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Written Statements

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

Written Statements

Thursday 22 July 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Innovation and R&D Strategies, Post Office Horizon and Framework for Better Regulation

Today the Government are publishing the UK innovation strategy, “Leading the future by creating it”.

Innovation is central to tackling the largest challenges the world faces, from climate change to global pandemics. The UK must be in the vanguard of the response to these challenges. That is why the Government have placed innovation at the heart of our plan for growth and so much else we want to achieve, from fighting coronavirus to achieving net zero and building global Britain.

The UK has a long and illustrious history of world-leading innovation, from the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year. Now we have left the EU, we can move even more quickly to respond to emerging challenges and global opportunities, and cement the UK’s position as a world leader in science, research and innovation.

To this end, the UK innovation strategy sets out the Government’s vision to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035, placing innovation at the centre of everything this nation does. Through this we seek to generate disruptive inventions, the most tech-centric industry and Government in the world, more tech “unicorns”, and a nation of firms and people that all aspire to innovate.

To achieve these objectives, we want to unlock business investment in innovation. This is a core objective of the innovation strategy, and my officials have consulted with over 400 businesses and organisations to determine the factors that could lead to an increase in business innovation.

In the innovation strategy we set out our plans against four key pillars, which will support the achievement of our vision:

Pillar 1: Unleashing Business—we will fuel businesses who want to innovate.

Pillar 2: People—we will make the UK the most exciting place for innovation talent.

Pillar 3: Institutions & Places—we will ensure our research, development and innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK.

Pillar 4: Missions & Technologies—we will stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges faced by the UK and the world and drive capability in key technologies.

Through these pillars, the innovation strategy aims to both establish the right underlying policy environment and clearly signal those areas where the Government will take the lead.

This innovation strategy is only the first step. In the coming months and years, we will maintain a laser-like focus on realising our ambitions for innovation. We will track a range of quantitative metrics to measure our progress in delivering our commitments, alongside in-depth intelligence from businesses and other innovation stake-holders. Innovation will also be a crucial element of our efforts to level up the UK economy. A detailed strategy for levelling up through research and innovation will be set out as a part of the Government’s forthcoming levelling up White Paper.

I will place a copy of the innovation strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.

R&D People and Culture Strategy

I am also delighted to announce that the Government have today published their “R&D People and Culture Strategy”, delivering on the commitment we made in the R&D road map last summer. The road map recognised that people are at the heart of research and development, and that we need talented, diverse people, with the right skills, working in an environment that allows them to do their best work and deliver positive outcomes for our society and the economy.

The R&D people and culture strategy sets out, for the first time, a whole sector vision that is backed by clear Government commitments. It is a call to action to create a more inclusive, dynamic and sustainable UK R&D sector, in which a diversity of people and ideas can thrive.

Through this strategy, we will set out actions that will bring the best out of people and enable talent and ideas to flow freely between academia, business, and other sectors. We will ensure that everyone’s contribution is valued, and the UK has an outstanding research culture that truly supports discovery, diversity, and innovation, and offers varied and diverse careers that bring excitement and recognition.

The strategy identifies three priority areas across which action is needed:

People: redefining what it means to work in R&D in the 21st century—valuing all the roles that make it a success and ensuring the UK has the capability and capacity it needs.

Culture: co-creating a vision of the culture we want to see within the sector—working together to make lasting change happen so that researchers and innovators with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking can thrive and do their best work here.

Talent: renewing the UK’s position as a global leader in R&D in attracting, retaining and developing talented people, making sure careers in UK R&D are attractive to talented individuals and teams both domestically and internationally.

A talented and thriving R&D workforce will be key for realising our science superpower ambitions, and the R&D people and culture strategy will play an important role in supporting the vision I am setting out in the innovation strategy to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035.

We have engaged widely with the sector to date on the issues identified in this strategy, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation and I are very grateful to the hundreds of individuals and organisations who have contributed to their respective development. The Government will continue working closely with the sector to ensure the successful implementation.

I will place a copy of the R&D people and culture strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.

Post Office Horizon Update

This House is aware of the distressing impact that problems with the Post Office’s Horizon IT system have had on the lives and livelihoods of many postmasters.

