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Written Statements

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2018

Written Statements

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Brydon Review of Audit Standards

Today, Sir John Kingman has published the final report of the Independent Review of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published an interim report on its market study into the audit market.

The independent review of the FRC is a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the regulator for audit and accounting, and the Government will take forward the recommendations set out in the review to replace the FRC with a new independent statutory regulator with stronger powers.

The CMA’s interim report on its study into the statutory audit market makes recommendations to improve competition and increase capacity in the audit market. This is central to improving audit quality and I now look forward to the publication of the final report.

There is also a need to consider the standards expected of audits, including whether auditors are assessing the right information, and utilising the right technologies. This question was first raised by industry itself, who proposed a review to look at the future of audit. However, audit reports are prepared for the benefit of shareholders and investors, and it is critically important that they are involved in shaping the future of audit.

This is why I am today announcing a Government-commissioned independent review to consider how to improve audit effectiveness. I have asked Donald Brydon, chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group and Sage Group, to chair this review.

This new review, building on the work of the FRC and CMA reviews, will now consider audits as a product and what the future, standards and requirements should be for audits in the future. To ensure the UK’s audit sector remains world leading by constantly looking to upgrade standards, the Brydon review into UK audit standards will consider:

How far audit can and should evolve to meet the needs of investors and other stakeholders, putting the UK at the forefront;

How auditors verify information they are signing off;

How to manage any residual gap between what audit can and should deliver; and

What are the publics expectations from audit.

The new review will also test the current model and ask whether it can be made more effective as well as looking at how audit should be developed to better serve the public interest in the future, taking account of changing business models and new technology.

[HCWS1193]

Treasury

Public Spending

HM Treasury, along with all of HM Government, are committed to ensuring that we make a success of EU-exit. At Autumn Budget 2017, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer committed £3 billion to help Departments and devolved Administrations make necessary preparations for EU-exit in 2018-19 and 2019-20; this was subsequently increased by £0.5 billion in the 2018 Budget, meaning the Government have invested over £4 billion in preparing for EU-exit since 2016. Working with colleagues across Government to deliver on the referendum while protecting jobs, businesses and prosperity and to support Departments in planning for EU-exit, HM Treasury has allocated the following funding to Departments for the financial year 2019-20:

Department

£m(*)

Attorney General’s Office

3

Cabinet Office

59

Competition and Markets Authority

20

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

190

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

30

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

410

Department for International Trade

128

Department for Transport

25

Department of Health and Social Care

50

Department for Work and Pensions

15

Food Standards Agency

16

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

45

HM Revenue & Customs

375

HM Treasury

35

Home Office

480

Ministry of Defence

12

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

35

Ministry of Justice

30

Northern Ireland Office

1

Office for National Statistics

2

Police Service of Northern Ireland

16

Scotland Office

0.3

Single Intelligence Account

3

The National Archives

2

The Supreme Court

1

Wales Office

0.3

This has generated the following Barnett consequentials for the devolved Administrations:

£m(*)

Northern Ireland Executive

20

Scottish Government

55

Welsh Government

31

*Numbers rounded to the nearest million unless otherwise stated

[HCWS1205]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine TB

Today I am updating the House on the implementation of the Government’s strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038.

Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK, causing devastation and distress for hard-working farmers and rural communities. We are therefore continuing to take strong action to eradicate the disease.

Professor Sir Charles Godfray’s independent review of the strategy highlighted a number of potential further actions while noting the level of challenge associated with eradicating bovine TB. We continue to consider the review’s advice in detail and will publish a formal response in due course.

In the meantime, I am today announcing plans to enhance biosecurity on farms and when trading, introducing earned recognition into our testing regime and inviting further applications to our badger vaccination grant scheme. I am also reporting on the outcome of 2018 badger control operations. All of the cull areas satisfied the level of badger removal that was required by their licence conditions.

Our joint industry-Government biosecurity progress report has been published today. As part of our commitment to improving this important element of our wider TB strategy we will be investing £25,000 to improve the TB hub website which is hosted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and which provides farmers and others with practical biosecurity advice. Furthermore, early next year we will carry out our first ever TB farm practices survey which will help us to get a better understanding of the extent to which biosecurity and other farming practices currently contribute to our efforts to control bovine TB.

Since January 2018 many herds in the edge area of England have been subject to six-monthly surveillance testing. From May 2019 we will give recognition to herds that have managed to stay clear of bovine TB restrictions in the last six years and herds that have achieved accreditation based on standards laid down by the Cattle Health Certification Standards body. We hope allowing these lower risk herds to revert to annual testing will incentivise others to take steps to reduce their TB risks.

There is broad scientific consensus that badgers are implicated in the spread of TB to cattle. This year, effective, licensed badger removal operations were completed by local farmers and landowners in 11 new areas and 19 existing areas. Alongside our robust cattle movement and testing regime, this will allow us to achieve and maintain long term reductions in the level of TB in cattle across the south-west and midlands, where the disease is widespread. The pace at which farmers and landowners came together to deliver an effective badger removal operation in Cumbria, part of the TB low-risk area, alongside enhanced cattle measures, has given us the best opportunity to stamp out the disease in this hotspot.

