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Written Statements

Volume 701: debated on Monday 18 October 2021

Written Statements

Monday 18 October 2021

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Gibraltar: Future Relationship with the European Union

On 31 December 2020, the UK Government, together with the Government of Gibraltar, agreed a political framework with the Kingdom of Spain on how a future agreement between the UK and the European Union (EU) in respect of Gibraltar would function in the interests of all parties.

This represented the first stage of the two-part process whereby the EU would examine a request from Spain, in agreement with the UK, to initiate the procedure for the negotiation of a separate UK-EU agreement in respect of Gibraltar.

On 5 October 2021, the EU concluded its internal processes necessary to begin the UK-EU negotiations. While the EU mandate has not been published we understand it has been amended from the Commission’s draft mandate published on 20 July 2021. Importantly it now references the role of the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex) in delivering the fluid movement of people between Gibraltar and the Schengen area. Both the UK Government and Government of Gibraltar have been clear that the operation of frontline Schengen external border checks on the territory of Gibraltar by Spanish officials would not be acceptable.

There remain, however, a number of areas where the opening EU position directly conflicts with the political framework agreed between the UK and Spain. These issues will need to be addressed in the UK-EU negotiations to ensure that the pragmatic and careful balance of the political framework is maintained. The UK is committed to working constructively to address these issues with the objective of concluding a treaty in line with the political framework. Formal negotiations began in Brussels on 11 October and further detailed conversations will follow in the coming weeks.

The UK Government continue to work side-by-side with the Government of Gibraltar. We agreed our joint approach to negotiations at the UK-Gibraltar Joint Ministerial Council held in Gibraltar on 29 March 2021. At the core is a shared aim to secure future prosperity for Gibraltar and the surrounding region. This can be delivered through a treaty which brings confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Gibraltar and neighbouring communities.

While fully committed to seeking a treaty based on the political framework, the UK Government and Government of Gibraltar are working closely to ensure robust plans are in place for all eventualities, including if there is no negotiated outcome. Although confident an agreement can be reached, it is only prudent to prepare for all eventualities. The UK will stand fully behind Gibraltar, its people and its economy in any scenario.

We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and will not agree to anything that compromises UK sovereignty.

[HCWS316]

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Investment in Green Projects

A year on from the publication of the ten point plan the Government can confirm more than £5.8 billion of investment in green projects has been secured, along with at least 56,000 jobs in the UK’s clean industries.

This major green investment boost helps to drive forward the Government’s ambitions to make the UK a global leader in green technology and finance. It includes more than £650 million in advancing offshore wind this year alone, supporting almost 3,600 jobs across the Humber and North-East, and over £900 million in accelerating the shift to zero emissions vehicles. As part of this Envision AESC will invest over £400 million in battery manufacturing, for example, as part of a £1 billion project with Nissan and Sunderland Council to create a flagship electric vehicle hub. ENI Spa has invested more than £400 million in offshore wind.

This week’s global investment summit in London is expected to attract almost 200 leading industry figures from around the world to invest in the best of UK green business and innovation. Securing private investment for clean technology is a core part of the Government’s strategy to meet our world-leading emissions reductions targets over the next decade and achieve net zero by 2050. Our upcoming net zero strategy, to be published this week, builds on the Ten Point Plan, setting out how we will deliver on our net zero commitments, giving businesses the certainty they need to invest.

Further progress since the ten point plan includes:

Securing around £1.5 billion of investment into our offshore wind industry, supported by the Government’s £160 million scheme to upgrade ports and infrastructure. Renewables now represent almost 40% of the UK’s total electricity generation.

Kicking off the biggest-ever round of our flagship renewable energy scheme for low carbon electricity—contracts for difference—with £200 million for offshore wind projects and £24 million for floating offshore wind.

Publishing the hydrogen strategy to grow the UK hydrogen economy, consulting on design of the £240 million net zero hydrogen fund, and announcing funding of seven real-world hydrogen transport pilots.

Committing £20 million to increase on-street charge points for electric vehicles and providing £50 million to support charge point installations.

Publishing our transport decarbonisation plan and national bus strategy, as well as supporting Coventry to become UK’s first all-electric bus city and consulting on world-leading pledge to end the sale of all new, polluting road vehicles by 2040 and net zero aviation emissions by 2050. This is on top of more than 300 new walking and cycling schemes.

Providing £1 billion to upgrade schools, hospitals, and council buildings with energy efficiency measures and committing £222 million to upgrade socially rented homes. Local Authorities through the Green Homes Grant scheme have also started installing upgrades to around 50,000 low-income households.

Announcing £19.5 million of grant funding for UK projects developing novel carbon capture technology and we have kicked off the process to decide the first carbon capture cluster locations in our industrial heartlands.

Launching the floods investment programme that is on track to better protect 336,000 properties.

