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Written Statements

Volume 677: debated on Monday 8 June 2020

Written Statements

Monday 8 June 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Business Update

I hereby give notice of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s intention to seek an advance from the contingencies fund totalling £5,673,000 to enable expenditure on Covid-19 vaccines programme to be spent ahead of the passage of the Supply and Appropriation Act.

The funding is urgently required for HM Government to secure inventory which can be utilised for a number of vaccine, antibody and therapeutic candidates.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £5,673,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a Main Estimate for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £5,673,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The cash advances will be repaid upon receiving Royal Assent on the Supply and Appropriation Bill.


Cabinet Office

UK’s Future Relationship with the EU: Negotiations

The Government have made a commitment to update Parliament on the progress of our future relationship negotiations with the EU. This statement provides an update on the fourth round of negotiations.

Negotiators from the UK and the EU held discussions through video conferencing on 2-5 June 2020 for the fourth round of negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship. This round was shorter than usual owing to a Belgian public holiday. There was no opening plenary, but there were substantive discussions on many issues, and the week closed with a plenary on 5 June chaired by the UK’s Chief Negotiator, David Frost, and by the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Bamier.

Discussions covered all work streams including:

Trade in GoodsMarket access, trade remedies, customs and SPS.

Trade in servicesInternational maritime transport services, temporary entry for business purposes, professional qualifications, small and medium-sized enterprises, geographical indications (GIs).

FisheriesObjectives of the agreement, consultation and co-operation procedures, access and scope, and quota sharing.

Transport—Aviation governance.

EnergyCivil nuclear, gas and electricity trading, climate change and carbon pricing.

Mobility and social security co-ordination - Social security co-ordination arrangements.

Law Enforcement and Criminal JusticeHuman rights, extradition, the exchange of passenger name records (PNR) information, and Europol.

Thematic co-operation - A possible security of information agreement, asylum and illegal migration including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Participation in union programmesDiscussions on the potential terms for UK participation in the following programmes Horizon Europe, Euratom, R and D, Copernicus and Erasmus+, and discussions on potential co-operation on the European geostationary navigation overlay service and EU space surveillance and tracking programmes.

“Level playing field”In particular, labour and environmental standards, and trade and sustainable development.

Horizontal issuesGovernance arrangements, territorial scope.

Discussions were constructive and positive in tone, but there was no movement on the most difficult areas where differences of principle are at their most acute—notably fisheries, governance arrangements, and the so-called “level playing field". Chief negotiators are discussing the arrangements for the next rounds of negotiation and for the high level meeting required by the political declaration to take place in June.


Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee: Second Meeting

The second meeting of the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee will take place on 12 June 2020 by video conference.

The meeting will be co-chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, right hon. Michael Gove MP and Vice President of the European Commission, Mr Maroš Sefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

Welcome and opening remarks

Stocktake of specialised Committee meetings

Implementation of the withdrawal agreement

Citizens’ rights

Protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland

Protocol on sovereign base areas in Cyprus

Protocol on Gibraltar

Financial provisions

Decision on amendments to the withdrawal agreement


The UK delegation will include:

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, right hon. Michael Gove MP

The Paymaster General, right hon. Penny Mordaunt MP

Representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive have also been invited to form part of the UK delegation.


Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Immersive and Addictive Technologies: Government Response to DCMS Committee Inquiry

DCMS is today publishing the Government response to the DCMS Select Committee’s report on Immersive and Addictive Technologies. I would like to commend the Committee for a wide ranging and detailed examination of many important issues.

The report called for improved research on the impact of video games and included extensive commentary on loot boxes (in-game purchases of virtual containers that award players with items to use in the game, based on chance).

To address the issues raised, and to ensure Government policy is based on sound evidence, the Government will set a framework for a programme of research into video games’ impacts on behaviour. This process will be led by DCMS’ Chief Scientific Advisor and will include a series of workshops with relevant research councils, academia and industry. These will be used to help determine the full range and detail of the questions that need to be addressed on the impacts of video games and make recommendations for a further programme of research.

We are not minded at this point to impose a levy on the games industry to pay for new research as we believe it would be likely to disproportionately impact the SMEs and microbusinesses that comprise the vast majority of games businesses in the UK. However, a range of funding approaches, including mechanisms to allow for in-game data to be used to support research, will be considered as part of this work.

The Government will also launch a call for evidence on loot boxes to assess concerns around links to gambling-like behaviour and excessive in-game spending. This will work alongside the framework for a programme of research into video games, and the wider review of the Gambling Act that includes a commitment to include a particular focus on loot boxes. In addition to a written call for evidence, we envisage holding a series of roundtables to discuss issues and solutions in detail, including the most effective approaches to protect users from any harms identified. The results from the call for evidence will be considered alongside the review of the Gambling Act. The Government stand ready to take action should the outcomes of the call for evidence support taking a new approach to ensure users, and particularly young people, are protected.

