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Written Statements

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2018

Written Statements

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Arms Export Policy: Argentina

I would like to inform the House of a change of the Government’s arms exports policy in relation to Argentina. This change will lift additional restrictions which were imposed in 2012, at a time when the Argentine Government was escalating actions aimed at harming the economic interests of the Falkland islanders.

Since the election of President Macri in December 2015, the UK’s relationship with Argentina has been improving. I visited Buenos Aires in September 2016—the first visit by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister since 2009. During the visit an historic UK-Argentina joint communiqué was agreed that established closer co-operation across our bilateral relationship (including in defence) and secured important benefits for the Falkland islanders. The Foreign Secretary also visited Buenos Aires in May 2018, the first Foreign Secretary visit to Argentina since 1993, in a further demonstration of the improving bilateral relationship between the UK and Argentina.

Following these positive developments the Government believe it is appropriate to now lift the additional 2012 restrictions.

Under those restrictions it has been the British Government's policy not to grant an export licence for any military or dual-use goods and technology being supplied to military end-users in Argentina, except in exceptional circumstances.

Our general position now will be to continue to refuse licences for export and trade of goods judged to enhance Argentine military capability. However, where like-for-like equipment is no longer available, we may grant licences where we judge they are not detrimental to the UK’s defence and security interests.

Licence applications for equipment and defence technology which meet the above criteria will still be assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria (the “consolidated criteria”).

The United Kingdom takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine every application on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, and remain prepared to suspend or revoke licences should the level of risk increase.

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Health and Social Care

NHS Pay Review Body and Agenda for Change Pay Deal

I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the 31st report of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB). The report has been laid before Parliament today (Cm 9641). I am grateful to the chair and members of the NHSPRB for their report.

The Government welcome the 31st report of the NHS Pay Review Body, which endorses the “Agenda For Change” multi-year pay and contract reform deal (2018-19 to 2020-21).

NHS staff do a fantastic job in delivering world-class care. Even with increasing pressures on the NHS due to, among other things, an ageing population and changing public expectations, they work incredibly hard, always putting patients first and keeping them safe while providing the high-quality care we all expect.

We have already announced that, to secure the future of the health service as it approaches its 70th birthday, we have increased NHS funding by an average 3.4% per year, which will see the NHS receive £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023.

The Government accept the NHSRPB’s observations and are very pleased to confirm their acceptance of the “Agenda For Change” multi-year pay and contract reform deal.

The new deal will see nearly 1 million NHS workers benefit over three years and help deliver better value for money from the £36 billion “Agenda For Change” pay bill, with some of the most important changes to working practices in a decade.

The deal includes a range of pay and non-pay proposals that will benefit staff and patients. Most NHS staff below the top of their pay band will benefit from pay increases through the restructuring of the pay bands—higher starting pay, removal of overlapping pay points and shorter pay scales.

From this year the lowest NHS starting salary will increase year on year from £15,404 to £18,005 in 2020-21.

The starting salary of a nurse will rise to £24,907 in 2020-21 which will have a significant impact on retention and recruitment issues.

The deal also guarantees fair basic pay awards for the next three years to staff who are at the top of pay bands—a cumulative 6.5% over three years.

The agreement will put learning and development right at the heart of local annual appraisals, helping to improve the experience for staff, ensuring they demonstrate the required standards for their role before moving to the next pay point. We know that getting appraisals right helps improve staff engagement and through that better outcomes for patients. The deal also commits NHS employers to support staff to improve their physical and mental health, helping to reduce sickness absence, increasing capacity for patient care.

This is a major step forward. The agreement reflects the Government’s public sector pay policy that pay flexibility should be in return for reforms that improve recruitment and retention and boost productivity.

During the NHS trades unions consultation on the AfC framework agreement, the Department of Health and Social Care received a number of representations from non-statutory non-NHS organisations that provide NHS services seeking additional funding on the same basis as NHS bodies.

It is important to stress that the AfC reforms were those, based on the AfC employment contract (and all the terms and conditions) the NHS Staff Council agreed could help the NHS recruit, retain, motivate and boost the productivity/capacity of its workforce.

We know that there a small number of non-statutory non-NHS organisations that provide NHS services, employ existing and new staff on the AfC contract and will be required to implement the reforms.

I believe it is right that these organisations should receive a share of the additional funding made available for AfC staff employed by NHS bodies listed at annex 1 of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook; each employ existing and new staff on the AfC contract, are required to implement the deal and will need to meet the costs of doing so.

From 2018-19, the AfC pay deal will apply to existing and new staff on the AfC employment contract employed in both NHS bodies and non-statutory non-NHS organisations that provide NHS services, the terms and conditions of which are set out in the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.