Badger BCG vaccination can provide a level of protection against disease and has a role to play in limiting TB spread to healthy badger populations. Therefore, a second round of applications for the “badger edge vaccination scheme” is now open, with grant funding available to private groups wishing to carry out badger vaccination in the edge area of England. Groups will receive at least 50% funding towards their eligible costs. This builds on the three initial four-year projects we have funded, which successfully carried out badger vaccination in 2018.

We remain determined to implement all available measures necessary to eradicate this devastating disease as quickly as possible.

[HCWS1195]

Resources and Waste Strategy

Today I am publishing the new Resources and Waste Strategy for England.

In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government pledged to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation. Our ambitious new strategy will help us meet that commitment and sets out how we will eliminate avoidable plastic waste and double resource productivity. We will go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle and support the move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society.

Businesses and manufacturers have a key role to play. Our reforms will make certain that both the responsibility for and the cost of recycling or disposal of post-consumer packaging sits fairly and squarely with producers and not taxpayers. The money raised will be used to boost household recycling and make sure that any packaging used is recycled and disposed of properly. This will complement a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic, announced in the Budget, which will stimulate demand for recycled plastic.

These reforms, and others, will be complemented by improvements to local authority collections systems. Householders want to recycle more, but materials collected for recycling vary from council to council and people are confused. This strategy will tackle this and we will consult shortly on legislating to allow Government to specify a core set of materials to be collected by all local authorities and waste operators at the kerbside, and supporting comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collections.

This strategy sets out robust measures to tackle waste crime and will crackdown on food needlessly going to waste. We will consult on weekly separate food waste collections for every household and mandatory food waste measurement and reporting for businesses, including retailers.

I will place a copy of the new Resources and Waste Strategy in the Libraries of the House.

[HCWS1200]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Alleged Serious and Significant Offences (Diplomatic Immunity)

In 2017, 12 serious and significant offences allegedly committed by people entitled to diplomatic or international organisation-related immunity in the United Kingdom were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection of the Metropolitan Police Service, or other law enforcement agencies. Five of these were driving-related. We define serious offences as those which could, in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or more. Also included are drink-driving and driving without insurance.

Around 23,000 people are entitled to diplomatic immunity in the UK and the majority of diplomats and dependants abide by UK law. The number of alleged serious crimes committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, we expect those entitled to immunity to obey the law. The FCO does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.

We take all allegations of illegal activity seriously. When the police bring instances of alleged criminal conduct to our attention, we ask the relevant foreign Government to waive diplomatic immunity where appropriate. For the most serious offences, and when a relevant waiver has not been granted, we request the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat.

Listed below are alleged serious and significant offences reported to the FCO by UK law enforcement agencies in 2017.

2017

Driving without insurance

Finland 1 Saudi Arabia 1

Driving without insurance (and not in accordance with a licence)

Sierra Leone 1

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Austria 1

Commonwealth Secretariat 1

Possession of a firearm with intent to injure

Cambodia 1

Blackmail

Egypt 1

Sexual assault

Algeria 1

Rape (a)

Other (b) 2

Attempted rape (a)

Other (b) 1

Malicious communication (a)

Other (b) 1

(a) These are allegations made against the same person, who was subsequently expelled from the UK after a waiver of immunity was requested and rejected by the sending state.

(b) Details have been withheld because the number of diplomatic personnel in the mission concerned is so small that disclosure could lead to inaccurate speculation that other members of the mission were involved.

We also wish to record a further seven alleged offences.

Three allegations each of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime between 31 December 2009 and 1 January 2013, made against a former Cameroonian diplomat and two locally employed members of staff of the High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon. We did not record these alleged offences in previous written ministerial statements because the cases were under investigation.

One additional count of driving without insurance made against a member of staff of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in 2016. This was not reported to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until later.

Figures for previous years are available in the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ written statement to the House on 11 October 2017 (HCWS155) which can be found at: https://www.parliament.uk/business/ publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-10-11/HCWS155/.

[HCWS1197]

Diplomatic Missions and International Organisations: Debts

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has held meetings with a number of missions about outstanding parking fine debt, outstanding national non-domestic rates payments and unpaid congestion charge debt. The director of protocol raises the issue in his introductory meetings with all new ambassadors and high commissioners whose missions are in debt to the relevant authorities. FCO officials also press diplomatic missions and international organisations to pay outstanding fines and debts. Earlier this year, protocol directorate wrote to diplomatic missions and international organisations concerned giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding debts, or appeal against specific fines if they considered that they had been issued incorrectly.

Parking fines: In 2017, 4,737 parking fines incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in London were brought to our attention by local councils, Transport for London and the City of London. These totalled £444,618.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has held meetings with missions which have substantial outstanding parking fine debts. In addition, in May this year we wrote to diplomatic missions and international organisations concerned giving them the opportunity either to pay their outstanding fines or appeal against them if they considered that the fines had been issued incorrectly.