Over the years, the Horizon accounting system recorded shortfalls in cash in branches. These shortfalls were treated by the Post Office as caused by postmasters, and this led to dismissals, recovery of losses by Post Office Ltd and, in some cases, criminal prosecutions. We now know this data was unreliable.

The Court of Appeal handed down a landmark judgment on 23 April 2021, which quashed the convictions of 39 postmasters. A further 12 were quashed in the Court of Appeal earlier this week. Further convictions have been quashed in the Crown court. The Government have been clear that we want to see compensation delivered fairly and as quickly as possible. We have also been clear that it is for the Post Office to engage with the individuals in the first instance regarding how compensation can be paid. I am pleased to provide an update on the steps to begin providing compensation to postmasters whose criminal convictions were based on Horizon data and have been quashed.

We have listened to affected postmasters and want to see them receive compensation quickly. The Government have therefore decided to support the Post Office so that it can make interim payments of up to £100,000 promptly to individual postmasters whose criminal convictions relied on Horizon data and have been quashed, ahead of final compensation settlements being agreed with them. I am providing this support in my capacity as sole shareholder in the Post Office.

While we recognise that these interim payments may not represent the full compensation that postmasters may ultimately receive, and which will need to be determined between the Post Office and the individuals concerned, it is a means of providing monies to individuals at an early stage in the claims process. The process for finally determining the compensation to be paid will take time and will involve POL obtaining a full quantification of all claims. These claims need to be carefully examined so that postmasters ultimately receive fair compensation and the payments that they deserve.

In the meantime, the Government thank the postmasters for their patience, recognising the impact that being wrongfully prosecuted has had on individuals, and believe that an interim payment is a way to begin to address the hardships they have faced ahead of when the final sum can be determined and paid.

The Post Office is contacting the legal representatives of postmasters whose convictions have been quashed with further information about interim payments. We expect the Post Office to issue offer letters for interim payments within 28 days of receiving a claim from eligible postmasters.

The Government are committed to supporting and maintaining the post office network, which, along with the postmasters, provides essential services to our urban and rural communities. This decision supports the Government’s priorities to support postmasters and to see the longstanding Horizon issues resolved. This support is in addition to the financial support BEIS has provided for the historical shortfall scheme to proceed, which was opened to recompense postmasters who repaid shortfalls and did not have a criminal conviction. In addition, BEIS launched the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry, which recently converted to a statutory footing, following the Court of Appeal judgment.

We understand that the Post Office has already begun work to deliver the full compensation sum to postmasters and we will work with them towards this. With my status as sole shareholder in the Post Office, my Department continues to engage actively with Post Office Ltd on this and will maintain strong oversight of this process.

Reforming the framework for better regulation

Our exit from the EU provides us with the opportunity to think boldly about how we regulate and for the first time in a generation, we have the freedom to conceive and implement rules that put the UK first. The UK will use its newfound freedoms as an independent trading nation to boost growth, increase competition and create jobs by revamping the way rules and regulations for businesses are set. We will use this freedom to unlock cutting-edge technologies, unleash innovation, and propel start-up growth, levelling up every corner of the UK. This will be a crucial part of boosting our productivity and helping us bring the benefits of growth to the whole of our country.

In seizing this opportunity, we are launching a consultation to seek feedback from interested parties on how we can reform the UK framework for better regulation.

The consultation sets out five principles that will underpin the Government’s approach to regulation to ensure it benefits the British people:

A sovereign approach: the UK will use its freedoms to take a tailored approach to setting rules in a way that boosts growth and benefits the British people.

Leading from the front: we will act nimbly to support the development of new technologies.

Proportionality: we will use non-regulatory options where we can, while acting decisively to put in place strong rules where they are needed.

Recognising what works: regulations will be thoroughly analysed to ensure they work in the real world.

Setting high standards at home and globally: we will set high standards at home and engage in robust regulatory diplomacy across the world, leading in multilateral settings, influencing the decisions of others and helping to solve problems that require a global approach.

