Thursday 20 July 2017
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Insolvency Service Performance Targets
I have set performance targets for the Insolvency Service for the financial year 2017-18.
The Insolvency Service is the Government agency that provides public services to those affected by financial distress or failure.
The Insolvency Service provides the frameworks that deal with insolvency and the financial misconduct that sometimes accompanies or leads to it. Its aim is to deliver economic confidence through a corporate and personal insolvency regime which is regarded as fair and that gives investors, lenders and creditors confidence to take the commercial risks necessary to support economic growth.
In 2017-18, an important priority for the Insolvency Service will be to maintain its current high level of customer service while initiating a major change programme. I have set measures and targets at a level which reflects the challenges that the agency continues to face.
Attachments are available online at:
Cabinet Committees and Implementation Taskforces
Today the Government are publishing an updated list of Cabinet Committees and implementation taskforces.
Copies of the associated documents will be placed in the Library of the House and published on gov.uk.
Type 26 Frigates
Following the announcement earlier this month that the Ministry of Defence had signed a £3.7 billion contract for the first batch of the new Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates, I am pleased to announce that the frigates will be known as the City Class. The first ship is to be named HMS Glasgow and her construction formally began today. Naming the ships after cities provides significant and readily identifiable linkages with large populations across the United Kingdom. Glasgow is a name with a distinguished historical pedigree, and this first name in the class provides a tangible connection with the city where the ships will be constructed. There have been eight Royal Navy ships of the name from the early 1700s, who between them have earned 10 battle honours. In more recent history, two ships served in the world wars, including the Arctic convoys and the Normandy landings, and the last ship to bear the name was awarded the “Falkland Islands 1982” battle honour to add to the “Falkland Islands 1914” honour won by her predecessor. The Type 26 frigates, the first of which we expect to enter service with the Royal Navy in the mid-2020s, will provide essential protection to our nuclear deterrent and aircraft carriers into the 2060s, keeping British interests safe across the world.
Today the Government are publishing Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s authoritative and wide-ranging review of 16 to 18 mathematics education in England.
The Government are determined to give all young people the world-class education they need to fulfil their potential. This includes providing opportunities to develop the mathematical and quantitative knowledge and skills appropriate to their chosen careers. In an increasingly technological world this will be vital to ensuring that our future workforce will be productive and competitive in the global marketplace.
Sir Adrian Smith’s review identifies a strong economic and social mobility case for raising participation in post-16 mathematics and improving knowledge and skills at all levels. He presents clear evidence for the value of mathematical and quantitative skills to students, whichever route they take.
The report includes recommendations and challenges that are wide-ranging—for example, the need to address negative cultural perceptions of mathematics. These issues will require detailed engagement and action between Government, industry, universities, schools and colleges.
I have today written to Sir Adrian thanking him for the review and confirming that the Government will set out our plans across the range of Sir Adrian’s recommendations in due course. The letter confirms that work is already under way to address a number of the challenges highlighted in the report, and there are a number of recommendations where we have been able to take immediate action.
We agree with Sir Adrian that we must be ambitious and take greater action to encourage and support more young people to choose mathematics post-16, particularly in areas where take-up is low. That is why one of the immediate actions we are taking today is to announce a new £16 million level 3 maths support programme. It will build on the momentum created by the further mathematics and core maths support programmes, and will work with schools and colleges to improve mathematics education by sharing best practice, and delivering knowledge-rich curriculum materials, as well as working to increase participation and attainment in 16 to 18 mathematics. The programme will work to deliver focused intervention targeted to those who need it most.
The other immediate actions we have taken in response to Sir Adrian’s recommendations are set out in my letter. For example, taking forward work on the new T-level qualifications to ensure they include mathematics where employers identify this as a requirement for employment; working with the newly constituted Royal Society Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education to ensure appropriate expert advice. We are also working with institutions such as the Royal Society and British Academy to encourage universities and employers to signal the value of level 3 mathematics qualifications for entry to undergraduate courses with a significant quantitative element and for a wide range of job roles.
