Thursday 14 September 2017
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
As part of preparations for EU exit, the UK is establishing a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to ensure that the UK continues to maintain its position as a responsible nuclear state and that withdrawal from Euratom will not result in the weakening of our future safeguards standards and oversight in the UK.
This Government believe that it is vitally important that the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime, to be run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, is as comprehensive and robust as that currently provided by Euratom. The Government have therefore decided that it will be establishing a domestic regime which will deliver to existing Euratom standards and exceeds the standard that the international community would require from the UK as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). International oversight will be a key part of the future regime. The UK is seeking to conclude new agreements with the IAEA that follow the same principles as our current ones. This will ensure that the IAEA retains its right to inspect all civil nuclear facilities, and continue to receive all current safeguards reporting, ensuring that international verification of our safeguards activity continues to be robust.
Discussions with the European Union are on-going. We will be exploring a number of options for smooth transition from the current Euratom regime to a domestic one. The unique and important nature of the civil nuclear sector means that there is strong mutual interest in ensuring that the UK and Euratom community continue to work closely together in the future. The UK’s ambition is to maintain a close and effective relationship with the Euratom community and the rest of the world that harnesses the UK’s and the Euratom community’s expertise and maximises shared interests. By maintaining our current safeguards and standards we are providing the best possible basis for continued close co-operation with Euratom in the future.
Whatever the outcome of those discussions, the Government are committed to a future regime that provides at least the existing levels of assurance. The legislation to provide for this was announced in the Queen’s Speech and will be brought forward in due course. This policy statement provides important context both for parliamentary consideration of that Bill, and for the forthcoming talks with the European Union, which take place in the last week of September.
During the Westminster Hall debate on 12 April 2016, the Minister for Civil Society should have said that the potential cost of introducing a National Defence Medal had been estimated as £475 million by the Ministry of Defence, not by the Independent Military Medals Review. The incorrect attribution was repeated in a written parliamentary answer by the then Minister for the Cabinet Office on 25 April 2016.
An exchange of letters was signed with Bermuda in London on 19 June 2017 and in Hamilton on 27 June 2017. The text replaces the original exchange of letters signed in London on 4 December 2007.
A first time double taxation agreement with Kyrgyzstan was signed on 13 June 2017. The texts of the exchange of letters and the double taxation agreement have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on the HM Revenue and Customs pages of the gov.uk website. The texts will be scheduled to draft Orders in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.
Communities and Local Government
Business Rate Reliefs
At the spring Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a £435 million package of support for ratepayers over the next four years following the 2017 business rate revaluation. Overall, the revaluation was revenue neutral with the majority of businesses seeing a fall in their rates.
The package of support announced at the Budget comprised three schemes: one that caps the annual bill increase for any ratepayer losing small business rate relief or rural rate relief as a result of the revaluation to £600; a second that provides a £300 million fund for local authorities to distribute over four years to help hard-pressed businesses facing higher rates bills; and a third that gives a £1,000 discount to all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000. On top of this, from April 2017, the Government permanently doubled the rate of small business rate relief and increased the threshold for eligibility, meaning that 600,000 small businesses now pay no business rates at all.
All of these schemes are being delivered by local government and I am pleased to confirm that some local authorities have made significant progress towards implementation. The London Borough of Westminster has already rebilled eligible businesses under the pubs and supporting small business schemes. The consultation on Westminster’s discretionary scheme which will provide over £11 million in the first year alone has now closed. Formal approval to the scheme is due this week, with applications invited from this Friday.
Furthermore, some authorities have awarded relief to eligible ratepayers on all three schemes. For example, Leeds City Council has provided over £1.5 million in relief to over 3,600 ratepayers, including 50% discounts on bill increases to 3,300 small and medium sized ratepayers under their discretionary scheme. Some smaller authorities have also made excellent progress. For example South Norfolk and Rutland Councils have implemented all three schemes. Rutland County Council has provided almost £250,000 in relief to over 100 ratepayers to offset average rateable value increases of 13.5%, and is awarding a discount of 26% to eligible businesses.
