Thursday 7 December 2017
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
I would like to make the following statement:
Nuclear power generation
New nuclear power stations have an important role to play. As confirmed in the Industrial Strategy, nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future. The Government’s framework to bring forward new nuclear power stations was established in the 2008 White Paper on Nuclear Power, as was the principle the Government should take active steps to help facilitate the construction of new nuclear.
The overarching National Policy Statement (“NPS”) for Energy (“EN-1”) published in July 2011 made clear that nuclear power is a low-carbon, proven technology which can play an important role increasing the resilience and diversity of the UK’s energy system. The assessment of the need for new electricity generation carried out to support EN-1 remains valuable and continues to be relevant.
My Department’s annual updated energy and emissions projections state that by 2035 overall demand for electricity is expected to have increased. Therefore, with a number of the existing coal and nuclear fleet due to close by 2030, new nuclear power generation remains key to meeting our 2050 obligations. This is in line with the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy. The Government have noted previously that there are technical and commercial barriers to deploying other technologies to produce the same annual generation as that of nuclear power. The need for the UK to continue to transition to a low-carbon electricity market is underlined by the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) Paris Agreement. The Government believe that it is important that there is a strong pipeline of new nuclear power to contribute to the UK’s future energy system.
The Government have today published a consultation on the process and criteria for designating potentially suitable sites in a National Policy Statement for nuclear power between 2026 and 2035. This begins the process towards designating a new National Policy Statement (“the new NPS”) applicable to nuclear plants expected to be deployed after 2025 and capable of deployment by the end of 2035 and with over 1GW of single-reactor electricity generating capacity.
Nuclear National Policy Statements
Applicability of EN-6
The Government consider that the current nuclear NPS, EN-6, only “has effect” for the purposes of section 104 of the Planning Act 2008 (“the Act”) for development which forms parts of a project able to demonstrate expected deployment by the end of 2025. Applications for a Development Consent Order under the Act will be considered in the first instance by an examining authority appointed by the Secretary of State to consider any specific project proposals. For the purpose of the applicability of EN-6, Government considers “deployment” to mean the point when a generating station first begins to feed the electricity it generates into the national grid, noting this will likely be at a point before full commercial operation.
For projects yet to apply for development consent and due to deploy beyond 2025, the Government continues to give its strong in principle support to project proposals at those sites currently listed in EN-6. Even if EN-6 is considered not to have effect under section 104 of the Act for such a project, section 105 of the Act would apply to the decision on whether or not to grant development consent for the project.
The Government are confident that both EN-1 and EN-6 incorporate information, assessments and statements which will continue to be important and relevant for projects which will deploy after 2025, including statements concerning the need for nuclear power—as well as environmental and other assessments that continue to be relevant for those projects. As such, in deciding whether or not to grant development consent to such a project, the Secretary of State would be required, under section 105(2)(c) of the Act, to have regard to the content of EN-1 and EN-6, unless they have been suspended or revoked. In respect of matters where there is no relevant change of circumstances it is likely that significant weight would be given to the policy in EN-1 and EN-6.
Applicability of the new NPS
The new NPS, once designated, will “have effect” for the purposes of section 104 of the Act for development which forms parts of a project able to demonstrate expected deployment after 2025 and before the end of 2035.
The Government also consider that a published new NPS in draft form would be considered as relevant to a decision on whether or not to grant development consent under section 105 of the Act.
Today we have announced our next steps for the development of advanced nuclear technologies in the UK. The advanced nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the UK’s industrial strategy building on our existing economic strengths and competitive advantages in nuclear while shaping new advanced nuclear markets and contributing to tackling the clean growth grand challenge. To help deliver this, the Government will provide up to £56 million for advanced nuclear technologies over the next three years.
The Government launched the first phase of the small modular reactor (SMR) competition in March 2016 as an evidence-gathering phase with the goal of gauging market interest among technology developers, utilities, and potential investors. That exercise is now closed.
My Department received expressions of interest from 33 eligible participants. Officials have worked with these participants to understand the technological and commercial viability of new reactors in development. As an information gathering process, phase one did not involve down-selection. All eligible participants were given the opportunity to engage with the Government to inform policy development.
This exercise provided valuable insight into the advanced nuclear technologies market. We are grateful for the participation of all entrants.
