Thursday 20 December 2018
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
UNFCCC Conference of Parties
The 24th conference of the parties (COP24) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) took place in Katowice, Poland, from 2 to 15 December. I led the United Kingdom delegation, accompanied by the Minister for Asia and the Pacific, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). As a demonstration of the UK’s action at all levels, the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Environment also attended, as well as the Deputy Premier of the Government of the British Virgin Islands, representing the UK overseas territories.
The UK’s priorities for COP24 were to accelerate the global political momentum to combat climate change by i) securing a rulebook that would enable the historic Paris agreement to be effectively implemented: and ii) engaging in a constructive dialogue on ambition (the “Talanoa dialogue”) that would generate confidence and enhance action. In doing so, we were also determined to promote the UK’s global climate leadership.
COP24 was an important moment, representing the culmination of three years of negotiations and following shortly after the publication of a landmark scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that highlighted the severe consequences of failing to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
In the negotiations we succeeded in securing our main objectives by delivering an operational rulebook to drive genuine climate action, creating a level playing field, while allowing for flexibility and support for those countries that need it, in light of capacity. Inevitably there is still work to be done, particularly on carbon markets, but the overall picture is of a rulebook that enables the Paris agreement to be taken forward in practice, marking a move from negotiation to implementation.
The UK championed the latest climate science during COP. We played a central role in the progressive alliance of countries striving for a legal outcome that coupled robust rules with a call for more ambitious climate action—both through supporting the High Ambition Coalition’s Stepping Up Climate Ambition statement and through regularly convening the Cartagena dialogue of progressive countries.
Outside the negotiations, the UK had a visible presence at COP. We celebrated one year of the powering past coal alliance (PPCA) that was launched last year. The UK pavilion had over 50 events showcasing UK international support, domestic action, and low carbon expertise. We also made new domestic commitments, including the announcements of a clean growth grand challenge mission to establish one net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low carbon cluster by 2030. To kick-start this mission we will invest up to £170 million to develop and deploy low carbon technologies and enable infrastructure in one or more clusters, and we will also provide up to £66 million to develop new technologies and establish innovation centres to support the transformation of our foundation industries.
The UK reaffirmed our commitment to supporting climate action, highlighting recent announcements including an additional £100 million of UK climate finance for the renewable energy performance platform (REPP) to support 40 renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as £106 million for green construction and £60 million to build capacity to drive clean growth and emissions reductions in key developing countries.
We were also pleased to support Poland as COP presidency in their role, both through constructive engagement on negotiations and also in their three political declarations. The Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), signed the declaration on “just transition”, promoting efforts to ensure no workers or communities are left behind in the transition towards a low carbon future. The UK co-developed Poland’s declaration on e-mobility (building on our successful zero emission vehicle summit in Birmingham in September), and we also supported their declaration on forestry.
We now turn our attention to 2019 and beyond, including the UN Secretary General’s climate summit next September, which will be a vital step as countries look to raise their ambition ahead of 2020. COP26 in 2020 will be a pivotal moment to encourage and take stock of global ambition and prepare the ground for further action. It is for that reason that the UK expressed interest in hosting COP26, continuing to show our global leadership in climate action. However, we note the interest of other countries and will engage with them on this matter. Our priority is to ensure that the conference of the parties is a success.
Finance (No. 3) Bill: EVEL
I have today published a written submission outlining the Government’s analysis of how the English votes for English laws principle relates to all Government amendments tabled for the Report stage of the Finance (No.3) Bill.
The Department’s assessment is that the amendments do not change the territorial application of the Bill. The analysis holds if all the Government amendments are accepted.
I have deposited a copy of the submission in the Libraries of both Houses.
Armed Forces Pay Review Body Appointment
I am pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), has appointed Vice-Admiral (Ret’d) Sir David Steel as the next ex-military member of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. His appointment will commence on 1 March 2019 and run until 28 February 2022. This appointment has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
Future Nuclear Deterrent
On 18 May 2011, the then Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Liam Fox), made an oral statement to the House, Official Report, column 351, announcing the approval of the initial gate investment stage for the procurement of the successor to the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines. He also placed in the Library of the House a report “The United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent: The Submarine Initial Gate Parliamentary Report”.
