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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
24 May 2018
Volume 641

Written Statements

Thursday 24 May 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Competitiveness Council

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The Competitiveness Council will take place on 28 and 29 May in Brussels.

Day one—internal market and industry

The Council will receive a presentation from the Commission on the “competitiveness check-up” examining linkages between the internal market and industrial competitiveness from a sectoral perspective. The Council will discuss the regulation on mutual recognition (part of the “goods package”) with the presidency hoping to reach a general approach. The Council will also hold a policy debate on the regulation on platform to business relations.

Under AOB the Commission will provide information on recent initiatives in the digital single market, the copyright package, the new deal for consumers package, the company law package, supplementary protection certificates for medicinal products and the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products. The Commission will also provide information on the outcome of initiatives and conferences in the field of tourism and provide an update on the current state of play on the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court.

Day one will conclude with information from the Austrian delegation on their incoming presidency work programme.

Day two—space and research

Day two of the Competitiveness Council will start with a policy debate on the future of European space policy.

The research sessions will begin with a progress report on the regulation on establishing the European high performance computing joint undertaking. The Council will then adopt Council conclusions on accelerating knowledge circulation in the European Union and conclusions on the European open science cloud.

During the afternoon session the Council is expected to agree on the regulation on the regulation on the research and training programme of the European atomic energy community (2019-20). This will be followed by a policy debate on research and innovation within the context of the next multiannual financial framework.

Under AOB, the Commission will provide information on the outcome of the presidency event dedicated to space (held in Sofia on 17 to 19 April 2018).

Day two will conclude with information from the Austrian delegation on their incoming presidency work programme.

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Treasury

ECOFIN

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A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 25 May 2018. EU Finance Ministers will discuss the following:

Early morning session

The Eurogroup President will brief the Council on the outcomes of the 24 May meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU.

Banking package

The Council will be invited to agree a general approach to the banking risk reduction package including proposals for legislative amendments to the capital requirements regulation (CRR) and directive (CRD), single resolution mechanism regulation (SRMR), and the bank recovery and resolution directive (BRRD).

Strengthening administrative co-operation

The Council will be invited to agree a general approach to strengthen administrative co-operation in the area of VAT.

General reverse charge mechanism

The Council will be invited to agree a general approach on the VAT general reverse charge mechanism.

E-publications

The Council will be invited to agree a general approach on reduced rates for VAT e-publications.

Current financial services legislative proposals

The Bulgarian presidency will provide an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.

European semester

The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on the in-depth reviews of macroeconomic imbalances in member states as part of the macroeconomic imbalances procedure, and the implementation of 2017 country-specific recommendations as assessed in the Commission’s country reports, published on 7 March.

2018 ageing report

The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on the 2018 ageing report on age-related spending and the sustainability of public finances.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine TB

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I wish to update the House on the Government’s strategy to eradicate bovine TB (bTB) in England by 2038. The measures I am announcing today will help to strengthen disease control and expand our options to tackle new outbreaks of bTB.

Following the recent consultation on the principle of allowing badger control in the low risk area (LRA) of England, I am announcing my intention to enable badger control measures in the LRA in the rare event that disease in badgers is linked with infected herds. This will allow any such outbreaks to be tackled rapidly to prevent bTB from spreading further within the wildlife and cattle populations. It will also help preserve the LRA’s low incidence status.

Badger control in the LRA is expected to be permitted only in very exceptional circumstances where veterinary epidemiologists judge an area to meet the published criteria for a bTB “hotspot”. Any decision on whether to implement badger control in a specific LRA location will be taken by the Defra Secretary of State after considering all relevant scientific and veterinary advice. All the stringent licensing criteria set out in Defra’s guidance to Natural England will need to be met by the cull company.

In summer 2017, we consulted on a proposal to pay compensation at 50% of the average market price for any animal brought into a TB breakdown herd which then fails a TB test while that breakdown is still ongoing. This already happens in Wales and I have decided that it should apply in England from 1 November 2018. The proposal is intended to encourage herd owners to take further steps to improve their disease controls in a sensible and proportionate manner. One way they can do this is to seek accreditation under a scheme based on the standards laid down by the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) body. Herds which are accredited at the time of the breakdown will continue to receive 100% compensation for all compulsorily slaughtered cattle.

In a further strengthening of our testing regime, in December 2017 we confirmed that surveillance testing for most herds in the high-risk area will take place at six monthly intervals to improve early detection and eradication of disease, and to prevent it spreading to new areas. We have decided that this change should take effect from early 2020, when the next generation of TB testing contracts with veterinary delivery partners will be put in place.

The TB strategy review led by Professor Sir Charles Godfray, announced in February, is considering how to take the strategy to the next phase, so we are able to deploy all tools to tackle this terrible disease. Currently in their evidence-gathering phase, the reviewers are examining progress with implementation and how we can improve, enhance or accelerate our approach.

