Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Intellectual Property

Our industrial strategy sets out the Government’s vision for making the UK the most innovative country in the world. The UK starts from a position of strength and is already ranked in the top five of the global innovation index and top 10 by the World Bank as the best place to start and grow a business. But the global landscape is changing and we must continue to invest in research and development. The industrial strategy has set an ambition to raise total research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, helping businesses access the right funds and equip them to face the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies and new ways of doing business.

Intellectual property (IP) plays a crucial role in innovation and touches everything that makes modern life more enjoyable, easier, safer and prosperous. It provides inventors, creators and entrepreneurs with the confidence to invest knowing that they will reap the benefits of their investments. UK investment in IP rights reached almost £64 billion in 2016 and studies have shown that industries that rely on IP have accounted for over a quarter of UK employment and almost half of GDP. Our IP system matters. It creates jobs and economic growth and is helping to propel Britain to the forefront of innovation.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) corporate plan 2020-21 explains how through its stewardship of the IP system, it will help the UK to be the most innovative and creative country in the world. It will do this through delivering excellent IP services, creating a world leading IP environment and attracting and retaining the best people by making the IPO a brilliant place to work.

The UK already has one of the best IP regimes in the world, consistently ranked as one of the top regimes in indices such as those from the US Chamber of Commerce International IP Index, and during 2020-21, the IPO will continue to contribute to building a business environment that makes the UK the best place in the world to start and run a business.

As an executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the IPO has set targets which are agreed by Ministers and laid before Parliament. I am glad that today I can inform the House that for 2020-21 the IPO’s targets are:

Deliver excellent customer service with our average overall customer satisfaction at least 85%.

Deliver our services efficiently through continuously improving our systems, processes and ways of working to make things better for our customers and our people, reduce costs and improve the value for money we provide. Our target is to achieve efficiencies worth at least 3.5% of our core operating costs.

We will have created equivalent UK rights from existing EU trade marks and designs to the UK register on 31 December 2020.

We want to ensure that the UK’s IP framework incentivises the development and adoption of AI technologies, supporting the Government’s ambition of putting the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution. We will do this by developing our understanding of how AI impacts the IP framework through launching a call for views and publishing our response so as to provide the clarity our customers need to confidently invest in AI.

It is important to note that our plan and our targets were developed prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus (covid-19) epidemic. At present our targets are unchanged but we will review this as the impact of the virus becomes clearer. We have the ability to adapt our finance and resource models according to emerging trends and we will do so. We will also work with BEIS and our other partner organisations to review our priorities regularly, ensuring we support wider Government responses to the economic impact of the virus and seek to focus our efforts and resources where they will have the most significant impact driving the UK innovation and creative economy.

[HCWS342]

Cabinet Office

UK-EU Future Relationship 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 intensified talks process as agreed at the high level meeting between the Prime Minister and the three presidents on the EU side on 15 June. The timetable for this process was published on 12 June as an addendum to the terms of reference on the UK-EU future relationship negotiations.

Intensified talks took place in Brussels between 29 June and 2 July in a restricted format and led by the UK chief negotiator David Frost. The talks covered: trade in goods; trade in services and investment and other issues; fisheries; horizontal arrangements and governance; level playing field for open and fair competition; criminal law and judicial co-operation; mobility, social security, thematic co-operation; energy and transport; and participation in Union programmes.

These talks were comprehensive and useful. However, they have underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues. Further discussions will take place later this week in London. The UK remains committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified talks process during July, as agreed at the high level meeting on 15 June.

[HCWS346]

Defence

Armed Forces Pay Review Body: Appointments

I am pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Defence has appointed Miss Jenni Douglas Todd, Mr Julian Miller CB and Rear Admiral William Entwisle OBE MVO as members of the armed forces’ pay review body. Their appointment commenced on 20 May 2020 and will run until 30 April 2023. These appointments have been conducted in accordance with the governance code for public appointments.

[HCWS341]

Armed Forces: Wraparound Childcare

I am pleased to announce today the launch of a wraparound childcare pilot scheme for UK armed forces families. This announcement represents another significant step towards the Government meeting their manifesto commitment to provide free wraparound childcare for forces families.

