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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
08 December 2016
Volume 618

Written Statements

Thursday 8 December 2016

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Implementing Geological Disposal: Annual Report

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I am pleased to announce today the publication of the sixth annual report of the Government’s implementing geological disposal programme. The programme is focused on implementing the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.

The UK Government remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste, and continue to favour an approach that is based on the willingness of local communities to participate in the siting process.

The publication of the “Implementing Geological Disposal” White Paper in July 2014 set out the policy framework for the future implementation of geological disposal in the UK. Government have been progressing the “Initial Actions” set out in the White Paper, and formal discussions between interested communities and the developer will begin once the “Initial Actions” are complete.

The sixth annual report can be found at: http://www.gov. uk/beis. I have also written to the Chairs of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and I have made available copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS332]

Culture, Media and Sport

Contingent Liability

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A minute has been laid before Parliament regarding the funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport via UK Sport, and specifically in relation to incurring a contingent liability.

UK Sport funds Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes from a mixture of grant in aid and income from the national lottery, and makes its decisions on which sports and which athletes to support at the beginning of each Olympic and Paralympic cycle. Uncertainty around the level of national lottery income in future years means that the UK Sport may need to make decisions based on conservative assumptions of lottery income. This could impact the number of sports and the number of athletes that could be supported between now and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

To avoid this the Department for Culture, Media and Sport intends to provide, from its available funds, an underwrite of UK Sport’s expected national lottery income so that should it fall below a certain level, the Department will provide additional funding to allow Team GB and Paralympics GB to be properly supported in Tokyo.

This exceptional measure for the current spending review period acknowledges that UK Sport relies on future revenues to agree funding packages now, at the beginning of the next Olympic and Paralympic cycle, to allow the most talented athletes and sports men and women to achieve success at Tokyo.

The Treasury has approved the proposal, and if the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal Supply procedure. This will be funded from within existing DCMS control totals and only applies up to the end of the current spending review period in 2019-20. A full departmental minute has been laid providing more detail on this contingent liability.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-12-08/HCWS337/

[HCWS337]

Defence

Offshore Patrol Vessels

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I am pleased to announce that the two additional offshore patrol vessels that we committed to build in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review will be named HMS Tamar and HMS Spey. The construction of the first, HMS Tamar, formally began today.

These names follow the River Class nomenclature of the Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel fleet and continue the tradition of recognising the service, history and battle honours of earlier ships of the name.

Since 1758, six ships have been named after the River Tamar in south-west England, and battle honours were won for Burma 1824-25 and Ashantee 1873-74. Most recently, HMS Tamar was the name of the Royal Navy’s shore establishment in Hong Kong until 1997.

Since 1814, seven ships have been named after the River Spey in north-east Scotland, and battle honours were won for the Atlantic 1940-43, North Africa 1942-43 and Burma 1944-45. The most recent ship, a minesweeper, left service in 1998.

These new 2,000 tonne ships, together with the three already in build, will deliver a more modern and capable fleet, supporting our destroyers and frigates in delivering their tasking, as well as enhancing our contribution to maritime security and fisheries protection.

[HCWS338]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

December Agriculture Council

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The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on 12 and 13 December in Brussels. I will represent the United Kingdom.

As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries will be reaching political agreements on 2017 fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of stocks in EU waters, certain non-EU waters and the Black sea.

On agriculture, draft conclusions will be adopted on strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain and tackling unfair trading practices. There will be an exchange of views concerning agriculture and climate change, and a progress report on the proposed organics regulation.

There are currently two confirmed any other business items labelled for this Council:

Plant breeders’ rights (tabled by the presidency)

Information on the application of new plant health regulation (tabled by the Commission).

[HCWS331]

Home Department

Al-Qaeda: Alternative Name

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We have today laid an order under section 3(6) of the Terrorism Act 2000 which, with effect from tomorrow, will specify “Jabhat Fatah al-Sham” as an alias of the proscribed organisation known as Al Qaeda.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham have previously operated under the name the Al Nusrah Front. Al Qaeda was proscribed in March 2001 and the Al Nusrah Front was recognised as an alias of the group by a name change order in July 2013.

We are clear that terrorist groups should not be able to claim a false legitimacy whilst continuing with their terrorist activities, by simply operating under an alternative name.

Despite the rebranding of the group, we continue to assess that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is a violent terrorist organisation that retains strong links to AQ and promotes a global extremist ideology. We have no evidence to suggest that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has changed its methods, aims or ideology.

The effect of this order is to put it beyond any doubt that being a member of or supporting any group operating under this name will be a criminal offence, contrary to sections 11 and 12 of the Terrorism Act.

[HCWS333]

Asylum Accommodation

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There has been considerable interest in the accommodation and support that is provided to asylum seekers. I am committed to ensuring that destitute asylum seekers are accommodated in safe, secure and suitable accommodation and that they are treated with dignity. I have listened carefully to hon. Members and non-governmental organisations’ concerns about the arrangements, including their observations and criticisms of the current contractual arrangements.

The current contractual arrangements expire in 2017, with an option to extend them for a further two years. I have considered carefully whether to extend these contracts and weighed up a range of factors, including the value for money they offer the taxpayer and the improvements that have been made to the standard of accommodation when compared to those achieved under previous arrangements. I have decided to extend the contracts until 2019. However, I recognise that there are improvements that can be made. Therefore I have taken this opportunity to make changes and additional investment to address the concerns that have been raised and improve the services that are provided. These changes will build upon the improvements that we have already made this year in response to the concerns of hon. Members and others.

