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Written Statements

Volume 701: debated on Tuesday 19 October 2021

Written Statements

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Cabinet Office

Trade and Co-operation Agreement: Engagement with Civil Society and Business Organisations

My noble Friend, the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office (the right hon. Lord Frost CMG), has today made the following written statement:

As the trade and co-operation agreement (TCA) is a broad agreement that touches on the lives of people across the UK, the Government ran a public consultation on Government engagement with business and civil society groups on implementation of the TCA. The consultation was open for seven weeks from 9 August 2021 to 21 September 2021.

It focused on how to best use the domestic advisory group and civil society forum, the two formal engagement channels provided for in the TCA.

Today, after considering comments received from various stakeholders, including business associations and civil society groups, the Government are publishing their official response to the consultation in Parliament and on www.gov.uk.

The Government have also launched an expression of interest campaign to determine membership of the domestic advisory group and civil society forum. The expression of interest, published today on www.gov.uk, will run until 9 November.

We are preparing for the domestic advisory group to meet for the first time this year, shortly after the closure of the expression of interest campaign. The Government are in discussions with the European Commission to finalise the date for the first civil society forum. We are prepared for the forum to meet at the end of this year but acknowledge that it can take place in February 2022 if both parties agree.

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Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage

I am today providing an update on the UK’s CCUS cluster sequencing process which was launched in May this year. Carbon capture, usage and storage, or CCUS, will be essential to meeting our net zero ambitions and will be an exciting new industry to capture the carbon we continue to emit and revitalise the birthplaces of the first industrial revolution.

The Prime Minister’s ten-point plan established a commitment to deploy CCUS in a minimum of two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and four by 2030 at the latest. Our aim is to use CCUS technology to capture and store 20 to 30 MtCO2 per year by 2030, forming the foundations for future investment and potential export opportunities. CCUS will be crucial for industrial decarbonisation, low-carbon power, engineered greenhouse gas removal technologies and delivering our 5GW by 2030 low-carbon hydrogen production ambition.

Our cluster sequencing process, which has, through the CCS infrastructure fund, £1 billion to provide industry with the certainty required to deploy CCUS at pace and at scale, has completed the first phase of the evaluation of the five cluster submissions received by my Department.

I am today confirming that the Hynet and East Coast clusters have been confirmed as Track 1 clusters for the mid-2020s and will be taken forward into Track 1 negotiations. If the clusters represent value for money for the consumer and the taxpayer then subject to final decisions of Ministers, they will receive support under the Government’s CCUS programme. We are also announcing the Scottish cluster as a reserve cluster if a back-up is needed. A reserve cluster is one which met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria. As such, we will continue to engage with the Scottish Cluster throughout phase 2 of the sequencing process, to ensure it can continue its development and planning. This means that if Government choose to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track 1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead.

Deploying CCUS will be a significant undertaking; these are new major infrastructure projects for a new sector of the economy and carry with them significant risks to deliver by the mid-2020s. Government will continue to play a role in providing long-term certainty to these projects to manage these risks and bring forward the UK’s first CCUS clusters.

We remain committed to helping all industrial clusters to decarbonise as we work to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and we are clear that CCUS will continue to play a key role in this process. Consequently, the Government continue to be committed to Track 2 enabling 10Mtpa capacity operational by 2030. This puts these places—Teesside, the Humber, Merseyside, north Wales and the north-east of Scotland—among the potential early super-places which will be transformed over the next decade.

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Treasury

Finance Bill 2021-22

The Finance Bill will be published on 4 November. Explanatory notes on the Bill will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and placed in the Libraries of both Houses on that day. Copies of the explanatory notes will also be available on gov.uk.

As usual, a full copy of the Budget resolutions will be made available after the Chancellor’s Budget statement on 27 October. This includes resolutions made under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968 for those measures that are expected to come into effect ahead of Finance Bill Royal Assent.

In line with the approach to tax policy making set out in the Government’s documents “Tax policy making: a new approach”, published in 2010, and “The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process”, published in 2017, the Government published draft legislation for Finance Bill 2021-22 on 20 July 2021, which is available on gov.uk. Further legislation was also published on 20 and 21 September 2021. The Government remain committed to legislating for these measures, subject to confirmation at Budget in the usual way.

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Defence

Armed Forces Pay

I am today announcing the Government’s decision on pay for the armed forces for 2021-22.

The Government recognise that public sector workers play a vital role in the running of our public services, including in their remarkable commitment to keeping the public safe in the continuing fight against covid-19.

