The second Energy Council of the Maltese presidency took place in Luxembourg on 26 June. I represented the UK.
The Council began with the Commission (Vice President Šefčovič) presenting the recommendation for a mandate to commence negotiations with the Russian Federation on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It reiterated its commitment to ensuring energy supply routes to the EU complied with the rules of the third energy package, including diversification and security of supply, which was supported by the member states that intervened. The presidency noted the legal and political concerns raised by the Council.
The Council then discussed the energy efficiency directive on which the main outstanding issues were whether the EU-level energy efficiency target should be binding or indicative, and whether early efforts generating long-term savings could be counted towards the 2030 energy-saving obligation. Some member states supported maximum ambition; others called for more flexibility so that ambitious targets could be met.
The presidency made further efforts to find a compromise that could command a sufficient majority but texts which might have been acceptable to the UK were blocked by a group of member states demanding a more ambitious target yet less flexibility for member states to be able to meet them. Ultimately a general approach was adopted that included a higher EU-level energy efficiency target of 30% and some limited flexibilities for member states to achieve their binding national energy savings target. Eight member states voted against the proposal, on the basis that it ran counter to the position of the European Council in 2014. Although the balance of the proposal would have been acceptable to the UK, we were unable to support the text because the Commission refused to confirm the joint understanding reached with the UK in 2013 on what could be counted towards our 2020 binding national energy savings target. This could materially impact on our ability to meet our 2020 target.
Next, the presidency presented its compromise proposal on the energy performance of buildings directive, emphasising the uptake of electric vehicle charging points as the centrepiece of the revisions, and the increased flexibility for member states compared to the Commission’s initial proposal. The Commission (Commissioner Cañete) highlighted what it saw as a loss of ambition. Member states supported the balance of the presidency’s proposal and the Council agreed on a general approach, although some member states, including the UK, noted the need for measures to be economically and technically feasible.
The Council then discussed energy interconnectors at the request of Spain and Portugal, who sought binding targets for interconnection and funding for the required infrastructure. The Commission reiterated its commitment to the 2015 Madrid declaration on developing interconnectors, and highlighted the future discussion of this issue at the high-level group in September.
Finally, the presidency noted the intention of working groups to move forward on the six remaining legislative files that comprise the clean energy package; the Commission updated Council on a number of external energy relations issues over the past six months, including discussions on energy co-operation with China, Japan, Africa and Iran, and the development of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas supplier, in order further to improve diversification of supply, The Estonian delegation presented the priorities for its upcoming presidency, which focused on electricity market design but also included negotiations on other elements of the clean energy package and the mandate for Nord Stream 2.
With agreement of the Prime Minister, we can confirm an addition to the Department name. DCMS will change from Department for Culture, Media and Sport to Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Secretary of State’s full title will be the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. All responsibilities and portfolios within the Department remain the same. The Department will still be referred to as DCMS.
As part of the wider process of becoming an independent coastal state, the UK will be withdrawing from the London Fisheries Convention. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will today formally give notice under the convention.
This is the first step towards taking back control of our fishing waters and creating a policy that leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable fisheries industry for the whole of the UK.
We are committed to acting as a responsible coastal state. We look forward to working closely with the EU and other coastal states to ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks in accordance with our rights and obligations under international law including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA).
I would like to update the House about action we are taking to address delayed discharges from hospital in advance of this winter. Last year there were 2.25 million delayed discharges, up 24.5% from 1.81 million in the previous year. The Government are clear that no-one should stay in a hospital bed longer than necessary: it removes people’s dignity, reduces their quality of life; leads to poorer health and care outcomes for people; and is more expensive for the taxpayer.
In this year’s mandate to NHS England I set a clear expectation that delayed transfers of care (DToCs) should equate to no more than 3.5% of all hospital beds by September. Alongside this, the spring 2017 Budget announced an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services.
The system has worked extremely hard to agree spending plans and put in place actions to make use of the £1 billion provided in 2017-18 to meet the three purposes of the funding:
meeting adult social care needs;
reducing pressures on the NHS, including getting supporting more people to be discharged from hospital when they are ready; and,
ensuring that the local social care provider market is supported.
Since February, there have been significant improvements within the health and care system, with a record decrease in month-on month delayed discharges in April 2017. We are supportive of the best performing systems where local government and the NHS are working together to tackle the challenge of delayed transfers of care. However, we are clear that we must make much faster and more significant progress well in advance of next winter to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients and reduce pressures on overcrowded A&E departments.
This is why today we are setting out a further package of measures to support both the NHS and local government to reduce delays. This package supports all organisations to make improvements, and includes:
The integration and better care fund planning requirements 2017-19, clarifying how this, and other aspects of the better care fund planning process, will operate.
Joint NHS England, NHS Improvement, Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services guidance on implementing trusted assessors.