What we have learnt
Phase one demonstrated that SMRs could potentially play an important part in a broader nuclear market. There is a large variety of potential technologies. These comprise technologies which range in scale between micro, small and medium-scale reactors and which span technology types from conventional water-cooled reactors to 4th generation reactors using novel fuels and coolants, as well as fusion reactor concepts. Given this breadth, the Government believe that “SMR”, as commonly understood, is too narrow a description for technologies coming forward after the current generation of nuclear power stations. Instead the Government consider this to be the “Advanced Nuclear” market.
Engagement with competition participants helped shape our thinking for the next steps for advanced nuclear policy. Three key requests came through. The first was that technology developers need better and earlier access to regulators in order to address regulatory requirements by design and to provide confidence to potential investors. The second was support to turn new developers’ ideas into detailed designs, bridging the investment gap between innovation and commercialisation. The third request was to create the right market conditions to enable developers to bring new reactors to market as commercially viable businesses.
Advanced nuclear technologies—next steps
The competition demonstrated that there is the potential for the UK to become a world-leader in developing the next generations of nuclear technologies. The UK’s nuclear sector is well placed to compete globally in this emerging market. The policies announced today are intended as the first steps to achieve that potential.
We are providing up to £7 million of funding to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and license small and novel reactor designs, as announced in the clean growth strategy: This funding will also provide support for pre-licensing engagement between vendors and regulators.
Over the next three years we will also provide funding to support advanced reactors through a two-stage advanced modular reactor programme. Up to £4 million in Stage 1 will support around 8 reactor vendors to carry out detailed technical and commercial feasibility studies. Subject to Stage 1 demonstrating clear value for money through a formal re-approval process with the Treasury, up to £40 million of further funding could then support 3 to 4 vendors to accelerate the development of their designs. Up to a further £5 million may also be made available to regulators to support this.
The Government will also continue to work closely with the advanced nuclear industry stakeholders to foster the market conditions needed to enable developers to bring privately financed small and novel reactors to market. A crucial element of this is demonstrating commercial viability—in particular, the ability of new designs and delivery mechanisms to attract investment and generate cost-competitive electricity.
Therefore the Government are setting up an expert finance group to advise how small and advanced reactor projects could raise investment in the UK. By bringing together nuclear and financial sector expertise we anticipate that this group will help demonstrate the commercial proposition of small reactors in the emerging nuclear market. The group will be asked to report in the spring.
Subject to further evidence on the commercial viability of advanced nuclear technologies, we will continue to look closely at other market failures which inhibit new reactors competing in our diverse energy markets.
I wish to inform the House that an error has been identified in the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) in Defence oral questions on 27 November 2017, Official Report, column 21, on the subject of funding defence nuclear capabilities.
To clarify, the UK’s nuclear deterrent has always been funded from the Defence budget.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Pre-Council Statement
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on December 11-12 in Brussels.
As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries will be reaching a political agreement on Atlantic and North Sea total allowable catches and quotas for 2018.
The primary focus for agriculture will be a presentation from the European Commission on “The Future of Food and Farming”.
There are currently five items scheduled under “any other business”:
stakeholder conference on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and its future: “Beyond 2020: Supporting Europe’s coastal states communities”
implementation of the landing obligation, choke species risk in January 2019
outcome of the conference on “Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture: Paving the way for responsible innovation”
outcome of the high-level conference on African swine fever (ASF) (Prague, 8-9 November 2017)
tackling unfair trading practices with an aim to achieve a more balanced food supply chain and strengthen the farmer’s position.
On 23 June 2016, the EU referendum took place and the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. During this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council (Foreign and Defence Ministers)
I will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (Foreign and Development Ministers) on 11 December. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative (HRVP) of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The meeting will be held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
The agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) is expected to include Iraq, the middle east; as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo under any other business. There will be a lunch focused on the G5 Sahel joint force and a joint FAC and FAC (development) session on the recent European Union-African Union (AU-EU) summit. There will be a short FAC (development) in the afternoon.