Awarding 90 projects under the second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, totalling £80 million of investment, and launched several schemes under the Nature for Climate Fund to expand our pipeline of tree planting projects in England.

Launching the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, providing funding for low-carbon technologies and systems across the areas of the ten point plan.

Launching our landmark North sea transition deal and industrial decarbonisation strategy.

[HCWS321]

Defence

Armoured Cavalry Programme: Ajax Update

I wish to provide a further update to Parliament on the Ajax equipment project being delivered as part of the armoured cavalry programme.

Health and Safety

The review by the MOD’s Director of Health, Safety and Environmental Protection on the health and safety aspects of the noise and vibration concerns raised on Ajax is now in its final stages. The report runs through the chronology of the Ajax programme and key decisions made regarding safety in order to ensure a clear understanding of the current background and is being subjected to a formal Maxwellisation process. I look forward to the report being finalised. I will publish it in full.

Update on Personnel

The health of our service personnel is our top priority. At 30 September 2021, the total number of people exposed to noise and vibration from Ajax was 310, of whom 11 are civilians and 10 are now veterans. All 310 individuals have now been contacted and offered assessments for noise and vibration.

On noise, at 30 September 2021, 270 people have been assessed and 40 people have declined assessment or have so far been unavailable to attend. Of the 270 individuals who have been assessed, 231 have returned to duty having maintained or returned to pre-exposure levels of hearing. Of the 231, as an extra precaution, 166 people are receiving enhanced hearing surveillance. Of the remaining 39 people who have been assessed, 34 remain under specialist outpatient care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham/Royal Centre for Defence Medicine; most of these are under-going a period of hearing rest prior to reassessment, at which point we expect a significant number to return to full duties. There are a remaining five individuals who have been medically downgraded—potentially requiring a change of duties within the armed forces—or discharged, either for reasons unrelated to hearing or with hearing loss as a major or minor cause. In the case of hearing loss being identified, Ajax may or may not be confirmed as a contributory factor. I am withholding a more precise breakdown of those downgraded or discharged because individuals could be identified resulting in a potential breach in medical confidentiality.

Vibration injuries is a highly specialised area, requiring a graduated assessment process. All 310 individuals exposed have been offered a vibration assessment, with around 125 having so far declined assessment. The process is ongoing but, at 30 September, 45 individuals have been referred for specialist assessment of symptoms which could be associated hand-transmitted vibration, nine individuals have been referred for specialist assessment of symptoms which could be associated with whole body vibration and nine individuals have been referred for both. None of the individuals exposed to Ajax have had a change in medical grading or been medically dischargeddue to vibration.

I will continue to update the House on the number of personnel affected by noise and vibration, including if any trends become apparent once the data has been further analysed.

Programmatic Issues

I have made clear that Ajax requires a full-time, dedicated senior responsible owner. I am pleased to report that we have now appointed David Marsh, who took up the role on 1 October with the endorsement of the infrastructure and projects authority. As the new SRO, he is now in the process of reviewing the armoured cavalry programme to determine what actions need to be taken to put the programme back on a sound footing.

On 6 September, following authorisation by the Ajax safety panel, the independent Millbrook trials recommenced. As planned, and following a further meeting of the safety panel, these trials continued at Bovington to provide a wider range of surfaces on which to test the vehicle. These trials involved General Dynamics crew and real-time monitoring of noise and vibration. Trials have been conducted on the turreted AJAX variant and on the ARES variant, both of which were Capability Drop 1 vehicles. The trials were run at the Millbrook Proving Ground and at Bovington. This has generated hundreds of gigabytes of data which is currently being processed. Subject to safety panel authorisation, trials of a second ARES Capability Drop 1 vehicle will commence shortly at the Millbrook Proving Ground. On 7 October the safety panel also authorised military personnel to conduct essential maintenance on the vehicle and marshalled movement.

Since my last statement data has continued to be gathered and analysed to determine the root cause of vibration in the vehicles. In parallel design modifications have been developed to reduce the vibration experienced by the crew. Testing continues to determine the effectiveness of the modifications and whether they would help ensure the vehicle meets the Army’s requirement.

Investigations into excess noise also continue. An in-line attenuator has been designed and we are now validating its effectiveness to address the noise transmitted through the communications headsets.

The focus for the MOD and General Dynamics remains on delivering long-term solutions for noise and vibration to ensure Ajax meets the Army’s need. Until then, it is not possible to determine a realistic timescale for declaration of initial operating capability or the later introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army. We will not accept a vehicle that is not fit for purpose.

Ajax is an important capability for the Army and we are committed to working with General Dynamics for its delivery. We have a robust, firm price contract with General Dynamics under which they are required to provide the vehicles as set out in the contract for the agreed price of £5.5 billion.

