Friday 23 October 2020
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power Station: Decision Deadline Extension
This statement concerns an application made by Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd under the Planning Act 2008 for development consent for the construction and operation of a new nuclear power station and associated infrastructure at Wylfa Head on the Isle of Anglesey.
Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) 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 Secretary of State had previously reset the deadline for the application for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station to 30 September 2020.
Following the announcement that its ultimate parent company, Hitachi Ltd, was ending business operations in respect of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station, Horizon Nuclear Power Wylfa Ltd wrote to the Secretary of State requesting that he reset the deadline for his decision on the application until 31 December 2020 so that it could ascertain its options for the project.
The Secretary of State has agreed to that request and has therefore set a new deadline for deciding the application of 31 December 2020. The decision to set the new deadline for the application is without prejudice to the Secretary of State’s decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
Today, I am pleased to launch the next stage of the review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England. The review is an opportunity to develop a qualifications system where every student, including those with SEND and from disadvantaged backgrounds, benefits from high quality qualifications that help them realise their talents and achieve their career ambitions. This is vital to addressing our country’s productivity and skills gaps and achieving the international competitiveness on which our future prosperity depends. The proposals I am setting out today complement important technical education improvements already underway through T-levels, apprenticeships and to higher levels of technical study.
The proposals follow a first stage consultation which was carried out in 2019 and are open for consultation until 15 January 2021.
The case for reform is strong. There are more than 12,000 different qualifications funded in England at level 3 and below. Some of the qualifications are well recognised and valued, but as the Wolf review and Sainsbury review identified, too many are poorly understood and poor quality. Students face a bewildering choice over which is right for them and which will increase their employment opportunities. Our aim is for clearer qualifications choices for young people and adults. We want students and employers to have confidence that every qualification on offer is high quality and can lead to skilled employment or further study.
We believe that T-levels and A-levels should become the programmes of choice at level 3. T-levels have been developed with employers to give young people the skills they need to enter employment or higher technical study, and A-levels have consistently prepared students well for higher education.
This consultation focuses on level 3. It sets out proposals for the qualifications we believe are needed alongside T-levels and A-levels for 16 to 19 year olds and adults, and how to ensure they meet the consistently high levels of quality that are needed to support all students to fulfil their potential and provide the skills and knowledge employers and higher education institutions need. The consultation sets out detailed proposals to streamline the technical offer for 16 to 19 year olds alongside T-levels to ensure that as many young people as possible can benefit from the preparation T-levels will provide. For young people choosing academic qualifications, we want only those qualifications that give the best preparation to progress on to, and successfully complete, high quality HE courses.
The new lifetime skills guarantee announced by the Prime Minister will fund level 3 technical courses for adults. We must ensure qualifications give adults the skills the country needs, so they are able to gain employment or to progress in the workplace. Adults will generally need greater flexibility than 16 to 19 year olds and will also tend to have greater prior experience. Our starting point for adults is a similar offer as for 16 to 19 year olds, but with some additional technical qualifications to meet their needs and more flexibility built in to the design of qualifications for adults.
We propose Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education should have a key role in ensuring and maintaining quality. And we want to put employers at the heart of this process by aligning the majority of qualifications to employer-led standards.
Alongside these proposals for level 3 qualifications, we want to improve study at level 2 and below. Getting level 2 and below right is key to making sure that students have clear lines of sight to level 3, apprenticeships, traineeships, and for some, directly into employment. We want to know more about what is working well in the current system and what more needs to be done to support all students to succeed. That is why we will shortly be publishing a call for evidence on level 2 and below.
This review is a once in a generation opportunity to develop a qualifications system where every student can benefit. Our proposed landscape—with employers at the heart and a much greater focus on quality—will serve all students better, including those with SEND and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I look forward to continued engagement with the sector on these reforms. I will set out our firm plans and the next steps for implementation of our level 3 reforms in response to this consultation; and we intend to follow the call for evidence with a consultation on level 2 and below next year.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Office for Environmental Protection: Contingencies Fund Advance
DEFRA has sought a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of £536,000.
The requirement has arisen because there is an urgent requirement to proceed with setting up the Office for Environmental Protection in advance of Royal Assent of the Environment Bill.
Under “Managing public money” rules, expenditure to make preparation for the delivery of a new service prior to Royal Assent requires an advance from the Contingencies Fund. The cash advance will pay for essential set-up expenditure for IT, corporate services, estates, finance, recruitment and other HR costs that are needed for establishing for the Office for Environmental Protection. The need to spend now in advance of Royal Assent is driven by the necessary timelines associated with recruitment, procurement and set up which are expected to take several months. This will ensure that the Office for Environmental Protection can be brought into operation and begin exercising its statutory functions as soon as practical after Royal Assent of the Environment Bill.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £536,000 for this new service will be sought in an estimate for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £536,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.
