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Written Statements

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 23 January 2020

Written Statements

Thursday 23 January 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Offshore Wind Projects

This statement concerns applications made by Orsted Hornsea Project Three (UK) Limited, Norfolk Vanguard Limited and Vattenfall Wind Power Limited for development consent for the installation, operation and maintenance of the proposed Hornsea project three, Norfolk vanguard and Thanet extension offshore wind farms respectively, their related offshore infrastructure off the coast of Norfolk and Kent and their related onshore electrical connections within those counties.

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Planning Act 2008 to set a new deadline.

Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a statement to Parliament to announce it.

The statutory decision deadline for the Hornsea project three offshore wind farm application was re-set by written ministerial statement on 8 October 2019. However, following a request by Orsted Hornsea Project Three (UK) Limited on 12 December 2019 for an extension of the period of six weeks by which to provide additional information to the Secretary of State, to 14 February 2020, the Secretary of State has decided to re-set the decision deadline to 1 June 2020 to allow that information to be received and assessed including any further consultation required.

The deadline for the decision on the Norfolk vanguard offshore wind farm was 10 December 2019 and the deadline for the Thanet extension offshore wind farm was 11 December 2019. The Secretary of State has decided to set a new deadline of 1 June 2020 for deciding these two applications to allow further information to be provided and assessed including any further consultation required.

The decision to set the new deadlines for these three applications is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to grant or refuse development consents for them.

[HCWS57]

Cabinet Office

Government Transparency and Accountability

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the public and the media to hold public bodies to account. Such online transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and to ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

The Government are today publishing a number of documents as part of their ongoing commitment to transparency and accountability.

The following subject areas include documents and data that the Government are due to publish, or which have recently been made available.

Ministerial transparency

Departments are publishing the routine quarterly ministerial data on external meetings, gifts, hospitality and overseas travel.

The Government are also making available the agenda and the meeting notes of the July 2019 co-ordination committee meeting between the Government and the DUP.

Further transparency documents relating to Ministers were published on 20 December 2019.

Transparency in the civil service

Departments are publishing reports on the median gender pay gap. Across the Civil Service, this encouragingly states that the median gender pay gap has narrowed to 11.1%. This demonstrates progress to date, but shows there is still further to go.

Departments are also publishing routine spend and prompt payment data, demonstrating our continued commitment to supporting businesses by ensuring they are paid on time.

Transparency of senior officials and special advisers

Alongside quarterly data on the travel, expenses and meetings of senior officials, the Government are also publishing the annual list of salary details for senior public officials in Departments and arms’ length bodies earning £150,000 and above, reflecting the enhanced scrutiny we have put in place for these most senior posts. Though the Government recognise the need to attract the brightest and the best to deliver on the people’s priorities and save taxpayers' money, very high salaries must be justified and publishing this data allows them to be scrutinised.

Departments are also publishing routine returns from special advisers.

Departments are also publishing routine quarterly data summarising decisions made by Departments about outside appointments or employment taken up by former members of the civil service at SCSI and SCS2 level and equivalents (including special advisers of equivalent standing).

These documents will be published on gov.uk.

[HCWS59]

Contingencies Fund

The Cabinet Office has sought a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of £19,740,000.

This routine requirement arises each year because the Cabinet Office receives a relatively high proportion of its voted funding at supplementary estimate, and as a consequence may only draw the related cash from the consolidated fund after the Supply and Appropriation Act has received Royal Assent in March 2020.

The cash advance will pay for programmes which will generate Government-wide benefits or savings and are urgent in the public interest, including advancing EU exit objectives, public inquiries, security and the efficient management of Government property.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £19,094,000 and capital of £646,000 will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Cabinet Office. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £19,740,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

[HCWS58]

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

This Government was elected with a clear mandate to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum, and to ensure that the UK ratifies the deal reached by the Prime Minister, before the UK leaves the European Union on the 31 January.

The Government have sought, in line with the Sewel convention, legislative consent from the devolved legislatures of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

It is important to note that despite the argument of some, the devolved legislatures have not been asked to consent to Brexit overall. In line with the devolution settlements, they have been asked to consent to the specific parts of the Bill that fall within devolved competence, or otherwise engage the legislative consent process.

It is therefore disappointing that the three devolved legislatures have refused to agree a legislative consent motion (LCM) for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

We recognise that taking the Bill to Royal Assent without the consent of the devolved legislatures is a significant decision and it is one that we have not taken lightly. However, it is in line with the Sewel convention. It is also necessary in order to ensure that all parts of the UK have the powers required to meet our obligations in the withdrawal agreement. These include important protections for EU and UK citizens’ rights as we leave the EU.