[HCWS322]

Closure of Service Police Legacy Investigations

In February 2017, the then Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) would close and any remaining Iraq legacy investigations would be reintegrated into the service police system. Service Police Legacy Investigations (SPLI), led by a senior Royal Navy Police officer, took over these remaining investigations at the beginning of July 2017.

I can today announce that the SPLI completed its investigative caseload in December 2020 and, following the completion of administrative functions, officially closed its doors on 30 September 2021.

In total, SPLI assessed 1,291 allegations, of which 178 were pursued through 55 separate investigations. The SPLI complied fully with the requirements of the Armed Forces Act 2006—in referring cases to or consulting the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA)—and with the High Court’s direction to work closely with the SPA to ensure cases were completed as promptly as possible while maintaining the necessary rigour. None of the IHAT or SPLI investigations have resulted in any prosecutions.

One significant challenge throughout the investigations was the issue of the credibility of allegations made against UK service personnel. While we accept that some allegations were credible, this does not detract from the fact we know, from the investigations and from the Al-Sweady public inquiry, that some were not. We know that Phil Shiner, formerly of Public Interest Lawyers, obtained Iraqi clients improperly—through the use of financial incentives—and acted with a lack of integrity. In 2017, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found allegations of misconduct when representing claims against British soldiers—including dishonesty—proven to the criminal standard of proof and he was struck off the Roll of Solicitors.

The vast majority of the more than 140,000 members of our armed forces who served in Iraq did so honourably. Many sadly suffered injuries or death, with devastating consequences for them and their families.

However, not all allegations and claims were spurious, otherwise investigations would not have proceeded beyond initial examination and no claims for compensation would have been paid. It is sadly clear, from all the investigations the UK conducted, that some shocking and shameful incidents did happen in Iraq. We recognise that there were four convictions of UK military personnel for offences in Iraq, including offences of assault and inhuman treatment. The Government’s position is clear—we deplore and condemn all such incidents.

It is also clear that in some cases the original Royal Military Police investigations— conducted in arduous, battlefield conditions, with limited resources and under strict force protection measures—did not manage to secure all the required evidence, with the result that opportunities to hold those responsible to account may now have been lost. I apologise unreservedly to all those who suffered treatment at the hands of UK forces which was unacceptable.

The closure of SPLI marks the completion of the remaining investigations stemming from operations in Iraq. However, we are aware that further serious allegations may arise in the future, and that where credible these would have to be investigated in line with our obligations under international and domestic law.

Looking ahead, any historical criminal allegations will be referred to the Defence Serious Crime Unit. This was recommended in the Lyons/Murphy Review of the Service Justice System, and is further supported by Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge who I appointed to conduct a review of how allegations on operations are raised and investigated. His review will help ensure we have the best possible framework, skills and processes in place, should this be necessary in the future.

The completion of the SPLI investigations brings us closer to the end of a decade of extensive litigation and large-scale investigations. While the Iraq fatality inspector continues to look at a small number of remaining cases, we can start to draw a line under the legacy of our operations in Iraq and to focus on the future.

[HCWS323]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Coronavirus Community Support Fund: Evaluation

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the National Lottery Communities Fund (TNLCF) have recently published a series of reports detailing the evaluation of the Coronavirus Community Support Fund. The reports will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The reports can also be found online.

The £200 million Coronavirus Community Support Fund (‘the Fund’) was part of the unprecedented £750 million of Government funding to support voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations to continue their vital work during the covid-19 pandemic. The funding was provided by DCMS. TNLCF managed, distributed and oversaw the funding. Additional management support was provided by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The purpose of the fund was to increase community support to people disproportionately affected by the covid-19 crisis, through the work of VCSE organisations; and reduce temporary closures of essential VCSE organisations, and so reduce the burden on public services.

The funding went to 8,200 organisations who in turn supported an estimated 6.5 million people. This included children and young people—supported by 39% of grant holders—people with mental health conditions (40%) and older people (32%).

Without the £200 million fund almost one fifth of recipients would have been forced to close their doors, while over half revealed that they would have delivered significantly fewer services if it had not been for assistance from the fund. Over 6,200 employees of these organisations were brought back or prevented from being furloughed, and over 4,200 new staff members were recruited. This is in addition to grant holders mobilising 136,000 existing volunteers and over 47,000 new volunteers that they had not worked with previously.

The CCSF has also played a major role in the Government’s commitment to tackling loneliness across all grants, with 63% reporting they had promoted ways of building social connections during the pandemic, 79% reporting that beneficiaries felt less lonely, and 70% reporting beneficiaries had more access to social contact.

The findings also underline the positive impacts felt by volunteers who were mobilised during the pandemic. 84% of people who volunteered through the fund felt like they were making a difference, and 66% people felt it gave them a sense of purpose.

