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Written Statements

Volume 688: debated on Monday 1 February 2021

Written Statements

Monday 1 February 2021

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Zimbabwe

On 1 February 2021, I imposed asset freezes and travel bans on four individuals under the Zimbabwe (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The four individuals designated were involved in brutal crackdowns by the Government of Zimbabwe on public protests. This includes events that led to the deaths of six demonstrators in August 2018 and of 17 demonstrators in January 2019, and resulted from the Zimbabwean security forces’ use of excessive and disproportionate force. As a result, the designations focus on some of the most egregious human rights violations since President Mnangagwa took power.

This is the first set of designations of individuals under the UK’s autonomous Zimbabwe sanctions regime since the regulations came fully into force on 31 December 2020. These sanctions are not targeted at the wider economy or the people of Zimbabwe. The UK is on the side of the Zimbabwean people and we will continue to work to reduce poverty and help Zimbabweans secure their constitutional freedoms. This sanctions regime seeks to press the Government of Zimbabwe to: respect democratic principles and institutions and the rule of law in Zimbabwe; refrain from actions, policies or activities which repress civil society in Zimbabwe; and comply with international human rights law and respect human rights.

These sanctions sit alongside the asset freeze on Zimbabwe defence industries, which was transferred from the EU Zimbabwe sanctions regime to the UK’s autonomous Zimbabwe sanctions regime at the end of the transition period on 31 December.

The full list of designations is below:

Owen Ncube – Minister of State for National Security

Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe - Formerly Brigadier General, Commander of the Presidential Guard and Tactical Commander of the National Reaction Force

Godwin Matanga - Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police

Isaac Moyo - Director General, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

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Home Department

Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Route

I am pleased to confirm that the Government have launched the Hong Kong British national (overseas) (BNO) route on 31 January 2021.

The introduction of the Hong Kong BNO route follows the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong by the Chinese Government in June 2020, which restricted the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and breached the joint declaration.

The basis for this route was established through changes to the immigration rules made on 22 October 2020, creating a route to settlement for BNO status holders from Hong Kong.

Eligible BNO status holders, and their family members, will be able to come to the UK to live, study and work. After five years in the UK, they will also be able to apply for settlement, followed by citizenship after a further 12 months.

As I have said throughout the development of this route, this is absolutely the right thing to do, in recognition of the historic commitment of the UK to the people of Hong Kong, and specifically to those who elected to retain their ties to the UK through obtaining BNO status.

I am also pleased to announce that from 23 February 2021, applications to the route can be made through a fully digital process, using the new technology developed for the UK’s points-based immigration system.

This means that if an eligible applicant holds a BNO, Hong Kong special administrative region (HKSAR), or EEA biometric passport, they will be able follow a quicker and easier process by submitting their biometrics to validate their identity through a smartphone app, rather than visiting a visa application centre. Successful applicants will receive a digital status, which they will be able to check and prove online.

BNO status holders and their dependants are the second group after EEA nationals to have access to this new digital process, which further upholds our commitment to them.

In addition to the new route for BNO status holders, individuals from Hong Kong will also be able to apply to come to the UK under the terms of the new points-based immigration system, which will enable them to come to the UK in a wider range of professions and at a lower general salary threshold than in the past. They are also able to use student routes and have access to the youth mobility scheme.

Further detail about the route, including detailed applicant guidance, can be found at www.gov.uk/british-national-overseas-bno-visa.

HMG is working to ensure BNO status holders who take up this offer feel fully supported and welcomed when starting their life in the UK. I look forward to welcoming applications from those individuals who wish to make the UK their home.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government

Design and Building Standards

In late 2018, the Government established the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. Under the leadership of Nicholas Boys Smith and the late Sir Roger Scruton, it was tasked with championing beauty in the built environment and advising the Government on the reforms needed to ensure new homes are built to much higher, locally popular design standards and reflect local character and preferences.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report, “Living with Beauty”, set out 45 policy propositions, for Government and industry, on ways the planning and development process needed to change to provide the conditions for building more beautiful places. The report set out three principal aims: to “ask for beauty”, to “refuse ugliness” and to “promote stewardship”.

When the report was published, we welcomed the commission’s recommendations and committed to taking forward as many of them as possible. We agreed with the commission’s assessment that the design quality of new development is too often mediocre and that systemic change would be needed to ensure design and beauty were a core part of the planning process, not an afterthought.

