Tuesday 18 October 2016
Cabinet Committees and Ministerial Responsibilities
Today the Government are publishing an updated list of Cabinet committees and implementation taskforces. It includes three new committees, chaired by the Prime Minister, to oversee this Government’s strategic priorities and deliver our manifesto commitments.
The Economy and Industrial Strategy Committee will oversee the development of a new industrial strategy, ensuring that all parts of the country and all of our citizens see the benefits of economic growth; and will drive work to address the UK’s longstanding productivity issues. The EU Exit and Trade Committee will oversee work to withdraw the UK from the European Union and develop a new relationship between the UK and the EU; and oversee our plans to promote the UK as a place to do business and trade with, drive inward investment, and, in time, negotiate trade agreements. The Social Reform Committee will oversee social policy reforms, and drive the Government’s work to increase social mobility, deliver social justice, and make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few.
These will sit alongside the National Security Council and the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee, which will continue to serve the same purpose as previously. The nine sub-committees announced today will support the process of collective agreement across Government. The list also includes details of seven implementation taskforces, which will monitor and drive delivery of important cross-cutting priorities.
An updated list of ministerial responsibilities has also been published today.
Copies of the associated documents will be placed in the Library of the House and published on: http://www.gov.uk. The list of ministerial responsibilities will also be sent to each hon. Member.
Communities and Local Government
Supporting Troubled Families
I am pleased to announce the publication of the “National Evaluation of the first Troubled Families Programme” which ran between 2012 and 2015.
The programme was set up in 2012 to work with a minimum of 116,000 families with multiple and complex problems who had previously been failed by services.
This evaluation reveals the true scale of families’ problems, finding that families each had an average of seven serious social problems including issues of: drug and alcohol abuse; mental and physical health problems; domestic violence; debt; truancy; antisocial behaviour and unemployment.
Our own data show that more than 116,000 families on the programme saw their lives improve—more children attending school, youth crime and antisocial behaviour significantly cut and, in more than 18,000 cases, an adult holding down a job for three months or more.
The evaluation reports provide additional detail on how the programme benefited families. For example, in-depth interviews with the families found that they reported increased confidence as a result of the programme’s intensive “whole family” help, which they rated as better than the services which had tried to intervene before.
The evaluation also finds that the programme helped improve and join up local services for families by encouraging a single key worker approach to work with the whole family on all of its problems.
There are also important lessons in the reports that are being taken on board for the new troubled families programme which will work with up to 400,000 more families by 2020.
A copy of the report will be placed in the Library of the House and also made available on the gov.uk website:
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: 17th Conference
The 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) took place in Johannesburg between 24 September and 5 October 2016. CITES is a vital international mechanism for protecting some of our most precious yet vulnerable global wildlife.
Having attended the conference, I can report it was a great success, delivering strong agreements to protect some of the world’s most iconic species. I am pleased that much of this action was driven by the UK.
For example, the UK led negotiations on African lions which saw the trade in wild lion bones banned and the establishment of a new CITES taskforce.
We also chaired discussions on rhinos, resulting in investigative action into failures to halt rhino horn trafficking in key destinations. A proposal to allow trade in rhino horn was also rejected.
Perhaps most significantly, and in recognition of the peril facing many elephant populations, the conference voted against a resumption of trading in modern day ivory, in line with recent domestic UK action. There was also a clear direction to close national ivory markets where these fuel poaching and illegal trade and decisive action to strengthen national ivory action plans which help combat ivory trafficking in key markets.
In addition, global rules on hunting trophies were enhanced, with export permits now mandated for almost all species listed as endangered.
The many victories for global wildlife are too numerous to detail, with action also delivered for pangolins, as the world’s most trafficked mammal, the African Grey Parrot and species of sharks amongt others.
Vitally, while CITES deals with the legal trade in species, illegal wildlife trade was also a strong focus, with agreements reached on increased global co-operation, and intelligence sharing to boost efforts to reduce demand for wildlife products and tackle corruption. This agreement is crucial as we look towards the Hanoi conference on the illegal wildlife trade which will bring together global leaders in November to push further action. Following on from the ground-breaking London Conference, the UK is providing funding and advice to Vietnam in hosting this latest conference, assuring the illegal wildlife trade’s place at the top of the global political agenda and delivering on our manifesto pledge to continue to lead the world on this issue. The Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom will lead HMG’s delegation to the conference, which will also be attended by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Their presence at this vital time will show that the UK continues to be at the forefront of global action, pushing for an end to this brutal trade.
