Thursday 8 July 2021
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report 2020
I have today laid before Parliament a copy of the 2020 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) report on human rights and democracy (CP No. 458).
The report analyses human rights developments overseas in 2020 and illustrates how the Government work to promote and defend human rights globally.
The report assesses the situation in 31 countries, which the FCDO has designated as its human rights priority countries. These are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
This is the first human rights report published by the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It therefore reflects the importance and strength of diplomacy and development working side-by-side to defend human rights and democracy. The report highlights our leadership on promoting media freedom, gender equality, girls’ education and LGBT+ rights, our work to eradicate modern slavery, our partnerships with human rights defenders, and our commitment to deliver change for those who are abused, targeted, or killed for their religion or beliefs.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Communications Act 2003: 10th Report on Secretary of State’s Functions
The Government have today laid a report before Parliament to fulfil their statutory duty under section 390 of the Communications Act 2003. Section 390 of the Communications Act 2003 requires the Secretary of State to prepare and lay before Parliament reports about the performance of the Secretary of State’s functions under the following legislation:
the Communications Act 2003;
the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006;
the Office of Communications Act 2002; and
the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996.
This rectifies a historic oversight in discharging this statutory duty since the ninth report was laid in February 2014. Notwithstanding this oversight, the Government have been fully transparent because each time a power has been used, the relevant parliamentary procedure has been followed and/or a public/parliamentary announcement has been made. A retrospective report to cover the period to 28 December 2020 is now, however, being laid to correct this.
The Department accepts full responsibility and apologises. Action has been taken to ensure the Department fulfils this statutory duty on an annual basis. The report will be published on gov.uk and a copy of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
UK’s First Periodic Report: Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention and Protocols
I am pleased to announce the submission of the UK’s first periodic report to UNESCO on our implementation of the 1954 Hague convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and its two protocols of 1954 and 1999.
The convention and its two protocols are intended to protect cultural property from damage, destruction, looting and unlawful removal during armed conflict. The UK ratified the convention and acceded to its two protocols in 2017 following the passing of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 which made provision in domestic UK law for the requirements of the convention and protocols.
The report sets out the roles of the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, who are responsible for the safeguarding of cultural property in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively, and the measures each has taken to ensure that we are delivering our obligations under the convention and its protocols.
The report details the ways in which the UK Government have monitored the implementation of the convention and its two protocols over the past four years. It outlines measures taken by the Government, the armed forces and other associated parties including UNESCO, the British Red Cross, Blue Shield, the National Trust and Historic England to ensure that we are delivering our obligations under the convention and its protocols.
The UK Government remain wholly committed to safeguarding cultural heritage in conflict and crisis settings across the world.
I will place a copy of the report in the Libraries of both Houses.
National Funding Formula Reforms
Today, the Government are publishing a consultation document on the schools national funding formula (NFF), entitled “Fair School Funding For All: Completing Our Reforms To The National Funding Formula”. This is an important step in our work to ensure that every school and academy trust has the right resources so that they can continue to drive up academic standards, as the school system recovers from the impact of the pandemic.
We are delivering the biggest increase in education funding in a decade, with additional funding of £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20: in total, over £14 billion across the three years.
We know it is critical that this investment is distributed fairly between all areas of the country and all schools. We have already taken significant steps to make the school funding system fairer.
The introduction of the schools NFF in 2018-19 means that funding is now distributed more fairly across the country. This was a major step forward from the postcode lottery of the previous funding system, in which historical funding levels, rather than current needs, drove the distribution of funding. A majority of local authorities have moved their funding formulae towards the NFF since its introduction in 2018-19, and 73 local authorities of 150 are now mirroring the NFF funding factors almost exactly.
As we set out when we introduced the NFF, our long-term goal is that every school’s final funding allocation is determined by the same, national formula, and is no longer subject to further adjustment by local authorities. The current consultation presents our proposals for how such an NFF, directly applied to schools’ budgets, should operate. It also sets out the next steps to ensure a smooth transition towards this goal.
This reform will bring several benefits for schools. It will ensure a fair funding system, with funding for every school matched to a consistent assessment of need. It will make the funding system simpler and more transparent for all involved. It will also help to underpin our ambition for all schools to be part of a strong multi-academy trust, so that all schools within each trust will be funded on a consistent basis, regardless of which local authority they are located in. This will provide academy trusts with the predictability needed to make the best use of resources to further raise academic standards.