A performance dashboard showing how local areas in England are performing against metrics across the NHS-social care interface including delayed discharges.
Plans for local government to deliver an equal share to the NHS of the expectation to free up 2,500 hospital beds, including a breakdown of delayed days per 100,000 of the population and the indicative reduction levels required by each local authority and local NHS, which can be shared out differently at local level if agreed by both organisations.
Considering a review, in November, of 2018-19 allocations of the social care funding provided at spring Budget 2017 for areas that are poorly performing. This funding will all remain with local government, to be used for adult social care.
In addition, I have asked the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission to commission 12 reviews of local areas to consider how well they are working at the health and social care boundary. A further 8 reviews will be commissioned based on the performance dashboard and informed by local authority returns due in July. These reviews will commence immediately with the majority complete by the end of November, with a view to identifying issues and driving rapid improvement.
We are also putting in place a comprehensive sector-led support offer and in early July NHS England, NHS improvement, Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the better care support team are publishing the definitive national offer to support reductions in delayed transfers of care to all areas.
The health and care system has committed health and social care staff and managers up and down the country working every single day to deliver the best outcomes for people. Today’s announcement will give our workforce and their leaders clarity on how the Government expect the NHS and local government to work together to achieve this joint ambition.
As the Syria crisis enters its seventh year, civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict marked by unparalleled suffering, destruction and disregard for human life. This crisis, and wider instability across the world, is driving thousands of refugees and migrants towards Europe’s borders.
The UK has been at the forefront of the international response and has pledged £2.46 billion to help address the humanitarian crisis, complemented by continued diplomatic efforts in the region to end the conflict. Our direct support has reached hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. By meeting basic humanitarian needs and helping to create new opportunities, we aim to help Syrians to build a life in neighbouring countries.
As part of our comprehensive approach to the Syria crisis, the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme (VPRS) was launched in January 2014 and expanded in September 2015. In 2016 the UK resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU member state. The scheme, to date, has focused on Syrian nationals because they formed an easily identifiable cohort of vulnerable refugees who have fled the conflict and whose needs are clearly evident. This focus has enabled us to provide a quick and effective response to the crisis.
The scheme sees us working closely with the UNHCR to identify individuals who are most at risk in the region and whose particular needs can only be met in countries like the UK. Up to the end of March 2017, 7,307 Syrian nationals had been resettled across the UK under the Syrian VPRS, half of whom are children, and we are on track to meet our commitment of resettling 20,000 refugees by 2020. This is in addition to our vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme launched last year, which will see us resettle up to 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the middle east and north Africa region by 2020. We remain committed to resettling the overall number of refugees previously announced on both schemes.
However, whilst the Syrian VPRS is aimed at the most vulnerable Syrians, there are additional groups in the region who have fled Syria and are also extremely vulnerable but who may not be able to access one of our resettlement schemes. UNHCR’s advice is that a diversified resettlement quota is needed in order to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees from all refugee populations in the region.
In light of this, with immediate effect, I am amending the scope of the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme to enable UNHCR to refer the most vulnerable refugees in the MENA region who have fled the Syrian conflict and cannot safely return to their country of origin, whatever their nationality.
The Government are committed to an effective response in the affected regions and to resettling the most vulnerable; this includes those who had sought refuge within Syria prior to the conflict and been recognised as refugees. We will continue to rely on UNHCR to identify and refer the most vulnerable refugees but will no longer limit the scheme solely to those with Syrian nationality. UNHCR will only refer to us those who are genuine refugees, in that they cannot seek the protection of their home country.
This change will also mean that mixed family groups are eligible for resettlement under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. This change might also open up the scheme to other groups, such as Iraqi minorities who sought refuge in Syria, but had to flee again as a result of the Syria conflict.
This remains within the overall spirit of the then Prime Minister’s 2015 commitment while recognising that other nationalities who had resided in Syria have been impacted by the same conflict. This decision demonstrates the UK remains fully committed to playing its part in the global migration crisis. We continue with our approach of taking refugees from the region—from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt—as well as providing life-saving humanitarian assistance such as the £2.5 million migration emergency response fund in response to the Mediterranean migration crisis. Our approach is rightly based on targeting our support so that it delivers the most impact, helps those who need it the most, and avoids unintended consequences.
This provides refugees with a more direct and safe route to the UK, rather than risking the hazardous journey to Europe which has tragically cost so many lives. Local authorities and partners play a vital role in helping those arriving here to settle into a new life in the UK. I am grateful for the way in which over 235 local authorities across the UK have stepped up to provide places for those arriving under the resettlement schemes.
We can be proud of the contribution the UK is making to support refugees, including the support and generosity from the British public, and I believe that this policy change will help us to continue to support the most vulnerable refugees fleeing Syria.
Monday 3 July 2017
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Energy Post-Council Statement
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Delayed Transfers of Care