Subsequent payments (including amounts waived by the above authorities) totalled £173,443. There remains a total of £271,175 in unpaid fines for 2017.

The table below details those diplomatic missions and international organisations which have outstanding fines from 2017 totalling £1,000 or more, as of 31 July 2018.

Diplomatic Mission/International Organisation 2017

Amount of Outstanding Fines (excluding congestion charge)

High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria

£39,225

High Commission for the Republic of Zambia

£20,450

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

£18,535

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

£12,920

Embassy of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire

£11,145

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

£10,885

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates

£10,825

Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman

£9,650

Malaysian High Commission

£8,965

Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan

£8,735

Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan

£7,885

Embassy of Libya

£7,075

Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan

£6,890

Embassy of France

£4,960

Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

£4,485

Embassy of the State of Qatar

£4,055

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq

£3,685

People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

£3,010

Embassy of the Republic of Liberia

£2,940

Office of the High Commissioner for India

£2,835

High Commission for Sierra Leone

£2,445

Embassy of the State of Kuwait

£2,415

Embassy of the People's Republic of China

£2,290

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

£2,090

High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

£2,030

Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia

£2,005

Embassy of Romania

£1,785

Embassy of the Russian Federation

£1,770

Embassy of the Republic of Angola

£1,750

Royal Thai Embassy

£1,625

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan

£1,510

Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

£1,320

Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria

£1,210

Embassy of Georgia

£1,210

Embassy of Ukraine

£1,200

Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan

£1,120

High Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania

£1,070

National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR):

The majority of diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom pay the national non-domestic rates (NNDR) due from them. Diplomatic missions and international organisations are obliged to pay only 6% of the total NNDR value of their offices. This represents payment for specific services received such as street cleaning and street lighting.

Representations by protocol directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to missions in 2018 led to the settlement of outstanding debts by a number of missions.

As at 20 September 2018, the total amount of outstanding NNDR payments, due before 31 December 2017, owed by foreign diplomatic missions and international organisations as advised by the Valuation Office Agency is £1,507,576, an increase of 43% over the 2016 figure, as reported in the 2017 WMS (£1,049,999). However, £73,589 of this outstanding debt is owed by Syria—which is not currently represented in the UK and we have therefore been unable to pursue this debt. Three missions are responsible for over a fifth of the remainder. We shall continue to urge those with NNDR debt to pay their dues.

The missions listed below owed over £10,000 in respect of NNDR.

Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan

£137,122

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

£123,570

Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe

£101,694

Embassy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

£74,933

Embassy of Libya

£76,304

High Commission for Sierra Leone

£67,573

High Commission for the Republic of Zambia

£56,325

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq

£55,015

Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt

£53,977

Uganda High Commission

£44,489

Embassy of the Republic of Angola

£38,074

Malaysian High Commission

£37,793

High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

£36,560

Embassy of the Republic of Liberia

£32,806

High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon

£32,196

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

£35,061

Embassy of the Republic of Albania

£26,831

High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

£26,278

Embassy of Ukraine

£23,602

Embassy of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire

£22,602

The Commonwealth Secretariat

£18,496

Embassy of the State of Qatar

£17,573

Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania

£12,143

London Congestion Charge: The value of unpaid congestion charge debt incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in London since its introduction in February 2003 until 31 December 2017 as advised by Transport for London (TfL) was £110,069,300. The table below shows those diplomatic missions and international organisations with outstanding fines of £100,000 or more. FCO officials continue to press diplomatic missions to pay congestion charge and any other outstanding debts. The director of protocol raises the issue in his introductory meetings with all new ambassadors and high commissioners whose missions are in debt to TfL. Officials also write to diplomatic missions and international organisations with large congestion charge debts to encourage payment.

