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Written Statements

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Treasury

London Capital and Finance: FCA Investigation

On 23 May 2019, I laid a direction before Parliament using the powers conferred by sections 77(1) and (2) and 78(5) and (6) of the Financial Services Act 2012 (“the Act”) and set this out in a written ministerial statement (HCWS1584). I formally directed the Financial Conduct Authority (“the FCA”) to launch an independent investigation into the events relating to the regulation of London Capital and Finance plc (“LCF”). Paragraph 3 of the direction required that the investigation focus on whether the FCA discharged its functions properly (“in a manner which enabled it to effectively fulfil its statutory objectives”) and with a particular focus on matters listed in the direction. The direction required that the FCA appoint an independent person to undertake the review and that the review should be completed within one year. The FCA appointed Dame Elizabeth Gloster, who has had a distinguished career as a barrister and as a judge on the High Court and the Court of Appeal, to lead the investigation. I also approved this appointment.

The direction also set out that if the investigator considered that it would not be possible to complete the investigation within one year the FCA must inform the Treasury of the reasons for the delay and set a revised target date for its conclusion. The FCA wrote to me in May setting out that the delivery of the report would have to be delayed to 30 September 2020, and again in August setting out that the target date for conclusion would have to be delayed to the 23 November 2020, which reflected capacity constraints as a result of covid-19 and delays in the FCA providing key documents to Dame Elizabeth. I also received correspondence from Dame Elizabeth on both occasions. Further information can be found on the Government website https://www. gov.uk/government/collections/independent-investigation-into-the-failure-of-london-capital-and-finance.

On 23 November 2020, Dame Elizabeth, in accordance with the revised timeline, delivered her final written report to the FCA. In line with the direction, the FCA will now consider the report, the recommendations and any lessons learnt. Section 82 of the Act requires the Government to lay before Parliament the FCA’s written response to the investigation which will include the investigator’s findings and recommendations.

I recognise that it continues to be a very difficult and uncertain time for all LCF bondholders. I can confirm today that I have asked the FCA to work with the Treasury so that the Government can lay before Parliament—and publish online—Dame Elizabeth’s report and the FCA’s response before the December recess. This independent investigation is separate to criminal and regulatory investigations into the failure of LCF by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and FCA which are still ongoing.

[HCWS595]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Historic England Tailored Review

The tailored review of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (more commonly known as Historic England) is published today.

As a non-departmental public body, Historic England is required to undergo a tailored review at least once in each Parliament. This review also examines the 2015 decision to split Historic England into two separate, though related organisations: one an arm’s length body operating under the name “Historic England”, and the second a charity called the English Heritage Trust (trading as “English Heritage”) that manages the national heritage collection of historic sites and monuments on behalf of the nation.

The review received evidence from a public consultation and roundtable discussions and from in-depth interviews with a wide range of heritage stakeholders. The review concluded that Historic England is a highly regarded and well run organisation with a strong reputation for its heritage and planning expertise and advice. Historic England is seen as one of the leaders in the heritage sector, providing high quality expert advice in England and undertaking world-leading conservation research.

The review made 31 separate recommendations that, once implemented, will complement and enhance the high regard in which Historic England is currently held.

The review concluded there are two significant areas in which Historic England can do more. First, in order for it to ensure first-class, long-term management of the national heritage collection, Historic England must improve its oversight of the English Heritage Trust’s performance and make it more publicly accountable.

Secondly, the review identified opportunities for Historic England to strengthen its leadership role within the wider heritage sector, especially in relation to diversity, by making heritage more relatable to wider audiences. This report comes at a time when our shared values are under close scrutiny, with the role of heritage at the forefront of this debate. Embracing the ambition for a more representative and inclusive sector must include reinforcing the primary role of heritage: preserving our history in its place and presenting it properly and accurately in its time and context. Rather than seeking to destroy, we should be enhancing and promoting our shared history so that its complexity can be fully understood. Historic England has a central role in delivering this for us all.

Copies of the Historic England tailored review have been sent to the Chair of the DCMS Select Committee and copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

The attachment can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-11-24/HCWS598/.

[HCWS598]

Home Department

Firearms Safety: Public Consultation

I have today launched a public consultation to seek views on a range of firearms safety issues.

The firearms laws in this country are among the toughest in the world and the Government keep them under constant review to ensure they continue to safeguard the public.

While lawful shooting is well regulated and generally safe, there remains a risk of firearms falling into the hands of criminals, or in the case of air weapons, being misused. The Government are therefore consulting on how to reduce these risks in certain areas of firearms control where concerns have been raised with us by law enforcement and others.

This consultation looks at how we might address the potential threat posed by high muzzle energy rifles through enhanced security arrangements to reduce the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.

We are seeking views on improving the controls on air weapons, including safe storage. This follows on from a Home Office review of the regulation of air weapons initiated after the tragic death of 13-year-old Benjamin Wragge, who was killed accidentally with an air weapon in 2016.

Views are also sought on how we might address vulnerabilities presented by the current exemption from licensing that applies to miniature rifle ranges, and whether to make it an offence to possess component parts of ammunition with intent to unlawfully manufacture complete rounds

The consultation will end on 16 February 2021.

A copy of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available on the Government’s website at gov.uk.

[HCWS596]

Transport

Covid-19: Global Travel Taskforce

On 7 October, at the request of the Prime Minister, the Government announced the launch of our global travel taskforce. Co-chaired by the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the aim of the taskforce was to consider steps that Government could take to encourage the safe recovery of domestic and overseas travel and tourism while reducing the risk of imported cases.

