council then adopted mandates for negotiations with the United States, and in the Council of Europe (Budapest Convention), on cross-border access to e-evidence. The Commission noted its intention to insist that the United States agree to an EU wide approach which would apply to all Member States without discrimination, including at the EU-US Ministerial meeting in Bucharest later this month. Formal negotiations will not begin until finalisation of internal EU legislation on e-evidence. The UK has not opted into either the internal EU legislation on e-evidence, or the mandates for negotiations with the US, and in the Council of Europe, and will not be bound by those mandates.

Council adopted Conclusions which encourage Eurojust and the networks established in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal matters to further develop the coordination and synergies between them. The UK supported these Conclusions as we support the work of Eurojust, and agrees that better coordination between networks hosted by Eurojust would be helpful for criminal justice cooperation.

The Council also adopted Conclusions on the retention of data for the purpose of fighting crime, which proposed further exploration of options for lawful regimes in Member States. The UK believes the appropriate retention of telecommunications data for law enforcement purposes is an important element of an effective law enforcement system and supported these Conclusions. The Commission provided an update on the planned preparatory steps to make the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) operational by the end of 2020. The UK has not opted into EPPO.

The Council adopted an Implementing Decision confirming that the UK could connect to the Prüm automated system for exchanging DNA data between law enforcement authorities in EU Member States.

Interior Day began with a discussion on the future of EU law enforcement. Ministers agreed that further co-operation on approaches to law enforcement would make for more effective cross-border law enforcement. The Council supported effective implementation of existing legislation, especially interoperability of databases, and recognised the need to address the impacts of technological advancements on law enforcement, supporting Europol’s role in pooling expertise and providing technological and analytical support. The UK Permanent Representative to the EU intervened to support this work and welcome the intent to work together, co-ordinate methods and approaches and support the proposal for a Europol innovation hub. In this context, the UK intervention additionally highlighted UK work to tackle online harms through the UK White Paper.

Under AOB, the Council CT Co-ordinator (Gilles de Kerchove) presented on the implications on law enforcement of the move to 5G. The CT Co-ordinator focused on the need for the EU to influence 5G standards, to ensure a dialogue with service providers on this issue, and to consider EU legislation to avoid fragmentation of Member State approaches. The Commissioner for the Security Union (Sir Julian King) noted the Commission’s intent to develop an EU risk assessment and toolbox of options to mitigate risks by the end of 2019.

The Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Group, a non-EU grouping of European States intelligence agencies, attended to update the JHA Council on the general terrorist threat and the challenges and opportunities from new tools and technologies. The CTG Chair also updated on discussions on co-operation with Europol on strategic and technical issues, noting that operational intelligence work remained the sole responsibility of Member States.

Over lunch and in the afternoon session, Ministers discussed migration, with a focus on issues of solidarity and redistribution of migrants. Member States remain split on the EU’s approach to these issues. The UK intervention focused on our extensive support upstream which ranges from tackling organised immigration crime and the use of strategic communications to building partnerships and capability with source and transit countries to jointly address the drivers of migration.

The Council agreed a partial General Approach on the draft Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast), with the exception of Article 22 on the Border procedure and the related recitals. The UK has not opted into this measure.

The Council also agreed partial General Approaches on draft regulations establishing the Integrated Border Management fund, establishing the Asylum and Migration Fund, and establishing the Internal Security Fund. These are subject to wider negotiations on the overall Multi-Annual Financial Framework. The UK will not participate in any of these funds.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1588
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Keen of Elie (The Lords Spokesperson)
Lords

Justice and Home Affairs post-Council statement

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (David Gauke) has made the following Written Statement.

"The final Justice and Home Affairs Council of the Romanian EU Presidency recently took place in Luxembourg. I attended on 6th June for Justice Day, and Sir Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the EU, and Chris Jones, Director of the Europe Directorate at the Home Office, attended on Interior Day on 7th June.

Justice Day began with a discussion on the Regulation on the Assignment of Claims, which has far-reaching implications for financial markets, including the ability of small businesses to access credit. It was agreed that work in this area will need to continue under the Finnish Presidency. The Council then discussed digitalisation of judicial cooperation, where the Presidency considered the UK’s position that a thorough cost benefit analysis was needed before proceeding, along with plenty of time for Member States to implement this measure effectively. In general, however, Member States supported a mandatory and de-centralised approach to digitalisation in the interests of speed and efficiency of justice systems.