As confirmed in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, this Government have committed to publishing an annual report on the programme. I am today publishing the seventh report, “The United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent: 2018 Update to Parliament”. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council took place in Brussels from 17 to 19 November. The UK was represented by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, and Lords Minister.
On fisheries, the focus of the Council was EU quota negotiations, involving decisions on fishing opportunities for the next year for quota stocks in the North sea, Atlantic, the English channel, Irish and Celtic seas. Fishing opportunities are set under the rules of the reformed common fisheries policy, which aims to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest.
Prior to the Council, a number of negotiations had taken place with third countries, such as EU-Norway, which set fishing opportunities for certain stocks. The EU share of these opportunities were endorsed at the Council.
This year’s discussions were challenging for all member states given scientific advice on quota, which included a recommendation of zero total allowable catch (TAC) for five key species for UK fishermen, and the full implementation of the landing obligation from 1 Jan 2019—a requirement to cut the wasteful discarding of fish.
The agreed deal ensures that there are now workable solutions to alleviate the risk of choke closing economically important mixed fisheries while also preventing fish from being wastefully discarded unnecessarily. The agreement also includes a commitment to review scientific data as the new regulation comes into effect.
Total fishing opportunities agreed for 2019 included increased quotas for:
West of Scotland monkfish (+25%)
Western hake (+28%)
Skates and rays in the English Channel (+10%)
Limits remained the same for other stocks including Celtic sea sole and pollack— and where the science showed it was necessary, quotas were reduced for certain stocks, including herring in the Celtic sea.
Increases in quota for hake, haddock and megrim will benefit the whole of the UK. Increased quota for monkfish will provide a boost for the Scottish fleet, while Northern Ireland has benefited from an increase in Irish sea cod. Agreements on sea bass will offer welcome support to the inshore fleet in Wales.
The primary focus for agriculture was a debate on the post-2020 CAP reform package, including three legislative proposals: the first on CAP strategic plans; the second on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP; and the third on common market organisation (CMO) of agricultural products. The Commission welcomed engagement from member states and outlined some of the areas to be considered, including the budget and the performance monitoring system. In the discussion that followed, member states stressed the importance of simplification and shared their views on convergence and the need for a transition period. Under the same item, Croatia also gave an update on its inter-parliamentary conference on the future of food and farming.
The Commission also informed Council about the new bio-economy strategy and mentioned initiatives by member states, such as the BIOEAST conference, which Hungary gave an update on under the same item. The UK intervened to welcome the aims of the new strategy and encourage co-operation between member states.
Six other items were discussed separately under “any other business”:
The Commission set out its proposal to amend the present CAP legislation for payments in 2019-20, with the UK intervening in support and to call for additional flexibility.
Italy gave an update on forest damage.
The Commission informed Council about actions taken following the 2017 Fipronil eggs contamination incident.
The presidency discussed the progress of legislative files, namely unfair trading practices, spirit drinks, and fertilisers.
Poland gave a presentation on the situation in the pigmeat market situation.
The presidency and Commission updated Council on the plant proteins conference held in Vienna in November.
Exiting the European Union
Agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
The UK has reached agreement with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (the “EEA EFTA states”), and separately with Switzerland, to resolve the issues arising with those states from the UK’s exit from the European Union. The Government have been clear that their first priority as part of securing a smooth and orderly exit from the EU was to provide certainty for citizens. As such, we announced in February that we were seeking agreements with these countries, similar to the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU.
The EEA EFTA states participate in the single market and other EU-led initiatives. As a result, the agreement with them also addresses a small number of the other separation issues that we have agreed with the EU in the withdrawal agreement.
The EEA EFTA agreement will cover:
Citizens’ rights. As with part two of the withdrawal agreement, the agreement ensures that citizens falling within scope will have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access public services and benefits as now.
Goods on the market, public procurement, intellectual property, and data protection. Provisions in this agreement broadly mirror the arrangements set out in the withdrawal agreement. Where necessary, small technical adaptations have been made, in line with existing technical differences between EU law and the EEA agreement.
Ongoing judicial proceedings. This will allow UK lawyers to continue to appear before the EFTA court in cases which are ongoing at the point of exit.
Police and criminal justice. These provisions broadly mirror the arrangements set out in the withdrawal agreement, but for the smaller subset of police and criminal justice matters in which Norway and Iceland participate.
