Wednesday 6 July 2022
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Energy Security Bill
As the world has emerged from the covid-19 pandemic, global demand for energy has risen significantly—this has been exacerbated by Putin’s malign invasion of Ukraine. As a result, the wholesale price of gas has reached historically high levels.
That is why we are taking measures to support families
We are acting now with a £37 billion package of financial support this year. Millions of the most vulnerable households will also receive £1,200 of one-off support in total this year.
Making changes to the National Insurance Contribution threshold which take effect from today, with a typical employee saving over £330 a year.
Cutting bills by investing in energy efficiency. We are also making huge progress on the energy efficiency of UK homes making them more comfortable and affordable to run, backed by £6 billion of funding over this Parliament. In 2008, 9% of UK homes had an Energy Performance Certificate of C or above—it is now 46%.
But secure, clean and affordable energy for the long term depends on the transformation of our energy system. This means more home-grown energy from more diverse sources which reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels and our exposure to volatile and high prices in international markets. And we will reform our energy markets so consumers benefit from lower-cost, home-grown renewables and other low- carbon technologies. Our agenda will catalyse investment, reversing lost decades of under-investment, and boosting jobs and new industries in a world-leading, low-carbon economy.
That is why we are bringing forward a landmark Energy Security Bill. This Bill will deliver a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system for the long term. It builds on the ambitious commitments in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and the British energy security strategy to invest in homegrown energy and maintain the diversity and resilience of the UK’s energy supply.
We will do this by:
Leveraging private investment in clean technologies and building a homegrown energy system.
Over the last decade the UK has built one of the most diverse energy systems in the world but previous Governments have historically failed to make these investments which has left us in the current situation. The Bill will deliver key commitments from the British energy security strategy, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and net zero strategy to drive an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment by 2030 into new British industries and supporting around 480,000 clean jobs by the end of the decade.
Accelerate the growth of low carbon technologies. We will introduce state of the art business models for carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen, attracting private investment by providing long-term revenue certainty. Together with the measures on CO2 transport and storage, this will put the country on a path to seize market share and grow the economy.
Enable the set up and scale up of the first of a kind CO2 transport and storage networks. The Bill will establish the economic regulation and licensing framework to ensure successful deployment.
Taking further steps to explore the role for hydrogen to heat our homes and workplaces. We will enable the delivery of a large village hydrogen heating trial by 2025, providing crucial evidence to inform strategic decisions in 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation.
Scale up heat pump manufacturing and installation, and a new white goods industry in the UK. We will establish a market-based mechanism for the low-carbon heat industry to step up investment and lower the cost of electric heat pumps, through economies of scale and innovation.
Take the next big leap on the technology of the future with fusion regulation. We will make the UK the first country to legislate for fusion, providing clarity on the regulatory regime for fusion energy facilities.
Reforming our energy system to protect consumers from unfair pricing.
The last piece of primary energy legislation of this scale was the Energy Act 2013. Almost 10 years later we need to ensure that this Bill accounts for the current global context.
Enabling the extension of the energy price cap, protecting families. The energy price cap is the best safety net for 22 million households, preventing suppliers from overcharging consumers. The Bill will enable the extension of the price cap beyond 2023.
Enhancing our network security with a new system operator, which will boost energy resilience. We will establish a future system operator, an independent body with responsibilities in both the electricity and gas systems, ensuring efficient energy planning, enhancing energy security, minimising cost to consumers and promoting innovation.
Creating more competition in our electricity networks to deliver bill savings. We will enable competition in onshore electricity networks, delivering up to £1 billion savings for projects tendered over the next 10 years.
Protect consumers from increasing network prices in the event of energy network company mergers. We will enable the Competition and Markets Authority to review any relevant energy network company mergers under the Energy Network Special Merger Regime. We estimate this could save energy consumers up to £420 million over 10 years.
Protecting consumers from cyber threats with new protections for smart appliances. We are taking powers to deliver appropriate protections for consumers and the grid by placing requirements on energy smart appliances.
Helping consumers manage their energy use and cut their bills to help with the cost of living. We are continuing to drive industry progress on the smart meter rollout which is set to deliver a £6 billion net benefit to society.