[HCWS320]

Wireless Infrastructure Strategy: Call for Evidence

I am repeating the following written ministerial statement made on 14 October 2021 in the other place by my noble Friend, the Minister for Arts, the Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay:

The Government want to ensure that the UK has world-class fixed and wireless digital infrastructure as soon as possible, unlocking the huge economic and social benefits these will bring.

On 24 June 2021 the Government therefore announced that we will develop a Wireless Infrastructure Strategy—a long-term policy framework for the development, deployment and adoption of 5G and advanced wireless networks in the UK, ensuring the UK has the wireless coverage to meet our connectivity needs. It will build on the policies outlined in the 2018 Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), and subsequently the 2020 National Infrastructure Strategy, to transform the UK’s telecoms infrastructure.

To support this strategy, DCMS is launching a call for evidence to understand in greater detail:

the future wireless connectivity needs of the UK;

the extent to which the UK market is likely to be able to meet those needs up to 2030;

how the legal and policy framework can best continue to support investment, competition, innovation and adoption of wireless infrastructure;

how the Government can support the development and deployment of future wireless networks, including 6G.

We will use responses to this call for evidence to inform the development of the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy. This call for evidence will run for six weeks, closing on 24 November 2021.

Telecommunications policy is reserved and we will work with the Devolved Administrations to develop the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy.

[HCWS315]

Education

Qualifications and Assessments: 2021-22

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for the School System) at the Department for Education (Baroness Barran), made the following written statement on 11 October 2021:

In April, the Department for Education committed to our intention that exams and assessments would go ahead in 2022. On 12 July, recognising that students taking exams in 2022 have had considerable disruption to their education, Ofqual and the Department published joint consultations outlining detailed proposals for:

changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A-levels in 2022; and arrangements for vocational and technical and other general qualifications in academic year 2021-22.

The Department and Ofqual confirmed the permitted scope of adaptations for vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) included in performance tables, Functional Skills Qualifications and T-levels in an announcement on 6 August following analysis of responses to the VTQ consultation. Depending on the purpose of the qualification, a range of adaptations for VTQs and other general qualifications have been or will be used including, but not limited to:

a reduction in the number of internal assessments, while ensuring all content is taught

longer and there are more assessment windows;

social distancing adaptations—for example, professional discussion in place of certain practical activities;

greater flexibility in invigilation rules—for example, to allow subject teachers to invigilate their own subject.

On 30 September, the Department and Ofqual published the decision document outlining the decisions taken by the Department and Ofqual following analysis of responses to the consultation on changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A-levels in 2022.

The Department and Ofqual engaged with a wide range of sector representatives during the consultation period. The proposals that were set out in the consultation received a high degree of support and we have therefore confirmed a package of measures that includes four elements:

a choice of topics in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history, and choice of topic or content in GCSE geography;

the provision of advance information on exams in those subjects at GCSE, AS and A-level where there is no choice of content;

changes to the requirements for the delivery of practical activities in science subjects, and assessment in art and design;

the provision of support materials in the exam in GCSE maths, physics and combined science.

We have confirmed that DfE’s policy intention is for advance information to be published by exam boards in early February 2022 to support student revision. The Government retain the flexibility to deploy advance information at an earlier point if there is significant further disruption to education.

The changes for both general and vocational and technical qualifications will be for one year only.

Ofqual also set out its approach to grading for general qualifications, confirming that 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students taking exams in 2022 have experienced disruption to their education. Ofqual set out its plans for grading to be based around a profile that reflects a mid-point between 2021 and 2019 grades in 2022. In 2023, Ofqual plans to return to results that are in line with those in pre-pandemic years.

While it is our firm intention that exams will go ahead next year, supported by the permitted adaptations, we understand that contingency arrangements are also needed in the unlikely event that exams cannot go ahead fairly or safely. The Department and Ofqual plan for teacher assessed grades to be used in the event that exams cannot take place, and we have jointly launched a consultation on improvements to the 2021 process for GCSE, AS and A-levels and confirmed the contingency arrangements that will apply to vocational and technical qualifications. The consultation closes on 13 October and we will announce final decisions as soon as possible.

Finally, we have confirmed that in 2022 results days will return to their normal timing, on 18 August for AS/A-level and 25 August for GCSEs. Vocational and technical qualifications used to progress in a similar way to GCSEs and A-levels will be awarded on or before the same days, and other VTQ results will continue to be awarded throughout the year.

[HCWS314]

Health and Social Care

Blood Donor Selection Criteria

I would like to inform the House about changes that the Government will be making to the blood donor selection criteria. This announcement forms part of the wider steps the Government have taken to make blood donation more equitable.

In 2019, the Government commissioned the ‘For the Assessment of Individualised Risk’ (FAIR) steering group to consider whether changes could be made to the blood donor selection criteria to ensure it was as effective and inclusive as possible.