Proposals explored in the consultation

The consultation follows a report from the taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform, which the Prime Minister convened earlier this year, and examines a number of the taskforce’s proposals for reforming regulation, including the adoption of a less-codified, common law approach to regulation. There is also a focus on the process for measuring and reporting impacts under the better regulation framework. Areas examined in the consultation include:

the adoption of a less codified, common law approach to regulation;

a review of the role of regulators, especially around competition and innovation;

delegation of more discretion to regulators to achieve regulatory objectives in a more agile and flexible way counterbalanced by increased accountability and scrutiny;

streamlining the process of assessment of impacts;

moving to earlier scrutiny of impact assessments and evaluation of existing regulation;

consideration of options on measuring the impact of regulation;

reintroduction of regulatory offsetting; and

baselining the UK’s regulatory burden.

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Cabinet Office

Supply Chain Finance in Government: Boardman Review

On 12 April, the Government announced that the Prime Minister had asked Nigel Boardman to investigate the development and use of supply chain finance in Government, especially the role of Lex Greensill and Greensill Capital (including associated companies or companies in its group) and any related issues that Mr Boardman considered were in scope.

In accordance with the terms of reference, Mr Boardman has provided the Prime Minister with a report which sets out Mr Boardman’s findings of fact. This was provided to the Prime Minister yesterday and is being made available to the House today.

In producing this report, Mr Boardman interviewed 45 individuals, for a total of over 100 hours. Mr Boardman had access to all the papers he requested, totalling several thousand pages of written evidence. This is a non-statutory review, but in line with long-standing convention, the Prime Minister made clear at the outset his expectation that all Ministers, special advisers and civil servants, whether current or former, should co-operate fully. Those individuals who participated, or their personal representative where applicable, were provided with relevant documents to assist their evidence. They were then offered the opportunity to discuss the relevant documents and provide any comment during an interview with Mr Boardman. These comments were considered, in good faith, as part of the review.

The purpose of the review was to establish the facts and any lessons to be learnt. As set out in the terms of reference, the review does not form part of a disciplinary process, nor is it intended to apportion blame or criticism to individuals. In establishing and setting out the facts, however, Mr Boardman attributes actions to named individuals, some of which could be read as critical of individuals. Where this is the case, the individuals concerned, or their personal representative where applicable, were given the opportunity ahead of the report being finalised to make representations on those sections of the report that could be perceived as criticisms to correct factual inaccuracies.

The Government thank Mr Boardman for all of his work in examining the evidence and setting out his judgement on the facts of what occurred. Mr Boardman will be providing the second part of his report, including any specific recommendations, shortly. The Government will respond to Mr Boardman’s findings, and any recommendations, in due course.

I am depositing a copy of the report in the Libraries of both Houses, and publishing it on gov.uk.

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Cross-Government Functions and Digital Delivery

The covid-19 pandemic has strained our country’s resilience like nothing we have seen out of wartime, and the public have endured huge sacrifices. Our mission now is to respond by transforming the country for the better, levelling up, and making opportunity more equal. To achieve these changes, Government must be reformed.

The recently published “Declaration on Government Reform”, set out a plan for the renewal and rewiring of Government, as a means to deliver the better Britain that the public demands and deserves. As part of its focus on improving performance, the declaration committed to improving the cross-Government functions and strengthening standards and spending controls, to ensure the Government are delivering both excellence and value for money.

The Government are today publishing two independent and separate reports which each contain recommendations on how to improve the cross-Government functions and digital delivery. These two reports are:

1. A review of the cross-cutting functions and the operation of spend controls, by the right hon. Lord Maude of Horsham; and

2. Organising for digital delivery report presented to the Digital Economy Council.

Lord Maude’s advice and the “Organising for Digital Delivery” report presented to the Digital Economy Council are critical to driving reform activity within the cross-Government functions, and the reports were invaluable input in finalising the commitments and actions in the declaration.

Lord Maude’s recommendations are centred around a strong functional model with three essential elements of leadership, capability and mandate. Strong progress is being made on the functional reform activity, overseen by myself and Lord Agnew, and a board chaired by Alex Chisholm, the chief operating officer for the civil service. Some examples of progress so far include:

New leadership put in place for the digital data and technology function, as announced in January this year. This included the establishment of the central digital and data office to work with the Government digital service and lead the digital, data and technology function for Government, also taking on responsibility for the Government automation taskforce.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s publication of its mandate in January, which sets out clearly its own responsibilities and those of departmental accounting officers for major Government projects and programmes. This is critical to making sure they are set up for success from the outset, supporting the Government to meet their ambitions.

Steps have been taken to strengthen spending controls, and increase their reach and effectiveness. More organisations are now in scope and the controls are being applied more consistently within Departments.