Ministers then discussed the future direction of substantive criminal law co-operation. Member States were clear that implementation of existing criminal law measures should be prioritised before considering new legislation and a thorough analysis of the benefits of these measures would be needed before further harmonisation. Nonetheless, momentum began to form around the harmonisation of criminal law on environmental crime, identity theft, and manipulation of elections.

After a working lunch discussing the use of judicial training to foster mutual trust, there was a policy debate on mutual recognition in criminal matters. Discussions focused on facilitating the practical application of existing legal instruments, including by means of judicial training, rather than on new legislative proposals. The Commission stressed the importance of fundamental rights, and an independent judiciary to enable mutual recognition tools, like the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), to operate. The UK underlined our commitment to continued co-operation in this field and several Members States supported the idea of common guidelines on this. Some advocated EU legislation on the transfer of criminal proceedings to close loopholes, particularly where suspected criminals cannot (for whatever reason) be surrendered under the EAW.

The Council then adopted mandates for negotiations with the United States, and in the Council of Europe (Budapest Convention), on cross-border access to e-evidence. The Commission noted its intention to insist that the United States agree to an EU wide approach which would apply to all Member States without discrimination, including at the EU-US Ministerial meeting in Bucharest later this month. Formal negotiations will not begin until finalisation of internal EU legislation on e-evidence. The UK has not opted into either the internal EU legislation on e-evidence, or the mandates for negotiations with the US, and in the Council of Europe, and will not be bound by those mandates.

Council adopted Conclusions which encourage Eurojust and the networks established in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal matters to further develop the coordination and synergies between them. The UK supported these Conclusions as we support the work of Eurojust, and agrees that better coordination between networks hosted by Eurojust would be helpful for criminal justice cooperation.

The Council also adopted Conclusions on the retention of data for the purpose of fighting crime, which proposed further exploration of options for lawful regimes in Member States. The UK believes the appropriate retention of telecommunications data for law enforcement purposes is an important element of an effective law enforcement system and supported these Conclusions. The Commission provided an update on the planned preparatory steps to make the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) operational by the end of 2020. The UK has not opted into EPPO.

The Council adopted an Implementing Decision confirming that the UK could connect to the Prüm automated system for exchanging DNA data between law enforcement authorities in EU Member States.

Interior Day began with a discussion on the future of EU law enforcement. Ministers agreed that further co-operation on approaches to law enforcement would make for more effective cross-border law enforcement. The Council supported effective implementation of existing legislation, especially interoperability of databases, and recognised the need to address the impacts of technological advancements on law enforcement, supporting Europol’s role in pooling expertise and providing technological and analytical support. The UK Permanent Representative to the EU intervened to support this work and welcome the intent to work together, co-ordinate methods and approaches and support the proposal for a Europol innovation hub. In this context, the UK intervention additionally highlighted UK work to tackle online harms through the UK White Paper.

Under AOB, the Council CT Co-ordinator (Gilles de Kerchove) presented on the implications on law enforcement of the move to 5G. The CT Co-ordinator focused on the need for the EU to influence 5G standards, to ensure a dialogue with service providers on this issue, and to consider EU legislation to avoid fragmentation of Member State approaches. The Commissioner for the Security Union (Sir Julian King) noted the Commission’s intent to develop an EU risk assessment and toolbox of options to mitigate risks by the end of 2019.

The Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Group, a non-EU grouping of European States intelligence agencies, attended to update the JHA Council on the general terrorist threat and the challenges and opportunities from new tools and technologies. The CTG Chair also updated on discussions on co-operation with Europol on strategic and technical issues, noting that operational intelligence work remained the sole responsibility of Member States.

Over lunch and in the afternoon session, Ministers discussed migration, with a focus on issues of solidarity and redistribution of migrants. Member States remain split on the EU’s approach to these issues. The UK intervention focused on our extensive support upstream which ranges from tackling organised immigration crime and the use of strategic communications to building partnerships and capability with source and transit countries to jointly address the drivers of migration.

The Council agreed a partial General Approach on the draft Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast), with the exception of Article 22 on the Border procedure and the related recitals. The UK has not opted into this measure.

The Council also agreed partial General Approaches on draft regulations establishing the Integrated Border Management fund, establishing the Asylum and Migration Fund, and establishing the Internal Security Fund. These are subject to wider negotiations on the overall Multi-Annual Financial Framework. The UK will not participate in any of these funds."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1626
WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Vere of Norbiton (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport)
Lords

EU Transport Council

My Right Honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling), has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Transport Council took place in Luxembourg on Thursday 6th June. This was the only Transport Council under the Romanian Presidency (the Presidency). The UK was represented by the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Katrina Williams.