On 14 June 2021, in response to the FAIR steering group’s work, the Government implemented changes that enable men who have sex with men in long-term relationships to give blood. These changes put in place a gender-neutral selection policy, where deferrals are now based on higher risk behaviours associated with acquiring infections.

Following further work by the FAIR steering group, I can announce that the Government will be making an additional change to the blood donor selection criteria, which will increase inclusivity without compromising the safety of donated blood.

As part of its work, the FAIR steering group reviewed the effectiveness of the question prospective donors are asked about whether they have recently had sex with a partner who may ever have had sex in an area where HIV is endemic—including most of sub-Saharan Africa. In reviewing the evidence, the steering group considered the other questions that are already on the pre-donation questionnaire that help to identify high-risk donors and the associated deferrals already in place, as well as the effect of routine screening of all donations for HIV and other blood-borne viruses. The FAIR steering group concluded that the question could be removed without impacting the safety of the blood supply. Furthermore, they determined that removing the question would help to improve inclusivity and equity for Black African donors. This is especially important due to the ongoing need for more Black African donors who can have rarer blood types, which will help to improve and save lives in the UK.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) reviewed the steering group’s findings and agreed that the removal of this question poses no additional safety risks to the blood supply and recommended the change was made to the pre-donation selection criteria.

The Government have now reviewed the evidence presented by the FAIR steering group together with SaBTO’s advice and has accepted this recommendation. This means that the question asking whether donors had recently had sex with a partner who may ever have had sex in an area where HIV is endemic will be removed from the blood donor selection criteria. This is a progressive and welcome step forward, reducing limitations for people to donate blood and creating a fairer system for blood donation.

The Department of Health and Social Care is working with NHS Blood and Transplant to implement this change. We will have monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of donors and patients, including continued monitoring of both acute and chronic infections in new and regular donors. The changes will be reviewed in 12 months.

[HCWS312]

Coronavirus Test Device Approval Update

The UK is developing one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes in the world for coronavirus tests. The CTDA regulations have set high bars of specificity and sensitivity to ensure only high quality tests are available on the UK market. The CTDA regulations have set high bars of specificity and sensitivity to ensure only high quality tests are available on the UK market.

The Secretary of State and I have been impressed by the number of applications the regulator has received. This is a testament to the willingness of businesses to rise to the public health challenges set by this pandemic. However, some manufacturers have struggled to provide sufficient evidence in time. As things stand, this would mean they would have to be temporarily removed from the market whilst they complete their validation. This would create an unexpected contraction in supply at the start of winter. This could be particularly problematic for testing returning travellers.

In order to protect public health by ensuring availability of tests, the Secretary of State has decided to exercise the power under regulation 39A of the Medical Devices Regulations 2002. He will publish a protocol today listing certain tests that have both passed a public sector validation, and have a pending application awaiting validation, to remain on the market up to 28 February 2022 or until their validation application is determined. This protocol is a short-term, proportionate and targeted measure to minimise a risk of serious harm to public health by ensuring that a supply of tests most likely to be of high quality, having passed validation as part of DHSC procurement or other public sector process, remain on the market on an interim basis.

Copies of the protocol will also be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and it will be published on the gov.uk website.

[HCWS324]

Home Department

Anti-Slavery Day

Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime. Tens of millions of victims around the world are coerced, deceived, and forced into a life of abuse, servitude, and inhumane treatment.

This happens in the UK as well; to British citizens and to those trafficked from abroad. Today, on the UK’s Anti-Slavery Day, we pause to reflect on the trauma that victims suffer, the cruelty of those that exploit them and the bravery of survivors attempting to rebuild their lives.

This Government are committed to eradicating modern slavery. Over the past year we have continued to work towards this aim with our partners in the Devolved Administrations, in law enforcement and across the criminal justice system, with local government and our health and welfare sectors, with our international partners, with business, civil society, and academia.

Together we have continued to identify and provide support to thousands of victims of modern slavery through our contract with the Salvation Army. The number of law enforcement investigations has continued to increase. Conviction rates for cases prosecuted through the courts have also increased.

The Independent Child Trafficking Guardian Service now covers in total two thirds of all local authorities across England and Wales; a key milestone to better support child victims delivered through our National Referral Mechanism Transformation Programme.

The HO has invested a further £1.4 million this year to support the police modern slavery response, bringing the total investment to £15 million since 2016. This funding has helped to drive the increase in modern slavery investigations and operations.

And during our G7 presidency, G7 members agreed to joint action on forced labour in global supply chains and reaffirmed their commitment to upholding human rights and international labour standards. Modern slavery and human trafficking is a global problem and we continue to provide global leadership to tackle it.

We are committed to driving greater transparency in supply chains to ensure the private and public sectors use their leverage to tackle the risks of modern slavery in the goods and services they procure and provide. In March this year we launched the Government registry of modern slavery statements on www.gov.uk to enhance transparency. Statements covering over 21,000 organisations have now been added to the registry.

