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Written Statements

Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

Written Statements

Monday 27 June 2022

Treasury

AML/CFT Regulatory and Supervisory Regime: Review

On Friday 24 June, I published a review of the UK’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory and supervisory regime. This included statutory post-implementation reviews for the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Transfer of Funds (Information of the Payer) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/692) and the Oversight of Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Supervision Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/1301) and the review of the UK’s AML/CFT regulatory and supervisory regime; a forward looking report which includes the Government’s response to the call for evidence launched last year.

Taken together, these three documents make a thorough assessment of the UK’s money laundering controls and outline areas of focus going forward, including commitment from the Government to consult on some key proposals for change.

Tackling economic crime and illicit finance remains a priority for this Government, to protect the UK economy and fight crime on a domestic and international level.

Alongside the review the Government have continued to deliver progress across their economic crime agenda, including the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, which introduces key reforms to beneficial ownership registers and enhances the unexplained wealth orders and sanctions regimes. On 15 June, HM Treasury also laid the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 before Parliament under the draft affirmative procedure. This legislation makes some time-sensitive updates to the Money Laundering Regulations, which are required to ensure that the UK continues to meet international standards, while also strengthening and ensuring clarity on how the UK’s anti-money laundering regime operates.

The review published on Friday proposes further areas of possible reform, most notably in how firms are supervised for anti-money laundering purposes where, despite progress since 2017, there is further to go to ensure that supervision is effective and consistent across all regulated firms. The review also commits to consult on some smaller changes to the regulations, where black-and-white inherited EU rules prevent the UK from taking a more risk-based approach to prevention. This includes looking at the enhanced due diligence required for domestic politically exposed persons. If the risks around domestic PEPs are found to be sufficiently low, the Government will consider changing the MLRs such that EDD and the additional requirements in Regulation 35 are not automatically required on domestic PEPs, but instead only triggered when there are other high-risk factors also present.

This review represents only part of the cross-cutting action that the Government are taking to progress the economic crime agenda, including the second public-private economic crime plan which is due to be published later this year and the upcoming Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which will reform Companies House to further crack down on abuse of corporate structures.

The review is published on: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-the-uks-amlcft-regulatory-and-supervisory-regime.

The post-implementation reviews will also be published alongside the regulations on Legislation.gov.uk.

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Health and Social Care

Covid-19 Update

As part of our continued commitment to open up travel, on 23 June, the Government extended the International NHS covid pass letter service to allow children aged five to 11 years to get an International NHS covid pass following a positive NHS PCR test or equivalent within the past 180 days—recovery status. Prior to 23 June, children aged five to 11 could only access an international NHS covid pass if they had received a full primary course of covid-19 vaccination.

Extending access to the International NHS covid pass to children aged five to 11 with recovery status will save families the cost of testing in countries where this is required for foreign travel and ensures that young children are able to provide proof of their covid-19 status on a par with the rest of the population. The UK has no covid certification requirements and this is to support outbound travel to a variety of countries that still have requirements.

A person with parental responsibility for the child—such as the parent or guardian—will be able to request the letter online via the NHS website or by calling 119. The letter will only be sent to the address on the child’s GP record.

This service is now available for children aged five to 11 resident in England and Wales. A letter based on recovery status is not available in the Isle of Man. In Northern Ireland, parents or guardians of children aged five to 11 have been able to request a digital or printed covid certificate on behalf of a dependant since January 2022. The COVIDCert NI app was updated in March 2022, to allow all those under 16 to upload the certificate—requested on their behalf—to display on the app. Anyone under 16 who tested positive for covid through an NHS PCR test prior to 1 May is able to request a recovery certificate in Scotland by phoning the covid status helpline on: 0808 196 8565.

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Medical Devices Regulation: Consultation Response

Leaving the European Union has provided a unique opportunity for the United Kingdom to improve the medical device regulatory regime and exercise our new powers as a sovereign regulator, creating a world-leading regime that prioritises patient safety while supporting innovation within the UK MedTech sector. To deliver this ambition and gather views of patients, industry and the healthcare sector, the Government published a consultation on the future UK medical device regulations, “Consultation on the future regulation of medical devices in the United Kingdom”, which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-future-regulation-of-medical-devices-in-the-united-kingdom, on 16 September 2021. We received 900 responses and I am grateful to all those who have taken the time to respond to the consultation.

