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Written Statements

Volume 588: debated on Thursday 20 November 2014

Written Statements

Thursday 20 November 2014

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

St Helena Child Abuse Inquiry

The House will be aware that serious allegations have been made by former employees of the authorities of the British overseas territory of St Helena. These allegations involve claims relating to child abuse in the territory, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by the St Helena Government (SHG), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development to cover these up.

We are bound to take such allegations extremely seriously. Former FCO Minister for overseas territories, the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) announced to the House on 21 July, Official Report, column 880W, the establishment of an independent inquiry to establish the truth of these allegations and make recommendations as appropriate.

I am pleased to inform the House that I have agreed that Ms Sasha Wass QC should lead this inquiry. Ms Wass is a very accomplished barrister with substantial professional experience of dealing with these kinds of issues. I am confident that she will lead this inquiry with great rigour, fairness and sensitivity.

Matters of child safety require discretion and confidentiality. The issues self-evidently involve vulnerable people, whose privacy must be protected and confidences respected. I am certain this inquiry will do that. But it is also important that this process is as transparent as possible. That is why I am today publishing the inquiry’s terms of reference, agreed with Sasha Wass, so the full scope of the issues is clear to everyone. I am also placing a copy of the terms of reference in the Library of both Houses.

I understand that Ms Wass will conduct an initial review of the allegations contained in various documents, including the independent reports produced by others in response to specific concerns raised previously. We are also providing Sasha Wass with full disclosure of the UK papers that relate to these allegations. Ms Wass will then make a judgment about the scope of her investigations, including on the appointment of a team of independent experts to help her with this task. I also understand that Ms Wass will travel to St Helena once this initial phase of her work is completed.

Since allegations relating to child safety were first raised in late 2012, the British Government have been swift to ensure that they were investigated appropriately. We commissioned the respected Lucy Faithfull Foundation to conduct an initial review, which was then followed by an investigation by Northumbria police. The reports made important recommendations, which the authorities on St Helena are working to implement with support from the UK. A number of arrests and convictions for child sex offences have also occurred.

More, however, needs to be done. This new inquiry will not be quick. But it will be thorough, and I am confident that the facts will be established.


Innovative Medicines and Med-tech Review

I am today announcing an external review of the pathways for the development, assessment, and adoption of innovative medicines and medical technology.

Technological advances including digital diagnostics, cell therapy, genomics and stratified medicines are fundamentally changing the health care landscape and the way in which these advances are developed and utilised. These advances have real potential to transform prevention and treatment, improving patient outcomes. Yet they are increasingly challenging traditional systems of regulation, assessment and adoption, the subject of growing public and professional debate.

The innovative medicines and medical technology review will consider how our health care and regulatory systems can best respond and adapt to this new landscape of innovation. We are strongly placed to do this: our £1 billion National Institute for Health Research programme provides a platform for testing and evaluating medical innovations, and we have internationally—renowned expertise in evidence—based assessments of the health economics of drugs and devices.

The review will consider how to speed up access for NHS patients to cost-effective new diagnostics, medicines and devices. It will focus on innovative types of product: in particular, drugs based on stratified medicine, new diagnostics, and digital health technologies. It will examine the pathway from “first in human” trials, through licensing and health technology appraisal, to commissioning, reimbursement and clinical practice. It will set out both short and long-term options for action by Government and relevant bodies—including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and NHS England.

We expect the review to recognise the public spending environment in which the NHS operates, and the overriding need to ensure value for money. It will respect the parameters of the 2014 pharmaceutical price regulation scheme for branded medicines, and take account of the existing statutory responsibilities of NHS bodies and the European legislative frameworks for the regulation and procurement of medicines and medical technologies. It will start early in 2015 following the appointment of an independent organisation to lead the work, and report back in the summer.


Crossrail 2 Safeguarding Consultation

I am today publishing a consultation document to seek views on an updated safeguarding direction for the proposed Crossrail 2 rail project, replacing the previous safeguarding direction issued in 2008.

Crossrail 2 is a proposed new rail line across central London, running from Tottenham Hale in the north-east to Wimbledon in the south-west. The route passes through the City of Westminster, Lea Valley regional park authority, the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Merton, Waltham Forest, and Wandsworth, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Safeguarding is the first stage in the planning process. It enables the Secretary of State for Transport to issue a direction to local planning authorities to protect land needed for long-term infrastructure projects. Safeguarding does not necessarily prevent other developments from taking place, but it ensures that when they do take place the design can accommodate the planned infrastructure.

The consultation will take place over 10 weeks from 20 November 2014, closing on 28 January 2015. After the consultation period a summary report will be made available on the Department for Transport website, analysing the responses received and providing the Department’s response. Subject to the results of the consultation, it is expected that the report and safeguarding direction will be issued in early 2015.

Copies of the consultation, and associated documents, will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.