The Government have been consistently clear that we expect local authorities to make rapid progress in helping business by implementing these relief schemes. Overall, however, despite various examples of good practice, the pace of providing relief to ratepayers has not been acceptable. I have written today to those authorities that have not fully implemented all three schemes asking them to rebill businesses that are set to benefit from relief as soon as possible. From Tuesday 3 October, I will publish a list of those authorities that have notified us that they have rebilled for each of the three relief schemes.
Primary Assessment: England
Primary education is fundamentally important to ensuring that every child receives the best possible start in life. As I set out in my statement to Parliament in March this year, the primary assessment and accountability system has a crucial role to play in ensuring that every child, no matter what their background or where they go to school, benefits from a high-quality primary education.
Last October, I set out my intention to establish a settled, trusted primary assessment system. To help us move towards this, we published earlier this year parallel consultation documents on the long-term future of primary assessment and on future assessment arrangements for children, working below the standard of the national curriculum tests. These consultations considered a number of the key issues facing the primary assessment and accountability system, including how the assessment system can help teachers to prepare pupils to succeed at school, the starting point from which to measure the progress that schools help children make in primary school, and how end of key stage teacher assessments could be improved. The consultations closed in June and I am grateful to the many people and organisations, and particularly the headteachers and teachers, who took the time to provide thoughtful, considered responses.
Having considered the views expressed, I am today publishing the Government’s responses to both consultations, which set out how we will establish a stable and effective primary assessment system. These documents include commitments to:
improve the early years foundation stage profile by: revising the early learning goals to make them clearer and align them more closely with teaching in key stage 1; this will support us to meet our manifesto commitment to strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years. We will also strengthen the way assessment information is passed on to year 1 teachers; and review the guidance and moderation process to reduce administration burdens;
improve school-level progress measures, and give schools credit for the education that they provide to their pupils in the reception year, year 1 and year 2, by introducing a statutory assessment in reception to replace the existing key stage 1 baseline;
reduce workload and administration burdens on teachers by making end of key stage 1 assessments non-statutory in all-through primary schools, once the new reception baseline has become established, with national sampling to be introduced so that we can continue to monitor standards;
remove the statutory duty to report teacher assessment in reading and mathematics at the end of key stage 2 from the 2018 to 2019 academic year onwards which will form part of our drive to bear down on unnecessary administrative burdens, while keeping our rigorous key stage 2 national curriculum tests in these subjects, which will enable schools to uphold high standards while also reducing workload and administrative burdens on teachers;
improve the way that writing is assessed, so that teachers have more scope to use their professional judgment when assessing pupil performance;
aid children’s fluency in mathematics through the introduction of a multiplication tables check, from the summer of 2020, to be administered to pupils at the end of year 4. This will help us to deliver on our commitment that every child will know their times tables off by heart by the time that they leave primary school; and
improve the statutory assessment of pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests by extending the interim pre-key stage standards to cover all pupils engaged in subject specific learning, and by piloting the Rochford review’s recommended approach to assessing pupils who are not yet engaged in subject specific learning.
We will continue to work closely with headteachers, teachers and all those with an interest in primary education as we implement these changes, building on the dialogue started by the consultation. It is by working together that we will achieve our goal of a proportionate assessment system that supports every child to meet their full potential.
Copies of both of these Government responses will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Sino-British Joint Declaration
The latest six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today, and can be found as an online attachment. It covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2017.
The report has been placed in the Library of the House. A copy is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office.
I commend the report to the House.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament. uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-09-14/HCWS131/
EU-Canada comprehensive and economic trade agreement (CETA)—provisional application
The Government wish to inform the House that on 21 September 2017, the comprehensive and economic trade agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada will be provisionally applied. The date of provisional application was confirmed by the European Commission to EU member states in the last meeting of the Trade Policy Committee.