This Government continue to lead by example. We have continued to progress work on public procurement that we committed to in the world’s first Government modern slavery statement that we published in March 2020. And we will soon publish further detail of the actions Government Departments have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains.

We have continued to fund the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre to improve the evidence base on modern slavery and to help inform our policy response. And the Government have recently launched the Modern Slavery Prevention Fund to test and develop innovative approaches to preventing modern slavery in the first place, aiming to stop this harm before it starts.

Tomorrow, our landmark Nationality and Borders Bill will progress to Committee stage in the House of Commons, and the modern slavery measures in this Bill will seek to bring clarity for decision makers and victims, and maintain our commitment to ensuring victims of modern slavery are identified and supported as early as possible.

These actions demonstrate the Government’s relentless commitment to addressing this crime. We will soon provide further detail in our annual report on modern slavery.

But we are not complacent. The nature of modern slavery continues to evolve. We have committed to publish a new Government strategy for modern slavery next year to ensure we continue to lead the way with our partners in bringing an end to this crime.

[HCWS317]

Transport

The Train Driving Licences and Certificates (Amendment) Regulations 2022: Draft Legislation

As part of the Government’s EU transition programme, the Department for Transport, working with other Government Departments, has been negotiating bilateral arrangements with France to support the continuation of cross-border rail services, which provide significant economic and social benefit to the United Kingdom. The purpose of these draft regulations, which are being published today, is to provide for the continued recognition of EEA issued train driving licences (“European TDLs”) in the UK section of channel tunnel cross-border area, so that a bilateral agreement—currently agreed in principle at a technical level—for the mutual recognition of British and European TDLs will be able to be ratified once in place. Without making these regulations, and the proposed agreement they will implement, European TDLs would cease to be valid in the channel tunnel border area from 31 January.

These regulations will provide for the continued recognition of European TDLs only in the UK section of the channel tunnel fixed link up to Ashford International Station and Dollands Moor freight terminal in Kent. This will be reciprocated in France with respect to British train driving licences up to Fréthun freight and passenger terminals in Calais.

The draft regulations make the necessary amendments to domestic train driving licensing legislation to support the implementation of the proposed bilateral agreement. This will be achieved by amending the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010.

The agreement, and by extension these regulations, are fully compatible with our fundamental red lines in these negotiations, which are to support the continuation of cross-border services, which provide economic and social benefit to the UK, while conferring no role for the EU courts or the European Union Agency for Railways in UK territory and avoiding dynamic alignment with EU law.

The bilateral agreement has now been agreed in principle at a technical level and is expected to be ready for signature soon. Subject to approval by Parliament, the intention is that the regulations will be made and come into force after the bilateral agreement has been signed. In the unlikely event that France is not subsequently able to ratify the bilateral agreement, we will look to revoke the changes and recognition of European TDLs put in place by these regulations.

The regulations are being published in draft 28 days before they are due to be laid for affirmative debate. This is required under the paragraph 14 of Schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 because the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 were made using powers under the European Communities Act 1972.

The draft regulations and accompanying explanatory memorandum can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/amendments-to-train-driving-licensing-regulations.

[HCWS310]

Motor Vehicle Driving Licences

The need to tackle the HGV driver shortage is a top priority for my Department and the Government are committed to finding solutions to mitigate the effect and take urgent action. With 25 proactive actions taken by my Department to resolve the long-term HGV driver shortage in recent weeks, we are already seeing results, with a 300% increase in the number of HGV provisional licence applications. This is a real achievement, but it is important that we continue to build on this success.

The haulage sector has been experiencing a chronic shortage of HGV drivers worldwide for some time. In Great Britain the issue has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which meant that driver testing had to be suspended for much of 2020, delaying entry to the industry of potential drivers. In addition, there are longer-term issues surrounding attracting and retaining drivers to the industry such as: antisocial hours, poor diversity, relatively low pay and poor driver facilities.

The Department for Transport and other Government Departments have been working alongside the haulage industry to ensure that we attract, recruit, train and test drivers who want to enter the profession, including increasing capacity for testing candidate drivers through measures taken by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and prioritising licence applications within the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

Streamlining the HGV driving licence regime is an important step in getting drivers tested and into jobs quickly, relieving the pressure on the haulage industry from the driver shortage. On 10 September 2021, following public consultation, I announced a number of measures to simplify the HGV licencing regime and bring forward legislation that would remove the current staged process for getting an HGV licence in Great Britain.

It will mean that drivers will not need to hold a Category C—rigid lorry—licence before applying for a Category C + E—articulated lorry—licence, removing a stage in the process for those drivers who wish to acquire a category C + E licence. This measure will be addressed through a draft affirmative statutory instrument which is laid before Parliament today.