The Government received the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) report on 2021 pay for service personnel up to and including one-star rank on 21 July 2021. This has been laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk.

The Government value the independent expertise and insight of AFPRB and takes on board the useful advice and principles set out in response to the Government’s recommendations outlined in the report.

As set out at the spending review (2020), there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22. This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, while the public sector was largely shielded from these effects. This approach will protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid, with those earning less than £24,000—full-time equivalent—receiving a minimum £250 increase. The pause ensures we can get the public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented government spending on the response to covid-19.

The AFPRB has recommended the following:

a £250 uplift for all members of the armed forces earning less than £24,000, where X-Factor is excluded from this salary calculation;

an increase in accommodation charges of 1.7% in line with the increase in the actual rents for housing component of CPI, not to be backdated; and

other targeted eligibility changes to some categories of recruitment and retention payment.

The Government accept the AFRPB’s recommendations on accommodation charges and recruitment and retention payments in full. However, the Government do not accept the AFPRB’s recommendation to exclude X-Factor from the low earner salary calculation as X-Factor is a component of the overall military salary. Instead the Government will implement a £250 pay uplift for all regular and reserve service personnel earning less than the equivalent of £24,000 per year inclusive of X-Factor. This rise will be implemented in November 2021 salaries, and be backdated to 1 April 2021. Service personnel have also continued to have access to annual incremental progression where appropriate.

The Government recognise that there is a further discussion to be had over the use of the X-Factor for pay and salary comparability work. The armed forces reward and incentivisation review, recently announced in the integrated review’s “Defence in a Competitive Age” Command Paper, along with the AFPRB’s planned review of X-Factor in the 2023 pay round, will provide the opportunities to explore this topic in much greater depth.

The year 2021-22 has seen no waning in the important outputs of our Armed Forces. From continuing to support the national response to coronavirus, to the exceptional work of all those involved in the Afghanistan evacuations, all while maintaining our critical national defence outputs. It is for this reason I am pleased that, despite the unprecedented impact the pandemic has had on the nation’s finances, the Government have been able to act in the spirit of the AFPRB’s recommendations and demonstrate their commitment to looking after those who look after us.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Soil Health Action Plan for England

This statement follows the recent announcement made by my noble Friend Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park on 8 September 2021 on the Government’s commitment to publish a new soil health action plan for England and to outline further details on this upcoming plan.

Soil is a rich ecosystem and the soil health action plan will take a natural capital approach to improving its health by considering the numerous biological, chemical and physical attributes of soil. It will support sustainable management of soil by bringing together a range of actions to improve and protect the health of our soil. This will include delivering key ecosystem services and wider benefits and outcomes such as increased biodiversity, carbon storage, food production and flood mitigation. It will also provide certainty to farmers and land managers around the acceptable condition of all soil types.

The action plan will ensure England’s soil is sustainably managed by 2030 demonstrating leadership in delivering a coherent plan for soil health. It will focus on preventing soil degradation and improving soil health, and look at how land management practices and planning can be adapted to help protect soil from the impact of climate change.

The sustainable farming incentive is a key focus of the action plan and will support sustainable approaches to farm husbandry that deliver for the environment and improve soil health. This could include the introduction of herbal leys, and the use of grass-legume mixtures or cover crops. Healthy soil can also support farm productivity.

The action plan will include the development of a healthy soil indicator, soil structure monitoring methodology and a soil health monitoring scheme to help land managers and farmers track the health of our soil over time and the impact of their management practices. These actions will create a robust baseline from which we can monitor improvements in soil health, identify trends and support informed policy decisions, including any future environmental targets for soil health. The action plan will also outline how soil health improvements will help deliver against our wider environmental targets, including our historic 2030 target to halt the decline in species abundance.

The soil health action plan for England will provide a single, strategic approach to achieving these multiple outcomes and driving improved soil health across England, and we currently intend to consult on the framework next spring.

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Home Department

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: Investigation Reports

On 27 July 2021, 2 September 2021 and today, 19 October 2021, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published three of its investigation reports.

The reports relate to IICSA’s investigations into the extent of any institutional failures to protect children in the care of Lambeth Council from sexual abuse and exploitation as well as reporting on its investigation into child protection in religious organisations and settings. Today, it has also published a report regarding the institutional responses to allegations involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone, QC.

I pay tribute to the strength and courage of the victims and survivors who have shared their experiences to ensure the inquiry can deliver its vital work.

Government will review these reports and consider how to respond to their content in due course. I would like to thank Professor Alexis Jay and her panel for their continued work to uncover the truth, identify what went wrong in the past and to learn the lessons for the future.