I have asked my officials to write directly to all NHS commissioners and provide them with further detail of the eligibility criteria for additional funding during the three years of the pay deal, that will apply to those non-statutory non-NHS providers of NHS services.

In line with the Chancellor’s commitment at Budget 2017, the Government will release the £800 million already set aside to support the pay deal for 2018-19 in England. Barnett consequential will flow to the devolved Administrations in the usual way. Following the recent announcement on the NHS long-term funding settlement, for the remaining two years of the deal (2019-20 to 2020-21) funding will be met from the settlement. The long-term settlement will provide the NHS with increased funding of £20.5 billion per year in real terms by the end of five years.

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Home Department

Drugs Policy

On 18 June, I announced the creation of an expert panel to advise Ministers on individual applications to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products. As of today, the panel is now accepting applications, and will meet for the first time later this week. The clinical panel will be chaired by the chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride. Further members of the panel will be announced this week.

Clinicians must be at the heart of the process. The panel will consider applications from GMC registered practitioners who are listed on the relevant specialist register and with an active licence to practise. These applications must be countersigned by a medical director or an equivalent. This will provide the reassurance that prescribing these currently unlicensed and potentially untested products is in the best interests of the patient. Applications will not be accepted from members of the public.

The panel will assess applications against several criteria. These include:

Evidence of exceptional clinical circumstances, in line with existing principles applied to individual funding requests within the NHS; or,

Whether there is evidence from existing clinical trials or other clinical data which indicate that a patient will benefit from a cannabis-based medicinal product; or,

Whether the clinician considers there is an otherwise unmet special clinical need that could be addressed through use of a cannabis-based medicinal product by the patient.

In considering these criteria, the panel will be assessing whether the attending clinician, who has the responsibility for the case, is making an evidence-based and reasonable request for a specific case. The panel cannot make clinical decisions for a patient not under their care. The full terms of reference and criteria, along with details for clinicians on how to apply, are available on gov.uk.

The panel will not be responsible for issuing licences: only the Home Secretary or the Department of Health in Northern Ireland can give the formal approval of a schedule 1 licence—both, however, will have due regard to the panel’s recommendations.

As I and the Home Secretary made clear last week, we will be led by clinical decision making. To streamline the application process as much as possible, for applications made through the expert panel to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products, the Government will not require a site visit unless absolutely necessary. The Government will also not require a fresh DBS check from clinicians, or other individuals involved in the treatment of a patient involving a cannabis-based medicinal product, where they are practising under an existing DBS check. Waiving these requirements will ensure that any application for a licence submitted following consideration by the expert panel, where a visit and fresh DBS check are not required, can expect to receive a drug licensing decision within two to four weeks. Should the panel be presented with an emergency case, the panel will consider cases as quickly as is necessary dependent on the medical circumstances.

The Government are also committed to reviewing the fees paid for licences that are awarded as a result of the advice of the expert panel. That review will take place urgently and will conclude before summer recess, with any legislation laid before the House at the first available date following its conclusion. In the meantime, for applications for a licence made by the NHS, neither individual patients nor their families will be asked to make any financial contribution towards the cost of any licence that may be issued.

On 19 June, the Home Secretary announced a two-phase review looking at the scheduling of cannabis. Part one of the review will consider the available evidence of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and cannabis-based products. Professor Dame Sally Davies will take this part forward. If part one concludes that there is evidence of medicinal and therapeutic benefit, then part two will consider the appropriate schedule for cannabis-related products, based on the balance of harms and public health requirements. Part two will be led by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), with clinical input as required. The ACMD will not reassess the evidence issued by Professor Dame Sally Davies which I have received today.

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International Development

UK Support to UNRWA

The UK remains firmly committed to supporting Palestinian refugees across the near east. The UK recognises the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) important mandate from the UN General Assembly to support and protect Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA is a necessary humanitarian and stabilising force across the near east, providing millions of Palestinian refugees with hope and opportunities every day. Its basic services, including food, education and healthcare, provide a life-line to the 5 million and more Palestinian men, women and child refugees across the region, and enable them to live in dignity until a negotiated peace agreement.

The UK is concerned about the possibility of service suspension as a result of the exceptional funding deficit that UNRWA is facing this year. The Syrian conflict has caused more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees to be on the move again, and increasing numbers of refugees are food insecure and vulnerable to shocks. Recent violence in Gaza has added to the burden on UNRWA’s health services. UNRWA’s work has never been more critical.

In the face of these pressures, the UK has committed to deliver its next round of financial support earlier than originally planned to help meet the growing needs of Palestinian refugees across the region. We will disburse £38.5 million to the agency in recognition of the severity of the deficit and the importance of service delivery. This includes £28.5 million that I committed at the UNRWA Rome pledging conference earlier this year, and £10 million of funding that the UK is bringing forward from next year’s budget in response to the exceptional cash flow challenges UNRWA is facing.