The Government are mindful that completing the reforms of the NFF represents a significant further change for the school system. In the consultation, we present proposals to move local funding formulae progressively closer to the NFF to achieve greater fairness and consistency in funding. This will provide the opportunity to consider the impact of each step before making the next move. We are determined to complete these reforms and secure the benefits that they will bring, but we want to move carefully towards this end goal over the coming years, working with schools, academy trusts, local authorities and sector organisations to ensure that the transition is a smooth one.
The consultation will be open for 12 weeks, concluding on 30 September 2021. We plan to publish more detailed proposals in a second stage consultation over the winter following feedback to the first consultation.
Health and Social Care
Desogestrel Contraceptive: Availability from Pharmacies
I am pleased to announce that officials in the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have granted two marketing authorisations to allow the supply through pharmacies of the progestogen-only oral contraceptive—desogestrel—as an over-the-counter medicine. This follows a rigorous review of the safety of this medicine by the Commission on Human Medicines and a public consultation. The response to the public consultation which was carried out as part of the regulatory assessment is also being made publicly available today. The MHRA has a long-established process for reclassifying medicines from prescription-only status to being made available for purchase over the counter when it is safe to do so.
This landmark reclassification, which was widely supported by women and healthcare professionals in the recent consultation, will enable women to purchase a progestogen-only contraceptive from a pharmacy following a detailed consultation with the pharmacist. This will provide an additional route to access for those seeking contraceptive services and will help to reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and sexual health clinics with the potential to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Pharmacists already provide a range of services in the area of sexual and reproductive health and are trained practitioners who are experienced in checking eligibility for all the products they supply.
The reclassification of desogestrel to a pharmacy medicine supports the Government’s wider commitments to improve women’s health and to ensure the public receive the best possible sexual health and contraception services. A new sexual and reproductive health strategy and a new women’s health strategy in England are in development, to be published later this year. The women’s health strategy will have an overarching aim of improving the health and wellbeing of women and the sexual and reproductive health strategy will set out ambitions to reduce inequalities in sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and will include a focus on improving reproductive health and access to contraception.
This reclassification is therefore an important step towards meeting our ambitions to improve women’s health by widening access and providing women with more choice in the provision of safe and effective contraception. Progestogen-only contraception will continue to be available free from prescription charge from GPs and sexual and reproductive health services as is the case for all prescribed contraception.
Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs: Publication of Part 2
Part 1 of Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs was published last February and provided this Government with detailed analytical insights into the complexities of the illicit drugs market. It highlighted the considerable scale of the challenge we face with an illicit drugs market in England and Wales worth £10billion a year and 3 million users of illicit drugs in the same population.
The drugs trade is also intrinsically linked to the crime experienced in our communities: 45% of all acquisitive crime is committed by people who regularly use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine and nearly half of homicides are drug related. Increases in global production and supply have led to a violent and exploitative supply chain in which ruthless criminal gangs exploit children and vulnerable people in our communities. This cannot and will not continue.
This Government remain committed to tackling drugs and the harm they cause to individuals, families and communities. Since part 1 of Dame Carol’s review was published, we have built a powerful set of policies in co-operation with police and operational partners to tackle drug supply, exploitative criminal gangs, and we have increased drug treatment funding for 2021-22. We are also piloting a more co-ordinated approach to treatment and recovery support in some high areas of need.
In January 2021, we announced £148 million of new money to cut crime and protect people from the harms caused by illegal drugs. This has delivered the largest increase in drug treatment funding for 15 years. The funding means that we are delivering more interventions to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and we are making sure that more drugs users in contact with the criminal justice system get the treatment they need to reduce the amount of offending associated with drug dependency. It also ensured £40 million of dedicated funding is invested in tackling drugs supply and county lines. This has allowed us to expand and build upon the successful results of our county lines programme. This has seen over 780 lines closed, 5,000 arrests and 1,220 safeguards since it was launched in November 2019.