Over the past 12 months, we have undertaken a review of the existing planning system to consider what changes the Government could make to deliver on the commission’s ambitions. As part of this, on 6 August we published “Planning for the Future” which included proposals for putting beauty at the heart of the planning system. This set out the importance of setting local expectations on design, ensuring communities have their say and promoting more widespread use of digital technologies to open up the design and planning processes to communities and encourage more participation in the planning system.

Following this work, on 30 January 2021, we published a comprehensive response to the commission’s report setting out clear steps the Government are taking to embed beauty, design and placemaking in the planning system.

First, we are proposing significant revisions to the national planning policy framework to put a greater emphasis on design and beauty. For the first time in the modern planning system, beauty and placemaking will be a strategic policy in their own right. This will put an emphasis on granting permission for well-designed buildings and refusing it for poor quality schemes. To ensure local preferences lie at the heart of this, we are asking all local authorities to work with local communities to produce local design codes or guides, setting out the design standards that new buildings will be expected to meet. These reforms will empower communities to expect and demand beauty in the built environment.

Secondly, we are also introducing a new expectation that all new streets should be tree-lined. This will deliver on the Government’s manifesto commitment for tree-lined streets, improve biodiversity and support the Government’s wider ambitions to plant 40 million trees. The updated national planning policy framework will also include wider changes to address environmental issues, including on managing the risk of floods, supporting heritage listings and amend the rules for the application of article 4 directions. The consultation on the revisions to the national planning policy framework was launched on the 30 January 2021 and will close on 27 March 2021.

Thirdly, in line with the commission’s recommendations, we have produced the first national model design code. We agree with the commission’s view that the use of local design codes, in which communities have a say, is an effective way of setting design expectations that will shape and deliver beautiful homes and places. Whereas a design guide sets out high level principles of good design, a design code sets out illustrated design requirements that provide specific, detailed parameters or constraints for the physical development of a site or area. The national model design code provides a clear framework setting out the parameters that contribute to good design and a step-by-step process for local authorities to follow to produce their own local codes and guides. We have made clear in the national planning policy framework that all areas should produce their own codes or guides, based on the principles set out in the design code. The Prime Minister also recently set out his 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. This includes plans to make cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel, making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient and protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, while creating and retaining thousands of jobs. This vision is at the heart of the national model design code which puts a strong emphasis on building greener and more energy-efficient developments.

Fourthly, to ensure communities understand the principles and vision set out in the national model design code and to support them to apply it, we intend to establish a new Office for Place within the next year. This organisation will draw on Britain’s world-class design expertise to support communities to turn their visions of beautiful design into local standards all new buildings will be required to meet. We will be establishing an interim Office for Place within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, with a transition board chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith tasked with considering what form the organisation should take, informed by responses to the “Planning for the Future” consultation. The interim Office for Place will begin the work to drive up design standards now. This year it will be piloting the design code with 20 communities and empowering local authorities to demand beauty, design quality and placemaking, through training on the principles outlined in the code. We have launched an expression of interest for local authorities to apply to be one of the first 10 pilot areas and the recipients of a share of £500,000 to support this work. We are seeking views on the draft national model design code, alongside the national planning policy framework consultation.

Fifthly, the Government are also relaunching the community housing fund, making £4 million available to help community land trusts bid for funds to support them to prepare bids for the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme. This programme is the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade and will provide up to 180,000 new homes across England, should economic conditions allow.

Looking forward, the Government’s “Planning for the Future” White Paper published on 6 August 2020 outlined a set of reforms that are intended to lay the foundations for future house building and economic development, whilst meeting our commitments to design, the environment and climate. As more homes are delivered under the new system, they will be built to higher standards, placing a clear emphasis on design, beauty, heritage and sustainability and ensuring that communities are at the heart of the planning system. We are currently analysing the 40,000 consultation responses and will publish a response in due course.

Finally, the Government are also encouraging local communities to nominate historic buildings, monuments, parks and gardens and other heritage assets they value so they can be protected through the planning system. Following an overwhelmingly positive response to the expressions of interest, funding has been doubled to £1.5 million, allowing 22 areas to develop and update their local heritage lists, instead of the ten originally announced.