It is the latest in a series of measures which my Department has introduced with the aim of easing the unique burdens on service families. Our armed forces have a 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment to their duties and meeting this manifesto pledge will not only provide them with the support they deserve, but also help to build the diverse workforce we need for a modernised UK Defence.

I am determined to make the armed forces a more modern, inclusive and family friendly employer, in order to improve the working environment for retention of all personnel but also to encourage more talented women to pursue long, and fulfilling careers in uniform.

This follows the introduction of flexible service last year, which allows—for the first time in the armed forces—personnel to flex their working arrangements to accommodate changes in personal circumstances.

By introducing these measures we plan to make life easier for service personnel and their families, who are required to be mobile and can be deployed at short notice. Wraparound childcare will help them to secure appropriate support when it is required, by covering early starts and late finishes for eligible working parents of children aged four to 11.

The first pilot sites of RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton will see funding for before and after school care during term time from the start of the 2020 academic year. Further pilot sites at Catterick garrison and the Plymouth naval area will follow in January 2021.

Service personnel assigned to each of the pilot sites will be eligible to access the funding, regardless of the geographical location of their children within the UK. The few families located in Scotland but assigned to the first pilot sites will, therefore, begin in August.

The launch of this pilot comes amidst the wider return to education, following the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Service personnel from all of our armed forces have provided critical support to their colleagues in health and social care, often deployed away from home at short notice.

Their professionalism, versatility, and commitment make them the best armed forces in the world, and we are committed to honouring their service by providing them the best support possible.

[HCWS343]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Arts, Culture and Heritage: Support Package

I wish to set out to the House details of the £1.57 billion rescue package that the Government have provided to support the arts, creative and heritage sectors to respond to the economic shock caused by coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole economy, but presents particular challenges for organisations that depend on engaging with audiences and visitors in person. It has forced thousands of cultural institutions to close their doors and, while some galleries and museums reopened on 4 July, even those that have reopened face significant financial constraints on operating in a socially distanced way.

Through the establishment of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce, and the Entertainment and Events Working Group, I have been working closely with the cultural sector and medical experts to address these challenges and to try and help organisations to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

However, this pandemic will continue to disrupt business models in the cultural sectors and social distancing will mean that crowded venues are not possible for some time. This means that much of the UK cultural sector, including well-established organisations that had robust business models prior to the coronavirus pandemic, are not able to restore their incomes, and face significant financial risks which if not mitigated could lead to widespread insolvencies and loss of much of the UK’s invaluable culture and heritage.

Government have therefore taken action to provide the necessary support that will help organisations to survive this period and reopen when it is safe and economically viable to do so.

This funding represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, and builds on the financial assistance many cultural and heritage institutions have already received from the Government’s pan-economy measures including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

The rescue package will support thousands of organisations across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema. It will cover both the largest and most famous institutions, and the lesser known but equally cherished cultural and heritage organisations in regions across the country—those which have been the anchors of their local communities for years.

This funding package includes:

£1.15 billion support for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and repayable finance.

£100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.

£120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which were paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved Administrations—with the following allocations via the Barnett formula: Northern Ireland (£33 million); Scotland (£97 million); and Wales (£59 million).

Decisions on awards will be made by DCMS arm’s length bodies, in particular the Arts Council England, British Film Institute, Historic England, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, working alongside expert independent figures from the sector.

The funding will predominantly be grant funding, with repayable finance available for the largest organisations. This repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure that it is affordable.

In order to receive support, organisations will need to demonstrate that they are at risk in this financial year and have done all they can to support themselves. We will be prioritising institutions of national and international significance and those that are crucial to safeguarding access to culture and driving economic growth across the whole country.

Further details on the scope of the fund, the criteria that will determine which organisations are eligible for each element of the fund, and the timing for allocating funding, will be set out in detailed guidance. DCMS is working intensively with its arm’s length bodies, and will publish this guidance for applications shortly.

[HCWS345]

Health and Social Care

Coronavirus Update

On 26 March 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, imposing restrictions on people’s movements and gatherings, and requiring the closure of certain retail and public premises, to protect public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We have kept these regulations under continual review and have amended these regulations four times.

On 23 June 2020, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament the changes being made following the fourth review of the coronavirus regulations. Due to the substantial changes being made at this point, I am revoking the existing regulations and replacing them with The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020. This approach will mean that the regulations are clearer and easier for the general public to understand.

