Thursday 14 March 2019
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Energy Council, March 2019
The Energy Council took place on 4 March 2019.
Tyre labelling regulation
The presidency sought a general approach on the updated regulation on tyre labelling. The Commission, represented by Carlos Moedas (Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation), stressed the importance of this file, citing that road transport was responsible for 27% of final energy consumption and 22% of emissions in the EU.
Some member states raised concern about the proposed label not including consumer information on tyre abrasion. In its intervention, the UK supported the text, highlighting that the proposed tyre label will be more effective and overall provide better information for consumers. The UK also noted the seriousness of the environmental and health impacts from tyre particulates caused by abrasion which the UK Government are actively reviewing and considering options to reduce. However, as suitable testing methodologies were not yet in place that could accurately and fairly measure abrasion rates, the UK agreed that the information on tyre abrasion should not yet be included on the label. The presidency concluded it had reached a general approach.
Clean planet for all: strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy
The Ministers discussed the Commission’s long-term strategy for a climate neutral economy, for which the presidency had asked member states to provide views on three questions, relating to the structural changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the impact of new technologies and how to facilitate a “fair transition”.
The Commission highlighted that the strategy was necessary to ensure compliance with the Paris agreement while also focusing on the social dimension and job creation.
In its intervention, the UK welcomed the publication of the strategy, highlighting the UK clean growth strategy and its role in increasing the use of renewables. It also noted the importance of international partnerships in achieving the stated goals, in addition to the importance of North seas energy co-operation. Some other member states echoed this point.
While all member states spoke to welcome the proposals, there was a wide variety of responses, both in terms of EU priorities and the level of ambition needed. While some member states called for the Commission to work on an additional scenario of 100% renewable energy by 2050, other member states raised concern over any 100% net-zero target by 2050. Member states also highlighted the importance of involving the public in the “just transition”, and ensuring that growth and wellbeing of citizens was addressed alongside environmental transition. All member states raised the need for improved research and development, in particular with regard to hydrogen and energy storage.
Any other business items
The Council discussed the recently agreed revision to the gas directive. The UK, alongside a number of member states, welcomed the agreement.
The presidency updated member states on ongoing negotiations on the Connecting Europe Facility, for which it hoped to reach a deal with the European Parliament on 7 March.
The Minister also met with multiple other counterparts in the margins of the Council to give reassurances regarding EU exit, discuss our ambitions on energy co-operation and highlight the UK’s bid to host the COP26 climate summit in 2020.
Defence Prosperity Programme
Ministry of Defence (MOD) direct spending with industry supports 115,000 jobs throughout the UK. Our investment in training benefits both defence and the wider UK economy. The armed forces are one of the largest apprenticeship providers with over 20,000 personnel on our apprenticeship programme. Each year several thousand people leave the armed forces and help to fill skilled professional or technical jobs in the private sector. The UK is the second largest exporter of defence equipment, with recent successes including the Department for International Trade-led Type 26 campaign. In 2016-17 we invested £1.6 billion in research and development, the majority of which is spent with UK businesses.
The 2015 strategic defence and security review, introduced a new national security objective to promote UK prosperity. We have subsequently launched the defence innovation initiative and published strategies for shipbuilding and future combat air. We have refreshed our defence industrial policy with a new emphasis on supporting growth and competitiveness. Last March, I invited my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) to review opportunities for “Growing the Contribution of Defence to UK Prosperity”. His report, published in July, represents a major piece of work, which has been welcomed by both Government and industry. It contained over 40 substantive recommendations. Some of these are already being incorporated into the Department’s overall defence prosperity programme. We will continue to review our response to the outstanding recommendations, but I wanted to take this opportunity to update Parliament on the progress made since the publication of the Dunne review. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has agreed to work with the Department to review the response to his report in due course.
We have designed our approach to prosperity to ensure that, while growing our contribution to the economy, we do not put at risk our objective of delivering defence capability at the best value for money. We have grouped the recommendations from the Dunne review and the defence industrial policy Refresh into four major areas of work set out below:
Embedding prosperity into the Department’s policy, process and culture
We intend to ensure that people across the Department understand our prosperity objectives and have access to the training and guidance needed to deliver these in a consistent and coherent way. Each of our main budget areas and frontline commands has now nominated a senior-level “Prosperity Champion” to help embed change, share lessons learned and identify best practice. We have put additional central resources into this area and we are working jointly with industry to develop common training material and case studies. We are publishing a defence prosperity guide which will help staff across the Department, civilian and military, understand their role in growing defence’s contribution to UK prosperity. We are striving to make it easier to do business with Defence, something we recognise is especially important for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We are working with prime suppliers to increase their engagement with smaller businesses, improving how we advertise both direct and sub-contracted opportunities, and have held a defence suppliers forum SME conference to understand barriers to working in the defence supply chain. Beyond this, we are working to simplify our tendering process, and will publish our SME action plan this month.