Lord Maude’s report advises on the need to set in train (or complete, where already underway) assessment and accreditation programmes; multiple functions are actively exploring how this should be achieved. Investment in professional expertise, recognising its importance, will be an integral part of Government functions. For example, the training and accreditation of contract managers across Government is being led by the Government commercial function, which is critical to driving excellent value for money for taxpayers.

We are implementing a programme of modernisation to strengthen and unify the communications profession across Government, to provide more efficient, responsive and effective communication which delivers Government priorities with one voice. This will build fulfilling careers for people and allow us to attract and develop the best talent.

The shared services strategy for Government was published in March 2021. Following Lord Maude’s advice, and working across Government, a core element of the strategy is the plan to consolidate all back office services into a maximum of five centres. This will achieve better quality services for staff, better people data and reduced cost, encouraging greater collaboration and improving interoperability across Government.

Copies of both reports have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Treasury

Covid-19: Contingencies Fund Advance

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will incur new expenditure in connection with the Government’s response to the covid-19 pandemic in 2021-22.

Parliamentary approval for resources of £4,206,110,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £4,206,110,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Further requests to the Contingencies Fund may be made as necessary to fund covid-19 activity delivered by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

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Defence

Dealing with Rape and Serious Sexual Offences: Defence’s Strategy

Today I am pleased to announce the Ministry of Defence’s intent to publish a defence-wide strategy for dealing with rape and serious sexual offences in the service justice system (SJS).

As set out in the cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy published yesterday, crimes against women and girls is an unacceptable, preventable issue. To echo the Lord Chancellor in his statement on the end-to-end rape review on 21 June, rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most horrific crimes dealt with in both the civilian criminal justice system and the service justice system. They have devastating and lasting effects on victims, and it is only right that action is taken to improve public confidence, make the system fairer and more effective and encourage victims to come forward.

The SJS deals with significantly fewer cases of rape and serious sexual offending compared to the civilian criminal justice system. However, service personnel must have confidence that they will receive the same high-quality care, support and justice in either system. Viewed as a proportion of allegations reported rather than just the cases which reach court, in 2020 the conviction rate in the service justice system was around 8%1 compared to around 2% in the civilian criminal justice system2. While we are confident the SJS is capable of dealing with the most serious offences, it is still not good enough. Both systems must do better, which is why we will be producing a strategy that will pull together ongoing work across the whole of the SJS.

The Ministry of Defence has already been working with the agencies and bodies within the SJS to introduce improvements by implementing the majority of recommendations made in the service justice system review (2019) by HH Shaun Lyons. This includes measures such as the creation of a defence serious crime unit; changes to how the court martial operates; and better support for victims and witnesses.

In addition, the Defence Secretary has asked Sir Richard Henriques to conduct an independent review of policing, and prosecutorial and other processes for addressing allegations emanating from overseas operations. The review, which is due to report shortly, will set out recommendations on improving the investigative processes within the SJS.

Furthermore, the Defence Select Committee inquiry into women in the armed forces is due to publish its report shortly. The Committee has been looking at the experience of our female service personnel from recruitment to transition and considering whether there are unique challenges that are not adequately addressed by the current policies and services. The Committee received evidence from current and former female service personnel in their thousands, for which serving personnel were given special permission to contribute. We expect this report to make a number of recommendations in relation to the handling of rape and serious sexual offence cases, and we will review its evidence and recommendations with the full seriousness and sensitivity they deserve.

To build on these developments, and the recent publication of the violence against women and girls strategy, the Defence Secretary and I have commissioned a defence-wide strategy for how rape and serious sexual offences are dealt with in the SJS. The strategy will aim to reduce the prevalence and impact of rape and other serious sexual offending in the armed forces and improve the handling of those cases in the SJS. It will learn from the Government’s recent response to the review of the end-to-end handling of rape cases in the civilian criminal justice system and provide reassurance that the SJS is also determined to do better and hold component parts of the system to account for delivering improvements.

The strategy will recognise the importance to our people and to the wider service community of the damage caused by sexual offending. With that in mind, we will ensure that support is provided to those who want it, and reassurance that it will remain in place for as long as it is needed. In addition, we will be open and transparent about what victims can expect from the SJS at all stages of their case.

