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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
16 December 2016
Volume 618

Written Statements

Friday 16 December 2016

Cabinet Office

Governance Code on Public Appointments

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On 2 July 2015, the then Minister for the Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), announced that the Government had asked Sir Gerry Grimstone to lead a review of the operation of the public appointments system. The completion of the review was announced on 11 March 2016, Official Report, column 27WS, HCWS609

Sir Gerry Grimstone’s review placed an emphasis on the original conclusions reached by Lord Nolan in 1995 that Ministers should be at the heart of the public appointments system and concluded that Lord Nolan’s principles have stood the test of time and are as applicable today as they were 20 years ago. The review also recommended a new principle of diversity and also a greater emphasis on transparency throughout the system.

The Government welcomed Sir Gerry’s review and announced that they would implement its recommendations, including the publication of a new public appointments governance code, which I am publishing today. The new code will come into force in January.

The new code sets out that:

public appointments should be run in accordance to a set of principles: Ministerial responsibility, selflessness, integrity, merit, openness, diversity, assurance, fairness;

Ministers are responsible for public appointments and are central to the decision-making process;

the Commissioner for Public Appointments has a vital function regulating public appointments.

The Commissioner retains responsibility for monitoring and auditing appointments processes, but will not be directly involved in competitions; and

processes will be streamlined of bureaucracy with a stronger focus on customer care and transparency to ensure public confidence. There will be an emphasis on diversity in appointments.

The public appointments governance code can be found on the gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS368]

Defence

Independent Medical Expert Group: Triennial Review

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I am today announcing the conclusion of the triennial review of the Independent Medical Expert Group. Reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Non Departmental Public Bodies continue to have regular independent challenge. I am placing copy of the report in the Library of the House and it will be published on the www.gov.uk website.

The review examined whether there is a continuing need for the Independent Medical Expert Group's function and its form, and whether it should continue to exist at arm's length from Government.

The review found that the Independent Medical Expert Group provides valuable, high quality, well-respected medical and scientific advice to Ministers. The function the Independent Medical Expert Group fulfils continues to play an important role in ensuring that the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme relies on credible, up-to-date evidence, and is also perceived to do so by those who apply to it. Retaining the Independent Medical Expert Group as a Non Departmental Public Body remains the most appropriate option.

The review also confirmed that the Independent Medical Expert Group complies with the principles of good corporate governance and with the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees and the Principles of Scientific advice to Government.

The outcome of this review is welcomed and demonstrates the effectiveness of the Independent Medical Expert Group as highly-regarded, independent experts whose function helps to maintain the medical and scientific integrity of the awards made under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

[HCWS371]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine TB

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Today I am updating the House on the implementation of the Government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.

The strategy continues to deliver results. Next year we will apply for officially TB free status in the low risk area of the country where there is no significant TB in wildlife. This will boost trade opportunities and mean some herds require less regular TB testing, reducing costs for farmers and taxpayers. Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK. Dealing with the disease is costing the taxpayer over £100 million each year. Last year alone over 28,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England to control the disease, causing devastation and distress for hard-working farmers and rural communities.

The Government are taking strong action to deliver a long-term plan to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries. The comprehensive strategy includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, improving biosecurity on farm and when trading, and badger control in areas where TB is rife.

There is broad scientific consensus that badgers are implicated in the spread of TB to cattle in the high risk area of England, which also has the highest badger density in Europe and has seen a large increase in badger abundance over the last 20 years. The approach of tackling the disease simultaneously in cattle and in wildlife has worked in Australia, is working in New Zealand and Ireland and is supported by the Government and DEFRA Chief Scientists, the UK Chief Vet and other leading vets.

This year seven new and three existing licensed badger control operations were delivered by local farmers and landowners in parts of Somerset, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. These areas comprise 10% of the high risk area, and all achieved successful outcomes. As part of our 25 year bovine TB eradication strategy I want to see further expansion of operations in the coming years. This is in line with the UK Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice on what is needed to realise and maintain disease control benefits at regional level.

I have also today published a consultation on the next steps in areas that have completed the first four years of badger control. I am proposing to allow continued, strictly licensed, activity to stabilise the population at the reduced level. This will ensure the disease reduction benefits in cattle are prolonged for many years to come.

Following consultation earlier this year, the Government intend to make further improvements to TB testing in the high risk and edge areas of England and to introduce new arrangements for controlling the disease in non-bovines. Tough controls on cattle and non-bovine farm animals are an essential complement to controlling the disease in wildlife and our plans published today alongside our summary of consultation responses will help us to make further progress on the disease, while not over-burdening our livestock industry.

Effective biosecurity is essential to protect the gains from reinforced cattle controls and badger control so I very much welcome the progress being made in delivering a joint government- industry TB biosecurity action plan. I am pleased that last month’s launch of a new bovine TB herd accreditation programme by the Cattle Health Certification Standards body has started to attract herd owners keen to be recognised and rewarded for good biosecurity practices. We will consult next year on proposed incentives to encourage more herd owners to take up this option.

Innovations enabling our farmers to better protect their herds include access to advice on the TB hub, our interactive map of TB locations and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s list of dairy bulls with greater genetic resistance to TB, alongside farm demonstration events, accredited training for vets and new teaching and training resources for land-based colleges.

Although it does not provide complete protection or cure infected animals which continue to spread TB, badger vaccination has a role to play. We remain committed to promoting vaccination in the edge area of England albeit deployment continues to be hampered by a global shortage, meaning deliveries of the authorised vaccine are not expected to resume before 2018. We will start work next year with interested organisations on the design of a new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) as a replacement to the former scheme which had to be cancelled because of the lack of vaccine.