UK leadership in this area is clear. At home, we are tackling wildlife crime through our National Wildlife Crime Unit, which will receive £1.2 million of funding over the next four years. Abroad, the British military is delivering anti-poaching training to rangers in Gabon, home of Africa’s largest population of forest elephants. We are also investing £13 million in projects around the world to support communities and boost law enforcement through our illegal wildlife trade challenge fund, including specialised interception tracking courses to protect rhino and elephant populations across sub-Saharan Africa.
Decisions made in recent weeks will have a real impact in safeguarding some of the world’s most vulnerable species. The UK has been at the forefront of driving this and we will remain committed to protecting global wildlife for generations to come.
Hydrofluorocarbon Greenhouse Gases
I would like to update the House on the outcome of the recent United Nations Montreal protocol negotiations in Rwanda.
I am very pleased to report that a deal was agreed among the 197 parties to the protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbon greenhouse gases (HFCs) over the next three decades.
The Montreal protocol, agreed in 1987, is already seen as one of the most successful environmental treaties ever agreed, having phased out 98% of the ozone depleting substances that would have caused major damage to human health, agriculture and the wider environment. That included chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which were used in products such as refrigeration, air condition and aerosols. As a result, the ozone layer is showing the first signs of recovery.
The replacements for CFCs and HCFCs—hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—while not damaging the ozone layer, do still have a global warming potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. The growth of refrigeration and air conditioning in developing countries means HFC use could have amounted to as much as 11 % of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
HFC alternatives are increasingly available and the UK had, before this weekend’s agreement, already taken the lead in committing to cut usage by 80% by 2030—amongt the most ambitious phase downs in the world. The deal in Rwanda means the rest of the world is now following suit, bringing major benefits for the climate and levelling the playing field for UK businesses.
It is estimated that this deal will reduce cumulative emissions by the equivalent of between 60 and 70 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, which equates to the output of around 600 coal fired power stations operating between now and 2050. In turn that is likely to avoid close to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of this century, making it possibly the single biggest step the world could have taken in achieving the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping temperatures well below 2 degrees.
The UK negotiating team played a central role in the discussions, influencing the strategy of like-minded countries to achieve an ambitious outcome and chairing the legal drafting group, which worked ceaselessly to turn the political agreement into legal text, then clarified and defended it through the final night of negotiations.
The key elements of the deal are as follows.
Developed countries will meet the following phase down commitment:
By 2019, production and consumption of HFCs will be reduced by 10% relative to the amount of HFCs produced or consumed in the years 2011 to 2013, plus an additional allowance of 15% of the baseline used for their phase out of HCFCs.
By 2024, the amount will be reduced by 40% and then by 70% by 2029, 80% by 2034 and finally 85% by 2036.
All developing countries, except India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Iran and Iraq will meet the following phase down commitment:
By 2024, production and consumption of HFCs will be limited to 100% of the average amount of HFCs produced or consumed in the years 2020 to 2022, plus an additional allowance of 65% of the baseline used for their phase out of HCFCs.
By 2029, this amount will be reduced by 10% and then by 30% in 2035, 50% in 2040 and finally 80% by 2045.
Production and consumption established before 2020 will be eligible for financial support from developed countries to help with the transition to low global warming alternatives.
India Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Iran and Iraq, will meet the following phase down commitment:
By 2028, production and consumption of HFCs will be limited to 100% of the average amount of HFCs produced or consumed in the years 2024 to 2026, plus an additional allowance of 65% of the baseline used for their phase out of HCFCs.
By 2032, this amount will be reduced by 10% and then by 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and finally 85% by 2047.
Production and consumption established before 2024 will be eligible for financial support from developed countries to help with the transition to low global warming alternatives.
Certain Gulf countries and others with high average temperatures will be able to exempt large scale air-conditioning from the phase down requirements if they believe suitable alternatives are not available for their climates.
There will be a review of the availability of technologies which use alternatives to HFCs in 2022 and every five years thereafter to inform any necessary adjustments to the phase down schedule. There will also be a review four to five years before 2028 specifically to consider whether those countries which have to cap HFC production and use by 2028 need a compliance deferral of two years due to faster HFC growth than anticipated.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
1980 Hague Convention on Child Abduction
The Government have decided to opt in to the European Commission’s proposals for the acceptance by the member states, in the interests of the EU, of the accession of Kazakhstan, Peru and the Republic of Korea to the 1980 Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.
All EU member states are party to the 1980 Hague Convention, the primary civil law international instrument which provides a mechanism to seek the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence.
