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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
04 February 2019
Volume 654

Written Statements

Monday 4 February 2019

Education

Race Disparity Audit

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I am pleased to make this statement jointly with my right hon. Friend, David Lidington MP, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office.

At the launch of the Race Disparity Audit in October 2017, the Government committed to “explain or change” the ethnic disparities on the audit’s website Ethnicity facts and figures.

Since October 2017 the Government have taken action in education, employment, health, criminal justice, including most recently in October 2018, taking action to see employers adopting fair employment practices which ensure all staff, particularly those from an ethnic minority background, do as well as they are able in terms of recruitment and progression in the workforce.

The audit’s website Ethnicity facts and figures has been continually updated and extended to allow the public to see if ethnic disparities are improving or not across over 160 important areas of public life. This has included the publication of data on undergraduate degree results and entrants at different higher education providers with high, medium and low entry tariffs.

On Friday, the Government announced action to tackle disparities in access to, and successful participation in, higher education for ethnic minority students; and disparities in recruitment and progression for ethnic minority academics. Friday’s announcement aims to tackle challenges that we know are particularly acute for ethnic minority students in higher education, such as their levels of non-continuation, the degree class they achieve compared to their peers, and their progression on to good quality employment.

In addition to the steps already taken to address this, including establishing the Office for Students and legislating for greater transparency and scrutiny through the Higher Education and Research Act, these actions will include:

Asking the Office for Students to ensure higher education providers demonstrate how they are tackling differences in access and successful participation for students from ethnic minorities—the Office for Students will be expected to hold providers to account, in particular through access and participation plans, which set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for under-represented groups, to access, succeed in and progress from higher education. The Office for Students will be expected to use its new powers to challenge providers failing to make progress.

Asking league table compilers to consider performance on tackling inequalities between ethnic groups in university rankings—working with a wide range of experts, stakeholders and league table compilers.

Encouraging higher education providers to eliminate ethnic disparities in their workforce—using tools such as the race at work charter and race equality charter.

Supporting student choice through better information, advice and guidance—by reforming the Unistats website using evidence from research with students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

Building the evidence base on ‘what works’ for improving ethnic minority access and successful participation—encouraging the winning bidder of the newly established Evidence and Impact Exchange to make improving the evidence around addressing ethnic disparities a priority.

These actions will be supported by the Office for Students in its role as the regulator, Advance HE which will launch a review of its race equality charter, and UKRI which will signal its support for reducing ethnic disparities in research and innovation funding.

[HCWS1297]

International Development

DFID's Work on Safeguarding

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Ahead of the forthcoming anniversary of the first media stories about the Haiti case, and further to my ministerial statement of 25 October, I would like to update the House on preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector.

Delivering 18 October summit commitments

My last statement was shortly after the international summit I hosted in London on 18 October where donors representing 90% of global official development assistance, NGOs, suppliers, multilateral organisations and others agreed robust actions to deliver root to branch change in the way the international aid sector tackles these issues and I announced specific initiatives supported by DFID.

The five-year project with Interpol to stop perpetrators of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment moving around the aid sector is getting under-way. It will strengthen and digitise criminal record checks, improve information sharing between countries and train staff, so ensuring a more robust law enforcement response against predatory individuals.

The disclosure of misconduct scheme will prevent individuals with a record of misconduct from moving around the NGO sector undetected. Fuller details were published in December and more NGOs are signing up.

DFID is supporting work to verify that our partners meet the global standards on preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse as agreed by donors in October.

The resource and support hub will provide guidance, training and support on safeguarding to smaller charities which are those most likely to need it. There has been strong interest from potential suppliers and DFID expects to sign a multi-year contract by August.

We are working with the UN Victims’ Rights Advocate to develop a statement of victims’ rights for publication this year which will help survivors of abuse and exploitation better understand the redress and support available to them.

In November, the UK NGO platform Bond incorporated the UK NGO summit commitments into the Bond Charter, so covering over 450 organisations.