We have placed a copy of Sir Adrian’s report and our letter in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Government’s website.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Inter-Pillar Transfer Rate in England
Today I am announcing that the amount transferred from farmers’ pillar 1 direct payments to pillar 2 rural development in England will remain at 12% for 2019 and 2020.
Leaving the EU presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop a new system that works for us. The Government have committed to maintain the same total in cash funds until the end of this Parliament. As we prepare to leave, we will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across the United Kingdom and with the devolved Administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following Parliament.
I have, therefore, concluded that the inter-pillar transfer should remain unchanged in England under the current common agricultural policy framework.
Exiting the European Union
New Bulgarian EU Commissioner
My right hon. Friend, Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
On 7 July 2017, the Council of the European Union supported the appointment of Ms Mariya Gabriel as the new Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. The UK voted in favour of the appointment of Ms Gabriel as Commissioner. Ms Gabriel is scheduled to hold the post until 31 October 2019.
The Bulgarian Government nominated Ms Gabriel as Commissioner following the resignation of the previous Commissioner for Bulgaria, Ms Kristalina Georgieva, in December 2016. Before her appointment, Ms Gabriel had been a member of the European Parliament since 2009.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report
I have today laid before Parliament a copy of the 2016 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report on human rights and democracy (Cm 9487).
The report highlights policy developments on human rights issues overseas in 2016.0
The report assesses the human rights situation in 30 countries which FCO has designated as its human rights priority countries. These are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
This report focuses on how the Government are striving to protect and promote human rights around the world. In the two centuries since Britain became the first country to outlaw the slave trade, this country has helped to lead the struggle for justice and decency. The Government’s approach towards human rights stands in this long tradition, based on the firm belief that our values are not only right in themselves but the key to prosperity and development.
EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement
The Government wish to inform the House of their decision to opt in to the Council decision on conclusion of the EU-Canada strategic partnership agreement (SPA), in respect of article 18(2) of the agreement, which relates to judicial co-operation in the field of civil and commercial matters. This article falls within title V of part III of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
The SPA, a framework political agreement, will update the previous EU-Canada 1976 framework agreement for commercial and economic co-operation between the European Communities and Canada. It has two aims: i) to enhance EU-Canada political ties and co-operation on foreign and security policy issues; and ii) to upgrade co-operation on a wide range of other areas. The SPA, though not technically linked to the EU-Canada comprehensive economic trade agreement (CETA), is complementary and will provide wider benefits to the EU-Canada relationship.
The SPA has been under negotiation, between the EU, its member states and Canada, since 2011. The draft Council decision on conclusion issued on 24 November 2016. Notwithstanding the result of the referendum on EU membership the Government consider that it is in the UK’s interests to opt in to article 18(2) of this agreement at the conclusion stage of the SPA negotiations. Article 18(2) of the agreement provides for judicial co-operation in civil and commercial matters. While it is not specific about the type of co-operation that might be envisaged, the Government believe that it is beneficial for the UK to be involved in any such work between the EU and one of our closest Commonwealth partners while we remain a member of the European Union.
We do not expect the Council decision on conclusion to be adopted until all member states have ratified the SPA.
Somalia (Security Assistance)
The UK remains committed to building a stable, peaceful and prosperous future for Somalia. Instability in Somalia affects stability across east Africa—fuelling irregular migration and providing a foothold for terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and Daesh. It is important that we maintain our support in order to tackle these shared threats to both the UK and the Somali people. This is why the British Government have announced a further £21 million of support for security work in Somalia, and helped to agree the security pact at the London Somalia conference earlier this year.
In the shorter term, with the support of the Somali Government, the UK has funded the construction of a police training facility in Mogadishu at a cost of £1,767,016 which will shortly be handed over to the Somali police force. This facility has been funded by FCO policy programme funding. The development of security partners and counter-terrorism (CT) policing in Somalia is vital to help ensure that the Somali authorities have the right tools to deploy in their ongoing fight against terrorism.