It is my honour to announce that today part 2 of Dame Carol’s review has been published, providing this Government with concrete evidence-based recommendations for how we can reduce the demand for illegal drugs, turn the tide on drug related deaths and get more people into higher quality services. It intelligently and clearly wraps up three years of research and investigation into the treatment and recovery system and I would like to thank Dame Carol for her dedication to this agenda and for this accomplished review.
As part 2 highlights, many Departments of State need to redouble their efforts to tackle drug supply and also provide a stronger system of treatment and recovery support to people dependent on drugs, particularly those in contact with the criminal justice system. That is why I am pleased that today we can announce the establishment of a new joint combating drugs unit to co-ordinate and drive a genuinely whole-of-Government approach to drug policy, recognising that treatment alone is not enough and that housing and employment support is essential to aid recovery. This Government are determined to address the challenges raised in the review and the new Unit will oversee the Government’s response to Dame Carol’s recommendations which apply to numerous Departments across Government.
I am pleased to announce that in the coming weeks my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I, along with the Minister for Crime and Policing, will publish an initial Government response to the findings in part 1 and part 2 of the independent review. This response will set out our clear cross-Government commitment to this agenda and to taking effective action given the urgency of addressing these issues. Dame Carol has made a powerful case for a comprehensive drug treatment and recovery system coupled with the need for a more effective approach to enforcement. While many aspects of drug policy are devolved, we will continue to build partnership and collaboration with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments on significant UK-wide issues. The Government response to Dame Carol’s reviews provide a fantastic opportunity to engage with our colleagues and partners on combating drug misuse.
A copy of part 2 of Dame Carol’s Review will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures: 1 March 2021 to 31 May 2021
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 31 May 2021) 5 Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period) 3 TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 31 May 2021) 5 TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period) 0 Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (duringusb the reporting period) 3 Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period) 1 The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period) 4
TPIM notices in force (as of 31 May 2021)
Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 31 May 2021)
TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (duringusb the reporting period)
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)
The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period)
On 29th May 2021 one individual was remanded having been charged with two breaches of the monitoring measure of the TPIM notice.
The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. Second quarter TRG meetings will be held throughout June 2021.
Free Trade Agreement: Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway
Today, Norway’s Trade Minister Iselin Nybø, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Liechtenstein’s Foreign Minister Dominique Hasler, and I are signing the United Kingdom-Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in London. This is another trade deal that the United Kingdom has struck as an independent trading nation, in which our partners have gone further and faster than they have with anyone else in a number of areas, demonstrating what is possible between trusted trading partners.
It is the first time these three European countries have included dedicated chapters on small businesses and digital trade in any trade deal, including some of the most liberalising and modern digital trade provisions in the world, which simplify customs procedures, cutting red tape and making it easier than ever for our businesses to export across borders. Electronic documents, contracts and signatures will result in less paperwork, saving British firms time and money. Their offer to the United Kingdom on services and investment goes beyond what they have offered other FTA partners to date. Innovative FinTech firms will be able to provide financial services into Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, without having to provide that service elsewhere first, helping the United Kingdom to maintain its status as a financial services hub.
The agreement contains robust commitments on trade and sustainable development, demonstrating our shared global leadership on pressing issues such as climate change and protects our “right to regulate”, supporting us in meeting our ambitious domestic climate targets, including net zero for the United Kingdom.
Building on our current goods agreement, this agreement will cut more Norwegian tariffs on high-quality British food and farm products and could help support British fish processing industries from Grimsby to Grampian with further reductions on our tariffs on certain white fish, shrimps and prawns. The agreement could help support businesses in every corner of our country, helping to grow a trading relationship already worth £21.6 billion in 2020.1
This deal will deliver more opportunities for key British sectors especially those providing financial, legal, and other professional services. It will allow businesses in all sectors to send their staff on business visits or to provide services contracts to these countries, as well as the ability to transfer them for longer term projects. It means those with professional qualifications will have clear routes for the recognition of their qualifications for regulated professions. In addition, the agreement opens up new opportunities for British businesses to bid for a wider range of Government contracts in these countries.
HM Government is committed to transparency and the effective scrutiny of our trade negotiations. Following today’s signature of the FTA, I can announce that the Department for International Trade and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will be formally presenting the signed treaty text and related documents to Parliament before the summer recess for scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act procedure. Laying ahead of summer recess ensures that the House has the maximum amount of time to scrutinise the detail of our trade deal.