Quantifying the defence contribution to the UK economy
Defence has a complex and diverse supply chain, spanning companies of all sizes and spread throughout the UK. The Dunne review highlighted the difficulty of measuring the economic benefit of defence and the need for better data to inform our decision-making processes. It recommended the development of a common MOD/industry approach and format for collecting data on the defence supply chain. In response, we have been working together with the Defence Growth Partnership and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on a proposal for a new joint economic data hub within the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC) at Farnborough. The UKDSC has world-class expertise in managing data on export markets and will apply these skills to collect and aggregate economic data from across the sector. The Government will provide guidance and support from defence economists together with advice from the Office of National Statistics. The output from this work will be overseen by an independent advisory board to ensure that both the Government and industry have confidence in its quality and impartiality. The review also highlighted the need for greater academic research into the economic value of defence. We recognise that the academic base in this area is small in comparison to the scale and importance of the UK’s spending on defence. We are working with academic institutions to look at how we can encourage greater debate and engagement in this area of public policy, including the potential for sponsoring an international conference later this year.
Sustaining an internationally competitive and productive defence sector for the UK
The UK has a world-leading defence sector, but if we are to sustain capability and continue to achieve export success in increasingly competitive markets, the Government and industry need to work together to drive innovation and improvements in productivity and efficiency. The Government have invested in a range of supply chain development initiatives across different sectors and helped established facilities such as the high value manufacturing catapult network. I am today committing £500,000 from the defence innovation fund for a pilot project to develop, test and validate how defence can make better use of this infrastructure in the design, manufacture and support of future equipment and to help create more resilient and efficient supply chains. There are benefits both to the defence customer and to industry from taking this forward and part of the pilot will involve trialling the approach on a number of our acquisition programmes.
We understand it can be particularly challenging for smaller companies to access the expertise and resources to bring their good ideas to market. Working with industry, BEIS has already established a successful national aerospace technology exploitation programme (NATEP) for civil aerospace. Drawing on the experience from this programme we have reached agreement with BEIS and Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) to pilot a new defence technology exploitation programme (DTEP) in Northern Ireland. It is expected that research and development investment, as a result of the pilot programme, will be approximately £1.2 million, which in addition to supporting innovation within Northern Ireland’s vibrant defence SMEs, will help to develop stronger links and new routes to market through primes and upper tier companies across the UK. Alongside this initiative, the MOD’S defence and security accelerator is creating a post in Northern Ireland to help companies access its programmes.
We want to increase the opportunities for innovative and competitive UK companies and ensure that they have a fair opportunity to bid for supply chain work in defence contracts; we also want to strengthen our understanding of the nature and resilience of UK supply chains. To help achieve this, we are working in partnership with industry to pilot a new approach to supply chain planning.
Growing exports and inward investment
Working closely with the Department for International Trade (DIT), we are seeking to broaden the UK’s defence export base, generate greater value from our overseas procurements, and improve access. In order to help us maximise future export opportunities, we are working with the DIT Defence and Security Organisation and UKDSC to start a phased roll-out of the UKDSC’s analysis of overseas export markets with our global network of defence attachés.
Post EU exit, we will maintain our strong links with partners both in Europe and globally, to create the right conditions for the UK’s world-leading defence industry. We have much to offer international partnerships, including extensive operational experience and high-end capabilities. We also have a long history of European co-operation through capabilities such as Typhoon, A400M and Meteor.
We are working across Government to develop new ways of working with industry that help unlock value for the UK economy and for business. This includes reinvigorating our existing defence and security industrial engagement policy (DSIEP) and building on our successful strategic prosperity partnerships with companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The Defence Electronics and Components Agency (DECA) at Sealand in north Wales is recognised as a centre of excellence for defence electronics activity in the region. It is also at the heart of the innovative joint venture formed between the MOD, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman called Sealand Support Services Ltd (SSSL), which last month was awarded a further £500 million of work from the US Department of Defense on the F-35 programme. We are pleased that Welsh Government continue to identify the potential of an advanced manufacturing research institute alongside DECA to create exciting new opportunities for the region, and commit to working alongside them to deliver this ambitious project.