The provision of this facility is fully in line with the Government’s strategic CT objectives for east and south Africa. Using the overseas security and justice assistance guidance, FCO officials have also assessed the project for human rights risks, and concluded that the risk of such violations arising from the project’s delivery may be mitigated.
Second Generation Schengen Information System
The Government have decided not to opt out of a new EU proposal for a regulation governing the use of the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II) for police and judicial co-operation purposes (“the draft police co-operation regulation”), and not to opt in to a proposal for a regulation on the use of SIS II for the return of illegally staying non-European economic area (EEA) nationals (“the draft returns regulation”).
SIS II is an EU-wide system that circulates alerts on people and objects that are of interest to law enforcement agencies across the EU. This includes people who are wanted for extradition on European arrest warrants, stolen vehicles, lost or cancelled travel documents and suspected criminals and terrorists on whom information is sought.
The proposed police co-operation regulation will replace the legislation that currently governs SIS II’s use for that purpose. The UK has participated in this aspect of SIS II since April 2015. Our law enforcement agencies benefit from this, for example by being able to detain at the border people who are wanted under European arrest warrants and to obtain intelligence from police forces across the EU on suspected criminals and security risks. The draft regulation contains a number of proposals that would update SIS II’s capabilities, for example allowing it to store a wider range of biometric data and permitting alerts to be created to protect children who are at risk of going missing. There are some changes we will seek, in particular to maintain member states’ control over when alerts are created, but the Government believe we will be in a better position to do this by not opting out and remaining full participants in the negotiation.
The proposed returns regulation would allow member states to use SIS II to circulate alerts on non-EEA nationals who have been made subject to removal decisions. Therefore, the UK will not opt in to the draft returns regulation.
The decisions announced here have no implications for our general opt out from the internal border-free zone established by Schengen.
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, or opt out of, 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.
Newly Naturalised Passport Applicants
I am writing to advise you that Her Majesty’s Passport Office is introducing changes to its interviewing processes.
HM Passport Office reserves the right to call any passport applicant for an identity interview. However, where the identity of a newly naturalised British citizen can be confirmed using records already held by UK Visas and Immigration, they will not be routinely required to attend an interview as part of their first UK passport application.
The new process maintains our high standards of identity assurance but removes an unnecessary burden on newly naturalised citizens by no longer requiring them to confirm their identity twice to the Home Office before being issued with a UK passport.
Mutual Recognition of Freezing and Confiscation Orders
The Government have decided that the UK will opt in to the regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders.
The proposed regulation would replace and build upon the existing mutual recognition framework which is currently in two existing instruments—the Council framework decision on the execution in the European Union of orders of freezing property of evidence (2003/577/JHA) and the Council framework decision (2006/783/JHA) on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to confiscation orders. These framework decisions were transposed into UK law in 2014.
Through our serious organised crime strategy and action plan for anti-money laundering and counter terrorist finance, we have made it clear that being able to recover criminal monies is a priority. The proposed regulation will bring benefits to the UK through strengthening the ability of our operational agencies to have our orders recognised and executed, particularly in countries which have traditionally been slower to assist in cross-border asset recovery cases.
The UK’s experience of the existing framework decisions has been positive, although numbers of mutual recognition requests are limited due to the short time (since 2014) that the decisions have been fully transposed in UK law. Asset recovery in some EU states has traditionally been difficult through mutual legal assistance routes, which are lengthy and cumbersome.
Opting into this measure is also consistent with the UK’s approach to participating in EU mutual recognition measures to improve practical co-operation between member states. Opting in at this point shows our continued positive engagement with this measure, and demonstrates our commitment to work together with our European partners to fight crime and prevent terrorism now and after we leave the European Union.