The HRVP is expected to open the meeting with introductory remarks on the Eastern Partnership summit, permanent structured co-operation (PESCO), Libya, Zimbabwe and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Ministers will discuss the situation in Iraq, including winning the peace post-Daesh and managing recent tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdish region. The EEAS will provide an update on the EU Iraq strategy that is due to be released in January. We will underline the need to continue de-escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, ensuring that all parties focus on the fight against Daesh, preventing its re-emergence and working together to build a more stable, prosperous and inclusive future for all of Iraq’s people, including Iraqi Kurds.
Ministers will discuss developments in the middle east. We continue to be concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen and continued restrictions on commercial and humanitarian supplies entering Yemen while understanding Saudi Arabia’s legitimate security concerns. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both engaged on this pressing matter. We are also concerned by the recent developments in Yemen which underline the need for a comprehensive political solution. We will encourage European partners to work with us to find solutions.
G5 Sahel joint force
Ministers will meet representatives of countries which have stood up the G5 Sahel joint force—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Ministers will discuss the outcomes of the EU-AU summit and follow-up to the conclusions the summit adopted on 30 November. The UK will note the opportunity that Zimbabwe has to embrace a free and democratic future. We have shared, with EU and Five Eyes partners, our expectations for the new Government in order for the international community to re-engage and provide support: free and fair elections, economic and political reform, commitment to human rights and a clear message that Zimbabwe is open to international trade and investment.
Development Ministers will discuss next steps on aid for trade following the publication of the European Commission’s communication on “Achieving Prosperity through Trade and Investment: Updating the 2007 Joint EU Strategy on Aid for Trade”. This discussion will focus on how EU co-operation can help developing economies take better advantage of trade opportunities as a means to finance their own way out of poverty.
The FAC is also expected to adopt conclusions on Thailand and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It hopes to adopt the Council decision launching PESCO and identify initial PESCO projects.
Ian Paterson, a consultant breast surgeon who was employed by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), and had practising privileges in the independent sector at Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston, was found guilty in April this year of 17 counts of wounding with intent. He was sentenced to jail for 20 years.
The Government are appalled by the actions of Ian Paterson and the harm that has affected a significant number of patients. The disclosures about the seriousness and extent of his malpractice are deeply and profoundly shocking.
The Government committed to ensuring lessons were learnt in the interest of patient protection and safety, both in the independent sector and the NHS.
Today, I am announcing the establishment of an independent, non-statutory inquiry into the circumstances and practices surrounding Ian Paterson that have affected so many patients. I have asked the Right Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich to chair the inquiry.
The inquiry should be informed by the victims of Paterson and families’ concerns, and seek to learn from their experience. Therefore, the inquiry will look at the local care and treatment for private patients in the Solihull area, and review current and past practices to establish if safeguards for patients treated at independent healthcare providers have fallen short of the standards the public have a right to expect. This will help to inform the broader lessons applicable to care provided by the independent healthcare sector across the country.
The inquiry is likely to consider issues including, but not limited to:
the responsibility for the quality of care in the independent sector; appraisal, revalidation and multi-disciplinary working in the independent sector;
information sharing, reporting of activity and raising concerns between the independent sector and the NHS;
and the role of insurers of independent sector providers (including sharing of data), and arrangements for medical indemnity cover for clinicians in the independent sector.
The inquiry will also draw on issues raised in previous relevant reports about Paterson.
It is not intended to revisit the evidence that we already have about Paterson and that led to his conviction.
The terms of reference and other arrangements relating to the inquiry will be published in due course after a period of engagement.
The inquiry will be formally established from January 2018 and will report in summer 2019.
I am confident that Bishop Graham will oversee a thorough and independent non-statutory inquiry and deliver his recommendations swiftly.
Changes in Immigration Rules
The Secretary of State for the Home Department is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules, copies of which will be available in the Vote Office.
The offer the UK makes to highly skilled international leaders in science, research digital technology and the arts is being enhanced by doubling the number of tier 1 (exceptional talent) places to 2,000 visas per year.
As announced in the autumn Budget, and to support our ambitions on innovation and research and development, the changes also include provisions to enable internationally recognised global leaders in science, as well as those in digital technology, and the arts and creative sectors, endorsed under the tier 1 (exceptional talent) route, to apply for settlement after three years, amend tier 2 rules to allow for faster switching for tier 4 students below PhD level, while also making it easier to employ international researchers and members of established research teams by relaxing the labour market test under tier 2. The changes also provide for additional flexibility within our settlement rules to enable scientists and researchers who are called to assist with humanitarian and environmental crises to be absent from the UK for more than 180 days, if required.