The response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report, along with the reforms to the national planning policy framework, the national design code, the intention to establish the Office for Place and our wider proposals to reform the planning system, will ensure that for the first time design is established as a core pillar of the planning process. They will encourage a more diverse and competitive building industry. They will make the planning process more digital and accessible for everyone, not just those with planning expertise or with the time to attend late night meetings. They will support communities to define their visions of good design and empower them to demand these standards are met in all new developments. Ultimately, they will ensure that beautiful homes and places become the expectation and the norm.

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International Trade

Free Trade Agreements

In under two years, HM Government have secured trade deals with 63 countries, which covered £217 billion of trade in 2019. Taken alongside our recent deal with the European Union, trade worth £885 billion in 2019 is now covered. No country, anywhere in the world, at any point in history, has conducted trade negotiations concurrently on this scale nor with our ambition.

We reached agreements with some of our largest trading partners such as Canada, South Korea, Switzerland and Norway—and agreed economic partnership agreements with South Africa, Kenya and others. Most recently, on 29 December 2020, we secured a trade agreement with Turkey—worth £18.6 billion in the previous full year. All have been on the basis of providing continuity to the existing trading arrangements that we enjoy and providing a firm foundation for deeper trading relations in the future.

This strong progress not only accounts for 97% of the value of trade with non-EU countries that we initially set out to secure agreements with—it goes further. Since the beginning of the transition period, we expanded the ambition of our programme to go above and beyond its original scope. In doing so, we secured agreements with Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Turkey, which accounted for £72 billion of trade in 2019.

This has been the culmination of extensive work led by my Department, working hand-in-hand with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and carried out across the whole of HM Government. While this has been a difficult time, we and our partners have adapted our work—as far as possible—to reflect the reality of the global pandemic, and respecting public health, to bring forward deals that work for British businesses and the British people.

Parliamentary scrutiny has, and always will be, important in trade negotiations. All continuity agreements are laid in Parliament under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG) for scrutiny, and we will continue following this process for future trade agreements.

HM Government have built on statutory commitments by voluntarily publishing parliamentary reports alongside agreements, identifying and explaining clearly any differences with previous EU agreements. My Department has held close and constructive discussions with the parliamentary Committees on the progress of our programme over the last few years too; I was pleased to see this engagement praised by the Lords’ International Agreements Sub-Committee in their report on working practices.

Trade remains a reserved matter, but we have engaged with the devolved Administrations, crown dependencies and overseas territories on the continuity programme regularly, including through sharing of texts and providing implementation support.

Where a continuity agreement was unable to complete the CRaG process before the end of the transition period, we have brought them into effect via “provisional application”, or through a “bridging mechanism”. These are tried and tested methods, used widely around the world, and do not affect Parliament’s ability to fully scrutinise these deals under CRaG. All signed agreements will be submitted to Parliament for scrutiny. We have also recently re-published a technical note outlining how we have brought agreements into force and effect, as well as those we have not been able to complete, due to entry-into-force considerations.

Many deals have been done—even where it was previously thought by some to be impossible—but we have always been clear that we will only agree to a deal if it is in the British national interest, irrespective of deadlines. Likewise, factors in those countries with who are negotiating, such as elections or delays in forming a government, can intervene and halt trade negotiations.

As a result, it was not possible to secure agreements with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Algeria, Montenegro and Albania by the end of the transition period. British exports to these markets totalled less than £1 billion in 2019, or just 0.07% of our total trade.

In addition, though we were unable to sign an agreement for entry into force on 1 January, Ghana reached a consensus with us on the main elements of an agreement on 31 December 2020. All these countries remain valued partners on a range of economic and security issues, so our message is clear—if they wish to regain the terms of trade that have existed in recent past, they will find a willing partner in Britain. We have published updated guidance on gov.uk to make sure businesses are aware of the changes that came into force at the turn of the year.

Our continuity programme will deliver a real and positive impact for British businesses and consumers. And this is not the end of the journey. There is more to do in the months and years ahead.

All the deals my Department is negotiating will bring trade and investment to Britain—delivering economic growth, creating opportunity in every corner of our great country, helping Britain bounce back.

Trade leads to better jobs and higher wages for workers; and more choice and lower prices for consumers. Trade helps protect our environment and protect our health. Trade is a force for good and I look forward to making further progress in the future.

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Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Today, the Government submitted their notification of intent to begin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) accession process.

This notification of intent comes shortly after the UK celebrates one year since leaving the EU and becoming an independent trading nation.