This Contingencies Fund advance is in addition to the £215,000 notified to Parliament on 21 July 2020 to cover essential spend including public appointments and minimal staff recruitment.
Annual Fisheries Negotiations 2020: UK Priorities and Objectives
The UK is now entering into a period of annual fisheries negotiations to agree fishing opportunities and access to waters for the 2021 fishing year. We will be doing that as an independent coastal state for the first time in over 40 years. It is an important milestone as we leave the common fisheries policy, and one which warrants this update to the House.
Our aim across all annual fisheries negotiations will be to work closely with our counterparts in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to secure the best outcomes for the whole of the UK fishing industry and for our marine environment.
We will be participating in a range of annual fisheries negotiations. The UK will be taking its seat at the coastal states negotiations for key pelagic species; participating in multilateral organisations like the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which we have already joined along with the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and conducting our own bilateral negotiations to set 2021 opportunities and agree access to waters for next year with partners like Norway, the Faroe Islands, and the EU.
With Norway and the Faroe Islands, we have already agreed new fisheries frameworks to underpin bilateral negotiations and the former has already been signed and laid before the House. We are seeking to negotiate a fisheries framework agreement with the EU. This is proving a difficult negotiation and the UK and EU positions are very far apart, principally because the EU has not yet accepted the implications of our future status as an independent coastal state. Negotiations are continuing and updates will be shared with the House as available.
In all fisheries negotiations we will ensure that our actions are founded on the best available scientific advice. We will aim to deliver sustainability improvements —safeguarding our natural marine assets for future generations. Our landmark Fisheries Bill enshrines in legislation the Government’s commitment to sustainable fishing, and it is right that we make this a cornerstone of our negotiating positions.
Through the negotiations we will look to support our vital UK fishing industry, not only through securing additional quotas but also by continuing to support the elimination of illegal and harmful discarding. Again, our UK-wide approach will ensure we consider the needs of the fishing industries of all devolved nations, and the Crown dependencies, in negotiations.
Finally, and underpinning all our negotiations, we will be seeking to maximise the benefits of our new status as an independent coastal state. We will decide who can access UK waters to fish and on what terms; and we will negotiate access for UK fleets to fish in other countries’ waters on terms that suit us. Through friendly co-operation as sovereign equals, we will improve management of shared fish stocks with benefits for the wider marine environment and the long-term future of the UK fishing industry.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Citizens’ Rights: Withdrawal Agreement Implementation
The withdrawal agreement provides citizens with the certainty they need about their rights now that the UK has left the EU. It protects the rights of EU citizens in the UK, UK nationals in the EU and their family members who are lawfully resident by the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. It ensures they can continue to live, work, study and access benefits and services, such as healthcare, broadly as they do now. The Government remain committed to ensuring the correct and timely implementation of the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement in the UK and continues to work with EU member states to ensure they undertake the same implementation for UK nationals. We also have similar citizens’ rights agreements with the EEA EFTA states and Switzerland.
Implementation for EU citizens in the UK
In the UK, EU citizens and their family members with both settled and pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme have secured their rights in UK law. The EU settlement scheme is a success and as of 30 September 2020, over four million applications have been received, of which nearly 3.8 million grants of status have already been made. The Government have taken early action to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and there is plenty of time left to apply before the deadline of 30 June 2021. A frontier workers’ permit scheme is also being established with an opening date due to be announced shortly.
Work to operationalise the provisions relating to social security co-ordination, are also advanced. Operational guidance will also be published to aid frontline staff in determining entitlements to benefits and healthcare in scope of the social security coordination provisions in the withdrawal agreement.
The Government are also on track to establish the independent monitoring authority for the citizens rights’ agreements that will monitor the UK’s compliance with the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement and EEA EFTA separation agreement in the UK and Gibraltar. Information on its functions have recently been published on gov.uk.
Implementation for UK nationals in the EU
The Government have been working closely with EU member states on implementation for UK nationals in the EU throughout the transition period. The Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights has already met three times to monitor the implementation and application of the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement in both the UK and the EU. Joint statements from each of these meetings have been published on gov.uk.
The EU settlement scheme in the UK has been fully open since 30 March 2019. Throughout the transition period, we have sought application windows, beyond the minimum six-month window, in the 13 member states that will require UK nationals and their family members to apply for a new residence status. The Government are pleased to announce that all 13 member states have responded positively and UK nationals and will have at least eight months to apply and significantly longer in some member states. Full details can be found on the “Living in Guides” on gov.uk.
