Wednesday 19 May 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Post Office Update
Following the Prime Minister’s commitment on 26 February 2020 and the ministerial statements of 10 June 2020 and 30 September 2020, the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry was established as a non-statutory inquiry. In accordance with the terms of section 15 of the Inquiries Act, the Government have now given notice to convert the inquiry into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 on 1 June 2021 and at the same time amend the inquiry’s terms of reference, as set out below.
Scope of the inquiry
Government want to be fully assured that through the inquiry there is a public summary of the failings associated with Post Office Ltd’s Horizon IT system. The inquiry will draw on the findings made by Mr Justice Fraser from the Bates and others v. Post Office Limited Group litigation, in particular judgment (No. 3) “Common issues” and judgment (No. 6) “Horizon issues”, the judgments of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in R v. Hamilton and others, and other judgments in which convictions have been quashed. It will consider all other relevant evidence, listen to those that have been affected, understand what went wrong, and assess whether lessons have been learned and whether concrete changes have taken place, or are under way, at Post Office Ltd.
The inquiry shall:
A: Understand and acknowledge what went wrong in relation to Horizon, leading to the civil proceedings in Bates and others v. Post Office Ltd and the quashing of criminal convictions, by drawing from the judgments of Mr Justice Fraser in Bates and others, the judgments of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in R v. Hamilton and others, other judgments in which convictions have been quashed, affected postmasters’ experiences and any other relevant evidence in order to identify what key lessons must be learned for the future.
B: Build upon the findings of Mr Justice Fraser and the judgments of the criminal courts specified in A above by obtaining all available relevant evidence from Post Office Ltd, Fujitsu, BEIS and UKGI to establish a clear account of 1) the implementation and failings of Horizon over its lifecycle and 2) Post Office Ltd’s use of information from Horizon when taking action against persons alleged to be responsible for shortfalls.
C: Assess whether Post Office Ltd has learned the lessons from the criticisms made by Mr Justice Fraser in his judgments following the “Common issues” and “Horizon issues” trials and those identified by affected postmasters and has delivered or made good progress on the organisational and cultural changes necessary to ensure a similar case does not happen in the future.
D: Assess whether the commitments made by Post Office Ltd within the mediation settlement—including the historical shortfall scheme—have been properly delivered.
E: Assess whether the processes and information provided by Post Office Ltd to postmasters are sufficient:
i. to enable both parties to meet their contractual obligations
ii. to enable postmasters to run their businesses. This includes assessing whether Post Office Ltd’s related processes such as recording and resolving postmaster queries, dispute handling, suspension and termination are fit for purpose. In addition, determine whether the quality of the service offer for postmasters and their relationship with Post Office Ltd has materially improved since the conclusions reached by Mr Justice Fraser.
F: Examine the historic and current governance and whistleblowing controls in place at Post Office Ltd, identify any relevant failings, and establish whether current controls are now sufficient to ensure that failings leading to the issues covered by this inquiry do not happen again.
The inquiry will consider only those matters set out in the preceding sections A-F. The inquiry will not consider any issue which is outside the scope of the powers conferred upon the inquiry by the Inquiries Act 2005. The Horizon group damages settlement (albeit the inquiry may examine the events leading to the settlement), and/or the engagement or findings of any other supervisory or complaints mechanisms, including in the public sector, are outside the inquiry’s scope.
The inquiry will be led by Sir Wyn Williams FLSW, as the chair of the inquiry. There will be an inquiry secretariat and Sir Wyn will be supported by up to four assessors. These assessors will support Sir Wyn Williams by providing advice on the sources, content and interpretation of evidence received as appropriate. They may also provide independent scrutiny and challenge in relation to emerging findings and recommendations.
Publication report date
The inquiry should make any recommendations it sees fit, including actions that may, in its view, be appropriate as a result of its findings. The inquiry will aim to submit its findings to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in autumn 2022. The final report will be published by the Secretary of State and the Government will respond in due course.
PrivatBank (Recognition of Third-Country Resolution Action) Instrument 2021
I wish to update the House on the steps that HM Treasury has taken in regard to public joint stock company commercial bank PrivatBank.
On 14 May 2021, I approved the Bank of England’s decision to recognise the bail-in by the National Bank of Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities between 18 and 20 December 2016 of four English law governed loans made by UK SPV Credit Finance plc to PrivatBank, in accordance with section 89H of the Banking Act 2009. The Bank of England instrument which gave effect to the recognition decision will be laid before Parliament today and has been published on the Bank of England website.