The strategy will bring together in one place all the provisions which the service justice system already has for dealing with cases of rape and serious sexual assault and ensure they are coherent across the whole system and that the interests of the victim are prioritised.

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sexual-offences-in-the-service-justice-system-2020

2 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/end-to-end-rape-review-report-on-findings-and-actions

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme: Contingencies Fund Advance

DEFRA has sought a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of £275,000.

The requirement has arisen because there is an urgent requirement to proceed with the procurement of scheme administrators for the packaging extended producer responsibility scheme and the deposit return scheme in advance of Royal Assent of the Environment Bill.

Under managing public money rules, expenditure to make preparation for the delivery of a new service prior to Royal Assent requires an advance from the Contingencies Fund. The cash advance will pay for essential expenditure related to procurement activities. The need to spend now in advance of Royal Assent is driven by the necessary timelines associated with procurement.

Parliamentary approval for expenditure of £275,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for DEFRA. Pending that approval, urgent resourcing estimated at £275,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

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Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Global Anti-corruption Sanctions

Today, the UK has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on five individuals under the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations 2021.

This is the second set of designations under this regime since the regulations were laid in April 2021. The regime can be used to impose sanctions for serious corruption around the world. As set out in the regulations, the activities covered are bribery and misappropriation, plus a range of different kinds of involvement in such bribery or misappropriation.

These designations address cases of serious corruption which have deprived citizens of vital resources in Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

In Equatorial Guinea, the sanctions target the Vice-President, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, for his involvement in the misappropriation of state funds, corrupt contracting arrangements and soliciting bribes to fund a lavish lifestyle in various countries abroad. We have designated Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan, a former Iraqi governor, who misappropriated public funds intended for reconstruction efforts and to provide support for civilians, and improperly awarded contracts and other state property. We have designated Alex Nain Saab Moran and Alvaro Enrique Pulido Vargas, businessmen with links to the Maduro regime, for exploiting two of Venezuela's public programmes which were set up to supply poor Venezuelans with affordable foodstuffs and housing. They benefited from improperly awarded contracts, where promised goods were delivered at highly inflated prices. Finally, we have designated Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei, a Zimbabwean businessperson whose involvement in misappropriation was at the expense of the country’s macroeconomic stability.

These latest designations show the UK’s ongoing commitment to the fight against corruption. They send a powerful message to deter those involved in serious corruption around the world: you and your dirty money are not welcome in our country. We will continue to keep future designations under close review, guided by the purposes of the sanctions regime and the evidence.

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British Council: Sale of IELTS in India

I can today inform Parliament that the British Council, a non-departmental public body of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, will sell its IELTS English language test business in India to IDP Education, for £130 million. The business will be sold on a debt free, cash free basis.

Rationale

Like many organisations, covid-19 has had a significant financial impact on the British Council’s operations. The proceeds from the sale will strengthen the British Council’s financial position and support its modernisation process.

Format and timing

Due to the nature of the agreement between the British Council and its IELTS partners, there is only one possible buyer of the British Council’s India IELTS business. Ernst & Young provided an independent valuation, which concluded that the offer for the business was fair and reasonable.

UK Government Investments has worked closely with the FCDO providing valuable advice on commercial aspects of the British Council’s outline and full business cases for the transaction.

Fiscal impacts

I can confirm that the net sale proceeds of £120 million were above the Government’s retention value range.

Metric

Impact (over a five-year horizon)

Net sale proceeds

£120 million

Retention value range

Above

Public sector net borrowing

No immediate impact

Public sector net debt

Improved by a total of £120 million

Public sector net financial liabilities

Improved by a total of £120 million

Public sector net liabilities

Improved by a total of £118 million

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Health and Social Care

Integrated Care Systems

Earlier this year, Ministers asked NHS England to set out options for boundary alignment in integrated care systems in specific geographies where upper-tier local authorities currently have to work across more than one ICS footprint and to assess the impact of changes to deliver alignment in each case. Over the last six months NHS England has worked with stakeholders to develop advice and analysis for each of the affected areas to inform the final decision.

