Tuesday 8 January 2019
Cabinet Committees and Implementation Taskforces
Today I am announcing the creation of a new European Union Exit and Trade (Preparedness) Sub-Committee, which will oversee and ensure effective delivery of plans for an orderly exit from the European Union. This new sub-Committee will replace the former European Union Exit and Trade (Domestic Preparedness, Legislation and Devolution) Sub-Committee, which will be disbanded. An updated list of Cabinet Committees and Implementation Task Forces (ITFs) will be made available on www.gov.uk.. The Borders Inter Ministerial Group and the European Union Exit Inter Ministerial Group will also be disbanded.
Double Taxation Convention: UK and Cyprus
A protocol to the double taxation convention with Cyprus was signed on 19 December 2018. The text of the protocol is available on HM Revenue and Customs’ pages of the gov.uk website and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The text will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.
Exiting the European Union
General Affairs Council
Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I will attend the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 8 January 2019 to represent the UK. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member.
The provisional agenda includes:
Presentation of the priorities of the Romanian presidency
The Romanian presidency is expected to present its presidential priorities for its six month tenure. The priorities are: a Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe as a strong global actor and a Europe of common values.
Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027
Ministers and the Commission will discuss progress on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations.
Co-ordinated response on disinformation
Ministers are expected to discuss the “action plan against disinformation” which was agreed at the December European Council. The plan comprises commitments to tackle the systematic spreading of false information created to deceive and mislead audiences, with the intention of causing harm or obtaining political, personal or financial gain.
The Commission is expected to provide an update on the state of play of live legislative files, including those in the Commission work programme 2019.
The United Kingdom has a proud history of providing an asylum system that protects and respects the fundamental rights of individuals seeking refuge from persecution. This system includes supporting asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while their asylum claim is assessed. I am grateful for the attention Members of this House, including the Home Affairs Committee, have given to this matter.
I have always been clear about this Government’s commitment to ensuring service users are provided with safe, secure and suitable accommodation and are treated with dignity and respect. I have listened to the concerns of local authorities and have reinforced my commitment to working in partnership with them in this area. I am also mindful of this Government’s commitment to provide value for money for the taxpayer. Today I am pleased to inform the House that we have procured contracts for asylum accommodation and support to deliver on each of these commitments.
New contractual arrangements will be put in place in September of this year.
Initial accommodation, dispersed accommodation, transport and associated support services will be managed as integrated services on a regional basis.
Clearsprings Ready Homes has been awarded the contracts in the south of England and Wales;
Mears Group has been awarded the contracts in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north-east, Yorkshire and Humber region; and
Serco has been awarded the contracts in the north-west of England, and the midlands and east of England regions.
Advice, issue reporting and eligibility assistance services will be integrated into a single, nationally operated end-to-end service; the contract for these services has been awarded to Migrant Help.
The contracts were designed after extensive engagement with local government, non-governmental organisations and potential providers. The contracts offer a number of improvements on the current arrangements to make them more sustainable and include changes to improve the customer journey and conditions for service users, addressing many of the recommendations in the Home Affairs Committee’s reports on asylum accommodation. In particular, the contracts will:
Provide assistance to asylum seekers to apply for support and throughout their time in the accommodation and support system.
Require accommodation providers to develop close working relationships with local authorities, liaise and consult with local authorities on the location of properties and share appropriate information with them.
Require providers to establish working relationships with the voluntary sector and local community-based support organisations and networks in order that they can signpost SUs to local services.
Set clear requirements for the standards of the accommodation that meet the standards used for social housing across the UK.
Require providers to have proactive maintenance plans and to regularly inspect and report on the findings of the inspections of their accommodation.
Provide service users with a single point of contact, independent from accommodation providers and the Home Office, to report issues with their accommodation and to provide advice in relation to their support throughout the whole process.
Set clear timescales within which repairs must be made, with a clear escalation process for service users.
Enhance the approach to safeguarding through a range of measures including improved health screening and support in registering with a GP, improved safeguarding training and awareness of staff, the provision of more adapted rooms for service users with specific needs, and the provision of face-to-face advice and support for those who need it.
Ensure that service users receive clear induction materials to help them settle into their initial accommodation and dispersed accommodation in local areas. This will seek to ensure a better understanding of the support that is being provided as well as how to navigate services in local communities.
Support service users into mainstream services if they are granted asylum or to return to their home country if are refused.
Gather feedback from service users about their experience of accommodation and support to monitor provider performance and improve the services that are provided.
Following the award of the contracts today, the Home Office will work closely with the providers to mobilise the contracts and transition services users to the new arrangements. We will communicate directly with our services users and stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the changes and how they will affect them.
We will be working extremely closely with local authorities to ensure a smooth transition and will be involving them ever more closely in the operation of the new contracts as they go live.
European Union JHA Opt-in Decision: Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund 2121-27
The Government have decided not to opt in, under the UK’s JHA opt-in protocol, to a proposal establishing an asylum, migration, and integration fund (AMIF) 2021-27.
The intended fund would not come into operation until the start of the next multiannual financial framework (2021), after the UK has exited the European Union and after the end of the proposed implementation period. As such, the UK would not be able to benefit from the fund as a member state.
Until the UK leaves the EU it remains a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s opt-in to EU legislation on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s commitment to protecting and enhancing our ability to control immigration.