Thursday 15 November 2018
Criminal Justice System: Disclosure
Today, carrying forward the work of my predecessor, I have published the results of the Government’s review of the efficiency and effectiveness of disclosure in the criminal justice system. This has been laid before Parliament as a Command Paper (Cm 9735), and copies are available in the Vote Office and on gov.uk.
The disclosure of unused material in criminal cases, under the statutory framework of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, is a central pillar of the right to a fair trial and a fundamental part of our criminal justice system in England and Wales. My review of disclosure builds on the operational response by the police and Crown Prosecution Service to the challenges of disclosure under the National Disclosure Improvement Plan. The review sets out the next phase of reforms to deliver sustainable change for the long term.
The review identifies the following cross-system themes and makes recommendations for improvement in respect of each of them:
1. Primary legislation continues to provide an appropriate disclosure regime, but in practice the system is not working as effectively or efficiently as it should;
2. Practical reinforcement of the duty to make reasonable lines of inquiry and apply the disclosure test correctly;
3. Pursuing a fair investigation and considering disclosure obligations from the outset, rather than as an afterthought;
4. Proportionate “frontloading” of disclosure preparation and performance;
5. Early and meaningful engagement with disclosure issues by the defence and the judiciary;
6. Harnessing Technology;
7. Data and Management Information;
8. Continuous, sustained oversight and improvement.
These themes reflect the systemic nature of the management of disclosure and the importance of everyone involved—including the police, prosecutors and the defence community—playing their part effectively.
Cases that are stopped and convictions that are quashed because of serious deficiencies in disclosure are neither fair to the complainant nor the defendant and they undermine public confidence in the administration of criminal justice. However, while there have been too many cases where disclosure failures have occurred, it is not a problem in all cases. Victims should not be afraid to come forward and we must not undermine the progress made in encouraging people to report offences.
In order to ensure the review’s recommendations are followed through, implementation and oversight will happen under the aegis of the Criminal Justice Board.
Prosperity Fund: Annual Report
I wish to update the House on the progress of the cross-Government prosperity fund (PF) for the financial year 2017-18.
Created two years ago, the £1.2 billion prosperity fund runs over seven years from 2016 to 2023. It forms an integral part of the UK’s aid strategy, and official development assistance commitment of 0.7% of GNI.
The prosperity fund is grounded on the premise that economic growth, when sustainable and inclusive, can raise welfare and prosperity in middle income countries. It can also benefit trade and investment with partners such as the United Kingdom. Middle income countries present huge untapped economic potential, yet are home to around 60% of the world’s poor. They often seek our partnership and expertise, and opportunities to trade and grow out of poverty rather than traditional aid.
As the Prime Minister set out during her visit to Africa in August this year, we need to work with these countries; sharing our skills, our experience and our resources to tackle the challenges we face, and to deliver prosperity and security for everyone. The prosperity fund is a key driver of this. It removes barriers to trade, builds prosperous partnerships, and enables international and UK business to seize new opportunities. All whilst helping to meet the United Nations global goals for sustainable development and deepening the UK’s relationships with countries across the globe.
Following a review of the cross-Government funds, undertaken as part of the national security capability review, ministerial oversight of the prosperity fund and the conflict stability and security fund is now the responsibility of a sub-committee of the National Security Council. The sub-committee, which I chair, ensures that both funds deliver effectively on national security priorities and UK aid objectives. The cross-Government approach of the two funds allows them to deliver interventions that draw on expertise from across Government to tackle today’s stubborn global challenges.
The prosperity fund’s second annual report details progress made in 2017-18 towards development of the full portfolio: 26 multi-year programmes operating until 2023, across investment in infrastructure and human capital; innovation and technology; increasing trade; financial and economic reform; and ease of doing business. Priority countries and regions include: Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa, China, India and southeast Asia.
In 2017-18 the total spend for the fund was £63 million, of which £7 million was for non-ODA activities. Several programmes are already delivering, like the DFID led Centre for Global Disaster Protection which is building developing countries’ financial resilience to natural disasters to reduce economic and social impacts. Others have been allocated initial funding, like the FCO led global future cities programme, which is providing support to Cape Town to better mitigate against climate-related shocks, such as their recent severe drought, which threatened jobs and growth in the region. The remainder are going through final stages of approval or procurement before they begin.