In Scotland, the MOD is basing its fleet of P8-A maritime patrol aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth and once fully operational some 470 additional RAF personnel are expected to be based at the site. Work has commenced on a brand new £100 million strategic facility, co-funded by MOD and Boeing, which is being constructed by a local firm sustaining up to 200 local jobs at its peak. The facility will support the UK P8 fleet and is expected to create over 400 new jobs involved in the operation and support of this advanced maritime patrol capability. It will also have the capability to support the P8 fleets of other countries, which has the potential to bring further prosperity benefits to the region in the future.
I have set out the progress we have made in growing the defence contribution to the UK economy—and where we plan to do more. This substantial programme of work is being undertaken jointly with other Government Departments and industry; it supports delivery of the Government’s industrial strategy and ensures that while growing our contribution to the economy, we do not put at risk our objective of delivering defence capability at the best value for money.
Supporting Care Leavers in Higher Education
I am pleased to make this statement jointly with the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
Care leavers are some of the most vulnerable young people in society and often have to make the transition from care to independence without the support from parents and wider support networks that other young people rely on. Care leavers are significantly less likely to enter HE than other disadvantaged groups and those who do enter HE often have additional challenges to manage, compared to their peers. The Government are committed to improving care leavers’ outcomes and have produced a set of principles for higher education providers to consider in their offer to care leavers to help increase the number of students in care accessing higher education and ensure that care leavers in HE are given the support they need to succeed.
This follows the launch of the care leaver covenant last October, which is a key part of the Government’s drive to galvanise the support that wider civil society can provide to support care leavers. The covenant asks organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors—including HE providers—to commit to help care leavers successfully transition from care to independence, by setting out clearly what support they can offer.
The Government have appointed Spectra First to promote the covenant and secure signatories to it that are meaningful, and which are linked to the outcomes in the cross-government care leaver strategy. They will use these principles to encourage universities to reflect on and enhance their care leaver provision for both current and future students.
We know that there is already some exceptional work happening in the HE sector, to provide additional support for care leavers. But we want this to become the norm across the sector as a whole. We expect that HE providers’ commitment to care leavers is communicated from the senior leadership down. We want to see cultures that welcome care leavers and help them reach their potential from the start to the end of their HE journeys. Providers should ensure there are sufficient opportunities for care leavers to identify and access support at any point in the student lifecycle.
The principles to guide the HE sector on improving care leavers’ access and participation in higher education cover seven key areas:
Outreach and local authority relationships: Engagement with looked after children should be a key feature of outreach work and should begin at as early an age as possible. This involves working with local authorities, virtual school heads and schools in order to encourage more care leavers into higher education.
Accommodation support: Securing and sustaining suitable accommodation is a significant challenge for care leavers. HE providers should seek to provide priority access and continuous 365 days a year accommodation, preferably subsidised by the institution.
Financial support: Care leavers do not tend to have access to financial support from parents and so rely on support provided by their local authority. This has implications throughout the student lifecycle. HE providers should provide financial support to help with the costs of accommodation, associated study costs and access to social activities to support inclusion and a quality student experience.
Designated member of staff: HE providers should identify at least one designated member of staff to support care leavers. The individual should understand the barriers and challenges that care leavers face, including mental health. We would expect the designated officer to be able to direct care leavers to appropriate support, if they cannot directly provide it and to be an advocate for them throughout their time in HE.
Offer on website: Care leavers often say that they find it difficult to find information on the support available to them on provider websites. HE providers should therefore provide clear information on the provider website, that is easy to navigate, and sets out the provider’s offer to care leavers.
Support networks: Loneliness and isolation are among the biggest problems reported by care leavers. Encouragement and facilitation of support networks for care leavers within the institution is therefore critical to retention.
Careers advice: High-quality careers advice and guidance, tailored to care leavers.
We particularly encourage providers to use contextual admissions in the case of applications from care leavers, so that their often-disrupted education and personal challenges can be taken in to account. This can be a way of acknowledging that despite achieving only average results many care leavers still have enormous potential; for example, simply successfully completing sixth-form studies under very difficult circumstances could be seen to demonstrate the resilience and potential that justifies a contextual offer.
We would expect the support offer from HE providers to be proportionate to the size of the provider and their resources. In addition to the points listed above, we ask that the most selective providers and those who have the greatest income from higher fees to go the furthest in terms of their support. That could include provision of suitable, free accommodation for the full length of the course, including holidays, or a bursary of sufficient amount to cover associated study and student experience costs.
The care leavers principles can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-03-14/HCWS1410/.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council, March 2019
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council takes place in Brussels on 18 March.
As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus for agriculture will be on the post-2020 common agricultural policy (CAP) reform package. Ministers will exchange views on the regulation concerning CAP strategic plans, the horizontal regulation, and the regulation on the common market organisation (CMO) of agriculture products.