Governance arrangements. As for EU citizens under the withdrawal agreement, EEA EFTA citizens will be covered by the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA). A joint committee consisting of the UK and the EEA EFTA states will be established to oversee this agreement.
The agreement reached with the Swiss Confederation will lay out the arrangements for citizens when the current EU-Swiss free movement of persons agreement ceases to apply between the UK and Switzerland. This supports the ending of free movement after we leave the EU. The terms of this agreement protect the rights of Swiss citizens in the UK and UK nationals in Switzerland, ensuring that they can continue to contribute to their communities and live their lives broadly as they do now.
Together, these agreements will protect over 50,000 UK citizens living in these countries and nearly 30,000 citizens from these countries in the UK.
It is also the Government’s intention that the rights of these citizens would be protected in the event of a no-deal outcome with the EU. The citizens’ rights agreement with Switzerland already addresses this. We are discussing a separate citizens’ rights agreement with the EEA EFTA states for a no-deal scenario.
I will be depositing these agreements and explainers today in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government intend to sign both agreements before exit day and legislate for them through the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. Both agreements are subject to ratification processes in each of the relevant states, including the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRaG) 2010 in the UK.
General Affairs Council 11 December
Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 11 December in Brussels. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:
Multiannual financial framework 2021-27
The Council held a policy debate on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-27. Ministers had a constructive exchange of views on the main political priorities, setting out the implications of the current proposals for their citizens and on their national budgets, ahead of the first substantial debate on the MFF at the December European Council.
Eighteen-month programme of the Council
Ministers endorsed the 18-month work programme of the Council of the European Union. The programme was prepared by the incoming trio of the presidencies of Romania, Finland and Croatia and the High Representative, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council. The future Romanian presidency presented the trio’s programme of activities from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020. The three main areas of focus for the trio are: unity, delivery and building a reinforced narrative on the future of the EU.
Preparation of the European Council on 13 and 14 December 2018 and European Council follow-up
The Council discussed preparations and draft conclusions for the December European Council. These included the next MFF, the single market, migration and external relations. As part of the discussions on external relations, Ministers considered the Commission’s disinformation action plan, which seeks to protect the European elections in May and other national elections. I intervened to welcome in broad terms the joint report on disinformation, and to call for follow-up actions to evaluate the EU’s response.
On migration, I underlined the importance of the conclusions in recognising continued efforts to tackle people smugglers and to intensify third country co-operation. I highlighted the future EU/League of Arab States summit as an excellent opportunity to improve co-operation with a strategic partner.
Rule of law in Poland—article 7(1) TEU reasoned proposal
The Council held a hearing under article 7(1) treaty on European Union (TEU) on the rule of law in Poland. The Commission updated Ministers on the situation regarding the rule of law in Poland. In response, Poland provided Ministers with a presentation on the evolution of its judicial reforms. The Council is expected to return to this matter at a future meeting.
Values of the Union—Hungary / article 7(1) TEU reasoned proposal
Ministers exchanged views on the procedure following the European Parliament’s triggering of the article 7(1) TEU procedure for Hungary. As part of this procedure, Hungary provided the Council with its written contribution on the issues raised by the Parliament. The Commission has provided a factual contribution on pending infringement procedures against Hungary.
European semester 2019—annual growth survey
The Commission presented the results from the annual growth survey and noted that the EU economy was entering its sixth year of uninterrupted growth. This prosperity was attributed to individual member state and EU actions, with the desire to see greater cohesion between funding and EU economic policy aims in the future.
EU budget for 2019
The Council endorsed the agreement reached with the European Parliament on the EU budget for 2019. The total commitments are set at €165.8 billion, which is an increase of 3.2% compared with 2018. Payments amount to €148.2 billion, 2.4% more than in 2018.
Health and Social Care
Public Health Grant
Today I am publishing the public health allocations to local authorities in England for 2019-20, based on the 2015 spending review profile.
Through the public health grant and the pilot of 100% retained business rate funding for local authorities in Greater Manchester, we are spending £3.134 billion on public health in 2019-20. We will be spending in excess of £16 billion on public health over the five years of the 2015 spending review until 2020, in addition to what the NHS spends on preventative interventions such as immunisation and screening.