This legislation will help to make the process from learner to qualified driver quicker by removing certain steps and allow it to respond more rapidly to the acute need for drivers at the heavier end of the vehicle spectrum. High driving standards will be maintained through existing pre-test training and gaining on-road driving experience.

To make rapid progress on this, we are seeking to make use of the urgent procedure under paragraph 14(6) of Schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. As Secretary of State for Transport, I am of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, the requirements for the statutory instrument to be made after being published in draft together with a scrutiny statement should not apply.

Forgoing the 28-day publication period will allow earlier laying of the legislation than would have otherwise been possible and strengthen the steps we have already taken to increase testing capacity and ease supply chain issues as quickly as possible. Arrangements will be in place to ensure that the changes made by the legislation are operationally effective as soon as the legislation is in force.

Tackling the causes and effects of the HGV driver shortage is a top priority for my Department and the driving licence regime and its legislation must support our efforts. This as part of 25 measures we have taken so far, will help us to reduce the impact of this shortage on the people of Britain.

[HCWS311]

Updates to International Travel: Summary

As trailed in my oral statement on 20 September, as of the 4 October, we have:

Replaced the traffic light system with a single red list and simplified travel measures for eligible arrivals from the rest of the world based on passengers’ vaccination status.

Removed the requirement for eligible fully vaccinated passengers to take a pre-departure test, providing that they are arriving into England from a non-red list country or territory and have not been to a red list country or territory in the last ten days. The devolved Administrations have also aligned on this policy.

We have also made the follow changes in respect of international travel:

Lateral flow devices for arrival tests

From 4am on 24 October, arrivals into England who are considered fully vaccinated, along with most under 18s, who have not been in a red list country in the last 10 days will be able to take a lateral flow test on or before day 2 of their arrival, instead of a PCR test. This change will cut the costs of tests in time for travellers returning from half-term breaks and these tests can be booked from 22 October.

Passengers will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test result and send it back to their private testing provider for verification. Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and take a free NHS confirmatory PCR test.

Red list review

The Government have conducted the first review of the red list under our new and simplified system of international travel. As of 4am on Monday 11 October, 47 countries including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand were removed from the red list.

Given the success of the vaccination programme in the UK and the latest evidence of variants across the world, including the fact that the Delta variant is now dominant in many countries as it is in the UK, we have been able to significantly reduce the red list. However, we remain concerned about the presence of mu and lambda variants in the small number of countries we have kept on the red list. We will keep this list under review.

The following seven countries and territories now make up the red list:

Colombia

Dominican Republic

Ecuador

Haiti

Panama

Peru

Venezuela

All passengers arriving into England from a red list country, or those who have been in a red list country or territory in the last 10 days, will have to quarantine at a managed quarantine service facility for 10 days upon their arrival in England.

Expansion of the inbound vaccination policy

As of 4am on Monday 11 October, we also expanded our inbound vaccination policy to include eligible fully vaccinated passengers who have not been in a red list country in the ten days before their arrival into England, to the below countries:

Albania

Bahamas

Bangladesh

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Colombia

Egypt

Ghana

Grenada

Hong Kong

India

Jamaica

Jordan

Kenya

Kosovo

Maldives

Moldova

Morocco

Nigeria

North Macedonia

Oman

Pakistan

Serbia

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Vincent and The Grenadines

Turkey

Ukraine

Vietnam

In addition, we have expanded the policy to a further set of countries and territories which were removed from the red list at this review:

Brazil

Chile

Georgia

Indonesia

Montenegro

Namibia

The Philippines

South Africa

Thailand

Our inbound vaccination policy now covers over 100 countries and territories, and eligible fully vaccinated passengers will be treated the same as those vaccinated in the UK. Eligible fully vaccinated passengers who have not been in a red list country in the ten days before their arrival into England will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before their departure, a post-arrival test on day eight or self-isolate upon their arrival. This now includes UN staff and volunteers vaccinated as part of the United Nations vaccine rollout.

Clinical trial participants

From the end of October, we will also recognise as fully vaccinated people participating in covid-19 vaccine clinical trials from countries and territories including Japan, Canada, Australia and the EU, provided they can supply adequate proof of their participation. This is in recognition of their vital work in helping to tackle the virus and builds on the agreements made at the meetings with G7 counterparts that I chaired in May and September this year.

Acceptance of UK Pre-departure Test Certification via the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC)

As of 4 am on Monday 11 October, non-vaccinated passengers arriving into England are allowed to present proof of a negative pre-departure test via the EU Digital Covid Certificate, in either paper or digital formats.

Changes to FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has lifted its advice against all but essential travel for over 80 countries and territories. The change means people will be able to travel to a larger number of destinations with greater ease.