The UK will continue to work closely with UNRWA to reach a secure and sustainable financial footing. We have welcomed UNRWA’s efforts to become ever more efficient and cost-effective, and are committed to working closely with them, host authorities, and fellow donors to maintain a realistic and achievable pace of reform.

We communicated the UK’s ongoing support to the UN Secretary-General at an UNRWA pledging conference in New York on 25 June. We were pleased that 20 donors announced contributions, or their intention to contribute, to the 2018 budget of UNRWA. I will continue to urge the international community to come together to ensure that UNRWA can maintain its essential work and find ways to ensure continuity of essential services to Palestinian refugees.

All of us who care about stability in the region and about the rights and needs of this vulnerable group of people need to do our part to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees. The UK has welcomed UNRWA’s efforts to broaden its donor base and encouraged partners to step up with more funding and more predictable disbursements. The UK has highlighted our concern about the impact on the activities of UNRWA that any unexpected reductions or delays in predicted donor disbursements might have. While we acknowledge the greater burden shouldered by some, we urge all donors to honour their commitments.

While the support and services provided by UNRWA are essential, ultimately there needs to be a just, fair, agreed, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee question as part of a negotiated peace agreement. The UK is firmly committed to a two-state solution to provide the long-term answer for Palestinian refugees.

Peace will come only through fresh negotiations between the parties, supported by the international community. It is critical that both Israelis and Palestinians return to direct negotiations and urgently prioritise steps to resolve the situation in Gaza. The UK remains firmly committed to this process.

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Justice

Female Offender Strategy

Today, I am launching the Government’s female offender strategy following our commitment in the November 2016 “Prison Safety and Reform” White Paper.

If we are to make any significant difference for victims, families and wider society, we must break the cycle of reoffending by taking the necessary steps to understand and address the underlying causes of offending.

The evidence tells us that vulnerability is not just a consequence of crime, it is also a driver of offending behaviour, preventing many from breaking out of a cycle of reoffending.

There is also growing evidence that short custodial sentences do not work in terms of rehabilitation and reducing reoffending. Short sentences generate churn which is a major driver of instability in our prisons and they do not provide sufficient time for rehabilitative activity, especially when we also know that many of these offenders have complex needs and vulnerabilities. In most cases, we know that the best way to meet those needs is to help people get access to the services they need in the community.

Female offenders can be among the most vulnerable of all, in both the prevalence and complexity of their needs. Many experience chaotic lifestyles involving substance misuse, mental health problems, homelessness and offending behaviour, which are often the product of a life of abuse and trauma. Of those female offenders who are in custody, many are sentenced for nonviolent, low-level but persistent offences, often for short periods of time.

If we take the right approach to female offenders—one that addresses vulnerability, follows the evidence about what works in supporting them to turn their lives around, and treats them as individuals of value—it could have substantial benefits for victims, families, and offenders themselves.

This strategy sets out the Government’s commitment to a new programme of work for female offenders, driven by our vision to see:

fewer women coming into the criminal justice system

fewer women in custody, especially on short-term sentences, and a greater proportion of women managed in the community successfully; and

better conditions for those in custody.

To achieve this, we are shifting our focus from custody to the community. Across Government, we are investing £5 million funding over two years in community provision for women. We are committing to working with partners to assess options for delivering a “residential women’s centres” pilot in at least five sites across England and Wales. We want to build the evidence base about what are effective, sustainable and scalable options in the community for diverting women from entering and re-entering custody on short custodial sentences. We will not be proceeding with plans to build five new community prisons for Women.

Given that a higher proportion of women have dependent children living with them prior to imprisonment, incarceration of women may have a disproportionate impact on families and children and increase the risk of intergenerational offending. That is why we are commissioning Lord Farmer to continue his work on the importance of family ties in improving outcomes for offenders, by conducting a further review into female offenders.

Only through effective partnerships, at both a national and local level, which take a holistic approach to tackling the causes underlying the behaviour of female offenders, can progress really happen. That is why the strategy outlines a framework for taking this forward with partners, one which is locally-led, partnership-focused and evidence-based.

As part of this, we will work across Government and with other national and local partners to develop a national concordat on female offenders, which will set out how services should be working together in partnership to identify and respond to the often multiple and complex needs of women involved in the criminal justice system.

We must ensure we are accountable for the priorities set out in this strategy. Therefore, we will publish an annual update on the progress of the work of the strategy and reform the Advisory Board on Female Offenders to give it a greater role in monitoring the delivery of commitments in this strategy.

The female offender strategy is available in full at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/female-offender-strategy

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