Thursday 30 January 2020
ECOFIN: 21 January 2020
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN) Council was held in Brussels on 21 January 2020. The Council discussed the following:
Early morning session
The Eurogroup President briefed the Council on the outcomes of the 20 January meeting of the Eurogroup, and the European Commission provided an update on the current economic situation in the EU. Following this, Ministers took stock of the process of nominating a European candidate for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) presidency.
Current financial services legislative proposals
The Croatian presidency provided an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.
Presidency work programme
The Croatian presidency presented its work programme for January to June 2020.
European green deal
The European Commission presented the economic and financial aspects of the European green deal.
European semester 2020
To launch the new European semester exercise, the European Commission presented the annual sustainable growth strategy, the Alert Mechanism Report, and the Euro area recommendation.
Tax challenges arising from digitalisation
The Council held an exchange of views on the state of play of negotiations in the OECD on tax challenges arising from digitalisation.
War Pensions Scheme Uprating
The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2020 are set out in the tables below. The annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2020 will take place from the week beginning 6 April. Rates for 2020 are increasing by 1.7% in line with the September 2019 consumer price index.
War Pensions Rates Rates Rates (Weekly rates unless otherwise shown) 2019 2020 £ £ WAR PENSIONS Disablement Pension (100% rates) Officer (per annum) 9,904.00 10,071.00 Other ranks (weekly amount) 189.80 193.00 Age allowances payable from age 65 40%-50% 12.70 12.90 over 50% but not over 70% 19.55 19.90 Over 70% but not over 90% 27.80 28.25 Over 90% 39.10 39.80 Disablement gratuity (one off payment) Specified minor injury (min) 1,209.00 1,230.00 Specified minor injury (max) 9,028.00 9,181.00 1 – 5% gratuity 3,019.00 3,070.00 6 – 14% gratuity 6,711.00 6,825.00 15 – 19% gratuity 11,737.00 11,937.00 SUPPLEMENTARY ALLOWANCES Unemployability allowance Personal 117.30 119.30 Adult dependency increase 65.20 66.30 Increase for first child 15.15 15.40 Increase for subsequent children 17.80 18.10 Invalidity allowance Higher rate 23.20 23.60 Middle rate 15.10 15.40 Lower rate 7.55 7.70 Constant attendance allowance Exceptional rate 143.20 145.60 Intermediate rate 107.40 109.20 Full day rate 71.60 72.80 Part-day rate 35.80 36.40 Comforts allowance Higher rate 30.80 31.10 Lower rate 15.40 15.55 Mobility supplement 68.35 69.50 Allowance for lowered standard of occupation (maximum) 71.60 72.80 Therapeutic earnings limit (annual rate) 6,838.00 7,280.00 Exceptional severe disablement allowance 71.60 72.80 Severe disablement occupational allowance 35.80 36.40 Clothing allowance (per annum) 245.00 249.00 Education allowance (per annum) (maximum) 120.00 120.00 WIDOW(ER)S BENIFITS Widow(er)s’- other ranks (basic with children) (weekly amount) 143.95 146.40 Widower(er)s’- Officer higher rate both wars (basic with children) (per annum) 7,656.00 7,786.00 Childless widow(er)s’ U-40 (other ranks) (weekly amount) 34.48 35.07 Widow(er) – Officer lower rate both wars (per annum) 2,659.00 2,704.00 Supplementary pension 96.31 97.95 Age allowance (a) Age 65 to 69 16.40 16.70 (b) age 70 to 79 31.55 32.10 (c) age 80 and over 46.80 47.60 Children’s allowance Increase for the first child 22.60 23.00 Increase for subsequent children 25.30 25.55 Orphan’s pension Increase for first child 25.85 26.30 Increase for subsequent children 28.25 28.75 Unmarried dependent living as spouse (maximum) 141.60 144.05 Rent allowance (maximum) 54.20 55.10 Adult orphan’s pension (maximum) 110.65 112.55
War Pensions Rates
(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)
Disablement Pension (100% rates)
Officer (per annum)
Other ranks (weekly amount)
Age allowances payable from age 65
over 50% but not over 70%
Over 70% but not over 90%
Disablement gratuity (one off payment)
Specified minor injury (min)
Specified minor injury (max)
1 – 5% gratuity
6 – 14% gratuity
15 – 19% gratuity
Adult dependency increase
Increase for first child
Increase for subsequent children
Constant attendance allowance
Full day rate
Allowance for lowered standard of occupation (maximum)
Therapeutic earnings limit (annual rate)
Exceptional severe disablement allowance
Severe disablement occupational allowance