The remaining 14 member states will operate a declaratory system, whereby rights under the withdrawal agreement are conferred automatically by operation of the law, for individuals that meet the conditions of the withdrawal agreement. As is already the case, UK nationals should ensure they are correctly registered in their member state of residence.
The Government will publish a full list of member state frontier worker systems on gov.uk before the end of the transition period.
The Government continue to work with the EU on clear and consistent communications and comprehensive support for the vulnerable. We are reaching out directly to UK nationals in the EU through our network of embassies, high commissions and consulates at town hall events and online to ensure all UK nationals and their family members are aware of any actions they may need to take in the member state where they have made their home.. Our “Living in Guides” on gov.uk, which cover the EU and EFTA states, are the principal source of guidance for UK nationals in the EU, including their rights under the withdrawal agreement and EEA EFTA separation agreement. They provide the latest information and actions that UK nationals may need to take and signpost to member state and EU guidance where relevant.
Readiness for the end of the transition period
Looking to the end of the transition period and beyond, the Government published an “explainer” on gov.uk on 19 October 2020 to help EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU understand their rights and how they are protected by the withdrawal agreement.
The Government are also pleased to confirm that a joint report on residency, produced by the Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights has, today, been published on gov.uk and placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The joint report provides comprehensive details of residency systems in the UK and the EU, including details of application deadlines and the number of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU who have secured their rights. It is the Government’s intention to publish updates to the joint report throughout 2021 in order to provide additional assurance that citizens’ rights are being upheld.
The Government will continue to work closely with the EU and member states to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected and individuals are aware of any steps may need to take to secure their rights and access the entitlements that flow from those rights in the future. Further details on the progress of implementing the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement will be made available to Parliament.
UK-Japan Free Trade Agreement: Signing
Today Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu and I are signing the UK-Japan partnership agreement in Tokyo. This is the first trade deal that the UK has struck as an independent trading nation.
This British shaped deal goes beyond the existing EU agreement with major wins for all parts of the UK in areas such as digital and data, financial services, food and drink and creative industries. This deal could boost trade between the UK and Japan by £15.7 billion and drive economic growth in the long run.
The agreement also includes a strong commitment from Japan to support the UK joining the comprehensive trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP) meaning closer ties with 11 Pacific countries in one of the world’s biggest free trade areas, covering 13% of the global economy in 2018 and more than £110 billion of trade in 2019.
The Government are committed to transparency and the effective scrutiny of our trade negotiations. Following my written ministerial statement of 12 October, I can announce that at the earliest possible opportunity today the Department for International Trade and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office will be formally presenting the signed treaty text and related documents electronically to Parliament. They will subsequently be published on gov.uk.
The documents being laid in Parliament today are the UK-Japan partnership agreement treaty text, explanatory memorandum and parliamentary report, which provides an explanation of the partnership agreement, including any significant differences or enhancements from the EU-Japan agreement. An independently verified impact assessment of the UK-Japan partnership agreement will also be deposited in the Library of the House.
While the Government are formally laying the treaty text electronically in Parliament today, the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act scrutiny procedure will not commence until 2 November, when the House of Commons returns from recess. Laying today ahead of the commencement of CRaG ensures that the House has the maximum amount of time to scrutinise the detail of the UK-Japan partnership agreement.
Commonwealth Games 2020: Transport Plan
The 2022 Commonwealth games, held in Birmingham, will be the biggest sporting and cultural event that the city and the region have ever seen. With an estimated television audience of 1.5 billion people, it will showcase Birmingham, the west midlands and the entire country as an amazing place to live, work, study, visit and do business.
Effective transport helps local communities and supports local economies. We are investing in transport across the region including over £320 million of transforming cities fund funding to support local transport projects in the west midlands.
We know that putting in place effective transport provision is a crucial part of any major sporting event and requires detailed planning and co-ordination. A well-understood and supported transport plan is therefore essential.
The Birmingham Commonwealth Games Act 2020 (the “Act”), which received Royal Assent on 25 June, includes a number of transport measures and places the games transport plan on a statutory footing, awarding it appropriate weight and authority.
Today, I am delighted to inform the House that, in line with s.25(1) of the Act, I have directed the West Midlands combined authority to prepare a games transport plan for the 2022 Commonwealth games.
The games will be delivered in a much shorter time than other games: in just four and a half years, rather than the typical seven. Local partners in Birmingham and the west midlands are already leading the transport preparations for the games.
The games transport plan is an integral measure, which will set out a strategic approach to planning and co-ordination of transport to support the games; covering the transportation of spectators, athletes and the games family, while at the same time ensuring that any disruption to transport users is kept to a minimum.
When complete a copy of the final games transport plan will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.