These new regulations mean that from 4 July, a wide range of sectors have been permitted to reopen, with guidance that covid-19 secure measures are implemented in their reopening. This includes the hospitality, leisure, tourism, and recreation sectors. Group prayer and collective worship, overnight stays in self-contained accommodation, including hotels, second homes, and bed and breakfasts are also allowed. Although most businesses are now able to open, a number remain which are still considered too high risk to reopen due to the likely prolonged exposure and close contact between individuals; these businesses are listed in the regulations as having to remain closed.

These new regulations have also removed the restriction on overnight stays. The previous gathering limits have been removed from legislation and replaced with a 30-person limit on gatherings in private dwellings, ships or boats, and public outdoor spaces. This new gathering limit will ensure that police have the powers to prevent the type of gatherings taking place which are not likely to be able to follow social distancing measures, such as house parties, boat parties or raves. These gathering limits are subject to exceptions. These regulations have removed most of the restrictions placed on individuals by the previous set of regulations, however the Government have provided clear guidance outlining what steps people should be taking to protect themselves or others. This outlines that gatherings should be limited to two households indoors, or two households or six people outdoors (whichever is greater). It is very important that everyone continues to follow the guidance—and continues to socially distance from those they do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with).

As national restrictions are rightly relaxed to reflect the lower infection rates, we must ensure that we have the ability to act swiftly and effectively where risky behaviour occurs. These regulations therefore introduce new powers for the Secretary of State to either restrict access to or close public outdoor places (for example beauty spots) by a direction if this is judged necessary to protect public health.

As I announced to the House on 29 June, the changes that came into effect on 4 July will not apply in Leicester. This follows a rise in cases and is based on clinical advice. In addition, non-essential retail based in Leicester has had to close. The new regulations make this a legal requirement. In addition, they will prohibit overnight stays by Leicester residents inside and outside of Leicester, and by residents from elsewhere within Leicester. They will continue to prohibit gatherings of more than six people outdoors and mixing between households, apart from where this is allowed by the support bubble policy. The new regulations will continue to only allow places of worship to open for specific reasons, including private prayer. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will review the whether this position can be changed by 18 July.

Publicly available Government guidance on gov.uk is being updated to ensure it fully corresponds with the new regulations.

[HCWS340]

Home Department

Violence and Abuse towards Shop Staff: Call for Evidence

Today the Government have published their formal response to the call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff. The Government recognise that the violence and abuse shop workers face can have a significant impact, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

The Government launched a call for evidence in April 2019 on violence and abuse towards shop staff to understand the scale of the issue, the measures which may help prevent these crimes and the extent to which existing legislation is being used to tackle them; and to identify examples of best practice. I want to emphasise that violence and abuse of shop staff is unacceptable and must not be tolerated, and we will work towards tackling these crimes. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the retail sector who have during the coronavirus pandemic worked tirelessly to keep the nation fed while implementing social distancing measures to keep the public safe.

In light of the responses to the call for evidence, the Government recognise that there are issues which need to be dealt with in an evidence-based manner with the support and involvement of the sector. Therefore, I have begun work with the National Retail Crime Steering Group, which we co-chair with the British Retail Consortium, to jointly develop and deliver a programme of work to drive down abuse and violence, with three key aims:

Deepen our understanding and address the drivers of violence and assault against shop worker;

Send a clear message that such crimes are not tolerated and should be recorded whenever and wherever they take place;

Provide effective support to those shop workers who are the victims of violence and abuse.

In delivering these priorities we will work with partners, including the Welsh Government, to ensure that plans are tailored and effective. The call for evidence generated a high level of interest and the Government would like to thank all those who took part and for the work they have contributed. The evidence and comments received has been vital in helping develop a better understanding of the issue. I wish to be clear that this is only the beginning of the process, rather than the conclusion as further work is needed to deliver an evidence-based response to these crimes.

The “Government Response to the Call for Evidence on Violence and Abuse Toward Shop Staff” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS344]

International Trade

Export Licences: Saudi Arabia

I want to update the House on the steps that have been taken to comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 20 June 2019 regarding licences for military exports to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen.