Country

Number of fines

Total outstanding

Embassy of the United States of America

99,150

£11,925,920

Embassy of Japan

66,783

£8,021,190

High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria

56,085

£6,724,405

Embassy of the Russian Federation

48,136

£5,653,955

Office of the High Commissioner for India

43,940

£5,394,580

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany

36,770

£4,288,680

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China

34,256

£4,337,295

Embassy of the Republic of Poland

33,350

£4,065,250

Office of the High Commissioner for Ghana

30,080

£3,655,695

Embassy of the Republic of Sudan

27,016

£3,160,730

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan

25,281

£3,116,930

High Commission for Kenya

21,729

£2,569,330

Embassy of France

18,188

£2,172,845

High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

17,010

£2,105,395

High Commission for the United Republic of Tanzania

16,621

£1,945,100

Embassy of Spain

16,112

£1,927,350

Embassy of the Republic of Korea

15,527

£1,907,655

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba

13,442

£1,650,310

Embassy of Algeria

13,395

£1,590,040

High Commission for the Republic of South Africa

13,359

£1,555,650

Embassy of Romania

13,327

£1,581,930

High Commission for Sierra Leone

12,535

£1,470,390

Embassy of Greece

12,093

£1,428,025

Embassy of Ukraine

12,014

£1,412,810

Embassy of Hungary

9,314

£1,118,250

High Commission for the Republic of Cyprus

8,971

£1,081,995

High Commission for the Republic of Zambia

7,840

£928,580

Embassy of the Republic of Yemen

7,700

£919,630

Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria

6,971

£812,180

High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon

6,069

£712,515

Embassy of the Republic of Belarus

5,877

£691,840

High Commission for Botswana

5,832

£710,440

High Commission for the Republic of Malawi

5,803

£694,645

High Commission for the Republic of Mozambique

5,535

£660,870

Embassy of the Slovak Republic

5,522

£644,985

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

5,429

£634,600

High Commission for the Republic of Namibia

5,380

£602,145

Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe

5,350

£606,395

High Commission for Kingdom of Swaziland

5,175

£602,440

Embassy of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire

4,979

£594,655

Embassy of the Republic of Turkey

4,926

£606,645

High Commission for Malta

4,723

£574,890

Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania

4,617

£556,695

Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

4,493

£527,795

Embassy of Austria

4,481

£538,875

High Commission for Mauritius

4,434

£521,990

High Commission for the Kingdom of Lesotho

4,087

£479,600

Embassy of the Republic of Liberia

4,045

£492,485

Uganda High Commission

4,026

£483,530

Embassy of Belgium

3,661

£438,575

Embassy of the Czech Republic

3,602

£418,780

Embassy of the Republic of Guinea

3,574

£181,630

Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

3,471

£411,520

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

3,440

£409,465

High Commission for Jamaica

3,080

£368,945

Royal Danish Embassy

3,049

£365,045

Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

2,953

£377,535

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

2,839

£353,530

Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan

2,729

£351,005

High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

2,724

£344,725

Embassy of Tunisia

2,613

£322,495

Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt

2,300

£243,220

Embassy of Portugal

2,297

£282,130

Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

2,249

£259,380

Embassy of the Republic of Latvia

2,247

£271,850

Embassy of Finland

2,224

£266,550

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq

2,206

£280,190

High Commission for Antigua & Barbuda

2,151

£255,060

Embassy of Luxembourg

2,029

£244,770

Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia

2,009

£245,590

Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

1,826

£200,150

High Commission for Belize

1,779

£220,740

Embassy of Estonia

1,455

£180,115

Embassy of the State of Eritrea

1,266

£150,530

Embassy of the Dominican Republic

1,231

£147,690

High Commission for Guyana

1,186

£139,635

The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the International Maritime Organisation

1,095

£80,510

High Commission for the Republic of the Maldives

1,074

£132,445

High Commission for Seychelles

1,052

£128,005

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

1,025

£109,050

Embassy of El Salvador

964

£115,330

Embassy of the Republic of Moldova

838

£100,225

Figures for previous years are available in the Secretary for State for Foreignand Commonwealth Affairs’ written statement to the House on 11 October 2017 (HCWS154) which can be found at: https://www.parliament.uk/business/ publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-10-11/HCWS154/.

[HCWS1204]

Foreign Affairs Council: 10 December 2018

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 10 December. It was chaired by the High Representative and Vice-President of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.

Current Affairs

The HRVP made reference to Human Rights Day which fell on 10 December. We supported the Dutch proposal for an EU global human rights sanctions regime.

Western Balkans

Ministers discussed recent developments in the western Balkans. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministers recalled the need for Governments to be formed at all levels and ensure that there was progress on the reform agenda. Ministers underlined the importance of supporting efforts to implement the Prespa agreement between Skopje and Athens and expressed their support for the EU’s strong focus on the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Finally, Ministers noted concerns about the Kosovo Government’s decision to increase the tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to 100%, in clear violation of the central European free trade agreement.

EU-African Union co-operation

Ministers discussed EU-African Union (AU) co-operation ahead of the first inter-summit EU-AU ministerial meeting, which will take place on 21 and 22 January 2019 in Brussels. The meeting will cover three main themes: political aspects (peace, security and governance), economic aspects (investment, trade and skills) and multilateralism (strengthening co-operation in support of a rule-based global order). Ministers expressed their clear interest in reinforcing the EU strategic partnership with Africa. They highlighted the importance of engaging with youth and noted the progress already made on co-operation on peace, security and governance, including through the signing of an EU-AU memorandum of understanding on 23 May 2018. On migration and mobility, they highlighted the work done in the framework of the joint Valletta action plan. Ministers also underlined the crucial role of the private sector and private investment to boost EU-Africa relations. They welcomed the proposed new Africa-Europe alliance on sustainable investments and jobs.

Ukraine

Ministers recalled their deep concern about the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov sea and Kerch strait and reaffirmed that the EU does not recognise the “elections” of 11 November 2018. The Council were joined by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, focusing on the latest developments in the Azov sea and the security situation in Ukraine, as well as on possible EU support to assist the affected regions in south-east Ukraine.

Iran

During discussions about Iran, Ministers focused on the implementation of the joint comprehensive plan of action, including ongoing EU efforts to preserve effective financial channels to Iran and to pursue legitimate trade relations against the background of the re-imposition of US sanctions on 5 November 2018. Ministers also discussed concerns about recent behaviour by Iranian actors on European soil, Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and other regional security aspects.