The changes make other amendments to the settlement rules for work routes, for consistency. These relate to the 180-day absence provision, breaks in employment, time spent in the Crown dependencies, and the calculation of the qualifying period.
The rules for entrepreneurs are being simplified following customer feedback, to make them clearer and easier to follow (the requirements themselves are largely unchanged).
We continue to improve and modernise the UK’s border and immigration system, which will now include moves toward further digitisation. These changes are required to facilitate the planned move toward introducing immigration permissions issued in electronic form. This will also allow trials to be undertaken that will test the operation of any new system. The rules are also being changed to permit holders of standard visit visas to transit the UK rather than having to get a different type of visa. This builds on the work, begun in April 2015, to simplify the immigration rules for visitors.
National Transfer Scheme
The Government remain committed to helping and supporting children in need of international protection. In the year ending September 2017, the UK granted asylum or another form of leave to almost 9,000 children and nearly 49,000 children since 2010. Last month, we published a safeguarding strategy which sets out our vision and commitment to caring for and supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. We look forward to working with partners to implement the actions in that strategy.
We have seen a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK in recent years and this has placed pressure on a small number of local authorities; particularly those such as Kent and Croydon. On 1 July 2016, the Government launched the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The NTS is a voluntary scheme that supports local authorities to transfer responsibility for unaccompanied children who are already in the UK to another local authority. The scheme seeks to achieve a fairer allocation of caring responsibilities across the country so that all children get the care and support they need.
The NTS has made significant progress. As at 1 October 2017, the scheme had transferred 555 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to other local authorities. The Government are very grateful for the way that participating local authorities have volunteered to care for unaccompanied children through the NTS. However, it is clear that there is more to do to ensure that no local authority is asked to look after more children than its local services can cope with and that the children receive the right level of care. There are approximately 4,500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children in local authority care in England and a small number of local authorities continue to look after a disproportionately high number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
The NTS is underpinned by provisions in the Immigration Act 2016. However, these provisions currently only apply to English local authorities, which makes it difficult for the other nations of the UK to participate.
I am pleased to be able to announce that the Government are introducing secondary legislation to extend the NTS to the whole of the United Kingdom. The statutory instrument provides a legislative base for transfer arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will allow the relevant authorities in each nation of the UK to participate in the NTS and ensure it is a truly national scheme. The NTS is voluntary and participation will remain a decision for each respective authority. We are committed to working closely with relevant authorities and partners to ensure the NTS takes account of the unique circumstances in each nation of the UK. However, we hope that by introducing this statutory instrument, we will encourage more local authorities to step forward and volunteer to support these children.
Tailored Review of ICAI
I am today publishing a mandated review of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), in accordance with my responsibility as the Minister accountable to Parliament for it. In line with standard Cabinet Office guidance the review examined the case for ICAI to exist and assessed its efficiency and governance arrangements.
In recognition of ICAI’s role as a scrutiny body, an independent challenge panel was appointed to ensure the objectivity and impartiality of the review process, and included members of the National Audit Office and Institute for Government. The Cabinet Office was satisfied that the review demonstrated an appropriate level of independence. The review acknowledges the importance of ICAI’s independence and its recommendations have been formulated to ensure this is preserved. The review gathered evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, drawn from Parliament, Government, the wider development sector and ICAI itself.
The review concluded that ICAI is necessary and that it should continue to be delivered by ICAI in its current form as a non-departmental public body with advisory functions. ICAI’s functions are of particular importance given the statutory obligation for independent evaluation of the impact and value for money of aid arising from the 2015 International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act.
The review found that ICAI’s work has contributed to increasing the impact and value for money of UK aid, and that ICAI is appreciated across the development sector for its scrutiny of aid impact. The review made a number of recommendations for further improving ICAI’s effectiveness, including by developing improved measures of its own performance and by adopting a more consultative approach to developing recommendations that will increase their value.
Though the review found that ICAI should continue in its current form, it recommended changes to its delivery model to improve both its efficiency and effectiveness, including making its Chief Commissioner full-time. The review also assessed ICAI’s governance arrangements and found them to be largely in-line with best practice for public bodies.
I am grateful to all those who contributed to the review, which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available online at: