Monday 11 June 2018
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Competitiveness Council: May 2018
The Competitiveness Council (Internal Market and Industry) took place on 28 May in Brussels. Lord Henley ‘Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’ represented the UK.
The standing “competitiveness check-up” debate focused on the linkages between internal market integration and competitiveness in the EU. The Commission argued that its analysis showed that the single market generates significant economic benefits across a range of sectors. The UK underlined its continuing interest in the success of the single market, calling for continued progress, particularly on services, and for the EU to be a force for open international trade. Other member states picked up similar themes as well as other issues including access to finance.
The Council agreed a general approach on the revision of the mutual recognition regulation, which aims to improve the functioning of the mutual recognition principle for non-harmonised products in the single market. Member states were unanimous in their support for the presidency’s compromise text and praised the balance struck between the need to support businesses trading across the EU while allowing member states to protect their legitimate public interests.
The Commission presented its new proposal on platform to business relations, which it believed was a balanced attempt to improve transparency and predictability for users without creating undue burdens on platforms or stifling innovation. The UK responded positively but emphasised the benefits of platforms to businesses, particularly SMEs, and underlined the need to consult businesses. Other member states generally welcomed the Commission’s approach, but the debate displayed the tension between those that have legislated in this area and those who want to avoid fragmentation in the single market as a result of differing national legislation. Some hinted at their preference for further regulatory measures.
The presidency provided an update on progress in negotiations on the copyright package. Member states also responded to the UK’s ratification of the agreement on a unified patent court.
The Commission presented its latest package of digital single market proposals, which focus on the improved use of data at EU level as a tool to drive innovation.
Ministers discussed the opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence, including the role of public and private investment, the impact on labour markets, and ethical and legal questions.
The Commission provided information on its “new deal for consumers” proposal, confirming its ambitious timetable for adoption by May 2019. Some member states raised the dual quality of products as a key concern.
The Commission also presented its company law package and a proposal amending the supplementary protection certificates regulation for the export of medicinal products.
The presidency also provided updates on work in the area of tourism and within the SOLVIT network; the Austrian delegation presented its priorities as incoming presidency.
The Competitiveness Council continued on 29 May covering research, innovation and space. I represented the UK.
The Council held a policy debate on the future of European space policy. The UK emphasised the global nature of the space sector and the long heritage of technical excellence and research within the European space agency. The UK also outlined the case for continued full involvement in EU space programmes such as Galileo and Copernicus.
The Council continued with a discussion on the progress report on the regulation on establishing the European high performance computing joint undertaking. The UK assured the EU of our commitment to continuing collaboration in science and innovation and highlighted the importance of a continued focus of wider programmes on excellence. Following the discussion, the Council held a plenary session providing an update on the progress of the regulation.
The following sessions adopted two Council conclusions: the first on accelerating knowledge circulation in the European Union and the second on the European open science cloud.
The Council then agreed a general approach on the regulation on the research and training programme of the European atomic energy community (2019-2020) complementing the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation. Ministers agreed to the approach set out by the Commission.
The Council held a policy debate on research and innovation within the context of the next multiannual financial framework. The UK noted the value to the EU of the UK’s strength in research and innovation both in terms of results and of expertise in supporting research and innovation as well as emphasising the UK’s continuing desire to engage in European collaborative research and innovation programmes.
The Commission provided information on the outcome of the presidency event dedicated to space (Sofia, 17-19 April 2018). The Council concluded with Austria’s presentation of its incoming presidency work programme.
Energy Council: 11 June
The Energy Council will take place on 11 June in Luxembourg.
The Council will discuss the regulation on the agency for the co-operation of energy regulators (ACER) with the presidency hoping to reach a general approach.
Under AOB, the presidency will provide an update on the current state of play in the negotiation of the regulation on governance of the energy union, the directive on renewable energy and the directive on energy efficiency. The Commission will then provide information on recent developments in the field of external energy relations. Finally, the Austrian delegation will provide information on the work programme for their forthcoming presidency.
Finance (No.3) Bill: Draft
The Government will introduce Finance (No.3) Bill following the Budget in the autumn.
In line with the approach to tax policy making set out in the Government’s documents “Tax Policy Making: a new approach”, published in 2010, and “The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process”, published in 2017, the Government are committed, where possible, to publishing most tax legislation in draft for technical consultation before the legislation is laid before Parliament.
The Government will publish draft clauses for Finance (No.3) Bill on Friday 6 July 2018, along with accompanying explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes, responses to consultations and other supporting documents. All publications will be available at www.gov.uk.
ECOFIN: 25 May 2018
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) was held in Brussels on 25 May 2018. EU Finance Ministers discussed the following:
Early Morning Session
The Eurogroup President briefed the Council on the outcomes of the 24 May meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission provided an update on the current economic situation in the EU.
The Council agreed 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 discussed measures to strengthen administrative co-operation in the area of VAT, but were unable to reach agreement on a general approach.
General reverse charge mechanism
The Council discussed proposals to allow member states to apply a temporary VAT general reverse charge mechanism, but were unable to reach agreement on a general approach.
The Council discussed proposals to allow member states to apply reduced rates of VAT on e-publications, but were unable to reach agreement on a general approach.
Current financial services legislative proposals
The Bulgarian presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.
The Council adopted 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 adopted Council conclusions on the 2018 Ageing report on age-related spending and the sustainability of public finances.
Bosnia and Herzegovina EU-led Mission: Call-out order
A new order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to be called into permanent service in support of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the EU-led mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At the request of DSACEUR, the Operational Commander, the UK has agreed to generate an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance task force to enhance his situational awareness in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the period of the general election in October 2018. This capability will operate in parallel with and within the existing EUFOR framework to provide command and control for UK forces.
The planned uplift is consistent with Her Majesty’s Government’s objective of having a greater ambition for engagement with the western Balkans and sends the clear message of UK commitment to European security despite Brexit.
Some of the specialist skills needed to meet this requirement are held within the Army Reserve. UK forces will deploy for a period of six months with a planned deployment in mid-August 2018. The number of reservists anticipated to deploy as specialists or in support of regular units is estimated at up to eight personnel.
The order took effect from the beginning of 30 May 2018 and shall cease to have effect at the end of 29 May 2019.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Education, Youth Culture and Sport Council
The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council took place in Brussels on 22 and 23 May 2018. Lord Ashton of Hyde represented the UK at the Youth session of this Council on 22 May. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Katrina Williams, represented the UK on 23 May for the meetings on Culture and Audiovisual and Sport.
This session of the Council began with the adoption of Council conclusions on the role of young people in building a secure, cohesive and harmonious society in Europe. The Council adopted Council conclusions on the role of youth in addressing the demographic challenges within the European Union.
A policy debate was then held on the future priorities for EU Youth policy.
In addition, there was information from the Commission on European Youth Together, followed by information from the Belgian and French delegations on the Franco-Belgian declaration of Ministers responsible for youth on the prevention of violent radicalisation.
This meeting began with the adoption of Council conclusions on the need to bring cultural heritage to the fore across policies in the EU.
There was also a policy debate on the long term vision for the contribution of culture to the EU after 2020, in particular looking forward to the next multiannual financial framework (2021-2027).
Additionally, there was a public deliberation of current legislative proposals. For this, the Council first welcomed information from the German delegation on the directive amending directive (2006/112/EC) as regards rates of value added tax—actively engaging in negotiations from a cultural policy perspective. In extension to this, information was provided by the French delegation on the regulation on the import of cultural goods. No legislative decisions were made in these debates, so there are no implications for the parliamentary scrutiny reservation.
Information was provided by the Lithuanian and Luxembourg delegations, on their respective hosting of the European Capitals of Culture 2022.
The sport session of EYCS began with the adoption of Council conclusions on promoting the common values of the EU through sport. This was followed by a policy debate on the commercialisation of elite sports and the sustainability of the European model of sport.
The EU member states represented in the World Anti- Doping Agency Foundation Board presented information on the Foundation Board meeting held on 16-17 May. The French delegation presented information on the informal meeting of the EU Minister for Sport (held in Paris on 31 May 2018), where there was the signing of a declaration for a Europe of Sport looking to the horizon of the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Austrian delegation set out their work programmes as the incoming presidency, for the second half of 2018. They highlighted a number of priorities for their presidency. These priorities included a focus on the work plan for culture 2018 plus, the successor programme to the Creative Europe programme and enhancing the principle of subsidiarity.
Health and Social Care
Death Certification England and Wales: Reforms
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Lord O’Shaughnessy) has made the following statement:
Between March and June 2016 the Government consulted on a package of reforms to the death certification process and the introduction of medical examiners. The reforms aim to improve engagement with the bereaved in the process of death certification and offer them an opportunity to raise any concerns, as well as improving the quality and accuracy of medical certificates of cause of death. Safeguards will be enhanced in the process to enable medical examiners to report matters of a clinical governance nature to support local learning and changes to practice and procedures.
As part of the drive to further improve patient safety, I have today published the Government’s response to consultation on the introduction of medical examiners and the reforms of death certification in England and Wales, and a copy is attached. This sets out the Government’s intention to introduce a system of medical examiners in England. The Welsh Government consulted separately in Wales.
Medical examiners are a key element of the death certification reforms, which, once in place, will deliver a more comprehensive system of assurances for all non-coronial deaths regardless of whether the deceased is buried or cremated. Medical examiners will be employed in the NHS system, ensuring lines of accountability are separate from NHS acute trusts but allowing for access to information in the sensitive and urgent timescales to register a death.
The response to the consultation demonstrates that there is widespread support for the aims of the reforms and for the introduction of medical examiners, but there were concerns about some aspects of the proposals. In particular concerns were raised about how the proposed model, based in local authorities, would work in practice and about the timeframes for implementing the system. Feedback on a proposed funding model was also received.
Since the Government consulted on the package of death certification reforms, events have moved on. New information about how a medical examiner system could be introduced has been generated by the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) medical examiner pilot sites and early adopters of the medical examiner system, as well as from the learning from deaths initiative.
There will be two stages to funding the ME system to enable its introduction while legislation is in progress. Initially, medical examiners will be funded through the existing fee for completing medical cremation forms, in combination with central Government funding for medical examiner work not covered by those fees. Following this interim period and when parliamentary time allows for the system to move to a statutory footing, the funding of the system will need to be revisited. The existing medical cremation forms and fees payable associated with those forms will continue to apply for the interim period.
The Government have proposed that all child deaths (up to age 18) be exempt from the cost associated with the medical examiner system. This aligns with the broader purpose of the Government’s recent announcement about steps to ensure that no bereaved family will have to pay for the essential costs of burying or cremating their child.
1. Response to consultation (180611 Government response to ME and death certification consultation.pdf)
Attachment can be viewed online at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-11/HCWS755/
Gross Negligence Manslaughter in Healthcare: Review
On 6 February 2018 I informed the House that I had asked Professor Sir Norman Williams to carry out a rapid policy review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare settings. This review was prompted by concerns among healthcare professionals that errors could result in prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter, even in the face of broader organisation and system failings. In particular, there was concern that this fear had had a negative impact on reflection and learning by healthcare professionals, which is vital to improving patient care.
My Department is today publishing the report of Sir Norman’s rapid policy review.
Any investigation of a healthcare professional for suspected gross negligence manslaughter begins with the death of a patient a—life needlessly cut short and a family grieving. Sir Norman and his Panel have heard from such families. Their experiences were vital in informing this review and I would particularly like to thank them for their courage in providing evidence to the review.
The report finds that prosecutions and convictions of healthcare professionals for gross negligence manslaughter are rare. It also finds that the legal test for the offence is set at an appropriately high level. This should reassure healthcare professionals that only where conduct is “truly, exceptionally bad” and in consideration of “all the circumstances” will the bar for gross negligence manslaughter be met.
However in order to provide greater consistency the report makes recommendations to improve the investigation of allegations of gross negligence manslaughter involving healthcare professionals. These include:
developing an agreed understanding of gross negligence manslaughter that reflects the most recent case law;
improvements to the way that healthcare professionals provide expert advice and evidence; and
improvements to local investigations into unexpected deaths in healthcare to provide a full understanding of the cause of death, ensuring improvements are made to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents.
The report also considers the impact of criminal and regulatory investigations on the willingness of healthcare professionals to reflect on their practice. It finds that reflective material is rarely sought in such investigations. Nonetheless, in order to provide clear assurance to professionals, the report recommends that those regulators that have a power to require information from registrants when investigating their fitness to practise should have this power removed in respect of reflective material.
Finally the report looks at the regulation of healthcare professionals. It makes a number of recommendations for further work to understand inconsistencies in the way that different regulators carry out their fitness to practise functions. It also finds that the General Medical Council’s right to appeal decisions of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has resulted in a lack of confidence in their regulator as well as having an unanticipated impact on the willingness of doctors, especially trainees, to reflect fully on their practice. Since the PSA has a near identical right of appeal to Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service decisions, it is clear that there would be no gap in the law where regulatory action is being taken as a result of a serious criminal conviction, and the report recommends that the GMC’s right of appeal should be removed.
These recommendations aim to support a just and learning culture in healthcare, where professionals are able to raise concerns and reflect openly on their mistakes but where those who are responsible for providing unacceptable standards of care are held to account. This will support improvements in patient safety.
I thank Sir Norman and his panel for their work in delivering this important report. I accept the recommendations in full.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-11/HCWS751.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
I am today announcing the allocation of a targeted £30 million Rough Sleeping Initiative fund to support those sleeping rough and those at risk of sleeping rough in 83 local authorities with the highest numbers of rough sleepers.
On 30 March 2018 we announced a new, cross-Whitehall, multidisciplinary Rough Sleeping Initiative. A £30 million fund, targeted at areas with the highest levels of rough sleeping, was part of that package to support the work of the Rough Sleeping Initiative team.
Over the last few months our team of expert practitioners have worked closely with local authorities and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to identify service gaps and create tailored packages to tackle rough sleeping in their area this year. Together they have co-produced bespoke plans to tackle rough sleeping based on local government and third-sector knowledge of what works.
This represents a first significant step in our plans to reduce rough sleeping. It will be followed by a cross-Government strategy, published in July, which will set out how we intend to meet the manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
This funding will provide for over 500 new staff focused on rough sleeping. This will include more outreach workers to engage with people on the streets, specialist mental health and substance misuse workers and dedicated co-ordinators to drive efforts to reduce rough sleeping in their areas. It will also provide for over 1,700 new bed spaces including both emergency and settled accommodation.
The new Rough Sleeping Initiative team will work closely with local areas to implement the plans and to monitor their progress.
In recognition of the expertise needed to deliver reductions in rough sleeping immediately, Jeremy Swain, currently chief executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, has been brought in to lead the Rough Sleeping Initiative. Jeremy is an outstanding candidate for this position, and he brings with him 30 years of invaluable frontline experience. He will be in post by early July.
A full list of the individual amounts allocated to the 83 local authorities and the GLA has been published on www.gov.uk. Further funding for 2019-20 will be announced shortly.
I am confident this package will achieve substantial results in these areas of high need. It will also build upon the work we have already undertaken in order to meet out manifesto commitment this work includes: piloting the internationally proven Housing First approach in three major regions of England; allocating over £1.2 billion in order to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, including more upfront funding so local authorities can proactively tackle homelessness pressures in their areas; and also the recent changes made under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 which means that more people will get the help they need and at an earlier stage—preventing a homelessness crisis from occurring in the first place.
EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement
I am pleased to announce that my Department will today publish an impact assessment for the EU-Japan Economic Partnership agreement (EPA). I have separately written to the Scrutiny Committees in both Houses of Parliament such that they can consider this evidence as part of their important scrutiny of this agreement. A copy of this impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The European Union and Japan concluded negotiations on this agreement in December 2017, and have announced their intention to sign this agreement at an EU-Japan summit in July, subject to approval by EU member states in the Council of the European Union.
This agreement will promote bilateral trade and economic growth between the EU and Japan by eliminating most tariffs and reducing non-tariff measures that businesses face when trading goods and services and investing.
The Government remain committed to supporting the EU’s ambitious trade agenda including the free trade agreements it is putting in place and to date has strongly supported the EU-Japan EPA negotiations.
The Prime Minister and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in August 2017 to “work quickly to establish a new economic partnership between Japan and the UK based on the final terms of the EPA” as the UK leaves the EU. The UK-Japan Trade and Investment Working Group, established last year by the Japan-UK joint declaration on prosperity co-operation, is tasked to deliver on this commitment and met for the second time in May.
Contingency Liability: Notification
I have today laid before Parliament a departmental minute describing three contingent liabilities relating to a tripartite deal between Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL), First Greater Western Limited (FGW) and the Department for Transport.
Unfortunately, due to the urgent need to finalise the deal and the confidential commercial nature of the negotiations it was not possible to notify Parliament of the particulars of the liability and allow the required 14 days’ notice prior to the liabilities going live. A delay would have resulted in higher HS2 costs and an increased scheduling risk impacting on the December 2026 opening date for phase 1.
The main element of the deal is a service agreement between FGW, HAL and Heathrow Airport Operating Company (HEOC) for the continuation of non-stop rail services between Paddington and Heathrow Airport. Under this agreement FGW will assume operation of Heathrow Express services. Although this is an agreement between private sector companies, there are significant benefits to the Department, in particular, savings generated from not building a replacement depot for Heathrow Express rolling stock at Langley (the land on which the current depot is situated at Old Oak Common is needed by HS2 for the construction of the high speed railway).
In order to conclude the deal, and secure departmental/HS2 benefits, the Department needed to offer indemnities in relation to three risks that the parties were unwilling or unable to assume or manage. The financial exposure is not high—a conservative estimate is c£12 million. But they are unusual and outside the Department’s normal course of business.
The three contingent liabilities are: first, indemnifying FGW against the cost of any delay to delivery of new rolling stock required to operate Heathrow Express services. The Department’s exposure is estimated to be £2.25 million; second, indemnifying FGW against the cost of any redundancies following the transfer of staff, mainly drivers, from HAL to FGW. The cost is estimated to be c£3.2 million; third, an indemnity against contagion from a wider industrial relations dispute—nationwide or franchise wide. The exposure is estimated to be £6.8 million.
The Treasury approved these liabilities before they were activated. However, if any Member of Parliament has concerns, he/she may write to me within the next 14 parliamentary sitting days. I will be happy to examine their concerns and provide a response.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-11/HCWS748.