Copies of the summary of consultation responses and way forward document have been placed in the Library of the House.

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Exiting the European Union

EU Exit

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

These cover:

External security

Internal security

Galileo

Economic partnership

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

Tomorrow we will be publishing a document on the exchange of classified information, which was produced by the UK negotiating team for discussion with the EU. This will be available on gov.uk and a copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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General Affairs Council

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Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting in Brussels on Monday 14 May 2018. The agenda covered the multiannual financial framework (MFF) post-2020, the annotated draft agenda for the European Council on 28 and 29 June 2018, and rule of law in Poland/article 7(1) treaty on European Union (TEU) reasoned proposal.

A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2018/05/14/

Multiannual financial framework (MFF) post-2020

Gunther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, presented the Commission’s proposal for a post-2020 MFF. He set out the political context and the need for funding for new priorities, such as migration and defence. I expressed the UK’s interest in participating in programmes promoting science, education and mutual security.

Annotated draft agenda for the European Council on 28 and 29 June 2018

The presidency presented the annotated draft agenda for June European Council (JEC), which included: migration; security and defence; jobs, growth and competitiveness; innovation and digital; and external relations. Trade and enlargement may also be added to the agenda.

I intervened on the security and defence item to highlight the importance of maintaining momentum in facing challenges like terrorism and organised crime. I also welcomed discussion on a continued response to the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. On trade, I expressed that the UK remained concerned over US proposals to introduce tariffs for aluminium and steel imports and continued to press for an EU-wide exemption. I also stated that the UK would welcome discussion of this issue at JEC.

Rule of law in Poland/article 7(1) TEU reasoned proposal

Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans updated Ministers on the ongoing dialogue between the Commission and Poland. He concluded that Poland’s recent reforms were insufficient to remove the risk of a threat to the rule of law and that more progress was needed. Ministers highlighted the need for continuation of dialogue and further reforms by Poland. The Commission indicated its intention to continue dialogue with Poland and provide a final opinion on the matter at the June GAC.

I intervened to highlight the importance of the rule of law, welcomed the progress so far, and emphasised that the best solution was one reached through constructive dialogue.

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European Union Citizenship

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Her Majesty’s Government welcomed the sincere and well-informed debate on this highly topical subject on 7 March 2018, and therefore did not oppose the motion.

From the very beginning citizens have been at the heart of Her Majesty’s Government’s approach to negotiations. The Prime Minister was clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU was her first priority. This is a commitment we have delivered, and the agreement reached and set out in the withdrawal agreement text will provide citizens with certainty about their rights going forward.

The agreement grants citizens certainty about a wide range of rights, including residents’ healthcare, as well as pensions and other benefits. This will mean that UK nationals who are legally resident in the EU by the end of the implementation period will continue to benefit from rights that stem from their EU citizenship today. After the end of the implementation period, those rights will be provided for by the withdrawal agreement, which will enshrine them and take the status of international law, having direct effect in EU member states. The agreement will also be written into UK law by Parliament, to put in place reciprocal protections for EU citizens resident in the UK.

Her Majesty’s Government will always be happy to listen to any proposals on our exit from the European Union. However, as EU treaty provisions make clear, only citizens of EU member states are able to hold EU citizenship. This will mean that when the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union, UK nationals will no longer hold EU citizenship, unless they hold dual nationality of another EU member state.

To that end, associate EU citizenship is not one of our negotiating objectives and is not provided for by the EU treaties. For UK nationals to remain EU citizens after the UK’s exit from the EU, an amendment to the EU treaties would be required. Citizenship is the fundamental status of nationals of EU member states and while the EEA EFTA states are in the single market their nationals are not EU citizens and as such have more limited rights. This is not therefore something we could realistically expect the EU to agree to.

In March the Prime Minister set out the Government’s intention for a deep and special future partnership with the EU. She acknowledged that UK nationals will still want to work and study in EU countries—just as EU citizens will want to do the same here, helping to drive growth, innovation and enterprise. The Prime Minister made clear that businesses across the EU and the UK must be able to attract and employ the people they need, and that the Government are open to discussing how to facilitate these valuable links, within the context of new policies which manage migration at sustainable levels, in the UK’s best long-term interests.

Her Majesty’s Government will, at every step of these negotiations, work to secure the best possible deal for all UK nationals, including those currently living in the EU and those who wish to travel to the EU in future.

Her Majesty’s Government have been clear that as a result of leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom will no longer be a part of the single market. We have listened to EU leaders and we understand and respect the position that the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible and there can be no cherry-picking. Instead, we are seeking the broadest and deepest possible partnership with the EU—covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.

