Tuesday 26 April 2022
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Register of Overseas Entities
My noble Friend Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility) has today made the following statement:
I welcome the opportunity to update Parliament on the progress the Government are making implementing the register of overseas entities, six weeks after the expedited Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 received Royal Assent.
The Act sets out measures to tackle economic crime, by creating a register of the beneficial owners of overseas entities which own or buy property in the UK, as well as measures on unexplained wealth orders and sanctions.
Since the legislation received Royal Assent, the Government have been working at pace to ensure the register is in place as soon as reasonably practicable. There are two main aspects to this work—the technical development of the register itself and the establishment of the appropriate legal framework through secondary legislation. An implementation group comprising officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Companies House and the UK Land Registries has been established and is driving forward delivery across both aspects.
On developing the register, Companies House digital design teams are making strong progress in building the register for operational readiness. They have been working at pace alongside the three land registries to have systems and processes in place to identify and capture information on overseas entities who buy, sell or transfer property in the UK. This work will ensure that a first phase of the register can be operational as soon as possible capturing new transactions from the moment the register is live, enabling those in scope already owning land in the UK to register, and capturing disposals of assets between 28 February 2022 and the end of the six-month transitional period. This important amendment introduced during passage of the Act will ensure we have information on any relevant property sales taking place before the register is operational. Further steps will be taken over the course of the transitional period to enhance the functionality of the register.
On legislation, as set out in the Act, a number of important aspects of the register need to be defined through secondary legislation before the register can come into force. These include technical details of verification requirements to ensure the register is sufficiently robust; the protection regime for beneficial owners and managing officers that wish to have their details protected from public disclosure due to a risk of serious harm or violence; and mandating the digital delivery of information to Companies House.
In the weeks since Royal Assent, good progress has been made on finalising the policy on these areas of detail. These details are vital to get right if the register is to work as intended. Engagement with expert stakeholders, such as the UK’s law societies, on technical aspects of the register and the supporting legislation is ongoing and we welcome their constructive input to ensure the register works as intended across the UK. Drafting the actual regulations and accompanying guidance will begin imminently and we will lay the regulations for parliamentary scrutiny as soon as possible.
Public Bodies Reform
I am pleased to announce that, today, we are publishing guidance documents that will underpin a new series of public body reviews.
The review programme and associated guidance delivers against the commitments made in the declaration on government reform to increase the effectiveness of arm’s length bodies, making government work better for the citizens it serves.
Public bodies are a critical delivery arm of the Government. They work in tandem with their Departments to provide services to the public. The pandemic has considerably stretched public bodies. There have been some outstanding success stories, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs delivery of the furlough scheme, or the vaccination programme through the national health service.
The fiscal challenge this country faces is the greatest since the second world war. Arm’s length bodies, which are classified as such by the Cabinet Office, now spend over £220 billion a year, and employ over 300,000 people. The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee published reports last year demonstrating the need for the centre of Government to go further in supporting public bodies to succeed.
This is why Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Cabinet Office established the public bodies reform programme last year. Its mission is for accountable, efficient and effective public bodies that are fit to deliver the Government’s priorities. This will mean decision making is restored to democratically accountable Ministers, a reduced burden on the taxpayer and greater focus on every pound spent by public bodies. It is expected that the average public body review delivers efficiency savings of at least 5%.
Public body reviews
The public bodies reform programme has developed new guidance documents to provide information to sponsor Departments, public bodies, review teams and lead reviewers on the undertaking of the reviews of public bodies. The guidance is built on lessons learnt from previous review programmes and has been developed with the understanding that the public body landscape is varied.
Departments will lead these reviews. The Government are clear that scarce resources should be focused where they are needed most, so it will be for Departments to prioritise which bodies are reviewed and when. By undertaking reviews we can reassure the public that the Government are taking every possible step to level up our country, reduce the burden on the public purse and deliver first in class public services.
The guidance documents will be available on gov.uk. We will seek to review and update the guidance each year.
Armed Forces Incentivisation Review
I am pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has approved the appointment of Mr Rick Haythornthwaite to chair an independent review of our service personnel’s terms and conditions.