The Council reached General Approach on the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ for a legal framework for the electronic communication of freight transport information. The UK welcomed the work that the Presidency had done to achieve compromises on this text, as did a number of other Member States.

The Presidency gave a Progress Report on the proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to streamline planning and approval processes for projects on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). Some delegations took the opportunity to flag outstanding concerns including scope, the role of the Single Competent Authority and the duration of the permit granting process.

There was also a Progress Report on the proposal from the first tranche of the ‘Mobility PackageHired Vehicles Directive, although discussion illustrated that there are still outstanding issues to be resolved.

The Council was also given a Progress Report on the proposal from the first tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to revise the current directive on Eurovignette (Road Charging). The UK intervened to highlight the need for flexibility in determining national charging schemes, a view shared by a number of other Member States.

Over lunch, Ministers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine along with representatives from the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development participated in a joint discussion with the Council and Commissioners Bulc and Hahn on the progress made by the Eastern Area Partnership (EaP) in developing the external dimension of the TEN-T policy. Welcoming the progress made in relation to road safety, TEN-T connectivity and planning for future investment in transport infrastructure, the Council endorsed the joint EU-EaP Declaration as a road map for future cooperation.

Later, the Council was given a further Progress Report on negotiations on the proposals to revise the Regulation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations.

Finally, there were several information points from Member States, the Presidency and Commissioner Bulc under Any Other Business. Several Member States supported Luxembourg’s call for consideration of aviation taxation as an additional means to tackle emissions reduction. The Presidency gave information on discussions in other Councils on “A clean planet for all”, the Commission’s long-term climate strategy. On addressing airspace capacity, Commissioner Bulc noted the recent publications of the Airspace Architecture Study and the Wise Person’s Report on the future of air traffic management. The Commission noted the first findings of its study on sustainable transport infrastructure charging and the internalisation of transport externalities, which was published on the day of the Council , and updated the Council on the connectivity outcomes of the EU-China summit. The Presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals and the Polish delegation provided information on the Conference on "Benefits for regions resulting from the implementation of the route Via Carpatia". Finally, Finland presented transport plans for its forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1617
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Young of Cookham (Lord in Waiting (Government Whip))
Lords

Appointments to the Boundary Commission for England

My honourable friend the Minister for the Constitution (Mr Kevin Foster) has today made the following written Ministerial Statement:

I should like to inform the House that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office has made the following appointments under Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 following a competition run in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments:

  • Colin Byrne, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 1 July 2019 until 30 June 2024; and
  • Sarah Hamilton, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 1 July 2019 until 30 June 2024.
This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1625
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Kevin Foster (Minister for the Constitution)
Commons

Appointments to the Boundary Commission for England

I should like to inform the House that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office has made the following appointments under Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 following a competition run in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments:

  • Colin Byrne, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 1 July 2019 until 30 June 2024; and
  • Sarah Hamilton, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 1 July 2019 until 30 June 2024.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1586
WS
Treasury
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Young of Cookham (Lords Spokesperson)
Lords

ECOFIN: 14 June 2019

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Philip Hammond) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Luxembourg on 14 June 2019.

ECOFIN will be preceded by a morning meeting of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Governors:

Annual EIB Board of Governors meeting

The meeting of the EIB Board of Governors will include: statements from the Chairman, President and Chairman of the Audit Committee; a Governors discussion; a presentation on the annual report of the Audit Committee; and a vote for partial renewal of the Audit Committee. The UK will be represented by Mark Bowman (Director General, International Finance, HM Treasury).

Following this, EU Finance Ministers will discuss the following at ECOFIN:

Early Morning Session

The Eurogroup President will brief the Council on the outcomes of the 13 June meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU.

Banking Union

The Council will be invited to endorse a progress report on the Banking Union.

Financial Transaction Tax

Ministers will receive a progress update in relation to the enhanced co-operation in the area of financial transaction tax.

G20 follow-up

The Council Presidency and Commission will present the main outcomes of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, which took place on 8-9 June in Fukuoka, Japan.

European Semester

Ministers will discuss the draft 2019 Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and progress towards the Europe 2020 targets.

Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers will be invited to adopt Council decisions and recommendations on the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Clean Planet

Ministers will exchange views on a strategic long-term vision for a climate-neutral economy.