A copy of the 2017-18 prosperity fund annual report has been placed in the libraries of both Houses. The publication of the report reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency in the delivery of official development assistance.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on 19 November in Brussels.
As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for fisheries will be a Council regulation fixing the fishing opportunities for certain deep-sea fish stocks for 2019 and 2020, for which the Commission is seeking political agreement.
The primary focus for agriculture will be a policy discussion on the common agricultural policy (CAP) post 2020. The Council will discuss two regulations during this item: the first on financing, management, and monitoring of the CAP, and the second on common market organisation (CMO) of agricultural products.
The Commission will then provide an update on the situation in EU agricultural markets. There will also be an exchange of views on Task Force Rural Africa (TFRA) and on current challenges in the field of plant protection.
There is currently one item scheduled under “any other business”: information from the Commission on the implementation of the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF).
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council: 19 November 2018
I will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 19 November. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini, and will take place in Brussels.
The FAC will discuss current affairs, central Asia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine and Yemen.
Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers will discuss the EU’s role in central Asia ahead of the EU-Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ meeting on 23 November that HRVP Mogherini and Foreign Ministers from the five central Asian states will attend. The significance of the region has grown as Russia seeks to reassert its influence with countries to its south and as China continues to expand its westward trade routes. There are positive regional dynamics with better co-operation between states, as well as engagement with Afghanistan. The UK supports the EU expanding its activity across the central Asian region.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ministers will discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) following the elections on 7 October. The UK will work with partners to promote a balanced and constructive European approach to BiH, focusing on the urgent needs for Government formation and socio-economic and other reforms for the benefit of all BiH citizens.
Ministers will discuss the recent spate of restrictive actions taken by Russia in the Azov Sea towards shipping using Ukrainian ports, and the so-called “elections” in the “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” held on 11 November in violation of the Minsk agreements. The UK supports the need to take firm action on Russian aggression, bringing Russia to account for its failure to fulfil Minsk agreement obligations, and to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Our long-term vision for Ukraine is for a stable, resilient country that is a net contributor to European security, capable of defending its sovereignty, managing crises and resolving conflict peacefully and with the internal capacity to meet the needs of its citizens. Both presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in 2019, so it is vital Ukraine preserves the progress on reforms, particularly tackling corruption and promoting greater accountability and transparency.
Ministers will discuss the situation on Yemen and how best to support the UN special envoy to make progress towards a sustainable political settlement that will underpin a long-term solution in Yemen. We will encourage all EU partners to support the UN special envoy’s proposals for de-escalation and confidence-building measures including the talks that he will convene in Stockholm at the end of November.
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on security and defence, Afghanistan, small arms and light weapons (SALW), the civilian compact, Pakistan, water diplomacy, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Health and Social Care
National Cervical Screening Programme Incident
I am today informing the House of a serious incident relating to the ‘call and recall’ process administered by Primary Care Support England (PCSE), a service provided by Capita on behalf of NHS England as part of the national cervical cancer screening programme.
The NHS cervical cancer screening programme saves an estimated 5,000 lives a year by detecting abnormalities of the cervix early and referring women for effective treatment. It is offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years and those aged 50 to 64 every five years.
On 17 October, NHS England and Public Health England were informed by Capita that a number of cervical screening invitation and reminder letters had not been sent to women inviting them to make a routine cervical screening appointment. Following further urgent investigation of this incident since then, I can now confirm that between January and June 2018, 43,220 women did not receive one or other of these letters and, in a very small minority of cases, neither the invitation nor reminder. In addition, Capita has also informed us that, between January and October 2018, a further 4,508 women were not sent letters informing them of the result of their cervical screening.
In light of this, NHS England declared this as a serious incident and set up a clinically-led multiagency incident panel including PCSE, Public Health England and NHS Digital on 23 October 2018 to assess any risk or harm to the women affected. The panel has put in place actions to assess and mitigate any risk as well as care and support where needed. Daily audits are now in place to ensure all women’s files are accounted for, and the panel is looking closely with Capita at how parts of the process could be automated to reduce errors.