Alongside the treaty text, we will lay an explanatory memorandum. An impact assessment of our trade deal, and a parliamentary report providing an overview of the deal, will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses at the same time. All of the documents will be published on gov.uk in parallel.
1 ONS, UK total trade: all countries, non-seasonally adjusted: October to December 2020
Crossrail: Annual Update
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) has made the following ministerial statement:
In October 2020, the governance of Crossrail transferred over to Transport for London (TfL).
As part of the governance transition, the Crossrail sponsor board was stood down and the Mayor of London, who chairs the TfL board, established a new special purpose committee of the TfL board, called the Elizabeth line committee (ELC). The ELC is chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Transport and provides high-level oversight of the Crossrail project.
The TfL transport commissioner is now responsible for the successful delivery of the project and realising the required benefits. The commissioner chairs the Elizabeth line delivery group (ELDG), which was also established as part of the governance transition, to bring together the key TfL executives responsible for bringing the Elizabeth line into operation. The TfL transport commissioner reports to the ELC.
The transition of governance moves the Crossrail programme closer to TfL as future operator of the Elizabeth line, allowing it to bring management focus and effort, to “pull” the Elizabeth line into operation. These changes were a positive and essential step as we move closer to delivering the full operational railway.
Major construction work on the project is now completed and trial running began on 10 May.
Given the commencement of trial running and the transfer of governance to Transport for London, this will be the last annual written ministerial statement on Crossrail.
Further details on CRL’s funding and finances in the period to 29 May 2021 are set out in the table. The relevant information is as follows:
Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Ltd by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2021) £14,893,427,506 Expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (30 May 2020 to 29 May 2021) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases) £813,125,000 Total expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2021) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases) £15,785,802,000 The amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Ltd in the period covered by the statement NIL
Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Ltd by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2021)
Expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (30 May 2020 to 29 May 2021) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
Total expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Ltd in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2021) (excluding recoverable VAT on land and property purchases)
The amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Ltd in the period covered by the statement
The numbers above are drawn from CRL’s books of accounts and have been prepared on a consistent basis with the update provided last year. The figure for expenditure incurred includes monies already paid out in the relevant period, including committed land and property expenditure where this has not yet been paid. It does not include future expenditure on contracts that have been awarded.
Work and Pensions
Disability Benefits: End-of-life Support
The Government are committed to supporting people nearing the end of their lives. The current Special Rules for Terminal Illness (SRTI) have been in place, unchanged since 1990 and the support they provide to people who find themselves in this terrible situation is crucial.
In response to requests for a review of the special rules the Department for Work and Pensions undertook a wide-ranging evaluation into how the benefits system in Great Britain supports those nearing the end of their lives. I can now provide honourable Members with an update on the outcome of the evaluation.
We have listened to the views of people nearing the end of their lives, their families and friends, the organisations supporting them and the healthcare professionals involved in their care, and I would like to thank all who contributed their views on this important subject.
I am today setting out the Department’s intention to replace the current 6 month rule with a 12 month, end of life approach. This will mirror the current definition of end of life used across the NHS and ensure that people receive vital support through the special rules six months earlier than they do now. Supporting people nearing the end of their lives is a priority for my Department and I am pleased to be taking this step forward. The evaluation report will be published alongside the upcoming health & disability green paper.
Plan for Jobs: Supporting People Back Into Work
The Department for Work and Pensions has been at the heart of helping to deliver the Government’s plan for jobs to support, protect and create jobs following the pandemic. A year on from its launch, I want to update the House on the progress we have made helping people across the country to move into work or gain the skills and experience that will open up job opportunities as the economy reopens and we build back better.
To ensure we can provide the vital employment support to help people get back into work, we have boosted our frontline jobseeker capacity and capability in towns and cities right across the country. Meeting our target in March to recruit 13,500 new work coaches, we have created Britain’s biggest ever jobs army and secured premises for 139 additional Jobcentres, 52 of which are already open. We have also opened 138 new youth hubs, co-located and co-delivered with our external partners, which are delivering a mix of face-to-face and digital support to young people.