Non-performing loans

Under any other business, the Commission will provide an update on the implementation of the Action Plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1623
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Keen of Elie (The Lords Spokesperson)
Lords

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (David Gauke) has made the following Written Statement.

"I am pleased to announce that the Government is today introducing in the House of Commons the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. This legislation follows the Government’s response to the consultation on reform of the legal requirements for divorce in England and Wales. I previously laid this response before Parliament [Official Report, 9 April 2019 vol 658 c8WS].

Marriage and family have long been vitally important to our functioning as a society. Where a marriage or civil partnership regrettably breaks down and is beyond repair, the law must deal with that reality with the minimum of acrimony by creating the conditions for people to move forward and agree arrangements for the future in an orderly and constructive way. Above all, the legal process should not exacerbate conflict between parents, as this is especially damaging for children. The process must better support and encourage parents to cooperate in bringing up their children.

The evidence is clear that the current legal requirements can needlessly rake up the past to justify the legal ending of a relationship that is no longer a beneficial and functioning one. The requirement for one person to blame the other – if it is not practical for them to have separated for at least two years – can introduce or worsen conflict at the outset of the process, conflict that may continue long after the legal process has concluded. Allegations about a spouse’s conduct may bear no relation to the real cause of the breakdown. Such allegations do not serve the interests of society or help family relationships to heal. Instead, they can be damaging to any prospects for couples to reconcile or to agree practical arrangements for the future. In the extremely difficult circumstances of divorce, the law should allow couples, where reconciliation is not possible, to move on constructively.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will change or remove conflict flashpoints. It will align the law with the non-confrontational approach that Parliament has enacted in other areas of family law. Among its measures, the Bill will replace the requirement to prove spousal conduct or that the couple have been separated for at least two years with the requirement to file a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. It will introduce a new minimum period of twenty weeks between the start of proceedings and confirmation to the court that the conditional order should be made. This will make the period before the conditional order is granted longer for most people, and so allow better opportunity for reflecting on the decision to divorce and, where this is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.

This is an important piece of legislation that will bring long overdue reform. It is not about making the decision to divorce or to dissolve a civil partnership easier. That will remain one of the hardest decisions anyone can take. It is about reforming those elements of the current legal process that can exacerbate conflict and cause unnecessary distress at an already difficult time, and better supporting agreement about arrangements for the future. I know that Honourable and Right Honourable Members will take great interest in this opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of the many families who sadly find themselves affected by breakdown. My Ministerial colleagues and I look forward to working with them through the passage of the Bill."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1621
WS
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Keen of Elie (Ministry of Justice spokesperson)
Lords

Media Matters

My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Rt Hon Jeremy Wright) has made the following Written Statement:

My Department has today written to Lebedev Holdings Limited (LHL) and Independent Digital News and Media Limited (IDNM), the owners of the Evening Standard and the Independent, to inform them that I am ‘minded to’ issue an Intervention Notice. This relates to concerns I have that there may be public interest considerations - as set out in section 58 of Enterprise Act 2002 - that are relevant to the recent acquisition of a 30% stake by the International Media Company (IMC) in LHL and the linked transaction involving the acquisition of a 30% stake by Scalable LP in IDNM and that these concerns warrant further investigation.

A ‘minded to’ letter has therefore been issued to the parties on one public interest ground specified in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002:

(2A) The need for (a) accurate presentation of news; and (b) free expression of opinion.

It is important to note that I have not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage. In line with the statutory guidance on media mergers, the ‘minded to’ letter invites further representations in writing from the parties and gives them until 5pm on Monday 17 June to respond. I plan to make my final decision, which needs to be made on a quasi judicial basis, on whether to issue an Intervention Notice no later than week commencing 24 June.

If I decide to issue an Intervention Notice, the next stage would be for Ofcom to assess and report to me on the public interest concerns and for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to assess and report to me on whether a relevant merger situation has been created and any impact this may have on competition. Following these reports, I would need to decide whether to refer the matter for a more detailed investigation by the CMA under section 45 of the Enterprise Act 2002.

In view of the time it has taken to obtain sufficient information to reach this point I have asked the parties to agree to extend the statutory time limit to allow Ofcom and the Competitions and Markets Authority to report to me on the public interest issues raised by the transaction.

I will keep Parliament updated on progress with this media merger case.

