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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
23 May 2018
Volume 641

Written Statements

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Cabinet Office

Updated Single Departmental Plans

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The Government have today published an updated set of single departmental plans for 2018-19, covering the duration of the Parliament.

These set out each Government Department’s objectives and how they will achieve them. Taken together, they show how Departments are working to deliver the Government’s programme.

For the first time, the plans also include equality objectives that each Department has set itself to help it advance equality. This is just one of the steps we are taking towards improving outcomes for all citizens and making the civil service the UK’s most inclusive employer. They also indicate how Departments are contributing to the domestic delivery of the sustainable development goals.

Single departmental plans allow Parliament and the public to track the Government’s progress and performance against a number of indicators. Annual report and resources accounts show how a Department has performed against the objectives in their single departmental plan, at the end of the financial year.

Single departmental plans will be revised annually to reflect new priorities or changes in responsibilities.

[HCWS714]

Defence

Armed Forces Covenant: Northern Ireland

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I would like to thank all hon. and right hon. Members for their contributions to the Opposition day debate about the armed forces covenant in Northern Ireland on 7 March 2018. The passionate and constructive comments of Members clearly demonstrated this House’s support for our armed forces.

The covenant has always applied throughout the UK, including in Northern Ireland and there are a number of initiatives underway to ensure the armed forces community in Northern Ireland is treated fairly, supported, and not disadvantaged in accessing public and private goods and services.

The newly-formed Northern Ireland veterans support office (NI VSO)—embedded in the reserve forces and cadets association for Northern Ireland and acting on behalf of the confederation of service charities—functions as a single point of contact for veterans who feel unable to access public bodies or service charities for services.

We have allocated £300,000 over five years to improve the capacity and capability of local authorities and other service providers in Northern Ireland to apply for covenant funding.

Any UK armed forces veteran living in Northern Ireland who feels that they cannot access the support they require from public sector service providers should contact the NI VSO, either direct or via the network of local veteran’s champions. The NI VSO can provide bespoke support and advice through its partner organisations tailored to the specifics of each individual case.

[HCWS711]

Exiting the European Union

EU Exit

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Today we are publishing two documents produced by the UK negotiating team for discussion with the EU.

These cover:

Science, research and innovation

The exchange and protection of personal data

These will be available on gov.uk and a copy of both will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS712]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Saudi Arabia

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The conflict in Yemen is now in its fourth year. Houthi rebels took the capital Sana’a by force in 2014 and displaced the legitimate Government of Yemen, as recognised by the UN Security Council. Coalition action is designed to facilitate the restoration of effective governance.

The Houthis have consistently failed to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions, including by launching missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait. Saudi Arabia continues to be the subject of regular missile attacks from the Houthis in Yemen. Since November 2017, Riyadh has been targeted on at least six occasions. In addition, the Houthis continue to launch frequent rocket attacks against the southern cities of Jizan, Najran and Khamis Mushayt. The Houthis have stated their intention to continue these attacks against Saudi Arabia and to launch additional attacks against neighbouring countries, seriously endangering regional security. The UK supports the legitimate right of Saudi Arabia to respond to this critical threat. The UK has a national interest in stopping Houthi missile attacks that serve only to escalate the conflict and worsen the humanitarian situation.

The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the legitimate security needs of Saudi Arabia and guarding against the danger of regional escalation. The UK has now agreed to work with the Saudis to mitigate the threat from these missiles. This will involve UK personnel providing information, advice and assistance limited to this particular objective. To be clear, the UK is not a member of the Saudi-led coalition. We do not have any role in setting coalition policy, or in executing air strikes. All UK military personnel in Saudi Arabia remain under UK command and control.

The UK’s partnership with Saudi Arabia also demands that we provide them with honest advice. We regularly remind the Saudi Government, and other members of the military coalition, of the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law. I did so most recently with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on 17 May. The UK Government take their arms export responsibilities very seriously and operate one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application. The criteria state that the Government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in a commission of a serious violation of IHL.

This war has gone on for too long. The UK continues to lead diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict. We are committed to supporting the work of the UN special envoy for Yemen. We have been clear that there can be no military solution. We continue to encourage all parties to return to negotiations and engage in the UN-led political process in good faith, to work towards a political settlement.