The 2019-20 grant will continue to be subject to conditions, including a ring-fence requiring local authorities to use the grant exclusively for public health activity.
Full details of the public health grants to local authorities can be found on gov.uk and have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. This information will be communicated to local authorities in a local authority circular.
The Government remain committed to relocating the specified number of 480 unaccompanied children to the United Kingdom under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, commonly known as the “Dubs amendment”. The first 220 of those children arrived under exceptional circumstances as part of the UK’s comprehensive support to the clearance of the Calais camp from October 2016. During this time, this Government took unprecedented action to remove vulnerable children from a dangerous situation where they were at risk of violence and abuse.
Following discussion with delivery partners, we have decided to remove the date criterion for when children had to have arrived in Europe to qualify for transfer to the UK. Delivering section 67 in a safe way, which respects individual states’ national laws and the best interests of children, remains a priority for the Government.
This decision means that participating states—France, Greece and Italy—will now be able to refer the most vulnerable children, regardless of when they arrived into Europe. To be eligible for the scheme, it must be in the child’s best interests to come to the UK, rather than to remain in their current host country, be transferred to another EU member state or to be reunited with family outside of Europe. We continue to ask participating states to prioritise unaccompanied children who are most likely to be granted refugee status and/or are the most vulnerable.
It is this Government’s hope that removing the date criterion will speed up transfers and will enable participating states to more easily identify children for transfer as soon as possible. We are grateful for the ongoing support to meet this commitment from the Governments of participating states, delivery partners and UK local authorities. Ensuring the safe relocation of children under the scheme as soon as possible is dependent on appropriate care placements being available for children once they arrive in the UK. The Home Office continues to work closely with local authorities across the UK to place children as quickly as possible and in a location where their individual care needs can be met.
EU Settlement Scheme
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) is today laying before Parliament a statement of changes in immigration rules [HC 1849] , copies of which are available in the Vote Office. The changes implement the next phase of the roll-out of the EU settlement scheme, for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain UK immigration status. The immigration rules for the scheme came into force on 28 August 2018, for the purposes of an initial private beta test phase, involving 12 NHS trusts and three universities in north-west England. This successfully proved some key elements of the scheme in a live environment, and we published a report on its findings on 31 October 2018.
A second, expanded private beta phase began from 1 November 2018 and will end on 21 December 2018. This has tested the online application process as an integrated, end-to-end process. It has been available, on a voluntary basis, to staff in the higher education, health and social care sectors across the UK, and to some vulnerable individuals, being supported by a small number of local authorities and community groups, in order to test the operation of the scheme for those with support needs.
We will publish a full report on the second private beta phase in January 2019. However, the initial findings from this phase have been positive. By 13 December 2018, more than 15,500 applications had been made and more than 12,400 of these had been concluded, enabling the new system and applicant interaction with it to be tested at scale: 71% of the concluded applications were granted settled status, with the rest granted pre-settled status, and many received their decision within 24 hours; 77% of applicants who provided feedback said that they found the online application process easy, or fairly easy, to complete. More than 90% of applicants successfully used the identity verification app to prove their identity remotely, with the rest required to submit their identity document by post.
We have also learned lessons from this second private beta phase which have enabled further improvements to be made. These include improved functionality in respect of how an applicant verifies their email address; an increase in the size of files an applicant can upload, should they need to provide supporting evidence; and updates to the caseworking system.
In light of the successful testing of the online application process during the private beta phases, we have decided to proceed, as planned, with the start of the wider public implementation of the EU settlement scheme from 21 January 2019. From that date, the scheme will be available to resident EU citizens (and their EU citizen family members) with a valid passport, and to their non-EU citizen family members holding a valid biometric residence card, so that they can prove their identity remotely using the identity verification app, which is an integrated part of the online application process.
We currently anticipate that the further implementation of the EU settlement scheme will be secured through further immigration rules changes to be laid before Parliament in early March 2019, so that the scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019.
Future Leadership of UNAIDS
Since the beginning of 2018, the UNAIDS Secretariat has been in the spotlight due to allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power within the organisation. As Chair of the UNAIDS programme co-ordinating board (PCB), the UK played a key role in establishing an independent expert panel (IEP) on prevention and response to harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power. The resulting report published on 7 December, provides important recommendations to enable the UNAIDS Secretariat, and its leadership, to take action to tackle these issues, ensuring zero tolerance within the organisation.