Council will also hold an exchange of views on bioeconomy.
There are currently three items scheduled for discussion under “any other business”:
information from the Netherlands delegation on the outcome of the congress “CAP Strategic Plans —Exploring Eco-Climate Schemes” (Leeuwarden, 6 to 8 February 2019),
information from the Netherlands delegation on the decision by the technical board of appeals of the European patent office regarding the possibility to patent the results of classical plant breeding,
information from the Commission on the outcome of the workshops organised by the Commission’s task force on water and agriculture (Sore, 27 November 2018 and Bucharest, 5 and 6 February 2019).
Although not confirmed, we expect additional items to be added to the agenda under “any other business”:
information from the Slovenian delegation on small-scale coastal fisheries and the European maritime and fisheries fund,
information from the Polish delegation on the meat market situation.
Exiting the European Union
General Affairs Council, March 2019
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 19 March 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:
Multiannual financial framework 2021-27
Ministers and the Commission will discuss progress on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) negotiations. The intention is to reach an agreement on the negotiations in autumn 2019.
Preparation of the European Council 21 and 22 March 2019: Conclusions and European Council follow-up
The Council will discuss the draft conclusions for the March European Council. The conclusions are expected to cover: jobs, growth and competitiveness; climate change; external relations; tackling disinformation and protecting the democratic integrity of the European and national elections across the EU. The presidency will provide Ministers with an update on progress in implementing previous European Council conclusions.
Ministers will discuss a report on Council contributions to the 2019 European semester, which forms part of the EU’s economic governance framework and comprises a cycle of economic and fiscal policy co-ordination within the EU. The presidency will present an updated timetable for the 2019 European semester. Ministers will discuss the draft recommendation on the economic policy of the Euro area.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council, 18 March 2019
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 March. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP) Federica Mogherini, and will take place in Brussels.
Ministers will discuss their approach to the upcoming EU-China summit in April and the strategic direction of EU-China relations. The UK will highlight the importance of European co-ordination in engagement with China. The UK is committed to continuing to work closely with European partners on China after we leave the EU.
Republic of Moldova
Ministers will discuss the political situation in Moldova following the 24 February parliamentary elections, in which no political party won an overall majority. In this context, the focus of the FAC will be to take stock of the elections and discuss the EU’s expectations for the next Government, once they are established. The UK supports continued EU engagement with Moldova based on the conditions set out in the 2014 association agreement, which remains the best means to deliver tangible benefits to the Moldovan people.
Ministers will discuss the current state of the conflict in Yemen. Following the Stockholm peace talks in December 2018, the EU adopted new FAC conclusions, which set out EU support for the political process. Ministers will focus on the next steps, urging implementation of the Stockholm agreements and support of the wider peace process. The session will include a briefing from the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and the UK will reaffirm its support to him and the UN.
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the EU’s human rights guidelines on nondiscrimination, two Court of Auditors’ special reports on EU funding to NGOs and on internal security capacity building in Niger and Mali.
Health and Social Care
Independent Breast Screening Review Recommendations
Following publication of the report from the independent breast screening review on 13 December, and the initial statement that I made at the time, I am pleased to now be able to provide the Government’s substantive response to each of the 15 recommendations made by the review.
As I said at the time, it is essential that we take all necessary actions to learn from any problems identified in the breast screening programme. I can now confirm that the Government have accepted all the recommendations made by the independent review team.
In responding to these recommendations, we have also taken account of the findings from the recent investigation into adult screening programmes conducted by the National Audit Office, which was published on 1 February 2019. In some cases, similar issues were highlighted about where improvements can be made in terms of how our national screening programmes are delivered.
A few recommendations are contingent on forthcoming advice from the UK National Screening Committee on how the upper age limit for breast screening should be defined. In the interim, I can confirm that we will maintain the upper age definition of 70 years and 364 days as set out in the current service specification.
In addition, and in line with the statement made at the time, I can confirm that the AgeX trial will continue as planned. The trial will provide significant new evidence on screening women under 50 and over 70 that is not currently available, providing the evidence needed to make decisions about the age range for breast screening in the future.
Some of the areas highlighted for improvement are being considered by Professor Sir Mike Richards as part of his review into cancer screening that was commissioned by NHS England and which was announced on 15 November 2018. Where possible, improvements to the programme are already being taken forward. Where a more considered response is required, it is appropriate to wait for Professor Richards to report and this is reflected in our response. We look forward to receiving Professor Richards’ recommendations in the summer of 2019.