Enabling innovation and gearing our system toward net zero. We will reform energy codes, overhauling the way that the technical and commercial rules of the energy system are governed.
Reducing the number of cabling, landing points, and substations. We will introduce multipurpose interconnectors as a licensable activity, we are providing certainty to investors and developers, enabling them to make decisions regarding future multi-purpose interconnector projects.
Removing obstacles to innovative batteries and pumped hydro storage. We will facilitate the deployment of electricity storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro storage, by clarifying it as a distinct subset of electricity generation.
Creating a more equal and fair energy market. We will enable the Government to establish a buy-out mechanism under the ECO scheme for suppliers.
Ensure families living on heat networks are better protected. By appointing Ofgem as the new regulator for heat networks in Great Britain, we will ensure consumers get a fair price and a reliable supply of heat.
Kick-starting the development of heat networks. By enabling heat network zoning in England, we will overcome barriers to deployment by identifying areas where they provide the lowest cost solution to heating buildings.
Taking back control of powers given to the EU on the energy performance of buildings. The Bill will provide a replacement power to enable the UK Government to amend the EU-derived Energy Performance of Buildings regime going forward.
Ensuring the safety, security and resilience of the UK’s energy system.
The responsible operation of the UK energy system is crucial for our safety and security. That is why the Bill will bring forward measures relating to core fuel resilience, nuclear and the offshore oil and gas sectors.
Protect our fuel resilience from malicious action. We will bring forward measures for downstream oil security—oil terminals, filing stations etc—to prevent fuel supply disruption, such as from industrial action, malicious protest and for reasons of national security.
Boost British nuclear by removing barriers to investment. The British Energy Security Strategy is clear that nuclear is an important part of the UK’s energy mix. The Bill will remove potential barriers to future investment by enhancing our nuclear third party liability regime.
Prepare for our nuclear future and clean up the past. The Bill will also facilitate the safe, and cost-effective clean-up of the UK’s nuclear sites, ensuring the UK is a responsible nuclear state by clarifying that a geological disposal facility located deep below the seabed will be licensed.
Making our oil and gas sector fit for the future to ensure high standards. Our oil and gas sector will continue to play an important role in ensuring security of supply. This Bill will enable existing legislation to be updated ensuring that the offshore oil and gas environmental regulatory regime maintains high standards in respect to habitats protection and pollution response.
Ensure responsible ownership of our UK assets. The Bill will ensure that the UK’s oil and gas and carbon storage infrastructure remains in the hands of companies with the best ability to operate it.
Protecting taxpayers by maximising cost recovery. In line with the polluter pays principle, the Government will be able to more fully recover the costs associated with regulating offshore oil and gas decommissioning activities from the industry.
Simplifying regulatory frameworks. This Bill will bring forward the final delicensing and re-use of nuclear sites. It will allow more proportionate clean-up of these sites, resulting in estimated savings of around £490 million (NPV) over the first 20 years, with similar savings up to 2080.
Strengthen the Civil Nuclear Police’s powers to help keep Britain safe. This Bill will introduce legislation to enable the Civil Nuclear Constabulary to utilise their expertise in deterrence and armed response to support the security of other critical infrastructure sites.
Atomic Weapons Establishment Pension Scheme
My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has today laid a departmental minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence is creating a new contingent liability associated with the provision of a Crown guarantee to the trustees of the Atomic Weapons Establishment defined benefit pension scheme.
The departmental minute describes the contingent liability that the Ministry of Defencewill hold. The contingent liability will become effective from 21 July 2022.
AWE has been sponsored and wholly owned by the MOD as a non-departmental public body since 1 July 2021. AWE produces the UK nuclear warhead which underpins our independent nuclear deterrent.
AWE operates two pension schemes, one of which is the AWE defined benefit pension scheme overseen by independent trustees.
The MOD has agreed with HMT that it will provide a guarantee to the scheme trustees, with the intention of securing that the scheme’s assets will be sufficient to meet its liabilities. This will ensure that the scheme members can have confidence that their accrued benefits under the scheme will be paid when eligible.