Annual JHA Opt-in Reports
The Home Office and Ministry of Justice have prepared the sixth and seventh annual reports to Parliament on the application of protocols 19 and 21 to the treaty on European Union (TEU) and the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (“the treaties”) in relation to EU justice and home affairs (JHA) matters (Cm 9488). The reports, which are today being laid before the House, are submitted on behalf of both my own Department and that of the Secretary of State for Justice. Copies of the Command Paper are available from the Vote Office and on gov.uk.
On 9 June 2008, the then Leader of the House of Lords committed to table a report in Parliament each year setting out the decisions taken by the Government in accordance with protocol 21 (“the justice and home affairs opt-in protocol”) and to make that report available for debate. These commitments were designed to ensure that the views of the scrutiny committees should inform the Government’s decision-making process.
The sixth report covers decisions taken over the period 1 December 2014 to 30 November 2015. In that period, decisions on UK participation in 23 EU JHA legislative proposals have been taken. The UK has decided to opt in under the JHA opt-in protocol in 11 cases and has decided not to opt in in 13 cases (this includes one decision on an international agreement where the UK opted into one set of JHA provisions in the measure, and did not opt into another). The Government have not asserted the Schengen opt-out to any proposals during that period.
The seventh report covers decisions taken over the period 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016. In that period, decisions on UK participation in 36 EU JHA legislative proposals have been taken. The UK has decided to opt in under the JHA opt-in protocol in 12 cases and has decided not to opt in in 24 cases. The Government have not asserted the Schengen opt-out to any proposals during that period.
These opt-in decisions are without prejudice to discussions on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The UK’s relationship with the EU will change as a result of leaving the EU. However, the UK retains the rights and obligations of membership of the EU while we remain a member.
Publications: Former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
In November 2013, the then Home Secretary asked David Anderson QC to conduct a review of the framework of the UK’s deportation with assurances (DWA) policy, and to make recommendations on how the policy might be strengthened or improved, with particular emphasis on its legal aspects. I am pleased to be publishing his report today (Cm 9462). I can confirm that no redactions have been made to the report.
In accordance with section 36(5) of the Terrorism Act 2006, David Anderson QC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, prepared a report on the operation in 2015 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which was laid before the House on 1 December 2016. I have carefully considered its recommendations and observations. I am today laying before the House the Government’s response (Cm 9489).
I am very grateful to David Anderson for his work on both reports
Copies of David Anderson’s report into DWA, and the Government’s response to his section 36(5) report will be available in the Vote Office and on gov.uk.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules (HC 290).
The purpose of the changes is to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment in MM (Lebanon) & Others, handed down on 22 February 2017.
The changes, together with changes to the Secretary of State’s guidance to decision makers, are intended to give effect to the judgment’s findings in respect of, first, the income sources which may be relied upon to meet the minimum income requirement in specified exceptional circumstances; and, secondly, the duty to have regard to the welfare of children under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. They also make other minor amendments and clarifications to the family immigration rules.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 31 May 2017)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 31 May 2017)
TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)
The number of current subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (as of 31 May 2017)
The TPIM review group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The most recent TRG meetings took place on 26 and 30 June, and 3 and 4 July.
The case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v. EC and EG  EWHC 795 (Admin) was heard again at the High Court between 24 January and 2 February 2017. In a judgment handed down on 11 April 2017 Mr Justice Collins upheld the Secretary of State’s decision to impose a TPIM notice on EC and EG. This judgment can be found at: www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2017/795.html.
Science Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies: Triennial Review
On 21 July 2014, my predecessor as Home Secretary my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), announced in Parliament, through a written ministerial statement, the commencement of the triennial review of the Home Office science advisory non-departmental public bodies: the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD); the Animals in Science Committee (ASC); and the National DNA Database Ethics Group (NDNADEG). I am now pleased to announce the completion of the review.
The ACMD, ASC and NDNADEG are independent bodies that advise ministers on scientific issues.
The review concludes that the functions performed by the ACMD, the ASC and the NDNADEG are still required and that they should be retained as non-departmental public bodies. The review concludes that the control and governance arrangements are robust and compliant with the principles set out in the principles of good corporate governance for advisory NDPBs, the code of practice for scientific advisory NDPBs and the principles of scientific advice to Government.