The Government recognise that immersive technologies and content offer great potential for economic, cultural and social benefits to the UK. Through increasingly compelling narratives and realistic visuals, immersive products can offer engaging experiences to audiences, not just with the aim of entertaining but with the scope to challenge, educate and inspire them.

Immersive technologies also allow the video games sector in the UK to build on already formidable strengths. Over half the UK population plays games, the vast majority engaging safely with content that allows them to enjoy fun, exciting play, find moments of relaxation, socialise and learn new skills. The video games sector, a key part of the UK’s world-leading creative industries, is also a cutting edge creator and adopter of innovative new technologies, and a provider of highly skilled creative jobs.

The Government are committed to build on these strengths by promoting inward investment, enabling the growth of exciting new games companies and encouraging innovation. Targeted support includes the video games tax relief which has supported more than 1,000 video games productions since it was introduced in 2014. Earlier this year, we also announced the extension of the UK games fund to 2021. Set up in 2015, the UK games fund targets games development talent with access to finance and business support, supporting 152 companies and 73 graduate teams to date. We are also helping to drive innovation, supporting ground-breaking projects such as the InGAME centre in Dundee. We will continue to consider further actions we can take to underpin the sector’s vital contribution to the future prosperity of the UK.

However, while digital technologies are overwhelmingly a force for good, undoubtedly they also present new responsibilities to ensure that users—particularly children and vulnerable people are not exposed to harm.

I believe the actions the Government are announcing today are important steps towards ensuring we can support the further growth of an innovative and important industry while protecting users in a fast-changing space. Further details on these, and the other recommendations made by the Committee will be set out in the Government response.

I am placing copies of the response in the Libraries of the House, and it will also be available on:


Housing, Communities and Local Government

Local Authority Procurement: Fraud and Corruption Risk Review

Today I have published a review into the risks of fraud and corruption in local government procurement in England, in collaboration with the Government’s anti-corruption champion, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose). This report delivers on a commitment by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) in the UK anti-corruption strategy 2017-2022 and is an important part of the wider agenda to strengthen the UK’s response to the risks posed by corruption. The findings highlight the importance of continued vigilance across the whole procurement lifecycle and is particularly relevant at this time of heightened activity by councils, as they are working hard to respond to the challenges posed by covid-19.

Acknowledging and mitigating the risk of fraud and corruption is critical to sound financial management and ensuring that every pound spent by local councils supports the communities they serve. Activities to reduce vulnerability to the risks of fraud and corruption will also have the potential to improve efficiency and identify losses resulting from error, by highlighting weaker areas within systems and processes.

The potential benefits to both councils and the local taxpayer are significant. Under “business as usual” circumstances councils in England spend around £55 billion a year on goods, works and services[1]. Estimates[2] of the losses to Government expenditure caused by fraud and error range between 0.5% and 5%[3], equating to between £275 million and £2.75 billion per year for local government procurement spend.

It is also important to emphasise that fraud and corruption are by their nature hidden, and a low level of reported cases does not necessarily indicate a lack of fraudulent or corrupt activity.

Recent cross-Government reports demonstrate that detected fraud and corruption is only a proportion of the true scale of the problem[4]. Furthermore, of the 86 councils responding to the survey as part of this review, 23% reported having experienced cases of fraud and corruption within procurement in the 2017-2018 financial year.

Although there is no silver bullet for tackling the issue of fraud and corruption within procurement, this review draws together a range of activities which collectively help identify and mitigate the risks faced by local councils. The report details anonymised examples of good practice already in place across England, providing excellent evidence of local authorities’ innovation, commitment and collaborative approach.

The case studies of incidents of fraud and corruption and examples of best practice in prevention, illustrate how risks can materialise and what can be done to mitigate them. In addition, the report includes a risk matrix, which highlights possible measures that councils can use to strengthen their resilience to the risks of fraud and corruption. I hope the report will serve as a valuable resource for councils across the country to learn from. In additional to this report, I would also encourage councils to make best use of the national fraud initiative[5], CIPFA Counter Fraud resources[6] and the case studies from the counter fraud fund pilots MHCLG funded in 2014[7], as well as the latest fighting fraud and corruption locality strategy[8].

Taking forward the findings of the review

This report sets out suggested next steps for the public sector as a whole, for local councils and for MHCLG. Those for the public sector focus on putting in place standard definitions and measurement methodologies, ensuring there is a central place to record reports of fraud and corruption and strengthening whistleblowing arrangements.

MHCLG has a key role in supporting a culture of strong governance and robust accountability within the local government sector, and the counter fraud and anti-corruption agenda are important strands within this work.