The contingent liability will continue for the duration of the scheme—until such time that all members and their entitled dependants are deceased—and will crystalise only in circumstances where the scheme is terminated early and or AWE is liquidated, becomes insolvent or cannot or does not make the contributions payable in respect of the scheme as they fall due. The MOD will note a liability of £150 million over 20 years in its accounts. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.
In granting the guarantee, MOD and HMT have collectively agreed in principle, subject to applicable regulations and law, to bring the scheme’s assets and liabilities into central Government control in line with the Government’s principles for balance sheet management, while maintaining members’ existing benefits. Agreement to proceed on this basis would be subject to a detailed feasibility study being concluded in advance, including identifying the accounting and budgeting implications on the MOD, as well as any pension law compliance and value for money considerations. This study will be carried out in consultation with AWE and the trustees.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Foreign Interference Offence: Online Safety Bill
This is a joint statement with the Home Office.
Some states seek to further their strategic interests by going beyond overt political influence towards more covert influencing activity. These ‘interference’ activities are typically not conducted transparently and are outside the norms of diplomacy. Some hostile actors from foreign states use covert and malign political interference activities to undermine the UK’s interests, such as using disinformation to manipulate our political debate or weaken the integrity of our democratic institutions.
The UK has a strong record of responding robustly to state threats, in collaboration with our international partners. Alongside our existing operational response and the current disinformation provisions in the Online Safety Bill, the Government have also introduced the National Security Bill to Parliament. This Bill brings together vital new measures to protect the British public, modernise counter-espionage laws and address the evolving threat to our national security, including by introducing a new foreign interference offence which will capture a number of state-sponsored disinformation efforts.
This offence will target malign activity carried out for, on behalf of, or with the intention to benefit, a foreign power. This includes foreign interference intended to manipulate public discourse, discredit the political system, and undermine the safety or interests of the UK, with state-sponsored disinformation being a prime technique for attempting this kind of interference.
While the National Security Bill will seek to disrupt and deter foreign actors engaging in disinformation campaigns against the UK, it is important that our information environment is also protected from those who would seek to interfere in UK society by exploiting social media platforms and manipulating online spaces towards the objectives of state actors. That is why the Government are going further to address concerns about the threat posed by state-sponsored disinformation by linking the offence of foreign interference in the National Security Bill to duties in the Online Safety Bill. The Security Minister, Damian Hinds MP, has tabled an amendment to the National Security Bill which, if passed, will designate the offence of foreign interference as a “priority offence” in Schedule 7 to the Online Safety Bill.
This amendment will mean that online platforms need to act against foreign interference in line with their safety duties on illegal content, where it meets all three limbs of the foreign interference offence. These are as follows:
a person engages in conduct for, on behalf of, or with intent to benefit a foreign power;
the conduct is intended to interfere in the exercise of rights, manipulate the way people use public services or participate in political and legal processes in the UK, or prejudice the UK’s safety or interests;
the conduct constitutes an offence, involves coercion of any kind, or involves making a misrepresentation for example, is a representation that a reasonable person would consider false or misleading. This includes information which is true but presented in a way which is misleading.
These three tests will capture state-sponsored disinformation that is of most concern: covert attempts by foreign state actors to manipulate our information environment to interfere in UK society and undermine our democratic, political and legal processes. For example, material spread by foreign state entities via fake accounts pretending to be real UK users to influence discussions about the future of the Union. Other examples of online content and activity that would be covered by the new offence, and for which platforms in scope of the Bill would have illegal content duties, could include:
Russian attempts to use disinformation to interfere in future UK elections.
Attempts by state actors to use disinformation to manipulate the legal processes of the UK, such as court proceedings.
The use of false profiles by state actors to spread hacked information online to undermine UK democratic institutions.
This amendment will force companies to take action on a wider range of state-sponsored disinformation and state-linked platform manipulation than they would have to under the Online Safety Bill as it is currently drafted. Should the amendment pass, the offence will be listed as a priority offence, meaning companies will be required proactively to put in place proportionate systems and processes to prevent individuals from encountering content that amounts to this offence, minimising the length of time it is on their service and removing any illegal content on user-to-user services once they become aware of it. They will also need to consider how their design, functionality and algorithms might impact these efforts.