The review recommends that the remit of the NDNADEG should be extended to cover the ethical issues associated with all forensic identification techniques including facial recognition technology and fingerprinting, and the collection and retention of biometric data. This recommendation has been accepted and therefore the name of the NDNADEG will change to the Biometrics And Forensics Ethics Group. The review also makes two recommendations in relation to accountability of Ministers for the bodies: that the chair of the NDNADEG should meet a Home Office Minister in the next 12 months; and an annual report should be published for the ASC and ACMD. Both recommendations have been accepted.
The full report of the triennial review of the ACMD, the ASC and the NDNADEG can be found on the gov.uk website and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
Lugano and Hague Conventions
The United Kingdom has opted in to the following Council decisions:
(i) Council decision of 7 February 2013, authorising the opening of negotiations on agreements between the EU and Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland in the areas of cross-border service of judicial and non-judicial documents and the taking of evidence in civil and commercial proceedings. (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are commonly referred to as the Lugano States).
The negotiating mandates set out the position of the EU in discussions on the prospects for agreements between those states in the areas of cross-border service of judicial and non-judicial documents and taking of evidence in civil and commercial proceedings.
There have been three rounds of discussions so far, and final agreements have yet to be reached. The decision of the then Government in 2013 to opt in to the negotiating mandates does not commit this Government to opt in to future EU agreements in these spheres. I will update the House as further information becomes available.
(ii) Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations on a convention on the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the Judgments Convention) in the framework of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
The negotiating mandate of May 2016 sets out the position of the EU in discussions at a Hague conference level on the prospects for an international convention which would set out rules for the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, delivered by foreign courts.
Detailed discussions on the form of a convention text began in June 2016 and will continue among EU member states and at Hague conference level for some time to come. The next Hague conference special commission to discuss the project will take place in November 2017.
Opting in to the EU negotiating mandate does not commit the UK Government to acceding to any future convention.
Due to an oversight, a written ministerial statement on these Council decisions has not thus far been placed before both Houses, for which I apologise.
Home Buying Policy, Commonhold Law and Protected Persons
This written statement confirms three machinery of Government changes.
Responsibility for home-buying policy, including estate agent regulation, will transfer from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Responsibility for commonhold law will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Department for Communities and Local Government. These changes will be effective immediately.
Responsibility for protected persons policy will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Home Office. This change will be effective immediately.
Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal
In March 2016, the Government announced their intention to negotiate a city region deal for Edinburgh and south-east Scotland. As well as deals across England and Wales, this follows the successful agreement of city region deals for Glasgow and Clyde Valley, Inverness and the Highlands and Aberdeen city region.
I can today inform the House that the Government have reached agreement with the Scottish Government and regional partners on a heads of terms for a city region deal for Edinburgh and south-east Scotland.
This deal will bring in excess of £1 billion of investment into the Scottish capital city region. Local partners’ aspirations are that this investment will create in excess of 21,000 good quality jobs.
Central to the investment is the UK Government contribution of up to £300 million, which is being matched by Scottish Government. This investment is expected to unlock a considerable further investment from the city region’s universities, higher education sector and the private sector.
UK Government investment will support local partners in delivering their ambition to make Edinburgh a leader in data-driven innovation. Building on existing regional excellence in R and D and innovation, the investment will see significant investments in digital infrastructure and data storage as well as the development of five R and D hubs across the city-region. These hubs will focus on growth in key sectors of the local economy such as data science, robotics, financial services, creative tech and agri-tech.
We will also deliver our manifesto commitment to support a new concert hall in Edinburgh, meeting the need for a mid-sized venue in the city.
Projects and programmes announced in the heads of terms document will be subject to the development and approval of business cases. Moving forward, the Government will work with the Scottish Government and the civic, academic and business leaders of Edinburgh and south-east Scotland to ensure the successful implementation of the deal.
