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Written Statements

Volume 714: debated on Tuesday 17 May 2022

Written Statements

Tuesday 17 May 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Contingent Liability: Energy Supply Company Special Administration Regime

Today I will lay before Parliament a departmental minute describing a contingent liability arising from the issuance of a letter of credit for the energy administrators acting in the special administration regime for Bulb Energy Ltd (“Bulb”). This letter of credit replaces a previous one originally provided in December, which was extended in February and March, and which has now expired.

It is normal practice when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability of £300,000 and above, for which there is no specific statutory authority, for the Department concerned to present Parliament with a minute giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances.

I regret that, as a result of continued negotiations with the counterparty and the reduced parliamentary sitting period, I have not followed the usual notification timelines to allow the full 14-day consideration period of these issues in advance of issuing the letter of credit.

Bulb entered the energy supply company special administration regime on 24 November 2021. Energy administrators were appointed by court to achieve the statutory objective of continuing energy supplies at the lowest reasonable practicable cost until such time as it becomes unnecessary for the special administration to remain in force for that purpose.

My Department has agreed to provide a facility to the energy administrators, with a letter of credit issued, with my approval, to guarantee such contract, code, licence, or other document obligations of the company consistent with the special administration’s statutory objective. I will update the House if any letters of credit are drawn against.

The legal basis for a letter of credit is section 165 of the Energy Act 2004, as applied and modified by section 96 of the Energy Act 2011.

HM Treasury has approved the arrangements in principle.

[HCWS33]

Ending BEIS ODA Spending in China

As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, China plays a critical role in addressing many of the world’s most urgent challenges such as tackling climate change and preventing antimicrobial resistance. It is important that we continue to work with China in these areas, and BEIS will build on our collaboration to date with China to address those key global challenges together, as set out in the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.

However, BEIS is bringing its bilateral official development assistance (ODA) funding in China to an end.

BEIS will not be using ODA funding to support research and innovation partnerships with China as we have previously done through ODA vehicles, such as the Newton fund and global challenges research fund. Existing ODA-funded activity with China through these will finish by the end of financial year 2022-23. The technical assistance we have provided through our UK partnering for accelerated climate transitions programme (UK PACT) is also no longer from our ODA from the end of financial year 2021-22 and, instead, technical assistance to China on climate change issues will be smaller in scale and use non-ODA sources.

[HCWS32]

Home Department

Public Consultation: Extraction of Information from Electronic Devices Code of Practice

Following the successful passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, I am pleased to announce that today I am launching a public consultation on the draft code of practice for the extraction of information from electronic devices.

It is vital that victims feel confident in coming forward to report crime, but we know that fear of intrusive demands for information can deter victims from reporting offences or from continuing to support investigations. The powers in chapter 3 of part 2 of the Act therefore strengthen the law to ensure that there is a consistent approach to requesting information from phones and other electronic devices which puts respect for an individual’s privacy at the centre of every investigation.

This code of practice will be a vital tool in ensuring that all use of these powers is lawful and that the powers are used only where it is necessary and proportionate. The draft code makes it clear that the powers must be used only as a last resort. This will ensure that all those who are asked to voluntarily provide their devices and give agreement to the extraction of information, are given all the necessary information to enable them to make the decision that is right for them.

All authorised persons have a duty to have regard to the code when exercising, or deciding whether to exercise, the power. The code will also be admissible in evidence in criminal or civil proceedings and failure to act in accordance with it may be taken into account by the court.

Those who have an interest in the use of these powers and the protection of privacy for complainants are strongly encouraged to respond to the consultation, and I welcome the views of all colleagues on this important guidance.

I will arrange for a copy of the consultation and draft code to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS31]

Istanbul Convention: Ratification

Tackling violence against women and girls—VAWG—is a Government priority and these crimes have no place in our society. Last July, we published our new cross-Government “Tackling violence against women and girls strategy” to help ensure that women and girls are safe everywhere—at home, online and on the streets. We are committed to radically changing how we end VAWG with a whole-system approach focusing on prioritising prevention, supporting survivors and pursuing perpetrators. And in March we published the first ever dedicated and complementary “Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan”, which seeks to transform the whole of society’s response to domestic abuse.

The Council of Europe convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as the Istanbul convention, is a gold-standard international charter for the protection of women and girls. This Government were proud to sign it in 2012, to signal our strong commitment to tackling VAWG. The Government have always remained committed to ratifying the convention and since signing it we have worked to significantly strengthen our legislative framework and have introduced a wide range of tools to protect victims better. Our measures to protect women and girls from violence are some of the most robust in the world, and in some respects we go further than the convention requires.

The Government are now satisfied that they have the legislative framework and other necessary measures in place to meet the requirements of the convention. I am therefore now pleased to confirm, as required by section 1(3)(a) of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017, that the UK is compliant with the Istanbul convention and in a position to seek Parliament’s approval to ratify it. Ratification will send a strong message to women and girls in this country that the Government are committed to ensuring their safety and to ending VAWG. It will also send an equally strong message to our partners internationally which confirms that the UK remains at the forefront of tackling VAWG across the globe.

I am pleased also to confirm that the Government are today laying the text of the Istanbul convention in the form of a Command Paper in both Houses, alongside an explanatory memorandum. If no objections are raised to ratification of the convention in either House within the next 21 joint sitting days, the Government will arrange to deposit their instrument of ratification. In line with the requirement under section 1(3)(b) of the 2017 Act, I can therefore confirm that I would expect the UK to have ratified the convention by 31 July 2022.

Article 78(2) of the convention allows countries to make a reservation on certain provisions of the convention. This means that the country will not be bound by that particular provision. The Government have decided to make reservations on two of those provisions. We will be applying a reservation on part of article 44, which relates to the prosecution of UK residents for committing acts in another country which are crimes in UK law but not under the law of that other country, and which reflects the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. We will also be applying a reservation on article 59, which relates to migrant victims, to enable us to ratify the convention before the evaluation of the Support for Migrant Victims scheme concludes, at which point we will consider the policy issues involved substantively, and whether that reservation should continue. Further detail on the reservations is contained within the explanatory memorandum published today.

I know that ratifying this convention will send a strong message about the UK’s commitment to tackling domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, and will help us to continue to lead the way in tackling these terrible crimes.

[HCWS34]

Transport

Motoring Agencies: Business Plans 2022-23

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton), has made the following ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce the publication of the 2022-23 business plans for the Department for Transport’s Motoring Agencies—the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

The business plans set out:

the key business priorities that each agency will deliver and any significant changes they plan to make to their services, and;

the key performance indicators, by which their performance will be assessed.

These plans allow service users and members of the public to understand the agencies’ plans for delivering their key services, progressing their transformation programmes, and managing their finances.

The business plans will be available electronically on www.gov.uk and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS30]