The Bank of England and HM Treasury have independently reached the determination that the bail-in of the four loans was broadly comparable in anticipated results and objectives to an equivalent UK resolution, and that none of the conditions for refusal to recognise within section 89H(4) of the Banking Act 2009 was satisfied.
Decisions over whether to recognise a third-country resolution action are regarded by the Financial Stability Board as a key aspect of an effective cross-border resolution regime. Under UK law, the Bank of England is required to make a decision on whether or not to recognise resolution actions when requested to do so by a third-country resolution authority. That decision can only be made with the approval of HM Treasury.
Health and Social Care
First Implementation Plan for Genome UK
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Lord Bethell of Romford, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
Last September, after months of hard work across the UK genomics community, I was delighted to launch Genome UK—the UK’s genomic healthcare strategy.
Ultimately, the strategy set out a vision to create the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world to deliver better healthcare at a lower cost.
Thanks to achievements made over the last 70 years, from the discovery of the structure of DNA to the completion of the 100,000 Genomes Project, the UK is rightly recognised as a world-leader in genomics.
But for the UK to remain at the forefront of international competition in genomic research and healthcare, and attract investment, it is essential that we start to deliver on the commitments set out in our strategy.
I am therefore delighted to inform the House of the launch of the 2021-22 Genome UK implementation plan. This publication will demonstrate the great strides we have already made in delivering on our vision and outlines the clear actions we will progress over the next year.
This implementation plan has been agreed by members of the National Genomics Board, a group of senior life sciences sector stakeholders, which I chair with Sir John Bell. Over the last six months, we have engaged with our delivery partners and key stakeholders to identify projects and programmes that can be delivered during 2021-22.
We have drafted a diverse and ambitious package of actions and as part of this, I am pleased to announce the following:
A major drive, led by Genomics England, to improve the diversity of genomic data, addressing the historic under-representation of data from minority ethnic communities in genomic datasets, which results in health inequalities. The work will include widespread community engagement alongside sequencing and analytic tool development.
The roll-out of whole genome sequencing to patients with a suspected rare disease and certain cancers in the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, in partnership with Genomics England. This is a truly transformational milestone for patients, and for our overarching one million genomes commitment—our ambition to sequence 500,000 genomes in the NHS and 500,000 in UK Biobank, creating the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world.
Proof of concept work, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, to deliver the first phase of a next-generation approach for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, integrating multiple data sources and new technologies to support faster and more comprehensive genomic testing for cancer in line with the NHS long term plan.
Our Future Health (formerly known as the Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge) will help drive developments in the next generation of diagnostics and clinical tools—including the evaluation of polygenic risk scores (PRS), drug discovery, and smart clinical trials. In 2021, Our Future Health will pilot participant recruitment processes to build towards their five million participant ambition. Our Future Health will conduct feedback pilot studies in 2022 to test approaches to deliver health-related information, including PRS, to participants.
NIHR, MRC and Wellcome Trust will, over the next five years, provide funding to the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) to develop standards and policies for sharing genomic and related health data. GA4GH aims to ensure its standards are easily accessible and ready for use by global genomic programs and data sharing initiatives. It will proactively engage stakeholders at national and organisational level to drive uptake of GA4GH standards.
Given that Genome UK runs over 10 years, some of its 45 commitments are either long term or will be delivered through cumulative action over the coming years. Implementation of the strategy will therefore be phased, so we have mainly focused on actions taking place this year. Genomics is a fast-moving field, and a phased approach will allow us to review our commitments and reflect emerging science and the latest research findings. Our intention is to align future iterations of this plan with Government funding cycles.
These commitments are just some of the first important steps on the journey to realising the vision set out in Genome UK. However, achieving all our objectives will require new investment over the next decade, with continued collaboration and funding from the public, private and charity sectors becoming ever more important.
Genomic research and innovation will transform healthcare in this country to benefit patients and drive our economic recovery. Given our reputation as a world-leader in genomic healthcare and research, it has the potential to play a key role in delivering our wider goal of becoming a global life sciences.
This iteration of the implementation plan is largely England-focused, but some aspects are UK-wide. For example, the world-leading research programs, including COG-UK, the consortium which delivered large scale covid genome sequencing. We have therefore developed this plan with the support of our partners in the devolved Administrations.
We will continue to work with our partners from the devolved Administrations, the NHS, industry and research, via the National Genomics Board and other venues, to ensure that we deliver on our goal to create the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world. I also want to emphasise that engagement and dialogue with the healthcare workforce, patients and the diverse UK population, will be at the heart of the journey to reach the vision set out in the strategy.