This represents an important step in delivering the UK Government’s commitment to a city deal for each of Scotland’s cities, as we work to strengthen the Union and build a United Kingdom that works for everyone.
High Level Output Specification
I am today publishing my high-level output specification (HLOS) and initial statement of funds available (SOFA) for the railway for control period 6, which covers the years 2019 to 2024.
The Government are determined that the railway becomes more focused on issues that matter most to passengers—such as punctuality and reliability. A more reliable railway also plays a critical role in underpinning economic growth and bringing the country together. The Government are committed to taking action to achieve these outcomes.
The HLOS is therefore focused on the operation, maintenance and renewal of the existing railway—the areas of activity that will deliver a more reliable railway for passengers. The Government are already delivering significant enhancements to the railway, including High Speed 2 and Crossrail and expect to continue to invest in the enhancement to the wider rail network in the next control period. In the light of the findings of the Bowe review, which emphasised the need to enable better planning, cost control and alignment with the needs of users of the railway, Government will take forward the funding of these enhancements separately. The Government are developing a new process for delivering enhancements and intend to publish more information on this in the autumn.
On the basis of independent advice from the Office of Rail and Road, as well as from the rail industry, the Government have agreed that an increased volume of renewals activity will be needed over the course of control period 6, to maintain safety and improve on current levels of reliability and punctuality, which in places fall short of the levels that passengers rightly expect. This enhanced programme of renewals will be supported by appropriate volumes of operations and maintenance activity required to maintain safety and improve the reliability and punctuality of train services.
Before committing to the specific levels of funding required, I have decided that the Government require more assurance on the likely costs of the work programme. Network Rail’s progress on improving its efficiency in recent years has fallen short of my expectations. Improving efficiency is vital if we are to maximise the value of taxpayer spending on the railway in driving improvements for passengers and freight shippers.
The Government will therefore carry out further work to examine the approach to setting appropriate levels of maintenance and renewals activity for control period 6 and to improving Network Rail’s efficiency. This will enable me to confirm the extent of Government’s funding envelope through the publication of a statement of funds available by 13 October 2017. This work will draw on a number of sources, including the new independent review of progress on efficiency planning which the regulator has commissioned.
Alongside the publication of the HLOS, I am issuing new statutory guidance to the independent Office of Rail and Road. This sets out my priorities for rail regulation. These include supporting the ORR’s work to improve Network Rail’s efficiency and improving the experience of users of the railway.
I am placing copies of the HLOS and SOFA, and of the statutory guidance to the Office of Rail and Road in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at:
I wish to inform the House about some important developments regarding the rail networks of the midland main line, south Wales and the north of England.
Passenger numbers on the UK rail network have more than doubled since privatisation 20 years ago and our country’s railways need to adapt and change to be able to meet current and future demand. Therefore we are delivering the largest upgrade of the rail network since Victorian times, including modernising rail services and infrastructure on the Great Western main line, midland main line and in the north.
Technology is advancing quickly, and this Government are committed to using the best available technologies to improve each part of the network. New bi-mode train technology offers seamless transfer from diesel power to electric that is undetectable to passengers. The industry is also developing alternative fuel trains, using battery and hydrogen power. This means that we no longer need to electrify every line to achieve the same significant improvements to journeys, and we will only electrify lines where it delivers a genuine benefit to passengers.
These new technologies mean that we can improve journeys for passengers on the Great Western main line in south Wales, the midland main line, and on the lakes line between Windermere and Oxenholme sooner than expected with state-of-the-art trains, instead of carrying out disruptive electrification works along the whole of these routes.
The competition to find the next operator for the midland main line is under way. Our goals for the next east midlands franchise are to improve journeys for passengers, drive even stronger economic growth and support investment across the whole region. We want to hear from passengers and local communities about the next rail franchise to ensure it delivers the services that passengers want. I am therefore pleased to inform the House that my Department is today launching a public consultation on the next franchise. The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks from today, will help to inform and develop the franchise specification for inclusion in the invitation to tender. The consultation is available online and will also include a number of local stakeholder events.