Venezuela

The HRVP updated Ministers about ongoing work to consider establishing an international contact group with Venezuela that could, if conditions were met, help facilitate a political process. The Council also confirmed its firm stance on the targeted restrictive measures in place on Venezuela. Ministers reconfirmed that the election on 20 May 2018 had lacked any credibility and agreed to find a common EU approach to the start of President Maduro’s second term on 10 January 2019. The Council also recalled its commitment to supporting the population of Venezuela and, in neighbouring countries, to supporting the socio-economic inclusion of Venezuelans and the resilience of host communities. To this end, Ministers welcomed the additional €20 million allocated by the European Commission on 4 December.

The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council adopted conclusions on Libya;

The Council adopted conclusions on the situation in Myanmar/Burma;

The Council adopted conclusions on an EU strategy on India;

The Council adopted conclusions on women, peace and security (WPS);

The Council added nine persons to the list of those subject to restrictive measures over actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and because of their involvement in the so-called “elections” in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”;

The Council extended the implementation period of its decision on the provision of satellite imagery in support of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) missions in Syria for 12 months;

The Council adopted a decision to provide the EU’s assistance to the United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC) in Vienna and the United Nations office of counter-terrorism (UNOCT) in New York for the sustained promotion of universal adherence to and effective implementation of the international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism (ICSANT);

The Council extended the restrictive measures currently in place against the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 12 December 2019;

The Council decided to repeal the EU restrictive measures against Eritrea following the adoption on 14 November 2018 by the United Nations Security Council of resolution 2444 (2018) terminating, with immediate effect, all UN restrictive measures against Eritrea;

The Council amended its decision and regulation concerning restrictive measures against Somali, following the adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2444 (2018) of 14 November 2018. It is now possible to designate persons committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence;

The Council amended its decision and its regulation concerning restrictive measures in respect of the situation in South Sudan, following the update of 21 November 2018 by the UNSC committee on the information relating to one of the persons subject to restrictive measures;

The Council approved the position of the EU, in view of the fifth meeting of the Association Council with Ukraine that will take place in Brussels on 17 December 2018;

The Council adopted the position to be taken on behalf of the EU within the association council set up by the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the EU and Jordan;

The Council adopted a declaration concerning transport costs for land, sea and air deployment of battle groups, which renews for two years the same commitments as in the previous Council declaration. The Council therefore accepts that the Athena mechanism will bear as operational common costs incremental transport costs for land, sea and air deployment of battle groups at short notice to the joint area of operations;

The Council extended the mandate of the EU capacity building mission in Somalia, EUCAP Somalia until 31 December 2020. The Council also agreed on a budget of €66.1 million for the period 1 January 2019 until 31 December 2020;

The Council amended the mandate of the EU military training mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM RCA), to include an interoperability pillar;

The Council established the EU common position for the third meeting of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Council;

The Council established the EU common position for the fifth meeting of the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Council;

The Council decided not to oppose the adoption of a Commission regulation amending annex IX to regulation 999/2001 and annex XV to Commission regulation 142/2011 as regards health certification at import into the Union concerning transmissible spongiform encephalopathies;

The Council decided not to oppose a Commission regulation amending annex III to regulation (EC) 110/2008 as regards the registration of the spirit drink “tequila” as a geographical indication.

[HCWS1196]

Home Department

Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes

My noble Friend the Minister of State for the Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) has today made the following written statement:

I am pleased to announce that Professor David Main has been appointed to the Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes (commonly referred to as the ASC) as its new Chair. This appointment is for three years, beginning on 1 March 2019. Professor Main is a Professor of Production Animal Health and Welfare at the Royal Agricultural University and a veterinary surgeon.

The ASC is an independent public body sponsored by the Home Office. It provides independent advice about issues relating to the use of animals in scientific procedures within the context of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Professor Main will replace Dr John Landers, whose term as Chair ends on 28 February 2019.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Landers for his dedication to the role of Chair of the ASC for the past five years.

[HCWS1199]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Building Safety: Implementation Plan

The Grenfell Tower fire represents the greatest loss of life in a residential fire in a century. The Government have taken considerable action since the fire to make sure people are safe and feel safe in their homes. We have identified unsafe buildings and ensured there are appropriate interim measures in place. We have sought expert advice and made this widely available to building owners and those involved in refurbishing buildings. We have issued advice to building owners on known risks and on how to remediate buildings and incentivised remediation by providing funding to social sector landlords. Where necessary, the Government have intervened into markets for products and taken action to have unsafe products removed from the marketplace. As well as dealing with current issues, we have commissioned a review of the whole regulatory system, received two reports and taken forward the recommendations of the interim report of the independent review of building regulations and fire safety (the review).

However, there remains much to do. The review identified failings in the regulatory system and made recommendations to address them. We have heard from over 200 people in response to the review and have analysed those responses. We have also learnt from the remediation process and from other issues that have been investigated over the last 18 months to formulate our response.