The FCDO will no longer advise against travel to non-red list countries on covid-19 grounds, except in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed. Many travel insurance companies use FCDO travel advice as a reference point in their policies, typically excluding cover for places where Government advise against essential travel. However, people will now be able to purchase travel insurance for a wider range of destinations across the globe.

The FCDO will continue to advise against all but essential travel for all red list countries and territories, where the risk to British travellers is “unacceptably high”.

While public health is a devolved matter, the Government work closely with the devolved Administrations on any changes to international travel and aim to ensure a whole-UK approach.

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Work and Pensions

Household Support Fund

Our £407 billion covid support package has protected jobs and livelihoods through the worst of the pandemic. With the UK economy rebounding, our plan for jobs is working, with the number of payrolled employees now above pre-pandemic levels and vacancies at record levels. Thanks to the formidable force of our jabs and jobs armies, and an expansion of the Government plan for jobs worth over £500 million, we are building back better—helping people to move into better paid work, progress, and increase their financial resilience. Our approach is boosting pay, prospects and prosperity for the long term.

However, we recognise that some people may require extra support over the winter as we enter the final stages of recovery, which is why vulnerable households across the country will now be able to access a new £500 million support fund to help them with essentials. The household support fund will provide £421 million to help vulnerable people in England and allocations to individual local authorities are set out below. The Barnett formula will apply in the usual way, with the devolved Administrations receiving almost £80 million (£41 million for the Scottish Government, £25 million for the Welsh Government and £14 million for the Nl Executive), so the fund totals £500 million.

The household support fund is available to councils in England from this month and will run over the winter to 31 March 2022. The funding will primarily be used to support households in need with food, energy and water costs, with flexibility to support with wider essentials. In cases of genuine emergency, where existing housing support schemes do not meet this exceptional need, the household support fund can also be used to support housing costs. At least 50% of the funding will be reserved for households with children and up to 50% is available for vulnerable households without children, including individuals. Local authorities have the flexibility to design their schemes to best suit local needs, within the parameters of the guidance.

This new fund will bolster existing measures that we have introduced for low-income households, such as increasing the national living wage, expanding the £220 million holiday activities and food programme, doubling free childcare for eligible working parents and increasing the value of healthy start vouchers by over a third. The household support fund also sits alongside the support available through the warm home discount, the cold weather payment scheme and the almost £30 billion that Government are projected to spend in 2020-21 on housing benefit and the housing element of universal credit.

The table for the household support fund indicative funding allocations per county councils/unitary authorities for the period 6 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, can be found at: Government launches £500m support for vulnerable households over winter - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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Plan for Jobs Extension

Our plan for jobs is working. With the UK economy rebounding strongly, the number of payrolled employees is now above pre-pandemic levels and vacancies are at record levels. Our unprecedented £407 billion support package protected jobs and livelihoods through the worst of the pandemic and the formidable force of our jabs and jobs armies means we are building back better—helping people move into decent, well-paid jobs and get the skills they need to succeed.

We are investing a further £500 million to expand the plan for jobs to build on its successes to help people of all ages fulfil their potential, in particular younger and older jobseekers and those on low incomes.

We are extending our kickstart scheme until the end of March 2022, which has so far helped over 85,000 young people take a confident first step in their careers. This will allow thousands more young people to benefit and enable employers a further opportunity to apply for funding for roles, especially those who were unable to take on young people while covid restrictions were in place. New applications for roles will be accepted until 17 December 2021, though employers will be expected to move quickly to fill their approved roles.

We are extending our youth offer to 2025. This will ensure that young people can continue to benefit from intensive work coach support through the youth employment programme, specialised youth employability coaches and over 135 youth hubs, which are already providing support to thousands of young people across England, Scotland and Wales. We are also expanding eligibility, with 16 and 17-year-olds able to join alongside 18 to 24-year-olds claiming universal credit and searching for work.

For older workers, who often face specific challenges remaining in and returning to work, we will be funding a new support package. This will ensure they receive more intensive, tailored support during their work search journey, as well as information and guidance on later life planning, helping them make informed choices and supporting them to plan their career and stay in, or return to work.

And for low-paid workers, from April 2022, we will bolster our work coach support for people on universal credit to help them boost their earnings through a focus on career progression advice, with jobcentre specialists working with local employers to identify opportunities for people to progress in work.

We are also extending JETS—our job entry targeted support scheme—to September 2022, which has so far supported over 175,000 people across the UK by providing light-touch employment support for six months within the first year of unemployment. And our job finding support (JFS) scheme will continue to prioritise support for those coming off furlough through online, tailored, one-to-one support for those newly unemployed and claiming universal credit, including recruitment advice from a skilled adviser, support with CVs, and mock interviews.

This expansion of our plan for jobs and jobcentre network is an example of our commitment to invest in skills and jobs, helping people to move into well-paid work, progress, earn more and increase financial resilience —boosting pay, prospects and prosperity.

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