Her Majesty’s Government believe that UK nationals were citizens of Europe long before the introduction of EU citizenship through the Maastricht treaty in 1993. The United Kingdom may be leaving the political and legal structures of the EU, but UK nationals will not be any less European as a result.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council

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I will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 28 May. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting will be held in Brussels.

The FAC will discuss current affairs, Iran, DRC, Post-Cotonou and Venezuela and possibly the middle east peace process (MEPP).

Foreign Affairs Council

Iran

Ministers will have a substantive discussion on the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPoA) following the decision of the US to withdraw from the agreement. The FAC will consider a package of economic measures being drawn up by the EU that aim to protect European business interests and enable the EU to continue to meet commitments to sanctions relief to Iran under the JCPoA. The UK continues to view the Iran nuclear deal as important for our shared security, and therefore remains firmly committed to ensuring it is upheld. To this end, we are working with the remaining parties to the deal.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Ministers will have an initial discussion on the political situation in the DRC. They will consider progress towards overdue presidential elections, now scheduled for 23 December 2018, which we hope will see the first peaceful transition of power in the independent history of the country. The UK is a leading voice in international efforts to ensure these elections take place as planned. We will focus on the need to ensure that the international community remains united in putting pressure on the Government of the DRC to meet the democratic aspirations of its people.

Post-Cotonou

The FAC will adopt the negotiating mandate for a post-2020 agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. The FAC will give an initial political steer to the Commission ahead of the negotiations, which will be formally launched at the EU-ACP Council of Ministers in Togo on 31 May.

Venezuela

Ministers will discuss the political situation in Venezuela following presidential elections held on 20 May. The FAC will also consider how to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Venezuela and its impact on the region.

MEPP

Following the opening of the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem and recent violence along the Gaza border, Ministers will have an exchange of views on prospects for the middle east peace process.

Any other business (AOB)

Under AOB, the UK and France are planning to update the FAC on their ongoing efforts to strengthen compliance with the chemical weapons convention.

Council conclusions

The FAC is expected to adopt conclusions on strengthening civilian CSDP, enhanced EU security engagement in and with Asia, the special report by the European Court of Auditors: “Election Observation Missions—Efforts made to follow up recommendations but better monitoring needed”, and on small arms and light weapons.

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Home Department

Immigration

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I have been very clear that the Government deeply regret what has happened to some of the Windrush generation and about our determination to put it right. Both my predecessor as Home Secretary and I have set out to Parliament the immediate steps that we took to assist those in the Windrush generation but were clear that this was simply a precursor for a more formal arrangement.

I have today laid a statutory instrument which will bring into force the “Windrush scheme” which will ensure that members of the Windrush generation, their children born in the UK and who arrived in the UK as minors, and others who have been in the United Kingdom for a long period of time, will be able to obtain the documents to confirm their status and, in appropriate cases, be able to obtain British citizenship free of charge.

The Windrush scheme, which will be a distinct scheme, will make it easier for those concerned to receive the support they need and to understand what is on offer. Those applying under the scheme will benefit from the services of the taskforce which will help people to navigate the immigration system and continue to take a sympathetic and proactive approach when assisting people in confirming their status.

The new scheme will come into operation next Wednesday, 30 May. Breaching the normal 21 day rule between laying a Statutory Instrument and its commencement is not something I have done lightly and I am very mindful of the need to observe normal parliamentary protocols. However, my judgment is that the imperative to get the new scheme up and running as swiftly as possible requires this course of action. The Immigration Minister has written to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to explain further our reasoning.

The new scheme will ensure that members of the Windrush generation—Commonwealth citizens who were settled in the UK before 1973—will be able to apply to become British citizens more easily. They will be deemed to have met the normal requirement for knowledge of language and life in the UK and will not be required to attend a citizenship ceremony, unless they want to. There will be no fees to pay.

Commonwealth citizens who were settled before 1973 but who do not wish to become British citizens, those who are not eligible, and citizens of other nationalities who were settled before 1973 will be provided with documents which confirm their right to remain permanently in the UK and to access services. Again, there will be no fees payable.

Children of the Windrush generation who were born in the UK will themselves be British, though in some cases they may want a document to confirm that status. Others will have the right to register as British. We will facilitate that through the taskforce and waive any application fees involved.

We are providing that a child of a member of the Windrush generation who was born abroad and who came to live in the UK before they were 18 and is still here is eligible for a free application for a document confirming their status or, if they wish, a free application for citizenship.

My predecessor undertook to consider the position of those who came to the UK between 1973 and 1988, when immigration and nationality law changed. Unlike the earlier generation, these people should have had documentary evidence of their entitlement to be in the UK but may no longer be able to prove it. Where they are lawfully in the UK, they can apply for the necessary documentation confirming that free of charge.