In addressing the challenges laid down by the review, the Government want to make sure the identified failings are addressed:

We will create a stronger and more effective regulatory and accountability framework for buildings in scope, which will have at its core clear responsibility and accountability for keeping people safe. We will prevent people from flouting the system through tougher oversight and a stronger and more effective sanctions and enforcement regime.

We will facilitate better understanding of what is required to ensure buildings are safe through clearer standards and guidance, as well as improving the rigour of the product labelling, testing and marketing processes to ensure people working on buildings use safe products.

We will ensure we put residents at the heart of a new regulatory framework through better engagement between them and those managing their buildings, as well as providing more effective routes for escalation and redress when things go wrong. We will ensure building owners reassure residents by providing them with better information about the protection measures in place in their buildings.

Working with industry, we will drive changes to its culture to encourage greater responsibility for building safety, by improving the competence of those undertaking building work on high-rise residential buildings to complement the tougher regulatory oversight regime, and encouraging the sharing of good practice.

The implementation plan that I am publishing today commits the Government to a programme of reform over the next few years. While legislation will take time to implement, the Government are already acting. We recognised the strength of feeling on combustible cladding and have laid regulations to give effect to a clear ban on the use of combustible materials on the external walls of new buildings over 18 metres containing flats, as well as new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over that height. This also rules out the use of assessments in lieu of tests (also known as desktop studies) for cladding and wall systems of such buildings.

Today, we have also published amended guidance which further restricts the use of assessments in lieu of tests, following consultation earlier this year. This ensures transparency and applies much tighter and more restrictive conditions; requires that any assessments are properly evidenced on the basis of test data; and restricts who can undertake them.

In the summer, we published a clarified version of the building regulations fire safety guidance in “Approved Document B” for consultation, and we received a substantial number of detailed comments on the clarified guidance which the Department is currently analysing. We also committed to undertake a full technical review of “Approved Document B” and today we have launched a call for evidence, which is the first stage, and we will gather expert advice on the full range of fire safety issues within the guidance which need to be reviewed.

A number of landlords and firms have already responded to this call for action by reviewing the state of their buildings, proactively engaging with residents and documenting safety features. The Government have established an early adopters group to take forward some of the review’s recommendations. We welcome the work that industry has done to date and look forward to engaging with those living and working in these areas to design a new system that will provide greater assurance to those living in high-rise residential buildings.

The Government have driven significant progress in remediating buildings in the social sector. At the end of November, remediation had started or completed on 116 of the 160 social sector buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding systems. There are plans and commitments in place to remediate the remaining 44 buildings.

In the private sector, there has been strong progress since the summer in putting remediation plans in place. At the end of November, there were plans and commitments in place to remediate 203 of the 272 privately owned buildings with unsafe ACM cladding systems, including buildings where remediation has started or completed.

This progress is the result of action we have taken to put pressure on building owners and developers to make their buildings permanently safe, including the creation of a remediation taskforce, chaired by Ministers.

We are also taking decisive action to deal with the remaining buildings where owners are not fulfilling their responsibility to remediate unsafe ACM cladding. To give local authorities confidence to take enforcement action on such buildings, we laid an addendum to the housing health and safety rating system operating guidance and are providing a Local Government Association hosted joint inspection team. I have written to local authorities, with buildings where the owner refuses to remediate unsafe ACM cladding, to offer them our full support to take enforcement action. This will include financial support where this is necessary for the local authority to carry out emergency remedial work. Where financial support is provided, local authorities will recover the costs from the building owner.

I have repeatedly made clear that building owners should protect leaseholders from bearing the cost of remediation. There is a growing list of owners and developers who are doing the right thing and agreeing to fund remediation. This includes Barratt Developments, Mace Group, Legal & General, Taylor Wimpey and Peabody. I have urged all other owners and developers to follow their lead. The implementation plan I am publishing today sets out the far-reaching programme of work the Government now intend to take to ensure people who live in residential high-rise buildings are safe and feel safe, now and in the future. That work is broken down into four distinct but co-ordinated areas:

A more effective regulatory and accountability framework: Addressing Dame Judith Hackitt’s finding that the regulatory framework around the construction, maintenance and ongoing use of multi-occupied, high-rise residential buildings was not fit for purpose, the implementation plan outlines how the Government intend to create a stronger and more effective regulatory framework. The framework has, at its core, clear responsibility and accountability for keeping people safe, as well as tougher oversight and stronger, better enforced sanctions to prevent people flouting the system. We will not wait for legislation to start this work—we will be testing and trialling elements of the new system soon and I intend to establish a joint regulators group to develop and pilot new approaches and, in due course, to assist with the transition to a new regulatory framework.

Clearer standards and guidance, and product safety: The review identified problems caused by complex and inconsistent standards and guidance, and highlighted the importance of taking a holistic view of building work. The implementation plan provides an update on our work to support better understanding by those who undertake building work of what is required to ensure that buildings are safe through clearer standards and guidance. The implementation plan also makes clear my intention to consult in the spring on options for a new governance structure for the oversight of building regulations and guidance.