I have today laid these reports before the House and they will also be published on www.gov.uk.

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Justice

Prison Staff Pay Award

I am today announcing the Government’s decision on pay awards for prison staff.

The Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) has made its recommendations for the 2021-22 pay award. The Government value the independent expertise and insight of the PSPRB and take on board the advice. Prison staff make an essential contribution to public service and their ongoing efforts, particularly in the challenging context of the covid-19 pandemic, have been greatly appreciated.

As such, I am today announcing that we are accepting in full the recommendations made by the review body for implementation in this financial year. For clarity these are recommendations 2, 3 and 4 on which the Government provided evidence to the PSPRB.

Accepting recommendations 2, 3 and 4 will deliver a pay rise for over half of our prison service staff, according to internal estimates. This pay award will be paid this autumn and will be backdated to 1 April 2021.

This award reflects the Government’s original proposals to the PSPRB which were developed in the context of the public sector pay pause for 2021-22, announced at the spending review (2020). The pay pause has enabled Government to protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid. The pay pause aims to assist in getting public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented Government spending on the response to covid-19.

The PSPRB recommended that those with the lowest pay should be uplifted by £250. This means that all prison staff with a basic salary below £24,000 (on a full-time equivalent basis) should receive a consolidated pay award of £250. The Government have accepted this recommendation, recommendation 2, in full.

The Government have also accepted recommendations 3 and 4, meaning that eligible prison staff who have not reached the top of their pay band will also continue to receive progression pay of up to 5%. Of this group, some of our lowest paid staff are also eligible for the £250 uplift under recommendation 2.

The PSPRB also made a further two recommendations, recommendations 1 and 5, which are not applicable to the current financial year. These recommendations concern matters which fall outside of the PSPRB’s remit for the 2021-22 pay round. In the circumstances, while the Government are grateful for these additional recommendations, there is no obligation on the Government to formally respond, but we will consider them further.

The report has been laid before Parliament today and a copy is available as an attachment online. I am grateful to the chair and members of the review body for its report.

Attachments can be viewed online at: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-10-19/HCWS331.

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Transport

Draft Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

I have today published as a draft the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 and an accompanying draft explanatory memorandum. The draft regulations amend the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/ 2864), the “1999 regulations”.

This statutory instrument has two purposes. The first is to permit drivers who passed certain driving tests using a vehicle with automatic transmission to acquire the manual entitlement for that sub-category, provided that they already hold a manual licence for another category, such as a car. This brings licence upgrades for sub-categories, including the car and trailer combination, medium sized lorries and minibuses, together with their trailer towing entitlements, into line with the full lorry and bus or coach categories.

The second purpose of this SI is to reduce the engine size of motorcycles that can be used by candidates taking their A2 category test. This is for medium sized motorcycles that have an engine power up to 35KW. Candidates will be able to take their A2 test on a wider range of motorcycles that is more representative of the A2 class.

These are sensible and pragmatic changes and received widespread support when a public consultation was held.

Through this instrument the Government are modernising the regulations in the light of developments in engine technology, especially the trend towards electric vehicles, which almost always have automatic or semi-automatic transmission, and the increasing power produced by relatively small motorcycle engines.

The shortage of qualified lorry drivers is a matter of national importance. Although the reduction in the number of medium sized lorry tests resulting from this instrument is likely to be small, it will help to ease test demand. It should also help riders pass the A2 motorcycle test first time because they will be able to use a motorcycle that they are more comfortable and confident riding.

The instrument is being published in draft for 28 days before being laid for affirmative debate. This is required under paragraph 14 of schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 because part of the text in the 1999 regulations which the draft regulations amend includes amendments previously made under the European Communities Act 1972. The amendments to the 1999 regulations which were introduced under the European Communities Act were made by the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (the “2012 regulations”) and the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (the “2014 regulations”). Further details are contained in the annex to the draft explanatory memorandum on www.gov.uk.

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New Railway Line: Bristol to Portishead

I have been asked by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, to make this written ministerial statement. This statement concerns the application made by North Somerset District Council under the Planning Act 2008 for the construction of a new railway on the trackbed on the former branch line from Bristol to Portishead.

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a statement to the Houses of Parliament announcing the new deadline. The Secretary of State received the examining authority’s report on the Portishead branch line-MetroWest phase 1 development consent order application on 19 July 2021 and the current deadline for a decision was 19 October 2021.

The deadline for the decision is to be extended to 19 April 2022—an extension of six months—to allow further consideration of environmental matters.

The decision to set new deadlines is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to grant development consent for the above application.

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