This work has now concluded, with advice provided to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This statement sets out the final decision that has been taken for the areas in scope of the review:

East of England

Frimley

Bassetlaw

Glossop

West Birmingham

North Northamptonshire

This work has been underpinned by the principle that coterminous boundaries deliver clear benefits in integration between local authorities and NHS organisations. As approaches to integrated care develop it is crucial that we have a system that helps support closer working both across NHS organisations and between the NHS and local government.

On the ground, coterminous boundaries can also improve joined-up decision making on delivery of services for patients. Improved alignment can allow areas to build joint care models around a wide variety of services including children’s and adult social care services, public health, as well as community and mental health services which are often also aligned along local authority footprints.

There has therefore been a strong presumption of moving towards coterminosity, save for in exceptional circumstances where there were strong reasons for not doing so.

NHS England regional teams have conducted robust engagement activity with local stakeholder organisations to develop analysis of the risks, mitigations and benefits for any options for coterminous boundaries in the affected areas. This engagement has included roundtables with local NHS organisations, including the ICS’s themselves as well as providers, commissioners and local authorities.

The Department of Health and Social Care has engaged at ministerial level with parliamentarians as well as national organisations such as NHS Providers and the Local Government Association to ensure their views were reflected in the final advice to the Secretary of State and they had an opportunity to feed into the development of this work.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s decision process has involved careful consideration of a wide range of issues, perspectives and interests and a careful weighing up of risks and benefits, outlined in the analysis provided by NHS England for each area as well as having regard to his legal duties.

These have been considered on an case-by-case basis for each area and where NHS England has made a recommendation based on broad (not universal) local consensus, including a recommendation to retain the status quo, the Secretary of State has listened and has accepted these recommendations. There was not a broad local consensus for three of the areas within this review and as such no recommendations were made by NHS England. In these areas a balanced judgement was taken, weighing up the risks and benefits of a change in boundaries and having regard to his legal duties by the Secretary of State.

Following this review, the Secretary of State has concluded:

East of England—this area is considered an appropriate exemption to the principle of coterminosity. No changes will be made to the existing boundaries.

Frimley—this area is considered an appropriate exemption from the principle of coterminosity. No changes will be made to existing boundaries.

Glossop—The decision has been taken to move the area of Glossop from Greater Manchester ICS into Derbyshire ICS.

Bassetlaw—The decision has been taken to move the area of Bassetlaw from South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS into Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICS thus delivering coterminous boundaries for the area.

West Birmingham—The decision has been taken to move west Birmingham from the Black Country and West Birmingham ICS into Birmingham and Solihull ICS thus delivering coterminous boundaries for the area.

North Northamptonshire—The decision has been taken to move the Lakeside Healthcare GP practice into Northamptonshire ICS and retain the Wansford and Kings Cliffe GP practice in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICS. This moves the region much closer to coterminous boundaries and reflects specific local considerations.

Local areas may still wish to keep under review how their boundaries are working in the light of any new legislative framework. Therefore, this decision does not preclude the important work many systems undertake naturally to ensure they have a system and boundaries that best suit local needs. We have already heard such requests from local stakeholders around Cheshire and Merseyside ICS, as such the Secretary of State has also announced his intention to review this system. The Secretary of State also intends to review the areas of Cumbria and North Yorkshire, as we are now aware, they will remain non-coterminous following the conclusion of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s unitarisation process. These reviews will take place in two years, following the implementation, subject to parliamentary passage, of the Health and Care Bill.

Full details of these decisions and the decision process will be published on the Department of Health and Social Care section on the gov.uk website shortly.

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Home Department

New Plan for Immigration

On 6 July, the Government introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill in Parliament. This is part of the Government’s new plan for immigration, delivering the most comprehensive reform in decades to deliver a fair but firm immigration system.

The Bill—and the wider plan—has three key objectives:

To make the system fairer and more effective so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum

To deter illegal entry into the UK breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and saving lives

To remove from the UK those with no right to be here

The introduction of the Bill was preceded by a consultation that was launched in March. The Government have carefully considered that consultation, and I am today laying before the House a Command Paper (CP 493) setting out their response.

This has also been published on gov.uk.

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Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Appointed Person Reports

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002—POCA—appointed person reports covering England and Wales for the period 2017-18 to 2020-21 are today being laid before Parliament.

The appointed person is independent of Government and scrutinises the circumstances and manner in which the search and seizure powers conferred by the Act are exercised in instances where prior approval is not gained from a justice of the peace and either no seizures are made or any cash or property seized is not detained for more than 48 hours.