Clothing allowance (per annum)
Education allowance (per annum) (maximum)
Widow(er)s’- other ranks (basic with children) (weekly amount)
Widower(er)s’- Officer higher rate both wars (basic with children) (per annum)
Childless widow(er)s’ U-40 (other ranks) (weekly amount)
Widow(er) – Officer lower rate both wars (per annum)
(a) Age 65 to 69
(b) age 70 to 79
(c) age 80 and over
Increase for the first child
Increase for subsequent children
Increase for first child
Increase for subsequent children
Unmarried dependent living as spouse (maximum)
Rent allowance (maximum)
Adult orphan’s pension (maximum)
Initial Teacher Training: Application System
In the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, published in January 2019, the Government committed to helping great people become teachers by introducing a new application system for initial teacher training. This application system will be easier to use and designed to better meet the needs of potential trainees. The new service will also ensure universities and schools delivering teacher training can make accurate decisions on whether their applicants are right for the courses they are offering.
I confirm that the pilot for this new service has started and will involve a number of schools delivering school-centred initial teacher training. My Department will continually improve the service, based on feedback from candidates and those schools and universities delivering teacher training. Universities providing teacher training will also be able to join the pilot from October this year.
The Government’s new service will fully replace the existing UCAS teacher training service from the October 2021 admissions cycle.
Today I am laying the School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2020, which ensure that in 2020-21 every secondary school will receive at least £5,000 per pupil, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil—on the path to £4,000 the following year. As I confirmed in my statement of 20 December last year, this additional funding is provided through the national funding formula (NFF) and included in local authorities’ dedicated schools grant allocations. The new regulations require local authorities to deliver the minimum per pupil funding levels to all schools in their area.
The change will level up the lowest funded schools across the country so that all schools are able to provide an excellent education for their pupils. It forms one part of the Government’s increases to school funding, which will see an extra £14 billion in total invested over the next three years—starting with an additional £2.6 billion in 2020-21 and rising to £7.1 billion more by 2022-23, compared to 2019-20 levels. That is on top of the £1.5 billion we are providing each year to fund additional pensions costs for teachers, bringing the total schools budget to £52.2 billion in 2022-23.
As well as delivering on a key Government pledge made during the general election campaign, the mandatory minimum per pupil levels mark an important step towards our commitment to deliver a “hard” NFF, whereby school funding is determined by a single formula, so that it is fair and equitable for every school in the country. We will consult on the further steps needed to complete this transition in due course.
The Department for Education has also launched a new website which allows the public to see the funding that has been allocated for individual schools through the NFF in 2020-21. The national formula directs money where it is most needed, based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics. Compared to 2019-20, every school is attracting at least a per-pupil increase in line with inflation, with an average increase of over 4% per pupil. The new, user-friendly tool is available to use from today at: https://skillsfunding.service.gov.uk/national- funding-formula/2020-2021/start.
In addition, today I am confirming that all pupil premium rates, which are funded outside the NFF, will increase in line with inflation in 2020-21. This will ensure that this targeted funding can continue to support the most disadvantaged children in our schools.
The Department has also published an official statistics report on school funding over the past decade on our website. This reaffirms our commitment to transparency and aims to support public understanding of school funding by providing a consistent and comprehensive set of statistics. The report shows school revenue funding for five to 16-year-olds for 2010-11 to 2020-21, and school-level funding allocations for 2019-20.