DFID is working with Dutch counterparts on an action plan for the ombudsman proposal.

Recent cases

The case at the International Planned Parenthood Federation underlines the value of the much tougher safeguarding standards I introduced last year. Those standards have required the reporting of this case and robust action to be taken. The case is ongoing and DFID’s Safeguarding Investigations Team created last year is looking at it in more detail.

Charity Commission figures show an increase in safeguarding cases reported by charities last year. I expect to continue to see more reports as people feel safer to speak up and organisations take their obligations seriously.

DFID continues to co-ordinate closely with the National Crime Agency on shared objectives. The draft Domestic Abuse Bill proposes that more types of sexual offences committed abroad by a UK national can be prosecuted in England and Wales. We have recently seen other countries take action against suspected criminal sexual activity in the aid sector.

Looking ahead

DFID continues to meet regularly with representatives from across the aid sector and is working with them to develop appropriate accountability mechanisms for the commitments announced at October’s summit.

I plan to participate in meetings on safeguarding at the UN Commission on the Status Of Women in March, the World Bank spring meetings in April and the UN General Assembly in September to drive forward progress. DFID is leading a process in the OECD to agree a mechanism this year to monitor the performance of all 30 major global donors on safeguarding.

I welcome the International Development Committee’s continuing focus on safeguarding and look forward to my discussion with them in May. DFID continues to work across Government to drive a coherent approach to safeguarding in ODA projects and to improve the capability of staff.

I sent a clear message a year ago that the whole sector must make zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment a reality. Today, I repeat that message.

Work led by DFID in the past year has generated good momentum, domestically and internationally. But there is much more to do, and we will continue to lead the way and work with others in the months and years ahead.

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International Trade

EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

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The Government wish to inform the House that on Friday 1 February, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Japan came into force. This date was confirmed by the European Commission to EU member states on 12 December 2018.

The UK has been a long-standing supporter of the EU-Japan EPA, which was approved overwhelmingly by the UK Parliament after it was debated on the Floor of the House of Commons on 26 June 2018 with 317 votes in favour and only 1 against.

The EU-Japan EPA was signed on 17 July 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.

The coming into force of the EU-Japan EPA is positive for the UK, the wider EU and global free trade. At its entry into force, 91% of tariffs will be eliminated, rising to 97% over the long term.

Japan and the UK are the world’s third and fifth largest economies respectively and are committed to working together in support of global free and fair trade. In line with this both Prime Ministers have reaffirmed their commitment last month to use the Japan-EU EPA as the basis for our future economic partnership and to work quickly to establish this. Under the withdrawal agreement, the UK would continue to benefit from this agreement during the implementation period.

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Justice

Parole Board: Reconsideration Mechanism and Rules Review

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The Parole Board decision to release John Worboys, and the subsequent legal action taken by the victims to challenge that decision, revealed the need to improve the way the system works. I have been determined to address fully the issues that case highlighted and to continue to make improvements to the system of parole.

An initial review I commissioned into Parole Board decision making, which reported in April 2018, has led to a programme of reform—in particular to increase transparency and to improve the way victims are engaged and communicated with.

I conducted a public consultation on proposals to create a new mechanism to allow for Parole Board decisions to be reconsidered in certain circumstances and ordered a review of all the Parole Board rules. I am pleased today to announce the outcome of that work and to launch a tailored review of the Parole Board which will examine further options for longer-term reform.

The Government’s response to the consultation on a reconsideration mechanism is published today and I can confirm that I intend to proceed to bring forward changes to the Parole Board rules which will introduce such a mechanism. This will make it possible for Parole Board decisions to be looked at again and, if necessary, re-taken where it appears there may have been a legal or procedural flaw with the original decision. It will not be necessary to bring a judicial review, as happened in the Worboys case, making it easier to challenge decisions.