WS
Treasury
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Young of Cookham (Lords Spokesperson )
Lords

Business Plan of the United Kingdom Debt Management Office

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The United Kingdom Debt Management Office (DMO) has today published its business plan for the financial year 2019-20. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both houses and are available on the DMO’s website, www.dmo.gov.uk.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1622
WS
Department of Health and Social Care
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Lords))
Lords

Consultation: fortification of flour with folic acid

My Hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care (Seema Kennedy MP) has made the following written statement:

Further to the Government's announcement on 23 October 2018 of the intention to consult on the issue of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects in foetuses, I wish to inform the House that the consultation will launch today and will run for 12 weeks.

Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. They happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. These can be devastating conditions and the Government is fully aware of the effect these have on the individuals themselves and their families.

There is strong evidence that many neural tube defects can be prevented by increasing women’s intake of folic acid

Unless you are pregnant or thinking of having a baby, you should be able to get all the folate (the natural form of folic acid) you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Existing pregnancy advice to women who are trying to conceive or who are likely to become pregnant is that they are advised to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy. They are also advised to increase their daily intake of folate by eating more folate-rich foods, for example spinach and broccoli, and foods voluntarily fortified with folic acid such a wide range of breakfast cereals.

However, we know that in the UK around half of pregnancies are unplanned. In those which are planned, it has been estimated that only half of all mothers took folic acid supplements or modified their diet to increase folate intake. This has led to calls for mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, so women can get it from dietary sources other than foods that naturally contain it.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has recommended mandatory folic acid fortification of flour to improve the folate status of women most at risk of neural tube defect-affected pregnancies. Further detail on this is in the consultation document.

We are now opening a consultation to seek views on this proposed change and we hope that members of the public as well as industry and the scientific community respond so we can accurately consider this proposal.

I have agreed with the Governments of Scotland and Wales, and the Permanent Secretary of Northern Ireland that this will be a joint consultation between the Devolved Administrations and England. This is because any resulting decisions would need to be taken on a whole-UK basis to minimise impact on trade and for industry to comply. Similarly, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been closely involved as flour falls within their remit.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1618
WS
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Minister for the Commonwealth and the UN)
Lords

Foreign Affairs Council – 17 June 2019

My Right Honourable Friend, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alan Duncan), has made the following written Ministerial statement:

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will take place in Luxembourg on 17 June. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini.

The FAC will discuss Current Affairs, the effectiveness of the EU Common Foreign and Security Partnership (CFSP) as well as the EU’s Global Strategy, Sudan, and over lunch with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, the Middle-East Peace Process.

Current Affairs

We expect HRVP Mogherini to debrief Ministers on her trip to the Horn of Africa and the developing political situation in the region. HRVP Mogherini will also provide an update on recent developments in Venezuela, including on the International Contact Group and Lima Group Ministerial meeting held in New York on 3 June. We expect Iran to be raised following Iran’s announcement to partially cease meeting commitments under the Iran nuclear deal and given the upcoming 60-day deadline. We expect HRVP Mogherini and Ministers to consider next steps as we seek to avoid further escalation.

CFSP effectiveness and the EU Global Strategy

Foreign Ministers will consider how the EU can improve its approach to foreign and security policy. Defense Ministers will join Foreign Ministers for a strategic debate on the EU’s Global Strategy and how it works internationally. They will consider the EU’s role on security, burden sharing and coherence among defense initiatives.

Sudan

Following the UK’s request, Ministers will discuss the situation in Sudan, taking stock of recent political events, including the Sudanese security forces’ use of violence on civilians, and consider how the EU should respond to support the African Union in ensuring a transition to civilian rule.

Lunch on MEPP with the Jordanian Foreign Minister

The Jordanian Foreign Minister is expected to join EU Ministers to discuss the Middle East Peace Process, prior to the EU-Jordan Association Council. Ahead of the publication of the Kushner Plan, the UK will reiterate its support for a two state solution and encourage all parties to keep an open mind once the Plan is published. The UK will note the importance of HRH King Abdullah II’s role as custodian of the Christian and Muslim holy sites, and reiterate our long-standing position on Jerusalem.

Council Conclusions

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Effective Multilateralism; Security and Defence; Central Asia Strategy; the EU’s Engagement in the Black Sea Region; Strengthening the ban on anti-personnel mines; and Human Rights guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation.

WS
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Jeremy Wright (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Commons

Media Matters

My Department has today written to Lebedev Holdings Limited (LHL) and Independent Digital News and Media Limited (IDNM), the owners of the Evening Standard and the Independent, to inform them that I am ‘minded to’ issue an Intervention Notice. This relates to concerns I have that there may be public interest considerations - as set out in section 58 of Enterprise Act 2002 - that are relevant to the recent acquisition of a 30% stake by the International Media Company (IMC) in LHL and the linked transaction involving the acquisition of a 30% stake by Scalable LP in IDNM and that these concerns warrant further investigation.