Finally, we have published a Government response to the consultation undertaken last autumn on clarifying the specific grant and ring-fenced status of the dedicated schools grant.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
I am pleased to announce that today we will be introducing the Government’s flagship Environment Bill. There is a clear and urgent scientific case and growing public demand for acting decisively to address biodiversity loss and climate change, which this Bill responds to.
We first introduced the Environment Bill on 15 October 2019. It continues to form a central part in the Government delivering a step change in environmental protection and recovery and will help deliver the Government’s manifesto commitment to deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. It will also support recent legislation to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 by minimising our waste, cleaning our air and water, and restoring habitats to allow plants and wildlife to thrive.
Taken together the measures in the Bill will help to manage the impact of human activity on the environment, create a more sustainable economy, and enhance wellbeing and quality of life. The Bill will engage and empower citizens, local government, and businesses to deliver environmental outcomes and create a positive legacy for future generations. I set out the measures in the Bill below.
Environmental governance and targets
We will establish a new system of green governance and accountability, creating an environmental watchdog in the office for environmental protection, and embedding environmental values at the heart of Government policy making. To ensure the UK continues to drive forward ambitious action to tackle climate change, we are bringing climate change legislation within the enforcement remit of the Office for Environmental Protection.
The Bill will also implement a new statutory cycle of target setting, monitoring, planning, and reporting to help deliver significant, long-term environmental improvement. This will include environmental improvement plans, the first being the 25 year environment plan, and a framework for setting legally binding targets in four priority areas: air quality, waste and resource efficiency, water, and nature. Together they will drive action by businesses and wider society to deliver environmental improvement alongside sustainable growth.
The Bill will include a UK environmental protections policy which will allow for greater transparency and give Parliament greater scrutiny over new environmental legislation. Ministers will be required to make a statement to Parliament setting out the impact of new primary environmental legislation on existing levels of environmental protection. These statements will be published and open to scrutiny by Parliament, environmental stakeholders and the broader public.
We will also review significant developments in the environmental protection legislation of other countries and prepare a report for Parliament every two years. This will ensure we keep abreast of international developments in driving forward our environmental protection legislation.
Waste and resource efficiency
The Bill will drive a major shift in maximising resource efficiency, minimising waste, and moving towards a more circular economic model. We will introduce measures based on the “polluter pays” principle, create a simplified approach to recycling, and tackle waste crime. Powers to introduce new extended producer responsibility schemes will make producers responsible for the full net costs of managing their products at end of life, encouraging them to design their products with re-use and recycling in mind. New Government powers to set resource-efficiency standards for products will drive market and consumer behaviour towards durable, repairable, and recyclable products. To tackle plastic pollution, the Environment Bill will enable the creation of new charges for other single-use plastic items, similar to the carrier bag charge, which will incentivise a shift towards reusable items. We are taking powers to establish deposit return schemes which will further incentivise consumers to reduce litter and recycle more. The Bill also sets out how Government will mandate weekly collections of food waste for every household, subject to consultation. The Environment Bill also contains powers which will enable the Government to ban the export of polluting plastic waste to non-OECD countries, consulting with industry, NGOs, and local councils on the date by which this should be achieved.
Air quality and environmental recall
We already have a strong track record of tackling air pollution—for example, direct action on nitrogen dioxide has led to emissions falling by almost 29% between 2010 and 2017 and they are now at their lowest level since records began. The Bill will further enable greater local action on air pollution, ensuring responsibility is shared across local government structures and public bodies; better enabling them to tackle emissions from burning coal and wood; and bringing forward powers for Government to mandate recalls of vehicles and machinery when they do not meet relevant legal emission standards. The Environment Bill makes a clear commitment to set a legally binding target for the pollutant with the most significant impact on human health, fine particulate matter.