The next east midlands franchise will help drive the midlands engine and improve passenger journeys by maximising the passenger benefits of the significant upgrade of the midland main line, the biggest investment in the route since it was completed in 1870. The upgrade will enable reduced journey times and more seats for long-distance passengers during the peaks, as well as more capacity for commuters with dedicated services with longer trains. Journeys will improve from 2020 and, once the full benefits are realised, there will be almost twice as many seats into London St Pancras in the peak compared to today.
The next operator will be required to deliver modern, fast and efficient trains. This includes a brand new fleet of bi-mode intercity trains from 2022, delivering more seats and comfort for long-distance passengers. The provision of these trains will replace plans to electrify the line north of Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, improving journeys sooner, without the need for wires and masts on the whole route, and causing less disruption to services. We do not intend to proceed with plans to electrify the line from Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, and there will be further investment to come to ensure Sheffield is HS2-ready.
From autumn 2017, passengers in Wales will benefit from new intercity express trains which will each deliver over 130 more seats, faster journey times and improved connectivity for south Wales to London with 40% more seats in the morning peak once the full fleet is in service.
These innovative new trains switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power, delivering faster journeys and more seats for passengers without disruptive work to put up wires and masts along routes where they are no longer required.
Rapid delivery of passenger benefits, minimising disruption and engineering work should always be our priority and as technology changes we must reconsider our approach to modernising the railways. We will only electrify lines where it provides a genuine benefit to passengers which cannot be achieved through other technologies.
As a result, we no longer need to electrify the Great Western route west of Cardiff. In addition to the new trains, Network Rail will develop further options to improve journeys for passengers in Wales. These will include, but not be limited to:
Improving journeys times and connections between Swansea and Cardiff, and south Wales, Bristol and London
Improving journeys times and connections across north Wales
Direct services from Pembroke Dock to London via Carmarthen on new, state of the art intercity express trains
Station improvements at Cardiff station
Station improvements in and around Swansea including looking at the case for additional provision
I also support a proposal for Wales’ first privately funded railway station at St Mellons. My Department will work with the promoters of the scheme as they develop their plans to the next stage.
The first new intercity express trains will enter service from this October and once the whole fleet is introduced and electrification to Cardiff is complete journey times between Swansea, London and other stations along the route will be approximately 15 minutes shorter.
We are investing in the northern powerhouse, upgrading rail services across one of the country’s largest networks to improve connections between towns and cities. Passengers in the Lake District will benefit from double the number of direct services to Manchester airport from May 2018. From 2019, there will be brand new trains with more seats and better on-board facilities including air conditioning, toilets, free wi-fi and plug sockets, subject to business case.
We have listened to concerns about electrification gantries spoiling protected landscapes. Northern, the train operator, will therefore begin work to explore the possibility of deploying alternative-fuel trains on the route by 2021, improving comfort and on-board facilities for passengers while protecting the sensitive environment of this world heritage site. This trial will pilot an alternative-fuelled train, removing the need to construct intrusive wires and masts in this national park. Journeys between Windermere and Manchester airport will be improved sooner and with less disruption to services and local communities. This replaces plans to electrify the line between Windermere and Oxenholme.
This investment is a part of the great north rail project, which will deliver more frequent trains and new direct services on the west coast main line, with faster journeys and increased frequency into and through Manchester from across the north-west. It will boost access to jobs and new opportunities, growing the northern powerhouse by improving connections between the Lake District and the Manchester airport international gateway.
Train operators and Network Rail will need to work as one to deliver these upgrades and introduce the new fleets in a way which ensures passengers experience better journeys as soon as possible.
Rail franchise schedule
The Government have also today published the updated rail franchise schedule, which includes changes to the timescales for the east midlands, cross country and west midlands rail franchises. A copy of the schedule will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-07-20/HCWS85/.