It is our first step in accession to the CPTPP which is part of a big strategic move that aims to deepen the UK’s access to fast-growing markets and major economies of the future, including Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam, for the benefit of UK business.

Joining the £9 trillion free trade area will cut tariffs for vital UK industries like food and drink and cars and create new opportunities for future industries like tech and services, ultimately supporting and creating high-value jobs across the United Kingdom and helping the country build back better from covid-19.

Unlike EU membership, joining does not require the UK to cede control over our laws, borders, or money.

The UK would be the first country to take forward accession negotiations since the agreement was formed in 2018, putting us at the front of the queue to become the next full member. A number of other countries have also expressed an interest in joining, including Thailand, Colombia and South Korea.

Joining is a critical part of the Government’s wider trade strategy, which aims to deepen links with some of the fastest growing parts of the world, partnering with countries who believe in free and fair trade.

The CPTPP is one of the most important free trade areas in the world, accounting for 13% of global GDP in 2019. CPTPP GDP would rise to 16% if the UK were to join.

The CPTPP removes tariffs on 95% of goods traded between members and reduces other barriers to trade across four continents. The CPTPP countries accounted for £111 billion worth of UK trade in 2019, and the 2016-2019 annual growth in UK trade with CPTPP member countries was 8% a year. Joining now opens the way to further increase trade with these economies, enabling the UK to build back better by bringing more opportunities for our businesses and supporting jobs for our people.

Benefits that membership will bring for businesses include:

Modern digital trade rules that allow data to flow freely between members, remove unnecessary barriers for businesses, and protect commercial source code and encryption.

Eliminating tariffs quicker on UK exports including whisky—down from 165% to 0% in Malaysia—and cars—reducing to 0% in Canada by 2022, two years earlier than through the UK-Canada trade deal.

Rules of origin that allow content from any country within the CPTPP to count as “originating’”; for example, this would mean that cars made in the UK could use more Japanese-originating car parts, such as batteries.

Easier travel for businesspeople between CPTPP countries, such as the potential for faster and cheaper visas.

As well as removing trade barriers, the CPTPP helps businesses trade easily across borders and keep supply chains open and predictable. Joining the CPTPP will help us diversify our supply chains, which could help make us more resilient in an adverse environment such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining the CPTPP also creates an opportunity to help level up the UK. UK regions and nations exported between £1 billion and £3.7 billion worth of goods to CPTPP countries last year, including £2.4 billion worth of exports from Scotland, £2 billion from the north-west, and £3.1 billion from the east midlands.

CPTPP membership is a key part of the Government’s plan to position the UK at the centre of a network of modern free trade deals that support jobs and drive economic growth at home, while also positioning us as a champion of free trade and reform of the rules-based system abroad.

The CPTPP sets modern rules in areas of increasing importance for UK industry and business. This includes strategically important sectors such as digital, financial, professional and business services. Digitally delivered services from the UK to CPTPP members, for example, already hit £18.7 billion in 2019; joining now creates an opportunity to unleash forward-leaning parts of our economy like this.

Furthermore, membership puts the UK is in a prime position to help reshape these global rules in UK strengths like digital and data, and in services.

It would help to secure our future place in the world as a leader in a network of countries committed to free trade and send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that as an independent trading nation the UK will champion free trade, fight protectionism and remove barriers to trade at every opportunity. In doing so, we aim to turn the UK, a newly independent trading nation, into a global hub for businesses and investors wanting to trade with the rest of the world

Over the last two years, we have engaged with all 11 member countries at both ministerial and official level to discuss UK accession to the CPTPP. All CPTPP members have welcomed the UK’s interest in accession.

As part of one of the largest consultation exercises run by the UK Government in 2018, we sought views on potential UK accession to the CPTPP and are using these responses to inform our preparations. We are continuing to engage business, civil society, and trade unions on an ongoing basis where they can outline their priorities.

As we have committed, the UK will publish their negotiation objectives, scoping analysis, and consultation response for public and parliamentary scrutiny, and when we are ready to begin formal negotiations.

We will only accede to CPTPP on terms compatible with the UK’s broader interests and domestic priorities.

The Government have been clear that the NHS and the price it pays for drugs is not for sale in any trade negotiations—including the CPTPP—and that they will not sign trade deals that compromise the UK’s high environmental protections, animal welfare and food standards.

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