At the level of individual councils, appropriate capacity is needed to prevent, detect and respond to incidents of fraud and corruption within the procurement lifecycle. This means having in place effective fraud and corruption risk management structures and risk assessments, effective due diligence and management of gifts and hospitality and conflicts of interest.

Capacity and capability within local authority contract management and commercial activities have been identified as areas for improvement and all those involved in procurement must understand their roles and responsibilities, whenever commissioning, procuring or purchasing on behalf of their council. Councils should consider how the risks of fraud and corruption are managed in their wider networks, including local authority companies, Arms-length management organisations (ALMOS) and other special purpose vehicles.

Procurement is only one area where fraud and corruption risks are present for councils, and similar risks are present in other areas of council operations. Many of the recommendations in this report should support efforts by councils to prevent and detect fraud and corruption, and to hold perpetrators successfully to account.

[1] National Procurement Strategy for Local Government in England 2018, LGA, page 5, %20Procurement%20Strategy%202018_main %20report_V7.pdf

[2] See page 16, https://assets.publishing.

[3] The Fraud Measurement and Assurance Oversight Board concluded that there is an upper and lower range of likely losses: 0.5% to 5%. See page 31, AnnualReport2018.pdf

[4] Page 15, Cross-Government Fraud Landscape Annual Report 2018,






International Development

Global Health Security Update

The UK is leading the worldwide fightback against infectious diseases, including coronavirus.

That is why the Prime Minister hosted the global vaccine summit last week to raise funding for vaccinations that will save millions of lives in the poorest countries and protect the world from future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Bringing together world leaders and representatives from 62 countries, private sector organisations and civil society, the Global Vaccine Summit raised an historic $8.8 billion for Gavi, exceeding our fundraising target of $7.4 billion.

Just as the UK is the single biggest donor to the international effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, I am incredibly proud that we are the biggest donor to Gavi, the vaccine alliance. The UK has pledged £1.65 billion over the next five years, which will vaccinate up to 75 million children from infectious diseases, saving almost 2 million lives.

The funding raised from 32 donors also included generous pledges from countries such as Germany, United States, Saudi Arabia, France, Netherlands and Sweden, $1.6 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $61 million from the private sector.

In a great demonstration of global collaboration, the world has sufficiently invested in Gavi for the next five years. The global vaccine summit is an example of what we can accomplish when we come together.

This support for Gavi will immunise 300 million more children in the world’s poorest countries against diseases like measles, polio and diphtheria by the end of 2025, will save up to 8 million lives and prevent needless child deaths.

People who are vaccinated protect themselves and the rest of the population by lowering the spread and risk of infection. Gavi’s work on routine immunisation is the strongest shield against outbreaks of infectious killer diseases.

It will also help ensure our global recovery from coronavirus. By vaccinating millions of children against other deadly diseases, we are protecting fragile healthcare systems in the world’s poorest countries so they can cope with rising coronavirus cases.

This will ultimately help prevent future waves of infectious diseases spreading around the world, including to the UK.

Vaccines work and this funding matters. Generous support from the British people to Gavi has already helped immunise more than 760 million children in the world’s poorest countries, saving over 13 million lives.

Gavi’s market shaping efforts to make life-saving vaccines more accessible and affordable have seen a 21% price reduction for fully immunising a child with pentavalent, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines - from $20.01 in 2015 to $15.90 in 2018. The UK can be proud of the part we’ve played in this price reduction.

The UK has also been a founding donor of the successful advance market commitment which has so far protected the lives of over 700,000 children from deadly pneumonia infections. We welcome Gavi’s leadership and offered our full support to their new coronavirus fund with a $60 million commitment from the UK to help speed up access to a vaccine when it’s ready.

But the Global Vaccine Summit was just the beginning, we can do so much more.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 80 million children under one have had routine immunisation disrupted by the pandemic. The UK’s support to Gavi will make sure that routine immunisation is not interrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that everyone has access to lifesaving vaccinations.

Gavi, with UK support, is also addressing the immediate needs triggered by coronavirus, including by providing essential medical supplies and helping to increase testing and surveillance of the disease.

To defeat coronavirus, we must focus our collective ingenuity on the search for a vaccine. And in the future, Gavi will have a crucial role in the delivery of a coronavirus vaccine. It is already working hard with partners to make sure a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine would be affordable and delivered around the world.

No one is safe from coronavirus until we are all safe.

The UK has already committed up to £764 million for the global coronavirus response. Some of the most promising research into vaccines is happening here, supported by our vaccine taskforce. And we are pioneering the innovative collaborations that will be needed to manufacture and distribute a vaccine, once found, like the partnership between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

But this demands a truly global effort.

As the Prime Minister said, the global vaccine summit was a moment when the world came together to unite humanity in the fight against disease.