Capita has confirmed that this incident was caused by files from their call and recall operations team not being correctly sent and uploaded to Capita’s print and despatch service between January and October 2018. Capita has accepted full responsibility for this incident and has apologised for it.
For the majority of the 4,508 women who did not receive their result letter, their result was normal. However, 182 women had a result that required a follow-up test (colposcopy) and 252 women needed an early repeat screening test. In most instances, where the screening result requires further tests or treatments, the laboratory will usually refer the woman directly to a colposcopy clinic independently of the woman receiving her result letter from Capita. For women needing early repeat testing, their GP routinely follows up these tests. However, to make sure all women needing a colposcopy or an early repeat test are being managed correctly, every woman’s screening record is being checked to ensure they have been referred appropriately. No harm has been identified to date.
Capita has made a public apology and has written to all the women who did not receive invitation or reminder letters and to those who did not get their normal result letter. Letters and apologies are being sent to all women who have not been referred for colposcopy or who have not had the required follow up screening test. In addition, the GPs of women affected have been informed so they can offer support to their patients.
The results of the screening and further tests on all women affected by this incident will be monitored over time to ensure any impact is followed up.
In addition to reviewing the checks in place around file transfer and checking the number of files processed, sent, printed and dispatched, Capita has produced a briefing for staff and proposed additional automation to the process to remove manual steps that may have contributed to this incident.
Our priority is patient safety and we will be assembling a clinical board that will provide oversight for the cervical screening call and recall service. This will ensure that every part of the process has an in-depth review.
NHS England is also undertaking an independent expert review of its screening programmes.
The Government continue to closely monitor the performance of all our suppliers and to implement improvement plans where necessary. Officials are working with Capita to ensure that the process recommendations and lessons learned from this issue are applied to similar services across Capita's public sector contracts.
Incidents of this type not only are unacceptable in terms of the impact they have on the women affected, but undermine public confidence in our screening programmes as a whole.
Rural Crime and Public Services: Response to Opposition Day Debate
On 6 June 2018 this Parliament debated a motion about rural crime and public services. Many of the crimes mentioned during the debate, such as domestic violence and modern slavery, know no boundaries and can be found in urban and rural areas alike. However, the Government recognise that certain crimes, such as hare coursing and livestock offences, can be an additional pressure in rural areas.
We therefore welcome the rural affairs strategy published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council which, developed following a period of consultation with rural stakeholders, sets out operational and organisational policing priorities in respect of tackling crimes that particularly affect rural areas. It is very much intended that the strategy will support safer rural communities and a better rural focus in policing.
Members on all sides of the House emphasised the need to ensure that rural communities are not disadvantaged in the delivery or quality of public services to tackle crime. The Government are committed to providing all police forces in England and Wales with the resources they need to do their crucial work. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear at the Budget, we recognise the pressures on the police from the changing nature of crime. The Home Secretary is reviewing police spending power and further options for reform ahead of the provisional police funding settlement in December.
In 2017, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service spoke to every police force in England and Wales about the demands they faced, including many frontline officers. Alongside that, the Home Office undertook a robust assessment of demands and pressures on the police which found that, since 2015, there had been substantial changes in the demands on the police, with the make-up of recorded crime shifting towards more complex and resource intensive crimes, such as sexual offences and modern slavery. Increases in the reporting of high harm “hidden” crimes have affected both urban and rural forces across England and Wales.
This work led directly to a comprehensive funding settlement that is increasing total investment in the police by over £460 million in 2018-19. This includes £50 million for counter-terrorism, £130 million for national priorities and £280 million in force funding from increases in council tax precept income. The pressures on territorial policing were spread across England and Wales, so it was right to enable every police force, rural and urban alike, to protect their funding in real terms in 2018-19, including precept income.
Our work on demand is continuing. We are working closely with the policing sector in order to build the evidence base for the next spending review, to ensure the police continue to receive the resources they need. The existing police allocation formula includes population sparsity as a factor. The Government will consider the issue of the police funding formula in the context of the next spending review.