Monday 5 March 2018
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
Agriculture and Fisheries Council took place in Brussels on 19 February. Counsellor Rory O’Donnell represented the UK.
The most substantive Council discussion was an exchange of views on “the future of food and farming”, a continuation of early discussion of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post 2020. Member states agreed on the importance of direct payments in providing income stability to farmers. The UK signposted a future domestic agriculture policy based on rewarding farmers for public goods.
The Council moved on to a discussion of possible revisions to the EU bioeconomy strategy. Member states were in agreement that the agricultural sector would benefit from a greater role in the bioeconomy, particularly in exploring new methods of adding value in agricultural supply chains.
The European Commission provided Council with information on an EU protein plan. The UK welcomed the plan, and particularly planned actions to tackle deforestation.
Three further items were discussed under “any other business”:
the European Commission presented information to Council on the rural Africa task force
the Polish delegation presented a paper to Council on rural development in the CAP post 2020
the Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad member states presented a joint declaration to the Council on “the future of food and farming”.
Until the UK leaves the European Union, the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of our negotiations with the EU on the future partnership will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future.
Independent Monitor Annual Report 2016
The 2016 annual report from the Independent Monitor is being published today on www.gov.uk. A copy of the report will also be placed in the House Library.
Licensing Hours: Royal Wedding
The Government have consulted on a proposal to make a Licensing Hours Extension Order under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 to relax licensing hours nationally to celebrate the wedding of HRH Prince Henry and Ms Meghan Markle on 19 May 2018. Following this consultation, the Government have decided to extend licensing hours on the nights of Friday 18 and Saturday 19 May until 1 am the following mornings to mark this occasion of national celebration.
The order will apply to the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and the provision of late-night refreshment in premises already licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises in England and Wales.
The Government response to the consultation and an accompanying impact assessment were published yesterday on the Home Office website, available at:
Copies will also be placed in the House Library.
Safeguarding Children and Protection
The Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) and I have today published the Government’s response to the consultation exercise on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect.
The consultation, which ran from 21 July 2016 to 13 October 2016, sought views on key issues relating to the child protection system and on the possible introduction of one of two new statutory measures, namely:
a mandatory reporting duty, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to report child abuse or neglect if they knew, or had reasonable cause to suspect, it was taking place; or
a duty to act, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to take appropriate action in relation to child abuse or neglect if they knew, or had reasonable cause to suspect, it was taking place.
All children have the right to be safe from harm. Keeping children safe is the responsibility of everyone who comes into contact with children and families, and we all have a role to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect.
The legal duties the Government consulted on would involve a particular focus on practitioners: across children’s social care, the police, health, education, and other sectors. The vast majority of such practitioners are committed to doing all they can to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, through recognising children’s needs early and taking action so that children receive the right support at the right time.
We are absolutely clear that practitioners should make an immediate referral to local authority children’s social care if they believe that a child has suffered harm or is likely to do so, as set out in statutory guidance already. We know, however, that despite the best efforts of practitioners working with children and families, some abuse and neglect continues to go undetected by statutory agencies. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including failures to report or share information properly, and failure to perceive abuse or understand the nature and level of the risk of harm faced by children.
In circumstances where professionals fail to identify or fail to report the signs of abuse and neglect, the consequences can be catastrophic. However, triennial analysis of serious case reviews demonstrates that in most cases the significant harm or death of children occurs despite their being known to children’s social care. So the issues are complex and challenging and introducing a new statutory duty is not a simple, straightforward solution, as some argue.
We received 768 responses to the consultation exercise, from a wide range of interests including practitioners and others in the education, health, social care and local government sectors, children’s charities, survivors’ groups, the police and members of the public. We have considered all the responses and relevant issues carefully.
The majority of respondents (63%) were in favour of allowing the Government’s existing programme of reforms time to be implemented before considering additional statutory measures. Only a quarter (25%) of respondents favoured introducing a duty to act, with less than half of that number (12%) favouring the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty.
Given the consultation outcome and after careful consideration, we have concluded that the case for the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty or a duty to act has not been made, and would not, against the landscape of our current arrangements, deliver better protection for children. Therefore, neither of these proposals will be taken forward at this time. We will implement the reforms set out in the Government’s response and evaluate whether this is having the intended impact once these are embedded, in addition to continuing to assess any new or different evidence supporting the need for further changes.
We remain committed to examining all options to improve further the children’s social care system and tackle abuse in all its forms. In addition to our already wide-ranging programme of reforms, we will therefore focus on taking steps to address the key issues raised by respondents to the consultation. This action includes:
improving multi-agency working, in particular through strengthening information sharing for safeguarding purposes, including better local arrangements;
publishing our revised “Working Together to Safeguard Children” statutory guidance and launching a further phase of the communications campaign, “Together, we can tackle child abuse” ahead of its publication;
looking at the current legislative framework to assess whether it is able to deal appropriately with concerns about concealment of child abuse and neglect; and
continuing our work to improve the training, accreditation and regulation of practitioners, so that they can better safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
To repeat, every child deserves to and must be protected from abuse and neglect. We are determined to do all that we can to strengthen our child protection system in ways which we expect will bring real benefits to children.
Copies of the Government’s response have been placed in the House Library and are available on the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reporting-and-acting-on-child-abuse-and-neglect.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
The Government have made it clear that we need to get our country building. At Budget 2017 we set out reforms to enable us to achieve 300,000 homes built each year by the middle of the next decade. The Housing White Paper, published in February last year, set out our plans. In September, we launched the planning for the right homes in the right places consultation, which introduced a standardised formula for calculating local housing need.
Today we are publishing our response and launching the next step; consultations on the revised national planning policy framework and the reform of developer contributions.
This planning reform package, which includes the revised draft national planning policy framework (NPPF) and reforms to developer contributions, are fundamental to delivering the homes we need and set out a comprehensive approach to ensure that we get the right homes built in the right places of the right quality.
The policy proposals only relate to England. The consultation will run from 5 March until 10 May 2018.
Copies of the consultation document will be placed in the House Library and are available on the Government’s website here:
An oral statement will be delivered to both Houses later today.