A ‘minded to’ letter has therefore been issued to the parties on one public interest ground specified in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002:

(2A) The need for (a) accurate presentation of news; and (b) free expression of opinion.

It is important to note that I have not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage. In line with the statutory guidance on media mergers, the ‘minded to’ letter invites further representations in writing from the parties and gives them until 5pm on Monday 17 June to respond. I plan to make my final decision, which needs to be made on a quasi judicial basis, on whether to issue an Intervention Notice no later than week commencing 24 June.

If I decide to issue an Intervention Notice, the next stage would be for Ofcom to assess and report to me on the public interest concerns and for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to assess and report to me on whether a relevant merger situation has been created and any impact this may have on competition. Following these reports, I would need to decide whether to refer the matter for a more detailed investigation by the CMA under section 45 of the Enterprise Act 2002.

In view of the time it has taken to obtain sufficient information to reach this point I have asked the parties to agree to extend the statutory time limit to allow Ofcom and the Competitions and Markets Authority to report to me on the public interest issues raised by the transaction.

I will keep Parliament updated on progress with this media merger case.

WS
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity)
Lords

June Agriculture and Fisheries Council

My Rt Hon Friend Robert Goodwill (Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) has today made the following statement:

Agriculture and Fisheries Council takes place in Luxembourg on 18 June.

As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries policy will be on the Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for which a preliminary agreement on the proposal, a partial general approach (PGA), is sought in Council. It will constitute the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament.

The European Commission will also present its Communication on the state of play of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and consultation on the Fishing Opportunities for 2020, after which Ministers will exchange views.

In the field of agriculture the main focus will be on the Post 2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package for which the Romanian Presidency has provided a progress report on the negotiations during their Presidency. The progress report will be discussed at Council. The reform package covers the three legislative proposals: Regulation on CAP Strategic Plans, Regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, and Regulation on common market organisation (CMO) of agricultural products.

There are currently no items scheduled for discussion under ‘any other business’.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1619
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Treasury
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Mr Philip Hammond (The Chancellor of the Exchequer)
Commons

ECOFIN: 14 June 2019

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Luxembourg on 14 June 2019.

ECOFIN will be preceded by a morning meeting of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Governors:

Annual EIB Board of Governors meeting

The meeting of the EIB Board of Governors will include: statements from the Chairman, President and Chairman of the Audit Committee; a Governors discussion; a presentation on the annual report of the Audit Committee; and a vote for partial renewal of the Audit Committee. The UK will be represented by Mark Bowman (Director General, International Finance, HM Treasury).

Following this, EU Finance Ministers will discuss the following at ECOFIN:

Early Morning Session

The Eurogroup President will brief the Council on the outcomes of the 13 June meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU.

Banking Union

The Council will be invited to endorse a progress report on the Banking Union.

Financial Transaction Tax

Ministers will receive a progress update in relation to the enhanced co-operation in the area of financial transaction tax.

G20 follow-up

The Council Presidency and Commission will present the main outcomes of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, which took place on 8-9 June in Fukuoka, Japan.

European Semester

Ministers will discuss the draft 2019 Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and progress towards the Europe 2020 targets.

Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers will be invited to adopt Council decisions and recommendations on the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Clean Planet

Ministers will exchange views on a strategic long-term vision for a climate-neutral economy.

Non-performing loans

Under any other business, the Commission will provide an update on the implementation of the Action Plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1585
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Treasury
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: John Glen (The Economic Secretary to the Treasury)
Commons

Business Plan of the United Kingdom Debt Management Office

The United Kingdom Debt Management Office (DMO) has today published its business plan for the financial year 2019-20. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both houses and are available on the DMO’s website, www.dmo.gov.uk.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1582
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Mr David Gauke (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice )
Commons

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

I am pleased to announce that the Government is today introducing in the House of Commons the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. This legislation follows the Government’s response to the consultation on reform of the legal requirements for divorce in England and Wales. I previously laid this response before Parliament [Official Report, 9 April 2019 vol 658 c8WS].

Marriage and family have long been vitally important to our functioning as a society. Where a marriage or civil partnership regrettably breaks down and is beyond repair, the law must deal with that reality with the minimum of acrimony by creating the conditions for people to move forward and agree arrangements for the future in an orderly and constructive way. Above all, the legal process should not exacerbate conflict between parents, as this is especially damaging for children. The process must better support and encourage parents to cooperate in bringing up their children.