Young people have been affected more than most by the pandemic, with many having had the rug pulled from under them at a critical time. Our kickstart scheme has been helping them land on their feet, with over 40,000 so far benefiting from work placements, gaining valuable skills, experience and confidence to build their future careers. It is fantastic to see that some kickstart graduates have already secured new jobs. As of 30 June, over 243,000 jobs have been approved for funding. With over 145,000 vacancies having been made available for young people to apply for, we are seeing more starts every day and we are working with employers to fill roles.
Alongside support offered across our nationwide network of Jobcentres, we have rapidly introduced a range of provision delivered through external providers, offering targeted and local help to job seekers.
For those out of work for three months or more, JETS—our job entry: targeted support scheme—has so far helped propel over 5,300 people into jobs by providing personalised support, including specialist advice on how they can move into growing sectors, CV advice and interview coaching. Up to the end of May there had been over 112,000 starts on the scheme in England and Wales since it launched in October last year and over 4,700 starts since the scheme started in Scotland in January this year.
We know some sectors have been impacted more than others during the pandemic and that many people will be looking for work in entirely different sectors. That is why SWAPs—our sector-based work academy programme—is helping people reskill, retrain and move towards growing sectors like construction, infrastructure and social care. Last financial year, 64,500 people benefited from this support, and we have increased the number of available placements to 80,000 to enable more people to take advantage.
Job finding support
Our job-finding support is providing digital help and support for newly unemployed people. Delivered online, and so available throughout covid restrictions, it provides one-to-one advice and group support to help familiarise jobseekers with recruitment practices, identify transferable skills, and develop a personalised job finding action plan.
And as our economy restarts, our £2.9 billion restart scheme is now offering a fresh start for a million long-term unemployed people in England and Wales. Specialist providers, charities and SMEs are complementing the important work of jobcentres to provide additional expertise, investment, innovation and capacity for tailored support.
With the success of the vaccine roll-out and as we continue to open our economy and society, there are encouraging improvements in the employment figures, a continued rise in vacancies, and increasing numbers of people on company payrolls.
The Government plan for jobs, through the coronavirus job retention scheme and other support, has protected jobs and kept millions of people connected to the labour market during our emergency response to the pandemic. Now, through the continued delivery of our part of plan for jobs, we are helping get Britain back on its feet.
Minimum Income Floor, Universal Credit Gainful Self-employment Tests and Start-up Periods
To support self-employed universal credit claimants through the pandemic, in March 2020 the Government introduced a temporary suspension of the minimum income floor (MIF), removed the requirement for gainful self-employment (GSE) tests and paused start-up periods.
We have always been clear that these would be temporary measures, keeping them under review in light of the latest economic and public health context; as such, we have extended the MIF suspension on two occasions since March 2020.
With the success of the vaccine rollout and rising demand as the economy reopens, it is right that we now begin to reinstate our normal processes. Therefore, we are reintroducing the MIF, GSE tests and start-up periods when existing regulations expire on 31 July.
To ensure everyone has time to prepare, claimants will be given a month’s notice that the MIF is being applied and no one will see a decrease in their universal credit award before September. As an additional safety net for those whose businesses continue to be heavily impacted by covid-19 restrictions, work coaches will be able to provide a suspension of the MIF for up to two months at a time on a case-by-case basis, for a maximum of three suspensions, adding up to six months in total.
The vast majority of claimants found to be gainfully self-employed will benefit from a one-year start-up period. Anyone who was in a start-up period when the easement came into effect in March 2020 will also not have the MIF applied for the balance remaining on their start-up period at that time.
Claimants who continue to be gainfully self-employed and are not entitled to a start-up period, will have the MIF applied. These claimants will be exempt from having to search for, or take up, any other employment, allowing them to concentrate on making a success of their business and maximising their returns up to and beyond the level of their MIF.
Claimants who are found not to be gainfully self-employed will receive support to move into employment through our comprehensive multi-billion-pound plan for jobs which is helping millions of people across the country. Our specialist work coaches will consider the circumstances of each claimant individually, so it will take time to return to our normal processes.
These new regulations, with the additional protection and support they contain, will be in place for one year, running up to and including 31 July 2022. To prevent there being any further delay to new claimants getting the support they need, all new claims during this period will have a gainful self-employment assessment at the start of their claim in the usual way.