Officials at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have analysed the consultation responses and have worked with officials within my Department and the Office of Life Sciences to develop the Government response. The response outlines changes that will support innovation within the UK’s life sciences sector and access to medical devices, for example through improving the regulation of novel and growing areas such as artificial intelligence and offering alternative routes to market. This will help to facilitate greater opportunities for small and medium enterprises to capture real world evidence to support the conformity assessment process with the proportionate regulatory oversight, an opportunity which has not existed previously.

The Government are committed to cementing our status as a science superpower by making the UK the leading global hub for life sciences, and the response to the public consultation outlines polices that will help to achieve this.

As part of this consultation, the MHRA received strong support for proposals that will improve patient safety and safeguard public health, for example, through modernising the scope and classification rules of medical devices to deliver improvements in the safety of all medical devices. It also raised points around identified inequities within clinical investigations. I appointed Dame Margaret Whitehead to conduct a review into the potential issues related to equity in the design and use of medical devices and I am pleased that the MHRA will look to address these points within the regulations and supplementary guidance to support this review.

The new transitional measures outlined in the response will be implemented to support continued access to safe medical devices to UK patients, whilst providing time for industry and the healthcare sector to prepare for the transition. In fact, the UK Government are committed to building the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking as a global exemplar, and it is vital that the necessary building blocks are in place to ensure that the UK market remains an attractive and favourable place to innovate and do business for the benefit of patients and carers. A phased transition into the new regime is critical to its success.

The Government’s response to the consultation will be published on gov.uk today and I will deposit a copy of the response in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Draft Mental Health Bill

I have published the draft Mental Health Bill today for pre-legislative scrutiny and delivered an oral statement to the house.

The draft Bill will enable the Government to deliver on two manifesto commitments:

to ensure that patients suffering from mental health conditions have greater control over their treatment and receive the dignity and respect they deserve; and,

to make it easier for people with learning disabilities and autism to be discharged from hospital

It contains provisions to increase the autonomy and dignity of people who need inpatient support for their mental health, including people subject to the criminal justice system. These reforms are intended to benefit everyone who may be subject to the Mental Health Act, and to address the racial disparities associated with its use.

The draft Bill is also intended to limit the extent to which people with learning disability and autistic people may be made subject to the Mental Health Act, while ensuring adequate community care and support is available for people with these conditions.

The draft Bill heralds a major step change in the rights available to people who may be made subject to the Act. Furthermore, they represent a significant step forward in the Government’s work to respond to the recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Act.

The draft Bill will cover England and Wales.

We look forward to working openly with the committee to ensure that this important Bill is developed with input from stakeholders and all interested parties. This is a once in a generation chance to develop the Mental Health Act to ensure the autonomy and dignity of people who need inpatient support for their mental health.

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Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Contingent Liability: EWS1 Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme

On 10 February 2021, the Department announced a Government-backed professional indemnity insurance (PII) scheme for competent fire safety professionals undertaking EWS1 assessments.

Today, I am very pleased to announce that under new arrangements, we will provide state-backing to a selected insurer who will be administering insurance policies to qualified professionals. The scheme will launch in September 2022, enabling competent professionals to access the indemnity cover they need to undertake external wall assessments.

To offer EWS1 professional indemnity insurance to competent assessors, my department must accept an unlimited contingent liability, with the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) making a best estimate of expected losses as circa £100 million.

The contingent liability being claimed is unlimited because there is no theoretical cap on the size of claims that could be made. However, the risk is limited by the number of buildings, and number of EWS1 assessments. To further mitigate this risk, we will only be offering professional indemnity insurance cover for accredited professionals who have the requisite training, expertise and knowledge to undertake the EWS1 assessment. In addition, completed EWS1 assessments will be subject to an audit process to ensure they are being completed accurately with due process being followed.

The cost of the scheme, including the expected losses, will be offset in full through premiums: EWS1 assessors will be required to purchase PII policies for any EWS1 assessments they complete, with the funds gathered being accumulated and subsequently used to pay out any insurance claims successfully made against the assessors. In this way, the scheme will operate as fiscally neutral for Government.