I am pleased that we are now able to publish Mr McCourt’s reports covering the period from 2017-18 to 2020-21.

The House will note that there has been a delay in publishing the appointed person reports since the 2016-17 report, when the previous office holder’s tenure ended. Greg McCourt was subsequently appointed to the role for each of the three jurisdictions—England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—with effect from 1 August 2019. Despite the pressures and challenges of covid, since his appointment he has been working across the jurisdictions and with POCA stakeholders to receive and assess reports on the use of the relevant powers of search and seizure.

Importantly, Mr McCourt is satisfied with the operation of the powers in the period. There is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act. While the figures for 2019-20 and 2020-21 show a small increase in the number of reported cases, that reflects more regular use of the powers in a broader range of live police operations, supporting the recovery of the proceeds of crime whenever they are encountered.

Mr McCourt has made two recommendations: first, that a template should be developed to standardise the information that law enforcement officers provide; and secondly, that law enforcement agencies be regularly reminded of their reporting requirements under the Act. I support Mr McCourt’s recommendations and my officials will work with him and our stakeholders to implement both.

These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime. As the reports show, these powers have been used appropriately to combat crime. We will continue to monitor closely the way the powers have been used. Copies of the reports will be available in the Vote Office.

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Northern Ireland

Abortion Services Directions 2021

Today I am issuing a direction to the Department of Health, the Minister of Health, the Health and Social Care Board, and to the First and Deputy First Minister, to commission and make abortion services available in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, and no later than 31 March 2022. I am also directing that there should be immediate support for interim services of early medical abortion, which are at risk of collapse.

I have a statutory duty to protect the rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland, imposed by section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. This duty requires me to ensure that the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the 2018 Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) report are implemented in full. I therefore have a duty to “provide women with access to high-quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public health facilities”. I acknowledge and respect the deeply held views that individuals hold on this issue. However, it is the clear will of Parliament that the rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland are properly upheld.

The Government laid the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 and they came into force on 31 March 2020. Those regulations delivered a framework for abortion services which struck the appropriate balance between delivering a CEDAW compliant legal framework that ensures the health and safety of women and girls, and gives clarity and certainty to the healthcare profession, but is also sensitive to the circumstances in Northern Ireland.

In March 2021, we took a further step and made the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021. We took this important step because a year after the 2020 regulations were made, women and girls in Northern Ireland are still unable to access high-quality abortion and post-abortion care in Northern Ireland in all the circumstances allowed by the regulations we made on 31 March 2020. This remains the case today.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021 gave me a power to direct a Northern Ireland Minister, a Northern Ireland department and the Health and Social Care Board of the Public Health Agency to take action necessary to implement all the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the CEDAW report. The regulations were debated on 26 and 28 April 2021 in the House of Commons and House of Lords respectively and both Houses supported the regulations overwhelmingly, with a majority of 431 to 89 on a free vote in the Commons.

For over a year, the Northern Ireland Office has continued to work closely with the Department of Health, and other relevant Northern Ireland Departments, trying to progress this work. Some service provision commenced on the ground from last April and I put on record my thanks to the medical professionals and Informing Choices Northern Ireland who have ensured that women and girls have had some local access to abortion services in Northern Ireland, and the organisations that have supported this work.

Though I recognise the huge strain that covid-19 has placed on healthcare in Northern Ireland, I remain extremely disappointed that full commissioning proposals have not yet been brought forward by the Department of Health and that the Executive has not an opportunity to discuss them. This ongoing stalemate leaves me no choice but to issue a direction. I have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the women and girls in Northern Ireland are afforded their rights and can access the healthcare as set out in the 2020 regulations.

I am now directing the Department of Health to secure the commissioning and availability of the relevant healthcare services. The direction also includes an immediate requirement for the Department of Health to continue to support the central access point provided by Informing Choices NI (ICNI) who are key to providing early medical abortion services. I have chosen to impose a deadline for the availability of commissioned services of 31 March 2022 to account for the Department of Health’s estimate that it would take 8-12 months to make fully commissioned CEDAW compliant services available.