Victims who believe a decision may be fundamentally flawed, rather than having to resort to the courts and engage legal representation to argue their case, will be able to make a case for reconsideration to my officials. Officials have access to all the information and evidence —as well as legal resources—and therefore are best placed to put together a fully-informed application to the Parole Board where there appears to be an arguable case for reconsideration. This will also make the process as simple and straightforward for victims as possible. Judicial members at the Parole Board will determine the reconsideration application and how the case should be dealt with—whether the decision should be re-taken and whether a further hearing is required. Reasons for their decisions will be provided to victims.

This new mechanism, together with the introduction of decision summaries provided by the Parole Board from May last year, brings much greater transparency and scrutiny to how and why parole decisions are made; and a means of challenging those decisions where it appears there may have been a fundamental error that requires the case to be looked at again.

I am also publishing today a report on the outcome of the review of the Parole Board rules.

The report sets out the measures taken by the Department and the Board itself to ensure the issues highlighted by the Worboys case were addressed and which deliver on the commitments made by last year’s initial review. The report also explains what more will be done to further increase the transparency and openness of the parole system and to improve the experience of victims. Improvements have been and will continue to be made to the Victim Contact Scheme (VCS), training and approaches to the way Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) communicate with victims; and the commitments in the Government’s victims strategy published in September will further strengthen the entitlements and support victims should rightly expect to receive.

Changes to the Parole Board rules will be brought forward by way of statutory instrument in the coming months. This will implement the new reconsideration mechanism and the other changes identified by the review that have the potential to improve the system. Between now and then we will be making preparations for the implementation of those reforms—in particular by putting in place the resources, guidance, training, and documentation needed to operate the reconsideration mechanism.

Other key changes announced in the report include:

A series of Standard Practice guidance documents will be published by the Parole Board. This will improve transparency and public awareness of the approaches the Board follows in reaching its decisions—and will support greater consistency in how the Board reviews cases.

A new operational protocol between the Parole Board and Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) which will clarify roles and responsibilities within the parole system and set out how the two organisations work with each other.

A new policy framework on the parole process will be published, setting out the HMPPS policy and approach, which will include improvements to the timescales the review found could make the process more efficient.

The review has examined how the rules, parole processes and practice can be improved over the short term within the current primary legislation governing the parole system and the existing constitution and functions of the Parole Board. It has been important to take swift action to address the immediate issues and concerns and to restore trust in the system; I believe the reforms announced in the report published today will help to achieve that.

But I would like to examine what further, more fundamental measures might be possible over the longer term, including the possibility of primary legislation. A tailored review of the Parole Board provides the opportunity to do that. I am required to undertake a tailored review of all the arms-length bodies sponsored by my Department once every Parliament and I have decided that now is the right time to launch such a review of the Parole Board.

The tailored review will explore, in light of the rules review changes, whether there is a case for more fundamental reform that requires primary legislation—including whether to change the powers or responsibilities conferred on the Parole Board or whether it should be reconstituted to deliver its functions in a different way. I aim to publish the outcome of the tailored review in the summer.

Copies of the Government’s response to the consultation on reconsideration of Parole Board decisions and the report on the review of the Parole Board rules have been laid in both Houses and are available on www.gov.uk.

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Transport

Light Dues 2019-2020

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A strong and growing maritime industry is vital to the economy of the United Kingdom and it is critical that we treasure and protect this vital artery if we are to remain a world-leading maritime centre.

The work of the general lighthouse authorities, which provide and maintain marine aids to navigation and respond to new wrecks and navigation dangers in some of the busiest waters in the world, is crucial to underpinning that vision while maintaining our vigorous safety record and continuously improving standards of safety.

Reductions in the three general lighthouse authorities’ running costs have enabled the UK to reduce light dues for four successive years. For 2019-20 intend to freeze light dues rates at 37½ pence per net registered tonne. This will mean that light dues will have fallen by 28% in real terms since 2010.

Light dues rates will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that the general lighthouse authorities are challenged to provide an effective and efficient service which offers value for money to light dues payers.

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