The Treasury has approved the proposal. My department will keep Parliament informed of any expected changes to this contingent liability on a regular basis.

A departmental minute has been laid in the House of Commons providing more detail on this contingent liability.

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Transport

Transport for London Funding Settlement: Extension

Following my statement to the House on 25 February, I am updating the House on a short extension of the current Transport for London (TfL) funding settlement that was due to expire on 24 June 2022, by 19 days, to 13 July. This has been agreed by the Mayor of London.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have supported the transport network in London with nearly £5 billion funding through extraordinary funding settlements for Transport for London. We have recognised the reliance of London’s transport network on fare revenue, and Government continue our commitment to mitigating loss of fare revenue because of the pandemic.

This extension to the current funding settlement is necessary in part due to the unsatisfactory progress made by TfL on its conditions, including pensions. Resolving these issues is an integral part of setting TfL on the path to financial sustainability, and Government stand ready to engage constructively to reach a resolution. This extension ensures that they receive due attention, as well as allowing time for both sides to consider a longer-term capital settlement.

Government are committed to supporting London’s transport network as we have since the start of the pandemic, and is in discussions with TfL on a longer-term settlement. By rolling over the provisions of the existing agreement, the extension provides continued support to Transport for London and certainty to Londoners while we work with Transport for London on their emergency funding needs.

Support to Transport for London has always been on the condition that Transport for London reaches financial sustainability as soon as possible and with a target date of April 2023. Government continue to press the Mayor of London and Transport for London to take the decisions needed to put the organisation on a sustainable footing. I will update the House at my earliest opportunity on the details of any longer-term capital settlement.

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Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Industrial Action: Employment Agencies and Trade Union Liability

Government will shortly lay before Parliament two statutory instruments: the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022, and the Liability of Trade Unions in Proceedings in Tort (Increase of Limits on Damages) Order 2022.

Removal of regulation 7 of the Conduct Regulations 2003

The recruitment sector is regulated by the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (“the Conduct Regulations”). Regulation 7 of the Conduct Regulations makes it a criminal offence for an employment business to knowingly—or having reasonably grounds for knowing—provide temporary workers to an employer to perform the duties of workers taking part in an official strike or other industrial action.

Repealing these burdensome legal restrictions, will give businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of employment businesses who can provide skilled, temporary agency staff at short notice to temporarily cover essential roles for the duration of the strikes.

We believe the changes we are making will help mitigate the impact of future strikes, such as those seen on our railways last week, by allowing trained, temporary workers to carry out crucial roles to keep trains moving. The change in law, which will apply across all sectors, is designed to minimise the negative and unfair impact of strikes on the British public by ensuring that businesses and services can continue operating. For example, strikes in public services such as education can often mean parents have to stay at home with their children rather than go to work, or rail sector strikes stopping commuters getting to work or to other businesses.

It should be noted that removing this regulation does not put in place any new barriers on an individual’s right to take part in lawful industrial action. Employment Businesses will not be required to supply agency workers to businesses, rather the change that we are making simply provides the freedom to do so should they wish to. Similarly, a key part of our protections for agency workers is that they cannot be compelled to take on assignments and removing this regulation does not alter existing health and safety requirements.

Increase to the damages cap for unlawful strikes

When they are considering legal claims against unions which organise or authorise unlawful strikes, employers may decide to bring a claim for damages against the union. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 sets the upper limits to the damages that can be awarded based on the size of the union that organised the unlawful strike action. The levels of damages have not been reviewed since 1982 and are significantly out of date.

Increases the existing caps for damages awarded against trade unions for organising unlawful strike action in line with inflation, using the Retail Price Index (RPI) as the measure of inflation.

Unions who comply with the statutory balloting framework and wider trade union legislation will be unaffected by this change. This statutory instrument does not affect the right to strike. So long as unions follow the law, they will continue to be protected from damages claims as they are now.

The Government are simply increasing the damages caps for unlawful strike action to broadly the levels they would have been at, had they been updated regularly since 1982.

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