When a country wishes to accede to the convention, it is necessary for an existing contracting state to accept that country’s accession before the convention can apply between them. It is the European Commission’s view that there is exclusive competence on the EU for all matters relating to the 1980 Convention and that therefore member states must be authorised by the EU to accept accessions by third countries and must do so collectively through Council decisions.
Although not anticipated in the proposals, the Government believe that the UK opt-in under the protocol to Title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union applies and they have therefore asserted their right to choose whether to opt-in and have decided that it is in the UK’s best interests to do so.
The Government have taken this decision notwithstanding the fact that they dispute the Commission’s claim to exclusive competence.
The Government believe that the wider significance of these proposals for external competence mean that it is in the UK’s interests to participate fully in these negotiations, including having the ability to vote. These proposals must be agreed by unanimity within the EU Council.
OSCE Informal Ministerial Council
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) attended an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers of participating states of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), held in Potsdam, Germany on 1 September 2016 at the invitation of German Foreign Minister and OSCE chair-in-office, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Nearly all 57 OSCE states were represented, around 40 of these by their Foreign Ministers.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier called the meeting to discuss both current security challenges in the region and the OSCE’s future role and agenda. A number of common themes emerged over the course of the meeting. Many Foreign Ministers, like the Foreign Secretary, highlighted resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, and restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty as the most pressing priority for the OSCE. Strong support for the work of the OSCE’s special monitoring mission (SMM) was evident, with the chair-in-office leading many speakers in condemning the obstruction of SMM operations and intimidation of monitors.
As well as conflict prevention and resolution, other themes that emerged as high priorities for many OSCE participating states were protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and reducing the risk of military accidents and incidents. A strong desire was evident on the part of most states to restore respect for OSCE principles and commitments, many referring to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military intervention in the Donbas in this context.
On the eve of the Potsdam meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier published proposals relating to conventional arms control in Europe. Updating existing confidence and security building measures in this field is a UK priority and, we believe, is needed urgently to reduce the risk of military accidents and incidents. We will continue to work closely with Germany and other partners to push for such modernisation as well as for respect for the spirit and letter of these instruments. Implementation of all commitments is a prerequisite for building trust and restoring confidence between the participating states of the OSCE.
In the margins of the Potsdam meeting the Foreign Secretary had many bilateral meetings and conversations. These included exchanges with his Ukrainian and Polish counterparts, and with OSCE secretary-general, Lamberto Zannier. He expressed strong UK support for the work of the OSCE’s autonomous institutions when he met Michael Link, director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Dunja Mijatovic, the representative on freedom of the media. In his various meetings the Foreign Secretary commended the Baroness Falkner of Margravine, the UK candidate to head the OSCE’s third autonomous institution, the High Commission on National Minorities.
In this first encounter as Foreign Secretary with the OSCE, the Foreign Secretary noted the potential, as yet not fully tapped, of the organisation’s uniquely comprehensive approach to security and a participation that reaches from Canada to central Asia. The discussions in Potsdam helped clarify priorities for the coming weeks, months and years. We now need to focus our efforts on tackling them together with robust determination.
Relations between the UK and Argentina
I would like to update the House on the current state of relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina following my recent visit to Buenos Aires.
After more than a decade of difficult relations under Argentina’s previous Government, the election of President Macri in November 2015 paved the way for an improvement in our relationship. It is in the UK’s interests to strengthen ties with Argentina. Argentina is the world’s 25th largest economy and has considerable natural resources. A more constructive relationship will enhance the UK’s prosperity.
Since December the Government have taken positive steps towards resetting our relationship by focusing on areas where both states can benefit. The Prime Minister has committed to move our relationship with Argentina into a more productive phase.
During my visit to Buenos Aires—the first by a Foreign Office Minister since 2009—I agreed an historic UK-Argentina joint statement establishing closer co-operation across our bilateral relationship. This includes ambitions to: increase trade links; identify new investment opportunities; strengthen cultural ties; co-operate in the fight against corruption and organised crime; and increase links in the fields of science and technology.
Our position on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands remains unchanged. The UK will always support the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future.
The joint statement secured important benefits for the Falkland Islanders. We committed to work together on areas of mutual interest in the South Atlantic. Argentina agreed to take appropriate measures to remove any obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development of the Falkland Islands, including in trade, fishing, shipping and oil and gas. We also agreed that Falkland Islanders are free to set up further flight connections with other countries in the region, with a monthly stopover in Argentina. Both sides expressed support for the recently confirmed project to use DNA examination to identify the remains of unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands.
The Government will explore ways to build on these positive first steps and consider how the UK can best maximise the opportunities offered by an improved relationship with Argentina.