The UK has always been a strong supporter of CETA and remains a constructive partner in support of EU free trade agreements.
Canada is one of the world’s most developed economies and a significant trading partner for the UK. The provisional application of CETA will benefit consumers and provide opportunities for British businesses with 98% of all Canadian tariff lines being eliminated.
This will create major opportunities for UK businesses across the whole economy and the Government are now working with our Canadian partners to ensure that UK businesses take full advantage of the provisional application of this agreement.
Judicial Conduct Investigations Office
With the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, I will today publish the 11th annual report of the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO), formerly known as the Office for Judicial Complaints.
The JCIO supports the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor in our joint statutory responsibility for judicial discipline.
The judiciary comprises approximately 26,000 individuals serving across a range of jurisdictions. Over the past year, the JCIO received 2,126 complaints against judicial office holders and 526 written enquiries. Only 42 investigations resulted in disciplinary action. The JCIO met all of its key performance indicators for processing complaints.
I have placed copies of the report in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available online at:
Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Terms of Reference
On 15 August 2017, 1 announced the formal setting up of a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, to be chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, and its terms of reference. This followed Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s letter to me of 10 August, which advised me of the outcome of the public consultation on the scope of the terms of reference, and his recommendations. I was happy to accept Sir Martin’s recommendations without amendment.
The inquiry’s full terms of reference are:
to examine the circumstances surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017, including the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;
the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;
the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;
whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;
the arrangements made by the local authority or other responsible bodies for receiving and acting upon information either obtained from local residents or available from other sources (including information derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower, and the action taken in response to such information;
the fire prevention and fire safety measures in place at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017;
the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire; and
the response of central and local government in the days immediately following the fire; and
to report its findings to the Prime Minister as soon as possible and to make recommendations.
Sir Martin has said that he is considering appointing assessors to assist him in his task. He considers it likely that he shall wish to appoint a diverse group of people whose experience extends to the occupation and management of social housing and the administration of local government more generally, as well as to matters of a more technical scientific nature. He also states that at a later stage, he may also wish to appoint others to assist on particular aspects of the investigation. He will make his decisions public in due course. I have not appointed any other members to the inquiry panel at this stage. However, the Inquiries Act 2005 allows for appointments to be made, with the consent of Sir Martin, during the course of the inquiry. This enables the composition of the inquiry panel to be kept under review.
My exchange of correspondence with Sir Martin is in the Library of the House.
Sir Martin is holding a preliminary hearing later today where he will set out further detail on how he intends on conducting the inquiry.
In addition to the work of the inquiry, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has already announced an independent review into building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt. This will urgently assess the effectiveness of current building and fire safety regulations and related compliance and enforcement issues, with a focus on multi-occupancy high-rise residential buildings. The review will co-operate fully with the inquiry. Sir Martin has set out his reasons for not looking into the broader social housing issues but, as he said in his letter, they should not be ignored and I am determined that these important questions are not left unanswered. As a first step, I have asked my hon. Friend the Housing Minister (Alok Sharma) to personally meet and hear from as many social tenants as possible, as well as other residents of social housing estates, both in the immediate area around Grenfell Tower and across the country. The Housing Minister has already met a number of representative groups and will continue to meet tenants during October and November.
National Assembly for Wales Elections 2016
The Government are today publishing their response to the Electoral Commission’s report on the administration of the 2016 elections to the National Assembly for Wales.
We are grateful to the Commission for preparing its report and for its ongoing work to support the administration of elections. We note that, following the implementation of the Wales Act 2017, powers over Assembly elections will be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Ministers. It will therefore be the responsibility of the Welsh Government to implement the Commission’s recommendations in respect of the next scheduled Assembly elections in 2021. The Government will consider the Commission’s wider recommendations in respect of polls that remain non-devolved.
Copies of the Government’s response will be placed in the Library of both Houses.