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Written Statements

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 1 December 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Cabinet Office

Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill

Today, the Government publish in draft the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill, which is required to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA), and in doing so revive the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament.

The Bill makes express provision that the dissolution prerogative is to be revived to ensure legal, constitutional and political certainty around the process for dissolving Parliament. There will be an ouster clause in the Bill to reinforce the long-standing position that the exercise of the dissolution prerogative is not reviewable by the courts.

The Bill retains certain aspects of the FTPA to ensure the continued operability of our electoral system. The Bill does not change the 25 working day period between dissolution and polling day. The Bill also contains provision to fix the maximum length of a Parliament at five years, thereby returning to the pre-FTPA position.

There will also be provision made in the Bill to give the Prime Minister the discretion, within clearly defined limits, to set a new polling day in the event of the demise of the Crown. Under section 20 of the Representation of the People Act 1985, in the event of the demise of the Crown after a proclamation summoning a new Parliament, polling day is postponed by a fortnight. The 1985 Act provides no discretion or flexibility to further alter the date of the poll and had demise occurred after the dissolution of Parliament for the 2019 election the polling day would have been postponed to 27 December, the day after Boxing day. In these very unlikely circumstances, the Prime Minister has the discretion to move the polling day up to seven days either side of this default 14-day postponement.

I am also depositing in the Libraries of both Houses a draft document setting out the Government’s initial thinking on the non-legislative constitutional principles that will need to underpin the exercise of the prerogative powers to dissolve Parliament. The Government would welcome the Joint Committee and other parliamentary Select Committees giving consideration to these underpinning conventions.

The FTPA was a departure from the long-term constitutional norm, whereby the Prime Minister could seek an early dissolution of Parliament. It was passed with limited scrutiny, and created parliamentary paralysis at a critical time for our country. This Bill, in returning our constitutional system to the pre-FTPA status quo ante, will enable the Government, within the life of a Parliament, to call a general election at the time of their choosing, and allow the people to decide on their Government.

It is vital that this important part of our constitutional settlement is given careful consideration and we welcome the forthcoming scrutiny of the draft Bill to ensure that what replaces the FTPA is subject to greater scrutiny.

Attachments can be viewed online at: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2020-12-01/HCWS615

[HCWS615]

Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Codes of Practice Consultation

I intend to lay legislation in 2021 which will commence the Criminal Finances Act 2017 in Northern Ireland. As part of this, I will issue updated codes of practice under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 contains a comprehensive package of measures designed to make the recovery of unlawfully held assets more effective. The operation of certain powers within POCA are subject to guidance in various codes of practice issued by the Home Secretary, the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice and Scottish Ministers.

The existing codes of practice need to be updated to reflect my intention to commence the Criminal Finances Act in Northern Ireland, following consent from the Justice Minister, Naomi Long. The changes to the codes will not come in to force until the Criminal Finances Act has come in to force in Northern Ireland.

The Proceeds of Crime Act provides that before a revised code of practice is issued, I must consider any representations made and modify the codes as appropriate, and subsequently lay the codes before Parliament for approval. As such, I will launch a consultation today, 1 December, for eight weeks.

I intend to consult on changes to the following codes of practice:

The investigation code of practice issued under section 377 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which provides guidance for investigators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The search, seizure and detention of property code of practice issued under section 195S of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which provides guidance in relation to certain reserved functions in Northern Ireland.

The recovery of cash: search powers codes of practice issued under section 292 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which provides guidance for investigators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The recovery of listed assets: search powers codes of practice issued under section 303G of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which provides guidance for investigators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Attorney General will also consult on changes to the investigation code of practice issued under section 377A of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which provides guidance for prosecutors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I will arrange for a copy of the consultation documents to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS613]

UK Points-based Immigration System

I am pleased to confirm the Government have today launched a number of immigration routes under the new UK points-based system, including the skilled worker route. This is a significant milestone and delivers on this Government’s commitment to take back control of our borders by ending freedom of movement with the EU and replacing it with a global points-based system.

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020, which received Royal Assent on 11 November, ends free movement on 31 December 2020 and paves the way for our new points-based system that treats EU and non-EU nationals equally.

Applicants for the new routes can now start to apply under the points-based system. EEA nationals who arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 remain eligible for the EU settlement scheme. Over 4.2 million have already applied and others have until 30 June 2021 to do so.

The points-based system will work in the interests of the whole of our United Kingdom and prioritise the skills a person has to offer, not where their passport comes from. It will ensure we attract the brightest and best talent we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services. It also forms a critical part of this country’s economic recovery by ensuring investment in the UK domestic workforce and helping us to create a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy is the focus of employer’s recruitment activities.

Today’s launch builds on the successful opening of the reformed global talent route in February, the health and care visa in August and the student and child student routes in October. In addition, as the Chancellor set out in the spending review last week, we are supporting the delivery of the new borders and immigration system with an additional £217 million of funding.

Ending free movement and introducing the points-based system is the first phase of our plans to transform the operation of our borders and immigration system. Additional routes will be opened in the coming months and our longer-term plans will further simplify, enable and digitise our systems to put customers at the heart of a firmer, fairer and easier to navigate borders and immigration system.

[HCWS614]

Transport

Crossrail: Additional Funding

Today, we are announcing that £825 million of additional borrowing will be made available to the Greater London Authority (GLA) for the purposes of Crossrail. The GLA intend to repay this loan via London’s business rate supplement and from the mayoral community infrastructure levy. This agreement will ensure that the project continues to be funded.

The Government remain committed to the rapid completion of the project, in a way that is fair to UK taxpayers, and have committed to financing the completion of Crossrail. However, London—as the primary beneficiary—must ultimately bear any additional costs. Crossrail Ltd is committed to reducing its funding shortfall, and will take all necessary steps to complete the project without requiring further additional funding. TfL is ensuring that further independent analysis of costs are carried out.

[HCWS612]