The Environment Bill will help to secure long-term, resilient water and wastewater services. It will introduce additional requirements for water company planning for future water supply and wastewater and drainage networks, enabling more resilient solutions to drought and flooding. In a changing climate, these measures will ensure the water regulator has the powers it needs to respond to new priorities. The Bill enhances flood and coastal erosion risk management, allowing for the expansion of existing internal drainage boards or the creation of new ones where there is local appetite to do so. We are reforming elements of abstraction licensing to link it more tightly to our goal of restoring water bodies to as close to natural state as possible, and are creating a power to update the lists of substances and their respective standards which are potentially harmful to surface waters and groundwater.
Nature and biodiversity
The Environment Bill supports and enables action to create or restore wildlife-rich habitats to enable wildlife to recover and thrive. The Bill introduces mandatory biodiversity net gain, to ensure that new developments enhance biodiversity and help deliver thriving natural spaces for communities. This will also support certainty in the planning system and therefore the delivery of new housing, while retaining and providing habitats that can enhance biodiversity. Provisions requiring the development of local nature recovery strategies across England will support better spatial planning for nature recovery, by setting out priorities and opportunities for protecting and investing in nature within a local area. The Bill also strengthens a duty within the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 to ensure public authorities play their part in conserving and enhancing biodiversity.
The Environment Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to amend two pieces of legislation regulating the use of chemicals in the UK (REACH 2008). This will allow the Secretary of State to take further steps where necessary to ensure a smooth transition to a UK chemicals regime following the UK’s exit from the EU. It will also make it possible to keep the legislation up to date and respond to emerging needs or ambitions for the effective management of chemicals.
The Environment Bill is the result of extensive public consultation. In July 2019 we published six Government responses to consultations on measures in the Bill. And in October 2019 we published the Government response to the consultation on protecting and enhancing England’s trees and woodland, covering measures to increase the transparency and accountability in the process of felling street trees.
Over half of all measures in the Environment Bill are to be extended beyond England and adopted across the devolved Administrations. The positive extent of the join up demonstrates our ambition in working with the devolved Administrations across the UK to better protect the environment and strengthen the Union, while respecting the devolution settlement. This co-ordination is the result of extensive engagement with the devolved Administrations over the past year by both Ministers and officials during which we have discussed all policy areas of the Bill.
This Environment Bill is a landmark commitment to protecting and improving the environment for future generations. It grasps opportunities created from leaving the European Union and I hope that it will deliver a step change in environmental protection and recovery.
Exiting the European Union
The UK has strong partnerships with virtually every country around the world and aims to strengthen them as we leave the European Union.
During the UK’s membership of the EU, important aspects of these relationships have been governed through EU arrangements: through formal and informal co-operation and collaboration; dialogues; memoranda of understanding; regulatory arrangements; and in some cases through international agreements or treaties.
The Government have been committed to preserving the relationships governed by these agreements and arrangements. Accordingly, article 129 of the withdrawal agreement specifies that, for the duration of the transition period, the UK will remain bound by the obligations under existing EU-third country international agreements. In addition, the asterisk to article 129(1) provides for the EU to issue a notification to its treaty partners stating that the UK is to be treated as an EU member state for the purposes of those agreements.
Following signature of the withdrawal agreement on 24 January, the EU has now issued the notification described above to its treaty partners, as well as to the depositaries of multilateral agreements to which it is a party.
This notification provides an important platform for continuity. Some EU treaty partners may choose to respond publicly to the EU’s notification, but this is not a precondition for continuity provided a treaty partner intends the UK to be covered and continues to act accordingly.
If businesses or other stakeholders find that these arrangements, for whatever reason, are not being implemented smoothly, they should make their concerns known to the relevant UK authorities.
As of 1 February, the UK will also become bound by any obligations stemming from EU international agreements which are concluded or provisionally applied during the transition period. The Government expect that the arrangements above will also apply to such agreements.
To prepare for the end of the transition period, the Government will continue to work to transition those international agreements which are relevant and necessary, where there is mutual interest to do so. In some cases, this will be through a formal successor treaty between the UK and a third country or group of countries. In other cases, this will be through another type of arrangement, for example a memorandum of understanding.