The Government also intend to provide greater oversight to ensure products are safe where they are being marketed as safe to those that provide materials used in construction. The implementation plan sets out my intention to establish, over the next 12 months, a “standards committee” to advise me on new and existing construction product and system standards; bring forward proposals to establish consistent legislative powers which cover construction products; and consider options for national regulatory oversight of construction products to ensure that construction products are manufactured to the standards they should meet.

Putting residents at the heart of the building safety system: a stronger voice for residents is at the heart of the new system, and the implementation plan sets out how Government intend to empower residents through better engagement with those managing their buildings, as well as more effective routes for escalation and redress when things go wrong. We will also provide reassurance for residents through better information about protection measures in place in their buildings. And we are launching a call for evidence on how residents are supported to meet their responsibilities to keep their homes and buildings safe.

In the spring, informed by ongoing research and input from the residents’ reference panel, the Government will consult on requirements for duty holders to proactively provide residents with critical safety information about their building, and put in place a resident engagement strategy. We will also consult on options for a clear and quick escalation route for building safety concerns, including the relationship with a new regulatory framework for building safety and the interactions with existing regulators and redress schemes.

Driving culture change and a more responsible industry: The implementation plan sets out measures to work with industry to drive culture change to increase responsibility for building safety, including by improving competence of those undertaking building work. an industry safety steering group, chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt, has been established to challenge and push the sector to drive forward culture change.

The Government will take action to support industry as it leads the way, championing the efforts of those who are doing the right thing and challenging those who have further to go. The implementation plan includes our commitment to review industry proposals and take a view on whether they deliver a coherent approach to assessing and providing assurance on competence across the construction sector. We will also continue to consider whether legislation is necessary to give effect to a new system of assuring competence.

In addition to this, my Department will continue to build on the achievements of a group of early adopters in industry, which I announced in July. Early adopters working with the Government will commit to signing a new building safety charter on culture change and trial and test the implementation of the recommendations of the review in advance of legislation.

This is a major programme of work, but it is necessary to achieve the systemic overhaul that we are aiming for: requiring all parties to change and putting residents’ safety at the heart of the system. I am clear we want a change that lasts—we are determined to learn the lessons from the Grenfell tragedy and bring about a fundamental change in both a regulatory framework and the industry culture that will make people safe—and feel safe—in their homes.

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Grenfell Update

The independent Grenfell recovery taskforce continues to provide challenge and advice to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) in their response to the tragedy. I recently received their third report, which I am today depositing in the Library of the House and publishing in full at gov.uk.

I am pleased to see that the council has made some important progress since the second taskforce report in March 2018, notably:

The council’s leadership is strongly committed to Grenfell recovery:

Governance changes are beginning to bear fruit;

Many council officers have a good relationship with the people they serve. This is a testament to their humanity, skills and hard work;

There are pockets of innovative practice.

However, the taskforce is clear that pace remains an issue and that it was to be expected that RBKC would have been further forward by this point than it currently is. The taskforce has recommended that the council needs to:

Complete the recovery strategy as soon as possible, so that they have a clear road map to achieving recovery:

Ensure they have the capacity and capability to deliver the recovery strategy, whilst at the same time responding appropriately to the public inquiry and associated media interest:

Carry on with their work to repair and improve relationships with their communities, and get the basics right in how they communicate with them;

Remain focused on their programme of culture change to show that they have learnt the lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy:

Prioritise the rehousing effort in order that all those made homeless by the tragedy are resettled in good quality permanent homes as soon as possible.

I have asked the taskforce to continue their work in supporting and challenging the council and providing assurance to me; and to report to me again in spring 2019.

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Rough Sleeping

In August, we published a cross-Government Rough Sleeping Strategy, setting out how we will halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it altogether by 2027. The strategy has three core pillars of prevention, intervention, and recovery, with a preventive approach towards rough sleeping at its heart.

Today, the Government are announcing the locations of 11 Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, warm and dry centres where people at crisis point will be able to seek shelter, while their housing and support needs are quickly assessed by specialist staff. This follows an expression of interest round which closed at the end of October, and includes the most innovative proposals, from local authorities who can mobilise and deliver services from this winter. A full list of the early adopter areas can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/rapid-rehousing-pathway-somewhere-safe-to-stay-early-adopters. Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, allowing for a quick and effective assessment of needs, are central to these local authorities’ “Rapid Rehousing Pathways”. In the 11 early adopter areas, we will be providing funding for a range of policies alongside the hubs—including specialist “Navigators”, supported lettings, and local lettings agencies—to ensure that there is a full and functioning pathway in place to help people into sustained accommodation and appropriate wrap-around support.

These hubs will not only take people off the streets into a safe environment but, crucially, will also take in individuals who have been identified as being at risk of sleeping rough, stopping them having to sleep on the streets in the first place. In this way, the “Somewhere Safe to Stay” model builds upon the success of the “No Second Night Out” model of rapid assessment hubs.

This approach fits with the Government’s objective to intervene sooner, and move towards a preventive approach towards rough sleeping.