The evidence is clear that the current legal requirements can needlessly rake up the past to justify the legal ending of a relationship that is no longer a beneficial and functioning one. The requirement for one person to blame the other – if it is not practical for them to have separated for at least two years – can introduce or worsen conflict at the outset of the process, conflict that may continue long after the legal process has concluded. Allegations about a spouse’s conduct may bear no relation to the real cause of the breakdown. Such allegations do not serve the interests of society or help family relationships to heal. Instead, they can be damaging to any prospects for couples to reconcile or to agree practical arrangements for the future. In the extremely difficult circumstances of divorce, the law should allow couples, where reconciliation is not possible, to move on constructively.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will change or remove conflict flashpoints. It will align the law with the non-confrontational approach that Parliament has enacted in other areas of family law. Among its measures, the Bill will replace the requirement to prove spousal conduct or that the couple have been separated for at least two years with the requirement to file a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. It will introduce a new minimum period of twenty weeks between the start of proceedings and confirmation to the court that the conditional order should be made. This will make the period before the conditional order is granted longer for most people, and so allow better opportunity for reflecting on the decision to divorce and, where this is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.

This is an important piece of legislation that will bring long overdue reform. It is not about making the decision to divorce or to dissolve a civil partnership easier. That will remain one of the hardest decisions anyone can take. It is about reforming those elements of the current legal process that can exacerbate conflict and cause unnecessary distress at an already difficult time, and better supporting agreement about arrangements for the future. I know that Honourable and Right Honourable Members will take great interest in this opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of the many families who sadly find themselves affected by breakdown. My Ministerial colleagues and I look forward to working with them through the passage of the Bill.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1584
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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Sir Alan Duncan (Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs )
Commons

Foreign Affairs Council – 17 June 2019

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will take place in Luxembourg on 17 June. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini.

The FAC will discuss Current Affairs, the effectiveness of the EU Common Foreign and Security Partnership (CFSP) as well as the EU’s Global Strategy, Sudan, and over lunch with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, the Middle-East Peace Process.

Current Affairs

We expect HRVP Mogherini to debrief Ministers on her trip to the Horn of Africa and the developing political situation in the region. HRVP Mogherini will also provide an update on recent developments in Venezuela, including on the International Contact Group and Lima Group Ministerial meeting held in New York on 3 June. We expect Iran to be raised following Iran’s announcement to partially cease meeting commitments under the Iran nuclear deal and given the upcoming 60-day deadline. We expect HRVP Mogherini and Ministers to consider next steps as we seek to avoid further escalation.

CFSP effectiveness and the EU Global Strategy

Foreign Ministers will consider how the EU can improve its approach to foreign and security policy. Defense Ministers will join Foreign Ministers for a strategic debate on the EU’s Global Strategy and how it works internationally. They will consider the EU’s role on security, burden sharing and coherence among defense initiatives

Sudan

Following the UK’s request, Ministers will discuss the situation in Sudan, taking stock of recent political events, including the Sudanese security forces’ use of violence on civilians, and consider how the EU should respond to support the African Union in ensuring a transition to civilian rule.

Lunch on MEPP with the Jordanian Foreign Minister

The Jordanian Foreign Minister is expected to join EU Ministers to discuss the Middle East Peace Process, prior to the EU-Jordan Association Council. Ahead of the publication of the Kushner Plan, the UK will reiterate its support for a two state solution and encourage all parties to keep an open mind once the Plan is published. The UK will note the importance of HRH King Abdullah II’s role as custodian of the Christian and Muslim holy sites, and reiterate our long-standing position on Jerusalem.

Council Conclusions

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Effective Multilateralism; Security and Defence; Central Asia Strategy; the EU’s Engagement in the Black Sea Region; Strengthening the ban on anti-personnel mines; and Human Rights guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation.

Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP

Minister for Europe and the Americas

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Mr Robert Goodwill (Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food )
Commons

June Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Agriculture and Fisheries Council takes place in Luxembourg on 18 June.

As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries policy will be on the Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for which a preliminary agreement on the proposal, a partial general approach (PGA), is sought in Council. It will constitute the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament.

The European Commission will also present its Communication on the state of play of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and consultation on the Fishing Opportunities for 2020, after which Ministers will exchange views.