The taskforce was to report back to the Prime Minister in November; a commitment we met last week after a period of constructive consultation with the travel sector.

The message we received during those consultations was clear. The global covid-19 pandemic remains an existential threat to the aviation and maritime sectors, as for all travel and tourism businesses, and we need to act now to help these industries get back on a trajectory towards strong economic growth.

That is precisely what the global travel taskforce report aims to achieve, making 14 recommendations following three broad principles:

First, to ensure that journeys are safe.

Secondly, to increase demand for travel without compromising safety.

Thirdly, to position the UK so we can take a leading role in driving the global standards required to support recovery.

The most fundamental priority in all this work is safeguarding public health. That is why we are introducing, as the first initiative resulting from the global travel taskforce’s work, a new regime “Test to release” for international arrivals from countries that are not on the travel corridor list.

Following extensive work by officials from the Department for Transport and Department of Health and Social Care, this will be rolled out in England from 15 December in time for Christmas.

Travellers will have the option of booking and paying for a test from a list of private sector providers. They can take the test five full days after they left a destination not on the travel corridors list, which for most international arrivals will be after five full days of self-isolation. If the test result is negative, they will be free to go about their daily lives. A test on day five of self-isolation provides a strong level of protection for the UK population from transmission of covid-19 acquired abroad. It also provides much more freedom for people seeking to travel.

Individuals who opt in will be required to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Compliance checks are carried out by Public Health England’s isolation assurance service (IAS) who contact randomly sampled international arrivals to ensure that they are self-isolating. Details of those found not to be isolating will be passed to the Home Office, who in turn pass relevant details on to the police for targeted follow-up enforcement activity.

Anyone who does not comply with this requirement could be fined £1,000 for the first offence and up to £10,000 for repeat breaches. Only a negative test result from a provider on the gov.uk list will enable a traveller to cease self-isolating early.

If a traveller tests positive for covid-19, they will move into the UK’s existing system for positive cases, meaning that they will self-isolate for a further 10 days from the day of the test and their contacts will be traced and notified as normal. Minimum standards have been set by clinicians to ensure that the tests give accurate results, but we are not specifying exactly what type of test must be used. This is to allow for innovation in the testing market. Tests will either be taken at a private testing site, or using a privately provided home testing kit, meaning the scheme will be accessible to the widest section of the community and across England.

As we emerge from this latest period of restrictions, the new testing scheme will allow people to see family, go away on business, or book holidays with the option of taking a test to shorten any self-isolation period in the UK and reduce disruption to their lives.

In addition to “Test to release for international travel”, we will of course remain open to new testing technologies and other approaches that help people travel overseas in safety. For example, mass testing may help more people to travel with fewer restrictions in the future. As our knowledge and capacity for testing develops, so will our policy.

However, we have always known that testing alone is not a silver bullet, nor a comprehensive solution to the challenges we face. The taskforce has made further recommendations, including:

to advocate the development of a global framework for the validation of tests and vaccination records;

to assess the feasibility of short stay exemptions for businesses and tour groups;

to publish the criteria for when cruises can restart and implement a phased return for cruising when the public health advice makes clear it is safe to do so;

to boost consumer confidence about inbound and outbound travel through targeted communications and marketing campaigns; and

to provide assurance to passengers, we will work with our world-leading aviation regulator, the CAA, to ensure that the aviation industry is doing everything it can to make air travel as low risk as possible, as well as continuing to work with the maritime sector to ensure that it operates safely and that industry guidance remains in line with best practice.

As soon as the time is right, we want to encourage people to travel with confidence. That means British people being able to go abroad safely, and welcoming back overseas visitors to our country to do business, and enjoy our hospitality, entertainment and world-famous tourist sites. The recommendations outlined above provide a springboard to ensure the safe and viable recovery of the sector.

However, while the taskforce’s work has concluded, ours does not end here. The collapse of the market this year has not just affected airlines but airports, ground handlers and other airport services too. The Government have already made available an unprecedented package of economic measures to companies across the aviation industry. This includes schemes to raise capital and flexibilities with tax bills, as well as financial support for employees.

We have worked closely with the sector during the course of the pandemic and listened to its concerns. Airports have highlighted specific challenges arising from a lack of passengers, and the relatively high fixed costs they face. Therefore, we will shortly be making available a support scheme providing financial assistance to commercial airports and ground handlers in England to help with business rates.

These businesses will be able to apply from the new year for the equivalent of their business rates costs in this financial year, up to a maximum of £8 million per eligible site, subject to certain conditions which the Department of Transport will take into account when considering applications.

The Government are committed to giving people the freedom to travel with confidence and supporting the wider travel industry. I will publish this statement on gov.uk and will place a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS597]

Command Paper for the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill: Statement Reasons Command Paper

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

I am today, 24 November 2020, publishing the statement of Reasons Command Paper for the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. The Command Paper is titled the “Government overview of the case for HS2 Phase 2a and its environmental impacts—Update for the House of Lords”. This is required by Parliamentary Standing Order 83A(9) to assist the House during the third reading of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. This document summarises the work that has already been done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of HS2 Phase 2a, and explains why the Government continue to take the view that the HS2 Phase 2a project is worthy of their support.

Copies of the Statement of Reasons will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Attachments:

Command Paper (CP 325 HS2 Phase 2a Lords Statement of Reasons)

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-11-24/HCWS594/.

[HCWS5943]