I am also directing the Department of Health and the regional Health and Social Care Board. The direction includes a requirement to commission, provide and fund abortion services so that they are available in all of the circumstances in which abortions are lawful. This includes access to services in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and severe foetal impairment in line with the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No 2) Regulations 2020 in any service commissioned. It is for the Northern Ireland Executive to allocate all necessary funding for abortion services from its Barnett-based block grant or its own resources.

I am also directing the First Minister and Deputy First Minister that once proposals are brought forward by the Department of Health, they must be included on the agenda at the next meeting of the Executive Committee.

At the heart of this matter are the women and girls in Northern Ireland, who have been, and continue to be, denied the same reproductive rights as women in the rest of the UK. Parliament determined that this should be corrected and by exercising the power to direct, we will ensure that it is.

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Prime Minister

Machinery of Government Change: Vaccine Taskforce

I am making this statement to bring to the House’s attention the following machinery of Government change.

With effect from 1 August 2021, the vaccine taskforce will become a joint unit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of Health and Social Care.

To support this, responsibility for the taskforce’s work on vaccine and antibody procurement and supply and clinical development will transfer, on the same date, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Department of Health and Social Care. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will remain responsible for vaccine and antibody manufacturing.

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Intelligence and Security Committee’s GCHQ Procurement Report: Government Response

On 19 November 2020, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) published its report entitled “GCHQ Accommodation Procurement: A Case Study”.

The procurement of Nova South as the headquarters of the National Cyber Security Centre was a unique challenge, undertaken within a demanding timeframe and as a result, the Government acknowledge there are lessons that can be learned from the procurement process.

Today, the Government are publishing their response to this report.

I remain grateful to the Intelligence and Security Committee for its continued independent oversight and scrutiny. I would like to thank the former Committee for its work in the last Parliament, and I look forward to working with the appointed Committee in the future.

Copies of the Government response have been laid before both Houses.

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Transport

National Policy Statement for National Networks: Review

In 2019, our roads handled 88% of all passenger travel by distance, the vast majority of it by car or van. Even doubling rail use across the country would only reduce this proportion to 75%, assuming that overall demand did not rise. The roads also carry more than three quarters of freight traffic, and of course nearly all pedestrian, cycling, bus and coach journeys.

Continued high investment in our roads is therefore, and will remain, as necessary as ever to ensure the functioning of the nation and to reduce the congestion which is a major source of carbon. Almost half of our £27 billion programme for England’s strategic roads, though often described as being for road building or capacity expansion, is in fact for renewing, maintaining and operating the existing network, or for funds to improve safety and biodiversity, deliver active travel schemes and tackle noise or pollution.

In the coming years, our ambitious and accelerating plans to decarbonise all road traffic will transform roads’ impact on greenhouse gas emissions. We have always said, however, that we must ensure the road network meets today’s demands, not those of the past. In the last 18 months, fundamental changes have occurred in commuting, shopping and business travel, which before the pandemic made up 30% of all road journeys by distance, and a much higher proportion at the times and places of greatest pressure.

Trends already under way in home working, online shopping and videoconferencing, all of which had reduced trip rates even before the pandemic, have dramatically increased, and seem unlikely to be fully reversed. Against that, though, must be set the effects on road demand of the hopefully temporary move away from public transport during the crisis; of increases in delivery traffic; and potentially of increases in driving when electric and autonomous vehicles become common.

The current national policy statement (NPS) on national networks, the Government statement of strategic planning policy for major road and rail schemes, was written in 2014, before the Government legal commitment to net zero, the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the new sixth carbon budget and most directly the new, more ambitious policies outlined in the transport decarbonisation plan.

While the NPS continues to remain in force, it is right that we review it in the light of these developments, and update forecasts on which it is based to reflect more recent, post-pandemic conditions, once they are known.

The aim is to begin the review later this year, and for it to be completed no later than spring 2023. This review will include a thorough examination of the modelling and forecasts that support the statement of need for development, and the environmental, safety, resilience, and local community considerations that planning decisions must take into account. Reviewing the NPS will ensure that it remains fit for purpose in supporting the Government commitments for appropriate development of infrastructure for road, rail, and strategic rail freight interchanges.

While the review is undertaken, the NPS remains relevant Government policy and has effect for the purposes of the Planning Act 2008. The NPS will, therefore, continue to provide a proper basis on which the planning inspectorate can examine, and the Secretary of State can make decisions on, applications for development consent.

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