Meanwhile, the people of Yemen continue to suffer. As well as pressing hard for a comprehensive political solution, we are addressing the humanitarian crisis. This is a key priority for the UK. On 3 April, we pledged an additional £170 million to Yemen to cover the financial year 2018-19. This makes the UK the fourth largest humanitarian donor to Yemen. UK funding will meet the immediate food needs of 2.5 million Yemenis, and comes on top of over £400 million in bilateral support since the conflict began in 2015.

Yemen is a priority for the Government. The solution remains political, not military. As the UN special envoy said to the Security Council on 17 April, there is a risk that military escalation by all sides may undermine the prospects for peace. The legitimate national security interests of Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries must be preserved. At the same time there is a need for all sides to get behind the UN special envoy’s plans for stopping the conflict and reaching a comprehensive political settlement. This is the best way to protect the people of Yemen and address their needs. We intend that our additional support to Saudi Arabia will help to provide enough reassurance regarding their national security to enable them to focus their efforts on supporting a political solution.

[HCWS716]

Health and Social Care

Fit and Proper Persons Requirement

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On 8 February 2018, the Government accepted the recommendations made by Dr Bill Kirkup in his report into Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust. This included a recommendation to the Department of Health and Social Care to undertake a review of the fit and proper persons requirement (FPPR). The current scope of the FPPR is to ensure that people who have senior level responsibility for the quality and safety of care are fit and proper to carry out their role. The FPPR was introduced in response to concerns raised following investigations into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and Winterbourne View Hospital.

Today, I can announce the arrangements for the review, which will be led by Tom Kark QC. The review will commence shortly, with a document review to begin in June and July 2018 and principal evidence gathering to be undertaken in August and September 2018. Tom Kark QC led the team of counsel to the public inquiry into the serious failings in care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust from 2010 to 2013.

The review will consider the scope, operation and purpose of the fit and proper person test as a means of specifically preventing the re-deployment or re-employment of senior NHS managers where their conduct has fallen short of the values of the NHS. It will engage and discuss these issues with a range of interested parties, including, but not limited to, the Care Quality Commission, NHS Improvement, NHS England, relevant parliamentarians, and patients and relatives. I have discussed the terms of the review with the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper).

NHS Improvement (NHSI) has led on the health and care system’s wider response to the recommendations made in the Kirkup review. The NHSI board paper published on 22 March sets out NHSI’s response to the recommendations in the Kirkup review, and a further update on progress against these agreed actions will be discussed at NHSI’s next board meeting on 24 May.

The Kark review will aim to report its conclusions and recommendations by autumn this year. The report will be published and I will make arrangements for its presentation to Parliament. A copy of the draft terms of reference, which will be finalised with input from Tom Kark QC, is available as an online attachment.

Attachments can be found online at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-05-23/HCWS713/

[HCWS713]

International Development

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Ebola

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Following the declaration of an outbreak of Ebola in Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 8 May, I am updating the House on what the British Government are doing to support the response.

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the World Health Organisation are leading the response. They have issued a joint funding appeal and response plan. The UK has acted quickly in support of the Government and the WHO.

I have announced today that the Department for International Development (DFID) will be providing £5 million in funding to the World Health Organisation’s response plan. This money will be made available immediately and will support the delivery of a range of WHO activities, including: surveillance, case management, laboratories, co-ordination, logistics, and operational readiness in neighbouring areas.

In addition to direct support to the joint Government of DRC and WHO appeal, the UK has already supported a variety of elements of the response to the outbreak. The UK has been instrumental in ensuring that lessons have been learned from previous Ebola outbreaks. For example from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we have learned the importance of acting early and making sure sufficient resources are allocated from the outset. We have invested heavily in global preparedness, early response mechanisms, and vaccines.

In 2014, DFID worked with the Wellcome Trust to develop an experimental Ebola vaccine: thousands of doses of this vaccine are currently being issued by WHO, Médecins Sans Frontiéres and the Government of DRC through support from UK aid and Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance. Health workers and other frontline staff began receiving the vaccine on 21 May.

Three experts from the Department of Health and Social Care’s UK Public Health Rapid Support Team—two epidemiologists and a data scientist—are being deployed to the DRC imminently to assist our partners in tracking the spread of the disease so that it can be tackled quickly and effectively. Laboratory support has also been offered.