In the meantime, supplies of vaccine for human immunisation will continue to be prioritised.

To ensure we have a successful and resilient industry as the UK enters a new trading relationship with the world, we are determined to implement all available measures necessary to eradicate this devastating disease as quickly as possible.

Copies of the badger control consultation and the cattle and non-bovine summary of consultation responses are available in the Libraries of the House.

[HCWS376]

Home Department

European Union Opt In Decision: Asylum Measures

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The Government have decided not to opt in to the new EU proposals for a Qualification regulation, an Asylum Procedures regulation and a recast Reception Conditions Directive. The proposals reform the package of asylum directives adopted between 2011-2013 as part of the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

The UK chose not to participate in the corresponding second phase CEAS instruments due to concerns over the limits they would place on our national system. As a result the UK remains bound by the directives adopted as part of the first phase of the CEAS: the Reception Conditions Directive 2003/9/EC; the Qualification Directive 2004/83/EC; and the Asylum Procedures Directive 2005/85/EC. These directives established minimum standards and allowed member states a large degree of flexibility in implementation.

There is some merit in the new proposals, for example the overarching aim of discouraging abuse and unwarranted secondary movements. However, the Government’s view is that decisions on asylum systems are best taken at national level. The proposals, in particular where replacing the use of a Directive with a regulation in the case of the proposals on Qualification and Asylum Procedures, would further limit the Government’s ability to take decisions on the UK asylum system at national level and in the UK national interest. There is no reason to change the approach from that taken with regard to the corresponding second phase CEAS measures. Therefore, the UK will not opt in to the proposals.

Until the UK leaves the EU, it remains a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s right to opt in to forthcoming EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting our civil liberties and enhancing our ability to control immigration.

[HCWS374]

European Union Opt in Decision: Dublin IV Regulation

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The Government have decided not to opt in to the EU proposal for the Dublin IV regulation.

The regulation will govern the process of deciding which member state is responsible for deciding an asylum claim and streamline the transfer process. The UK supports those aims, but the proposed Dublin IV regulation binds member states to participate in a quota-based distribution scheme. The proposal also permits the Commission to impose considerable financial burdens on member states, of €250,000 per applicant not transferred under this mechanism.

The UK has long-standing reservations about such relocation schemes. Asylum seekers should claim asylum in the first safe country they enter and not be moved around the EU using allocation quotas.

By not opting in to Dublin IV regulation, the UK remains bound by the Dublin III regulation, which will allow the Government to return applicants where another member state is responsible for determining their asylum claim and discourage secondary movement or so called “asylum shopping”.

Until the UK leaves the EU, it remains a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s right to opt in to forthcoming EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting our civil liberties and enhancing our ability to control immigration.

[HCWS370]

European Union Opt In Decision: EU Agency for Asylum

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The Government have decided not to opt in to the EU proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Asylum.

On 4 May the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Asylum and repealing regulation (EU) NO 439/2010. The proposed European Union Agency for Asylum would replace the existing European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The UK currently participates in EASO.

The aim of the proposal is an agency with more powers to promote the implementation and improve the functioning of the Common European Asylum System. The proposal provides the European Union Agency for Asylum with a significant degree of oversight over national asylum systems.

We are committed to running a high quality and effective asylum system but have always taken the view that the functioning of the asylum system is a sovereign matter.

The UK will therefore not opt in to the proposal for the EU Agency for Asylum.

[HCWS373]

European Union Opt in Decision: EU Readmission Agreement with Nigeria

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The Government have decided not to opt in to a Council Decision (11975/16/16) authorising the opening of negotiations on an agreement between the European Union and Nigeria on readmission.

EU readmission agreements (EURAs) ensure reciprocal procedures for the identification, documentation and return of persons illegally entering or remaining in EU member states, or the third country. We decide whether to participate in EURAs on a case-by-case basis, depending on the priority we attach to the country concerned in terms of numbers of immigration returns and the degree to which we enjoy a good bilateral relationship with that country.

In terms of returns co-operation, the UK already has bilateral arrangements with Nigeria via a memorandum of understanding, which work well, for example allowing the return of Nigerian nationals who have an expired passport. In 2015, there were 599 enforced removals to Nigeria and 1,361 voluntary removals.

We would not envisage an operational advantage if we were to change our current bilateral arrangements for conducting returns to Nigeria.

[HCWS369]

European Union Opt In Decision: Residence Permits (Third Country Nationals)

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The Government have decided not to opt in to the draft Council regulation amending the regulation on the uniform format for residence permits for third country nationals. The proposed regulation is intended to update the 2002 regulation, which was previously amended in 2008. The draft measure seeks to update the design and security features on the current version of the residence permit.

In reaching its decision, although the Government welcome measures that will strengthen immigration and border control, it has taken account of the cost of developing a document that the UK may never use. The UK will continue issuing the current format of the residence permit until we leave the EU and we are considering the options following exit.

[HCWS372]

Justice

Written Statement HCWS225: Correction

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On 27 October I made a written statement on the Government’s decision to opt in to the EU proposal amending the Brussels IIa Regulation on family law (HCWS225). There was a minor error in that statement. The statement said “The Government have today decided to opt in to the European Commission’s proposal which repeals and replaces regulation 2201/2003, also known as the Brussels IIa regulation, on cross border family matters”. It should have said “The Government decided on 5 October to opt in to the European Commission’s proposal which repeals and replaces regulation 2201/2003, also known as the Brussels IIa regulation, on cross border family matters”.

[HCWS375]