The legal proceedings concerned the decisions of the then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills of 9 December 2015:

Not to suspend extant export licences for the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen; and

To continue to grant further such licences.

The legal proceedings concerned Criterion 2c of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria—which requires the Government to assess Saudi Arabia’s attitude towards relevant principles of international law and provides that the Government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).

The Divisional Court found in favour of the Government in its judgment of July 2017, noting that we applied a rigorous and robust, multi-layered process of analysis to making our licensing decisions. Our approach has focused on a predictive evaluation of risk as to the attitude and future conduct of the Saudi-led coalition, recognising the inherent difficulties of seeking to reach findings on IHL for specific incidents where we do not have access to complete information. Even so, this analysis has always incorporated a detailed and careful review of past allegations of incidents of concern. This included analysis, to the extent possible, of whether there were patterns of concern, in particular arising from trends in the number of allegations of civilian casualties and of damage to key civilian infrastructure. The Court of Appeal broadly endorsed this decision-making process.

The principal issue in the Court of Appeal was whether this analysis needed to go further. In the Court’s judgment, the question of whether there was an historic pattern of breaches of IHL was a question which required to be faced. Even if it could not be answered with reasonable confidence for every incident, at least the attempt had to be made. It was because we had not reached findings on whether specific incidents constituted breaches of IHL as part of our assessment of clear risk, under Criterion 2c, that the Court of Appeal concluded that our decision-making process was irrational and therefore unlawful.

To address the Court of Appeal’s judgment, we have developed a revised methodology in respect of all allegations which it is assessed are likely to have occurred and to have been caused by fixed-wing aircraft, reflecting the factual circumstances that the court proceedings concerned. Each of those allegations has been subject to detailed analysis by reference to the relevant principles of IHL and in the light of all the information and intelligence available. An evaluation has then been made, in respect of each incident, whether it is possible that it constitutes a breach of IHL or whether it is unlikely that it represents a breach. For a number of incidents, as envisaged by the Court of Appeal, there is insufficient information to make this evaluation. Where an incident is assessed as being a “possible” breach, it is regarded—for the purposes of the Criterion 2c analysis—as if it were a breach of IHL. By setting the threshold as “possible” the IHL analysis has captured the widest range of relevant potential IHL breaches, to provide a base from which to assess the prospective risk for Criterion 2c.

The IHL analysis has now been applied to all credible incidents of concern of which we are aware. Some of these incidents have been assessed as “possible” violations of IHL. These have therefore been factored into the overall Criterion 2c analysis on the basis that they are violations of IHL.

We have sought to determine whether these “violations” are indicative of:

any patterns of non-compliance;

a lack of commitment on the part of Saudi Arabia to comply with IHL; and or

a lack of capacity or systemic weaknesses which might give rise to a clear risk of IHL breaches.

We have similarly looked for patterns and trends across the incidents which have been assessed as being unlikely to be breaches of IHL and those for which there is insufficient information to make an assessment.

This analysis has not revealed any such patterns, trends or systemic weaknesses. It is noted, in particular, that the incidents which have been assessed to be possible violations of IHL occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons. The conclusion is that these are isolated incidents.

I want to emphasise that the IHL analysis is just one part of the Criterion 2c assessment. In retaking these decisions, I have taken into account the full range of information available to the Government. In the light of all that information and analysis, I have concluded that, notwithstanding the isolated incidents which have been factored into the analysis as historic violations of IHL, Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with IHL.

On that basis, I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL.

Having now re-taken the decisions that were the subject of judicial review on the correct legal basis, as required by the Order of the Court of Appeal of 20 June, it follows that the undertaking that my predecessor gave to the Court—that we would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen—falls away. The broader commitment that was given to Parliament, relating to licences for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, also no longer applies.

The Government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year. Each application will, of course, be carefully assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and a licence would not be granted if to do so would be a breach of the Criteria. It may take some months to clear this backlog.

Finally, as indicated in the statement made to the House on 20 June 2019, we sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s judgment. Permission was granted by the Court of Appeal on 9 July 2019. In light of the revised methodology which I have just described, I will now be taking steps to withdraw this appeal. I want to update the House on the steps that have been taken to comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 20 June 2019 regarding licences for military exports to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen.

[HCWS339]