The UK is also a major supporter to a wide range of organisations and response mechanisms which are currently tackling the outbreak. The UK is the largest contributor to the United Nations’ central fund for emergencies and the second largest contributor to the World Health Organisation’s contingency fund for emergencies, including £4 million from the Department of Health and Social Care in March this year. Each of these have provided $2 million for the response. DFID has also made available £1 million from its joint research initiative on epidemic preparedness with Wellcome, alongside a further £2 million available from Wellcome to support improved diagnosis and treatment. The UK aid-supported Start Network of 42 international aid agencies has mobilised £250,000 to help tackle the outbreak. The UK also provides funding to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, which has mobilised two helicopters and an aeroplane to meet the logistical needs of the Ebola response.

In addition to the emergency Ebola response, DFID’s new £40 million Tackling Deadly Diseases in Africa programme (TDDAP) is enhancing longer-term preparedness, detection, and response in the region. £20.5 million will enable WHO to do this. It builds on the UK’s support to WHO’s reform efforts and systems strengthening following the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This is already delivering a much-improved and better co-ordinated response to the current Ebola outbreak in DRC, helping to prevent it from developing into an epidemic that could seriously threaten more lives and prosperity across Africa and the world. In the future, the programme will also support another specialist regional organisation; this component is currently out to tender. TDDAP also contains a contingency mechanism of up to an additional £20 million, which allows the UK to swiftly respond to emergencies like in the DRC.

The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met on Friday 18 May and concluded that the Ebola outbreak in the DRC did not presently constitute a global health emergency. However, the committee concluded that the risk to the public in the DRC itself was “very high” and the risk to countries in the region was high.

In our increasingly interconnected world, diseases like Ebola do not respect borders. As a result of lessons learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the UK is working to strengthen the international response to health threats in order to ensure future outbreaks are identified quickly and tackled effectively This has included supporting the WHO in Africa to reform and improve their response. Helping countries to identify diseases early—and to limit their spread across borders—is beneficial for all of us: preventing potentially devastating damage in developing countries, and reducing risk to the UK population at home.

The WHO continues to assess the international risk of this outbreak as low. Public Health England has assessed the risk to the UK as negligible to very low and will continue to review this. Led by the Government Chief Scientist, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Chief Medical Officer, with support from the Cabinet Office, colleagues across Government have ensured that the UK is in a state of readiness to respond should that risk change. The Government will continue to monitor the situation closely and will adapt their international and, if necessary, a UK domestic response as the situation evolves.

[HCWS710]

Justice

Courts Update

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Today we have introduced the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill in the House of Lords.

New legislation underpins our agenda to modernise the courts and tribunals, make them fit for the 21st century and deliver better value for taxpayers. We are working alongside the judiciary to deliver these far-reaching reforms, which will make access to justice quicker and easier for all. The Bill will support and enable these vital reforms to the justice system.

We are delivering significant reform in advance of legislation. For example, we have delivered high-quality, new digital services through a number of pilots: the public can now apply for uncontested divorce online, apply for probate online, make pleas online for low level offences (such as traffic offences or evading bus fare), respond to jury summonses, track social security appeals online, and issue and respond to civil money claims. Over 6,000 people have used these pilots and got straightforward, digital access to the courts for the first time.

Today’s Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill contains measures that are essential to enabling the judiciary to respond to the changing demands of a reformed courts and tribunals system and delivering better services to users. Our world-class judiciary are a highly valuable resource and we want to enable them to continue to deploy their time and expertise where and when it is most needed. The Bill will introduce much greater flexibility to the deployment of judges. It will also free up judges’ time to focus on more complex matters by allowing suitably qualified and experienced court and tribunal staff to be authorised to handle uncontroversial, straightforward matters under judicial supervision. The measures in the Bill will also increase the efficiency of the courts and tribunals.

Further court reform legislation will follow, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

I am placing the delegated powers memorandum and the accompanying impact assessments in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS715]

Transport

High Speed 2 Ltd: Framework Document

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I have today laid before Parliament a revised framework document for High Speed 2 Ltd (HS2 Ltd).

HS2 Ltd is a corporate body established on 14 January 2009 to develop, promote and deliver the UK’s new high-speed rail network.

The document deals with matters relating to the Secretary of State’s role as shareholder of the company, its relationship with the Department and respective accountabilities and governance.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-05-23/HCWS709/.

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