The review, which will be known as the Haythornthwaite review of armed forces incentivisation, is a commitment published in the Defence Command Paper (March 2021). It aims to modernise financial and non-financial elements of the offer to service personnel so that these are commensurate with the ways in which the armed forces are expected to change and operate in future, as set out in the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. By modernising both elements of the offer, the review aims to improve how defence recruits, incentivises and retains the skills it requires, and to better reflect people’s changing expectations of work and ways of living in the 21st century. The review is expected to conclude by spring 2023, when a report will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Defence, who will determine the Government response in due course.
Rick has established an impressive executive and non-executive career across a diverse range of businesses within the private and third sectors. He has a variety of experience as a chair and a highly tuned strategic perspective. I look forward to working closely with him on his review.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Media Policy Update
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has today written to Newsquest Media Group and Archant Community Media, to inform them that I am “minded to” issue an intervention notice. This relates to concerns I have that there may be public interest considerations—as set out in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002—that are relevant to the recent acquisition of Archant Media by Newsquest Media and that these concerns warrant further investigation.
A “minded to” letter has therefore been issued to the parties on one public interest ground specified in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002:
(2B) The need for, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable, a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.
It is important to note that I have not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage. In line with the statutory guidance on media mergers, the “minded to” letter invites further representations in writing from the parties and gives them until 29 April to respond. I will then make my final decision, which needs to be made on a quasi-judicial basis, on whether to issue an intervention notice.
If I decide to issue an intervention notice, the next stage would be for Ofcom to assess and report to me on the public interest concerns and for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to assess and report to me on whether a relevant merger situation has been created and any impact this may have on competition. Following these reports, I will decide whether to refer the matter for a more detailed investigation by the CMA under section 45 of the Enterprise Act 2002.
I will keep Parliament updated on progress with this media merger case.
Judicial Conduct Investigations Office Annual Report 2020-21
With the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, I will today publish the 15th annual report of the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).
The JCIO supports the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor in our joint statutory responsibility for judicial discipline.
The judiciary comprises approximately 21,000 individuals serving across a range of jurisdictions. Over the past year, the JCIO received 1,236 complaints against judicial office-holders. Fifty-three investigations resulted in disciplinary action.
I have placed copies of the report in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available online at: https://www.complaints.judicialconduct.gov.uk/reportsandpublications/.
Merchant Shipping (High Speed Craft) Regulations 2022
I have today published as a draft the Merchant Shipping (High Speed Craft) Regulations 2022, along with an accompanying draft explanatory memorandum. The draft regulations revoke and replace the Merchant Shipping (High Speed Craft) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/302) and the instruments that amend them and implement the most up-to-date requirements of the international convention for the safety of life at sea, 1974 (the convention), relating to safety measures for high-speed craft.
The draft regulations are being published for 28 days. Following the conclusion of this period, and once any observations on the draft regulations have been taken into account, they will be laid for approval by each House of Parliament. This procedure is required under paragraph 14 of schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 because these regulations revoke an instrument, the Merchant Shipping (High Speed Craft) Regulations 2004, that was made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. Further details are contained in the annex to the draft explanatory memorandum.
The draft regulations implement requirements for high- speed craft in chapter X of the annex to the convention, including previously unimplemented requirements to carry out and record entry and rescue drills in enclosed spaces, and to open up the global distress satellite system provider market.
The updated measures in chapter X are in force internationally, but the measures must also be incorporated into our national legislation to enable them to be enforced effectively, most notably to discourage non-compliance by non-UK flagged ships in UK waters, which would be detrimental to the safety of shipping in UK coastal areas. The draft regulations will ensure that UK law includes increased safety standards for high-speed craft and seafarers on UK flagged high-speed and non-UK flagged high-speed operating in UK waters by implementing updates to improve high-speed craft safety.
The draft regulations also include an ambulatory reference provision to ensure that future amendments to the convention referred to in the draft regulations will automatically become UK law when they enter into force internationally. As described in the accompanying draft explanatory memorandum, a ministerial statement will be provided to both Houses of Parliament ahead of any amendment to chapter X, or other provision, of the convention referenced in the draft regulations, prior to it coming into force in UK law by way of the ambulatory reference provision.