First I have increased the amount of money that the Home Office pays for the provision of welfare officers and staff property management. This is in direct response to feedback that more attention is needed to ensure that asylum seekers receive the welfare support they need and are able to raise any concerns they have with the accommodation providers. It will also ensure that property standards continue to be closely managed and further improved; and that sufficient suitable property is available. The money will only be available for the employment of additional resources engaged directly on these customer-focused activities.

I have also agreed that the Department should work with providers on developing different contractual terms to ensure that there is sufficient initial accommodation available and thereby further reduce the need to use contingency arrangements, such as hotels, in the future. I am pleased to report that the use of contingency accommodation is already much reduced but these changes will add in resilience, further reduce the numbers and keep them down.

Finally I have introduced a new higher price band for any increases in the number of asylum seekers requiring accommodation, this will allow the providers to further increase their property portfolios if required and widen the areas in which they operate. This will reduce the need to continually increase the number of asylum seekers accommodated in certain communities. This follows work to increase the number of local authority areas that participate in the asylum dispersal scheme, which I am pleased to report has increased the number of participating areas by over one third in the past 18 months.

The Department will continue to monitor the providers closely to ensure that they comply with the requirements of the contract and work closely with non-government organisations and service users to respond to feedback and continue to improve the system.

My officials have started work on putting in place new arrangements for when these contracts expire in 2019. This work is at an early stage and we are engaging with a range of stakeholders to consider options for the future arrangements.

[HCWS335]

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

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The 2015-16 annual report and accounts for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority are today being laid before the House and will be published on www.gov.uk. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office.

[HCWS334]

HMIC: PEEL Legitimacy and Leadership Report

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Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary (HMIC) has today published its legitimacy and leadership reports as part of the 2016-17 PEEL inspection programme. Today’s report by the inspectorate delivers, in general, a positive assessment of forces’ ability to keep individuals safe and reduce crime while acting with legitimacy and in providing effective leadership.

The legitimacy report includes the response to a commission by the Prime Minister, then Home Secretary, to examine the issue of police officers developing inappropriate relationships with victims of domestic abuse and vulnerable individuals. And in this area, its findings are shocking.

As the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, I wish to reiterate that the vast majority of police officers and police staff, including PCSOs, conduct themselves, with the highest standards of integrity. The inspectorate highlights a number of positive stories of best practice that have developed within some police forces to address the issues related to abuse of authority and inappropriate relationships.

However, HMIC’s findings indicate that more is needed from the policing profession as a whole to demonstrate to the public, and to the perpetrators, that there is no place in policing for those who abuse their authority for sexual gain. Where these instances do occur it undermines justice, lets down the majority of decent, hardworking individuals serving in policing, and causes serious damage to the public’s confidence in the police.

While some progress has been made in tackling this issue, decisive action is needed to improve how forces detect and respond to this type of abuse where it occurs. Today I have written to both the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing to set out the Government’s expectations and commission the further work needed to address the shortcomings HMIC has identified.

Code on professional boundaries and personal relationships

First, a clear message is required for all who serve in policing about the need for professional boundaries to be maintained and the importance of police officers and police staff not using their professional position to pursue inappropriate relationships with current or former victims, witnesses or suspects. There must be zero tolerance for those who overstep these boundaries and this change in culture is needed across all ranks and all aspects of policing.

The College of Policing are now looking at the feasibility of developing a new supplementary addendum to the code of ethics. The addendum would establish clear guidelines on professional boundaries and personal relationships to set out the expectations and requirements of all who serve in policing in maintaining appropriate relationships and responding to these issues where they occur. I have asked that the college further support this work by building this issue into training and other work on vulnerability.

National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) led work to produce a national strategy for dealing with corruption and abuse of authority for sexual gain

Secondly, there is need for the sector to be more consistent in how it identifies and responds to this wrongdoing, with a need for improved capability in many forces to proactively detect and deter police officers and staff acting in this way.

Work is already under way within the NPCC to establish a national strategy for dealing with abuse of authority for sexual gain and associated corruption which should be ready by the end of March 2017. The chair of the NPCC, Chief Constable Sara Thornton, will now ensure this strategy addresses the capability concerns that HMIC has identified, including systems and device monitoring, risk profiling and intelligence gathering to identify individuals who have used police databases or devices to seek out vulnerable people to establish sexual contact.

National consistency in recording and reporting

HMIC’s report indicates there is a shortcoming in how different forces define and report these offences leading to inconsistent understanding of the scale and handling of these matters.

Therefore as part of the national strategy, the NPCC will ensure this includes a consistent definition which clarifies how abuse of authority relates to corruption, and how policing should record and respond to these matters where they are identified.

Mandatory referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission

Finally, we must ensure that the legislative framework is clear in setting out how these matters should be handled.

Abuse of authority for sexual gain constitutes serious corruption and should be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for consideration. However, as HMIC’s report makes clear, forces are not referring all such matters.

The Government therefore intend to bring forward changes to the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012 to put beyond doubt that these matters must be referred automatically to the IPCC.

I am confident that these concrete measures will build on the recent steps taken by police forces across England and Wales to address these issues. There must be no doubt that further action and stronger leadership across all ranks is needed to prevent, identify and respond to the harm caused by those who abuse their position of authority.

The message must be unequivocal that those who do abuse their power for sexual gain have no place in policing.

[HCWS336]