The IEP report is highly critical of the UNAIDS Secretariat and its senior leadership. Like others, the UK is very concerned about these findings. As Chair we have worked with the board to ensure a robust response to the IEP report’s findings, to allow these critical issues to be addressed swiftly and comprehensively.
The UK recognises the critical role that UNAIDS plays in the global AIDS response. However, the UK Government have been very clear that we expect all the organisations we work with to operate to the highest standards on the issue of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power.
The IEP made it clear in their report that addressing these issues within the UNAIDS Secretariat requires new leadership. While the UK welcomes the decision by the PCB to initiate the process for the recruitment of a new executive director immediately, it is also vital to signal a strong response on these critical issues within and beyond the organisation. For this reason, the UK expects the current executive director to step down.
Work and Pensions
Personal Independence Payment
I would like to update the House on the improvements my Department is making in personal independence payment (PIP). The guidance available to PIP case managers was updated in August 2018 to ensure those who are awarded the highest level of support whose needs are unlikely to improve or will deteriorate receive an ongoing award with a light-touch review at the 10-year point. Following on from the introduction of that guidance in August, we have now commenced activity to review the claims of existing claimants on the top level of support to identify those individuals who, in light of the new guidance, should be receiving an ongoing award. This is still in the early stages and being dealt with in date order, prioritising claimants whose awards are coming up for an award review, but commencing this activity is a really important step to reducing the number of individuals having to undergo an unnecessary award review where their needs are only likely to deteriorate.
A copy of the guidance for case managers has been placed in the House of Commons Library and is available at: http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-1113/UIN_174062_-_Award_period_ guidance_10.10.18.pdf.
The light-touch review process and guidance itself has not yet been developed, but we aim to do so well in advance of the first such reviews taking place. We intend to consult with stakeholders as part of that process.
My written statement of 25 June 2018 (HCWS793) informed the House that my Department had begun an exercise to identify anyone who may be entitled to more support under PIP as a result of the MH and RJ decisions of the upper tribunal. The MH decision broadened the interpretation about how symptoms of overwhelming psychological distress should be assessed for the purpose of mobility activity 1 in PIP. The RJ decision concerned how the Department considers a claimant to be carrying out an activity safely and whether they need supervision to do so. I committed to regularly updating the House of developments regarding this administrative exercise.
The Department has today published an ad hoc release of management information on the administrative exercise: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/dwp-ad-hoc-analyses#2018.
As at 23 November 2018, 140,000 cases had been cleared, of which 1,000 had been paid arrears. The average payment made is approximately £4,500. We are monitoring the numbers of, and reasons for, revised awards closely and making regular quality checks in order to ensure that our decision making is accurate and fair.
Given the complexity of the exercise we have started at a relatively small scale to test our processes and ensure they are effective before ramping up. At the same time we have recruited over 250 additional staff to increase resources available for this exercise, with more to follow over the coming months.
In addition, we are redirecting resource from other areas of PIP. This means the administrative exercise will conclude in 2020. Some DLA to PIP reassessments that would have taken place in 2019-20 will move to the following year. I believe that prioritising cases where claimants are entitled to arrears is the correct approach.
Further information on how the administrative exercise is being undertaken is set out in an updated frequently asked questions. I will deposit a copy of this document in the Library of the House.
Furthermore, I would like to inform the House that the Department implemented another upper tribunal decision on 17 December and will commence a review exercise in the new year.
This exercise regards the decision in OM which was handed down on November 2017. This decision refers to DLA claimants transferring to PIP, who failed to attend or participate in their PIP consultations, and who had their DLA terminated as a result, but where, subsequently, DWP decision makers or tribunals have decided the claimant had a “good reason” for not attending or participating. The decision states that in these instances claimants’ DLA awards should be reinstated, until a final decision on their PIP claim, and back paid, as necessary. We accept that the same approach applies where claimants who failed to provide information or evidence were later found to have “good reason” for the failure to comply.
The Department has been working at pace and taking the necessary steps required to implement the ruling. We expect around 4,600 people to gain as a result of this review exercise, all claimants who benefit from the upper tribunal decision will be notified by the Department.