In the field of agriculture the main focus will be on the Post 2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package for which the Romanian Presidency has provided a progress report on the negotiations during their Presidency. The progress report will be discussed at Council. The reform package covers the three legislative proposals: Regulation on CAP Strategic Plans, Regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, and Regulation on common market organisation (CMO) of agricultural products.

There are currently no items scheduled for discussion under ‘any other business’.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1579
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Department of Health and Social Care
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Seema Kennedy (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care)
Commons

Consultation: fortification of flour with folic acid

Further to the Government's announcement on 23 October 2018 of the intention to consult on the issue of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects in foetuses, I wish to inform the House that the consultation will launch today and will run for 12 weeks.

Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. They happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. These can be devastating conditions and the Government is fully aware of the effect these have on the individuals themselves and their families.

There is strong evidence that many neural tube defects can be prevented by increasing women’s intake of folic acid

Unless you are pregnant or thinking of having a baby, you should be able to get all the folate (the natural form of folic acid) you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Existing pregnancy advice to women who are trying to conceive or who are likely to become pregnant is that they are advised to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy. They are also advised to increase their daily intake of folate by eating more folate-rich foods, for example spinach and broccoli, and foods voluntarily fortified with folic acid such a wide range of breakfast cereals.

However, we know that in the UK around half of pregnancies are unplanned. In those which are planned, it has been estimated that only half of all mothers took folic acid supplements or modified their diet to increase folate intake. This has led to calls for mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, so women can get it from dietary sources other than foods that naturally contain it.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has recommended mandatory folic acid fortification of flour to improve the folate status of women most at risk of neural tube defect-affected pregnancies. Further detail on this is in the consultation document.

We are now opening a consultation to seek views on this proposed change and we hope that members of the public as well as industry and the scientific community respond so we can accurately consider this proposal.

I have agreed with the Governments of Scotland and Wales, and the Permanent Secretary of Northern Ireland that this will be a joint consultation between the Devolved Administrations and England. This is because any resulting decisions would need to be taken on a whole-UK basis to minimise impact on trade and for industry to comply. Similarly, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been closely involved as flour falls within their remit.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1581
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Department for Transport
Made on: 13 June 2019
Made by: Chris Grayling (Secretary of State for Tranport)
Commons

EU Transport Council

The Transport Council took place in Luxembourg on Thursday 6th June. This was the only Transport Council under the Romanian Presidency (the Presidency). The UK was represented by the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Katrina Williams.

The Council reached General Approach on the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ for a legal framework for the electronic communication of freight transport information. The UK welcomed the work that the Presidency had done to achieve compromises on this text, as did a number of other Member States.

The Presidency gave a Progress Report on the proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to streamline planning and approval processes for projects on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). Some delegations took the opportunity to flag outstanding concerns including scope, the role of the Single Competent Authority and the duration of the permit granting process.

There was also a Progress Report on the proposal from the first tranche of the ‘Mobility PackageHired Vehicles Directive, although discussion illustrated that there are still outstanding issues to be resolved.

The Council was also given a Progress Report on the proposal from the first tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to revise the current directive on Eurovignette (Road Charging). The UK intervened to highlight the need for flexibility in determining national charging schemes, a view shared by a number of other Member States.

Over lunch, Ministers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine along with representatives from the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development participated in a joint discussion with the Council and Commissioners Bulc and Hahn on the progress made by the Eastern Area Partnership (EaP) in developing the external dimension of the TEN-T policy. Welcoming the progress made in relation to road safety, TEN-T connectivity and planning for future investment in transport infrastructure, the Council endorsed the joint EU-EaP Declaration as a road map for future cooperation.

Later, the Council was given a further Progress Report on negotiations on the proposals to revise the Regulation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations.

Finally, there were several information points from Member States, the Presidency and Commissioner Bulc under Any Other Business. Several Member States supported Luxembourg’s call for consideration of aviation taxation as an additional means to tackle emissions reduction. The Presidency gave information on discussions in other Councils on “A clean planet for all”, the Commission’s long-term climate strategy. On addressing airspace capacity, Commissioner Bulc noted the recent publications of the Airspace Architecture Study and the Wise Person’s Report on the future of air traffic management. The Commission noted the first findings of its study on sustainable transport infrastructure charging and the internalisation of transport externalities, which was published on the day of the Council , and updated the Council on the connectivity outcomes of the EU-China summit. The Presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals and the Polish delegation provided information on the Conference on "Benefits for regions resulting from the implementation of the route Via Carpatia". Finally, Finland presented transport plans for its forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1587
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