The Sewel convention—to which the Government remain committed—states that the UK Parliament “will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent” of the relevant devolved legislatures. The circumstances of our departure from the EU, following the 2016 referendum, are not normal; they are unique.

At every stage of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, the UK Government have demonstrated their enduring commitment and respect for the Sewel convention and the principles that underpin our constitutional arrangements.

The practices and procedures that have developed to deliver the Sewel convention encourage the UK Government to consult with the devolved administrations on legislation at an early stage to ensure their views are taken into account.

Through extensive consultation and engagement it has respected the spirit and the letter of the devolution settlement. Changes have been made to recognise the valid concerns of our partners in the Scottish and Welsh Governments. We have also, during the absence of the Executive, worked closely with the Northern Ireland civil service.

Despite the Government’s efforts, it is unfortunate that common ground could not be found on all elements.

We will continue to respect and uphold the Sewel convention and the devolution settlements going forward.

We will also continue to engage with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, as well as the newly formed Northern Ireland Executive, as we negotiate our future relationship with the EU.

[HCWS60]

Defence

Royal Navy Historic Aircraft

I have today laid before Parliament a departmental minute describing a gift which the Ministry of Defence intends to make to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust Ltd.

Since 1960, the Royal Navy has operated a collection of MOD-owned historically important naval heritage aircraft with the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF). Five military-registered aircraft formed part of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, all of which have been maintained at some expense on the military register by the MOD. In January 2018 it was determined that, to allow greater freedoms in operation at reduced cost to MOD, the Royal Navy Historic Flight should be disbanded, with its aircraft transferred to a civilian owner operator.

The gift comprises four of the former Royal Navy Historic Flight aircraft:

A Swordfish (W5856) torpedo bomber aircraft, famous for Taranto and operations throughout world war two.

A Sea Fury (VR930), famous for operations in Korea and the only propeller aircraft to have shot down a jet.

A Sea Hawk (WV908), a pioneering carrier jet aircraft and the first Hawker aircraft company jet.

A Chipmunk (WK608) is required to transfer with the heritage aircraft on the basis that it provides pilot continuity and generates income.

Their associated spares and support equipment.

The total value of this gift is in the region of £1,810,000.

The future of a fifth aircraft, Swordfish (LS326), is currently under consideration.

The RNHF has been supported in its activity by the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, a charity operating under the umbrella of “Navy Wings”, that has promoted the culture and heritage conservation of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm since its formation in the early nineties. The Trust has provided significant financial support to the renovation, repair and maintenance of the MOD-owned heritage aircraft, whilst also operating their own naval heritage aircraft in direct support of naval service engagement aims alongside the Royal Navy Historic Flight aircraft or when Royal Navy aircraft are unavailable.

The gifting of four of the former Royal Navy Historic Flight aircraft to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust will allow these historically important aircraft to continue to be used in support of commemorative and educational aims in support of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm for many years to come.

The transfer of ownership is expected to be undertaken over the coming weeks, subject to completion of the departmental minute process.

[HCWS55]

Education

Schools: Vocational Guidance

Information supplied by the careers and basic skills division of the Department for Education has been identified as containing incorrect information in the response provided by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch) to the parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) concerning the number of careers advisers employed by schools (PQ286227).

In response to PQ286227, the correct answer is that information on roles of staff employed in schools is collected via the school workforce census. Information on the role(s) a staff member is employed to carry out is collected for all staff who have a contract lasting 28 days or more. As at November 2018 (the latest data available), there are 264 schools where a member of staff has been recorded with the role of careers adviser. There may be other staff in schools who fulfil this role but have not been recorded as such; they may have a contract of 28 days or less: or, because schools may record up to three roles per member of staff, the school may have allocated them to other roles.

[HCWS53]

Home Department

College of Policing: Annual Report and Accounts

I am today publishing the 2018-19 annual report and accounts for the College of Policing Ltd (HC 48). This will be laid before the House and published on www.gov.uk. The report will also be available in the Vote Office.

[HCWS54]

Transport

Dartford-Thurrock and Severn Crossings: Accounts

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) has made the following ministerial statement.

Under section 3 (1) (d) of the Trunk Road Charging Schemes (Bridges and Tunnels) (Keeping of Accounts) (England) Regulations 2003, annual accounts for the Dartford-Thurrock crossing charging scheme and the Severn river crossing charging scheme are published today.

In addition, annual accounts for the now-abolished Severn river crossing toll are released today under section 28 of the Severn Bridges Act 1992. Since there are no longer tolls or charges on the Severn river crossings these accounts will not be produced in the future.

The accounts relate to financial year 2018-19 or 2018 and will be placed in the Library of the House.

Attachments can be viewed online at http://www.parliament.uk /business/publications/written- questionsanswers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-01-23/HCWS56/.

[HCWS56]