I will be depositing a copy of the EU’s notification (in the form of a note verbale and covering letter) in the Libraries of both Houses.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
General Affairs Council: 28 January 2020
Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs, chaired the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 28 January. I represented the United Kingdom.
Adoption of A items
A number of A items were considered, including on accession negotiations with Serbia, the EU position on TIR convention and the safeguarding of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. A full list can be found on the EU Council’s website at https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2020/01/28/.
Presentation of priorities of the Croatian presidency
The presidency presented on their priorities for their presidency. These include: sectoral and horizontal legislation related to the next multiannual financial framework; enlargement policy, particularly in the run-up to an informal EU-western Balkans summit in May; implementation of the EU strategic agenda; cohesion; and promoting the EU as a community of values. The presidency also listed as a priority enabling an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and starting negotiations on a future partnership.
Conference on the future of Europe
There followed a substantial discussion on the proposed conference on the future of Europe, including its content, scope, composition and functioning. This followed recent communications from both the Commission and EU Parliament setting out their position on the conference.
Any other business
I intervened, on the occasion of the last attendance of a United Kingdom Minister at an EU Council, in relation to the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. In doing so, I reiterated that while the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU, we will not be leaving Europe; and that while we will have a different relationship, we will continue to stand together as sovereign equals to defend our shared values. I further reiterated the United Kingdom’s hope that we can deliver on our joint aspiration for a high quality free trade agreement to be agreed by the end of the year.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission Report
The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission has published its final report today. I am depositing this report in the Libraries of both Houses and have made it available on www.gov.uk. I would like to thank the commissioners for all of their hard work in producing the report. The Government will provide a response in due course.
Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council
The Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council under the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU took place on 23 and 24 January 2020 in Zagreb.
I represented the UK on Justice Day. My colleague right hon Friend the Minister for Security, attended the meeting for interior day.
Justice day began with a discussion on the future of EU justice and home affairs in the fields of freedom, security and justice, with a focus on the following justice policies: fundamental rights and the rule of law; civil judicial co-operation; judicial training and criminal justice.
Over lunch, Ministers considered the role of the European judicial network in civil and commercial matters, recognising its importance in facilitating judicial co-operation.
Ministers then discussed judicial training. I provided an overview of judicial training in the UK, including the independent role of the judiciary in assessing the required learning and development. I highlighted that our approach to providing training for the judiciary is in accordance with the separation of powers, in that training is under the control of the judiciary and not the Government.
The first agenda item of interior day discussed the future of EU justice and home affairs activity, focusing on the home affairs area. The Minister for Security intervened to highlight issues relating to end-to-end encryption, drawing attention to the open letter to Facebook from the Home Secretary.
The Minister for Security also encouraged member states to ensure that the voice of their law enforcement agencies and interior Ministries was heard during discussions on the EU’s negotiating mandate for a future internal security agreement with the UK.
Interior Ministers then discussed implementation of legislation on the interoperability of EU JHA databases.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed tackling organised immigration crime in the western Balkans, including a proposal to create a regional western Balkans system similar to the Eurodac database (which stores fingerprint and biometric data of asylum applicants).
The afternoon session focused on implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard agency, which the UK does not participate in.
Today I am announcing the preferred route for the Bedford to Cambridge section of the east-west rail line between Oxford and Cambridge. This follows a public consultation last year on five route options.
The preferred route, route E from the consultation, would link Bedford Midland, a new station between Sandy and St Neots, a new station at Cambourne and Cambridge station. The route would provide improved connectivity between towns and cities across the Oxford-Cambridge arc, improving passenger journey times and supporting the Oxford-Cambridge arc to fulfil its economic potential as a world-class strategic innovation arc.
The Bedford to Cambridge section of east-west rail has been designated a nationally significant infrastructure project.
The preferred route will now be the focus for further development. This further development work will include environmental and engineering studies to identify potential route alignments on which the railway could run, within the preferred route option and will lead to the Government making a final decision on whether to take this project forward, and to make an application for a developed consent order. In advance of submitting the application for a development consent order, we will confirm that there are no material changes that might have affected our preferred route choice.