There is already provision in the immigration system for people whose permanent residence status has lapsed, through a prolonged absence from the UK, to resume their residence here, by obtaining a returning resident visa. It is limited to people who have spent most of their lives in the UK. I am adjusting the visa rules to ensure they are interpreted generously in respect of the Windrush generation, who spent a considerable time in the UK and who may have been unaware that they were forfeiting residence here when they left, for example because they considered themselves British. Again, that application will be made available free of charge.

Equally, there are those of the Windrush generation who retired to another country but want to return to the UK temporarily as visitors to see friends and family. I believe we should make a generous offer to them, recognising their special position and relationship with this country and those who qualify can apply for a visit visa free of charge, valid for 10 years.

In my written statement of 10 May, I announced the opening of the call for evidence on compensation. I am pleased to say that there has been a good response with almost 100 responses received to date. In addition, the Home Office has started an active programme of outreach to understand better the experiences of individuals and help inform the design of the compensation scheme. My officials have made contact with a number of community organisations and their representatives, and have attended events in a number of hon Members’ constituencies. This programme will continue and expand in the weeks ahead, working with Martin Forde QC, the independent person that is overseeing the design of the scheme.

All of this is about swiftly putting wrong the injustices that have been done to the Windrush generation. However, it is also fundamentally important that the lessons from this episode are learned for the future, so that this never happens again.

As I made clear to the House on 2 May, I will therefore ensure that a thorough review is conducted of what happened and why, looking particularly at:

how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants;

why that was not spotted sooner; and

whether the right corrective measures are now in place.

I will also be taking steps to ensure that the review is subject to robust independent oversight and challenge.

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Europol: Personal Data

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Until the UK leaves it remains a full member of the European Union with all the rights and responsibilities this entails. 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.

The Government have decided to opt-in to Council decisions authorising negotiations between the EU and Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria to conclude agreements on the exchange of personal data with Europol.

The UK values the role of Europol in helping law enforcement agencies co-ordinate investigations in cross-border serious and organised crime and terrorism. As Europol does not currently have data sharing agreements with any other countries in the Mediterranean and north African region, these agreements could help to increase the security of the UK through helping to improve counter-terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration efforts in that region.

Opting in provides an opportunity for us to influence the negotiation of these agreements, including to ensure that UK concerns around human rights are reflected.

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Justice

Prison Education and Employment

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Today, the Government are launching the Education and Employment Strategy for adult prisoners. It builds on the ambitions of the November 2016 White Paper “Prison Safety and Reform”.

Work has the power to change people’s lives, especially those of ex-prisoners. A prison sentence rightly serves as a punishment, depriving someone of their liberty. However, for those offenders who want to turn their backs on crime, prison should also be a catalyst for change. The vision at the heart of this strategy is that when an offender enters prison they should be put, immediately, on the path to employment on release.

We know that people with criminal convictions face significant barriers on release from prison, with access to employment and education being at the forefront. Not only are many ex-prisoners often unprepared for employment on release in terms of their skills and training, there remains a stigma among some employers about hiring people with a criminal conviction. With reoffending costing the UK billions each year, this strategy sets out to help break down the barriers and prejudices offenders often face in trying to secure employment.

Our reforms to prison education will give governors the tools they need to tailor provision to the requirements of employers and the needs of their prisoner populations. This approach builds on the commitments we made in the White Paper “Prison Safety and Reform”, putting into practice the key principles of governor empowerment and accountability that underpinned the recommendations in Dame Sally Coates’ seminal review. Governors will control their education budget, will decide what curriculum is most appropriate for their learner population, how it is organised and, crucially, who delivers it. These are far-reaching changes that governors themselves demand.

It is essential that prisoners develop their skills and gather experience through work during custodial sentences. Prison jobs are a key part of this, as is release on temporary licence (ROTL), which enables prisoners to undertake work in real workplaces. Evidence published today underlines the link between increased use of ROTL and reduced reoffending and we are also today consulting those who make ROTL decisions and those who provide ROTL placements on how to get more risk-assessed prisoners out of their cells and into real workplaces.

For offenders who play by the rules, we want to use incentives like workplace ROTL to encourage continued good behaviour and help support a turn away from violence and disorder in our prisons. We will develop a new operational policy framework that will allow prison governors to better tailor their ROTL regime to the circumstances of each offender and the opportunities available.

The strategy also sets a range of commitments to boost employment for prisoners once they are released. These include:

The New Futures Network (NFN) will engage and persuade employers to take on ex-prisoners, with experts placed in every geographical prison group in a phased roll-out across England and Wales.

The civil service will recruit ex-prisoners, providing jobs and acting as a role model for other employers.

The DWP and Ministry of Justice will work together to explore new ways to deliver enhancements to the current benefit claim service, so that prison leavers have immediate easier access to financial support on the day of release.

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