Tuesday 10 July 2018
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
This written statement is to update the House on the process and timings regarding the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox (21CF) and Sky Plc (Sky).
On 5 June, the previous Secretary of State made a statement to the House in which he set out his decision in relation to the proposed merger. He announced that having considered the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) report, he agreed with its findings on the public interest grounds and its finding that undertakings to divest Sky News to the Walt Disney Company (Disney) or to an alternative suitable buyer could potentially remedy the public interest concerns identified. Following the completion of discussions with the parties, on 19 June he published a consultation on the undertakings offered by 21CF along with new undertakings offered by Disney for the divestment of Sky News to Disney and the relevant subsidiary agreements. We received five responses to the consultation, which closed on 4 July.
Having taken over as the Secretary of State with responsibility for media public interest cases, I intend to keep to the timetable of informing the House this week of the final decisions and publishing all the relevant documents. I will do this by Thursday 12 July.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Post-June Environment Council
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) attended EU Environment Council on 25 June in Luxembourg.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Directive on drinking water (recast)—policy debate:
The Council held a policy debate on the drinking water directive (8924/18), focusing on materials in contact with water (Article 10) and access to water (Article 13). Most member states, including the UK, did not agree with the Commission’s proposed approach to Article 10—citing the need for EU level harmonised hygiene requirements and for the inclusion of all products from source to tap as a way to protect public health. Several member states and the Commission drew attention to the technical non-paper from the “4MS initiative” (France, UK, Germany, the Netherlands) as a basis for ongoing work.
On Article 13, several member states including the UK supported the principle of access to water, but raised issues of subsidiarity. Most member states called for greater flexibility, with some member states remarking that the directive was not the right place to address this issue. Additionally, the UK drew attention to the importance of adhering to World Health Organisation guidance to underpin the proposal.
C02 cars and vans regulation—policy debate
The Council held a policy debate on C02 emissions from cars and vans (9728/18), with the presidency seeking views on the level of ambition and incentives for low and zero emission vehicles.
Council was divided into four camps; some member states pushed for over 40% reductions in fleet emissions; others, including the UK did not go as far as this group, but pressed for more ambition than the Commission proposal of a 30% reduction. Another group of member states supported the Commission proposal, while others thought that even this was too ambitious, and called for technological neutrality to help incentivise low and zero emission vehicles.
Council conclusions on the EU action plan for the circular economy
The Council adopted conclusions on the circular economy action plan (10221/18). Member states including the UK noted the importance of addressing single use plastics, with Lord Gardiner highlighting activities across the UK in this area.
The following items were also discussed under any other business.
Current legislative proposals
The Commission introduced four new legislative proposals: LIFE programme (9651/18); water post-June Environment Council reuse (9498/18); single use plastics (9465/18); and environmental reporting (9617/18). The Commission pushed for speedy consideration of the single use plastics and environmental reporting proposals in particular. Several member states welcomed the proposals, with particular focus on the plastics proposal.
EU Pollinators initiative
The Commission introduced the EU pollinators initiative (9744/18). This received support from several member states including the UK.
Management of chemicals and waste post 2020
Council noted the Swedish paper on establishing a high ambition alliance on the management of chemicals and waste (10104/18). This gathered support from a number of member states.
Convention on biological diversity
France introduced their paper on COP15 of the convention on biological diversity, urging member states to increase efforts to meet the targets on limiting biodiversity loss. This was welcomed by the UK among others.
Commission reports on recent international meetings
The Council noted the information provided by the Commission, Poland and Germany on several international meetings including EU for Talanoa, Ministerial on climate action (MoCA), and the ninth Petersberg climate dialogue. A small number of member states intervened to support EU climate leadership and ambition. The Commission welcomed their support, and noted that with the recently agreed renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, the EU would de facto be in a position to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
C02 from heavy duty vehicles
The Commission presented their proposal for C02 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles (8922/18), and called for agreement on the file before the end of the European Parliamentary term.
Paris agreement as an essential clause in EU agreements
France presented a proposal in relation to the Paris agreement and EU co-operation and political dialogue agreements, or in the absence of these, trade agreements. There was some discussion between member states and the Commission, and it was noted that further careful consideration of the proposal would be needed.
Health and Social Care
Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review Update
In February, the Government announced the establishment of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review. Baroness Cumberlege is in the process of conducting the review into what happened in each of the cases of primodos, sodium valproate and surgical mesh, including whether the processes pursued to date have been sufficient and satisfactory, and to make recommendations on what should happen in future.
Baroness Cumberlege has reported to the Department of Health and Social Care an early finding of her review relating to surgical mesh. Following a number of engagement meetings with patients, she has concluded that there should be a pause without delay in the use of surgical mesh for stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
In letters to the Secretary of State, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lords) and chief medical officer, Baroness Cumberlege has set out a number of conditions that should be met ahead of the resumption of mesh procedures used to treat SUI:
Surgeons should only undertake operations for SUI if they are appropriately trained, and only if they undertake operations regularly;
Surgeons report every procedure to a national database;
A register of operations is maintained to ensure every procedure is notified and the woman identified who has undergone the surgery;
Reporting of complications via MHRA is linked to the register;
Identification and accreditation of specialist centres for SUI mesh procedures, for removal procedures and other aspects of care for those adversely affected by surgical mesh; and
NICE guidelines on the use of mesh for SUI are published.
Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care have taken advice from the chief medical officer and the senior clinicians in our health system on Baroness Cumberlege’s recommendation.
Having reviewed Baroness Cumberlege’s recommendation and having considered the NHS’s progress in implementing the relevant NICE guidelines across the system, the chief medical officer and senior clinicians have concluded that we should institute a pause in the use of vaginally inserted mesh to treat prolapse and the use of tape or slings to treat stress urinary incontinence. They have concluded that this should be done through implementation of a high vigilance programme of restricted practice. They have advised that this approach will allow the NHS to put in place a consistent, high-quality service that adequately meets the conditions set out by Baroness Cumberlege. Both the chief medical officer and Baroness Cumberlege agree that we should not introduce a blanket ban of the relevant procedures, and that there will need to be some exceptions within the pause, within a high vigilance programme of restricted practice. The Department has accepted Baroness Cumberlege’s recommendation, and the advice from the chief medical officer and senior clinicians.
NHS England is now working with other agencies in the system to implement the pause quickly and safely. A clinical advisory group is being established to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to give effect to the high vigilance programme. NHSE will be writing to providers imminently.
NHS England and NHS Improvement will ensure that provider medical directors and nurse directors are equipped with timely advice and guidance to ensure that clinicians can support patients to make clear decisions about their treatment.
The Department will work with Baroness Cumberlege and senior clinicians in the NHS to act with pace on this decision. The Department is very grateful to Baroness Cumberlege and her review team for listening to the voice of patients and for intervening on their behalf; and to the chief medical officer and senior clinicians for their further advice and commitment to putting in place safe and effective changes for patients.