The full programme of funding will enable local areas to connect people with the right support, and sustainable housing. It encompasses funding for specialist Navigators, who act as a single point of contact to support people from the streets into settled accommodation; the establishment of local lettings agencies to source, identify, or provide homes and advice for rough sleepers or those at risk; and funding for a supported lettings programme, which will provide flexible support to help individuals sustain their tenancies.

The announcement of the “Somewhere Safe to Stay” early adopters represents key progress against the delivery of the rough sleeping strategy, as set out in the “Rough Sleeping Strategy Delivery Plan” on 10 December. These pilots will be the first step in testing innovative structural change to local systems and the move towards a rapid rehousing approach, bringing us a step closer to the 2027 vision of putting an end to rough sleeping.

The Government will invite a wider bidding round in 2019, for other local authorities to improve and implement their “Rapid Rehousing Pathway”, and will announce the details of this in due course.

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Justice

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Today I am pleased to publish the terms of reference for the review of the criminal injuries compensation scheme.

Compensation has long been an important part of the Government’s response to supporting victims of violent crime, and the criminal injuries compensation scheme provides payments to those who have suffered serious physical or mental injury as the direct result of violent crime. Our scheme remains one of the most generous in Europe—something of which we can be rightly proud. While no amount of money can ever repair the harm done to an individual through violent crime, we know that compensation offers an important public acknowledgment for victims of the harm they have suffered. Compensation, alongside victims’ services and other practical and emotional support, helps victims of violent crime to start to rebuild their lives.

In 2017-18, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority made decisions on over 40,000 applications, and paid out £154 million in compensation awards. It is essential that the scheme continues to offer access to compensation for victims injured through violent crime, and in considering whether the current scheme remains fit for purpose, we will be driven by the following principles:

Compensation should be protected for those most seriously affected by their injuries, including in cases where injuries are not immediately evident nor their impacts easily quantifiable.

Compensation offers a public acknowledgment of harm suffered by victims of violent crime.

Compensation is an important part of Government provision of end-to-end support for victims of violent crime, which also includes emotional and practical assistance for victims.

The scheme offers support for victims of violent crime who have been unable to seek compensation by other means.

The scheme complies with domestic and international legal obligations to provide compensation for victims of violent crime.

The review will examine, specifically, the scope of the scheme, the eligibility rules, requirements in relation to decision making, and the value and composition of awards. This will include looking at the balance the scheme strikes between serious and less serious physical and mental injury, and the impact of the scheme’s rules on particular groups of individuals, including victims of child sexual abuse and victims of terrorism. We will also take this opportunity to consider whether the scheme can be further simplified to provide easier access to compensation for eligible victims. We will also consider issues of affordability and financial sustainability.

A copy of the terms of reference for the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available online at www.gov.uk. We intend to publish a full consultation on the reform proposals in 2019.

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Work and Pensions

Pensions and Long-Term Savings Trials (Self-Employed)

Automatic enrolment has transformed pension saving among today’s workers. Almost 10 million workers have been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension by their employer, and only 9% of those enrolled chose to opt out. And, this success is continuing with automatic enrolment continuing to be delivered and implemented successfully by employers, and increasing individual pension participation and savings levels as highlighted in the 2018 Automatic Enrolment Evaluation Report published today.

As part of the 2017 review of automatic enrolment the Government committed to scope, develop and test targeted interventions aimed at establishing what works to increase retirement saving among the self-employed.

I am pleased to announce that following the Government’s Good Work Plan published yesterday the Government are publishing the “Enabling retirement savings for the self-employed: pensions and long term savings trials! report. This report sets out our delivery plan for delivering research and trialling activity as a step towards implementing the Government’s manifesto commitment to increase retirement saving by the self-employed. This will provide an evidence base for future policy development, using insights from the success of automatic enrolment.

Our plan focuses on testing behaviourally inspired messages and tech tools, which may prompt self-employed individuals to save through a range of approaches in relation to both joining a pension scheme, and facilitating and making regular saving into pensions or other savings vehicles. The preparatory work has already started and trialling activity will go forward into 2019.

It will focus on three areas: marketing interventions aimed at people who are saving or have previously saved to encourage them to continue or recommence their saving behaviour; marketing interventions using trusted third parties to promote the value of saving and provide an easy connection to an appropriate savings vehicle; and behavioural prompts, such as messages delivered through payment mechanisms and/or banking interfaces, to seek to engage self-employed people to think about starting a regular saving habit.

The Department for Work and Pensions will be working with a range of delivery organisations and service providers for the self-employed to commence a programme of research and trialling activity, following preparatory work already done. The report published today is also a call to action to organisations in sectors including payment services; accounting services; self-employed workspaces and growing fintech firms, to work with Government to co-design and test interventions.

The report complements our agenda to empower and improve the consumer experience, in particular through the pensions dashboard and the Single Financial Guidance Body.

The Government’s long-term ambition is for future generations to have confidence in retirement saving—no matter what type of employment or self-employment they experience during their working lives—so that they can prepare for greater security in later life.

I will place a copy of the report in the House Library. These papers will be available later today on: www.parliament. uk/writtenstatements website.

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