In the context of the foreign interference offence, this could include measures to ensure that platform manipulation—such as misleading users about the ownership of an account, or artificially co-ordinated messaging campaigns—is more difficult, thus mitigating the risk of platform manipulation and disinformation more broadly. We have seen a number of successful efforts by service providers to disrupt state-linked disinformation and hostile influence operations relating to Ukraine on their platforms. We see this amendment building on platforms’ existing work to ensure systems and processes are in place so that these safeguards can be applied more widely and consistently when it comes to online interference aimed at the UK.
Like other offences in scope of the Bill, companies would have to assess whether content amounts to foreign interference. Assessment of foreign interference activity could include judgements based on patterns of behaviours and tactics used, and contextual judgments about the intended effect of the content, which may be aided by relevant knowledge of the political and geopolitical context. In particular, we would expect platforms to consider whether repeated and persistent conduct from particular users or accounts might meet the offence. To help platforms in carrying out this duty, companies will also be able to draw on Ofcom’s codes of practice and any supplementary guidance.
Our approach is a proportionate and effective way to address the threat posed by state-sponsored disinformation while still protecting freedom of expression in the UK. Both Ofcom and in-scope companies will have duties relating to freedom of expression, for which they can be held to account. There are already journalistic protections in the Online Safety Bill which address concerns about media freedom. News publishers’ content on their own sites is not in scope of the Bill and recognised news publishers’ content shared on these platforms will also be exempt from companies’ safety duties. There will also be duties on category 1 companies to protect journalistic content and content of democratic importance.
It is incumbent on us to safeguard our democracy and society from manipulation by state actors online while also retaining the rightful protections for freedom of expression and media freedoms. The proportionate approach I have set out here tackles the most concerning state-sponsored disinformation activity while striking a balance with freedom of expression.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
NATO Accession: Sweden and Finland
On 18 May 2022 Finland and Sweden submitted formal applications to join NATO. This is a historic moment. Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners.
They share our principles and values, including liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. They share the alliance’s unwavering commitment to international security and the agreements on which it is based including the UN charter and Helsinki Final Act.
They both have years of experience training and operating with allies, and have made significant contributions to NATO-led operations and missions. Their decision to seek NATO membership follows extensive and democratic consultations in those countries.
The Government are committed to strengthening security and defence at home and overseas. A strong NATO is at the heart of our ability to deter and defend against state adversaries.
With Russia conducting an illegal and barbaric war in mainland Europe, it is unsurprising that countries that already work closely with NATO would consider applying to join the alliance and to benefit from its collective security guarantees. We must ensure that Finland and Sweden are integrated into NATO as quickly as possible.
Therefore, in accordance with section 22 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG), I wish to inform the House that I believe the protocol to the north Atlantic treaty on the accession of the Republic of Finland and the protocol to the north Atlantic treaty on the accession of the Kingdom of Sweden (together the “Protocols”) should be ratified without the requirements of section 20 CRAG having been met.
We need to demonstrate to two of our closest European security partners the importance we attach to our relationship with them and our whole-hearted support for their decision to join NATO.
It is imperative that allies bring Sweden and Finland under NATO’s article 5 umbrella as swiftly as possible. Both countries’ decision puts them at risk of a potentially aggressive Russian response. Russia has already made several threatening comments in the public domain regarding the possibility of Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO.
Using this process will ensure the UK’s part is concluded swiftly and use our example to encourage other allies to think radically about how quickly they can respectively ratify Sweden and Finland’s accession. All 30 allies need to ratify the protocols before Finland and Sweden can join the alliance. I have been pushing my allied colleagues hard to complete the ratification process as soon as possible. It is important that the UK does everything we can to do likewise.
We believe there is broad cross-party support for Sweden and Finland joining NATO. This process will enable us to ratify Swedish and Finnish accession before the summer recess.
This Government are committed to both the principle and practice of parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s treaties. However, due to the unprecedented international security circumstances in which Finland and Sweden have made their sovereign decision to apply for NATO membership, it is important to expedite their integration into NATO as quickly as possible for their safety and for the collective strength and security of the alliance.
I confirm that the Protocols have been laid today in Parliament under Command Papers CP 730 and CP 731.
The United Kingdom looks forward to formally welcoming our longstanding allies Sweden and Finland into NATO and standing with them side by side in defence of freedom and democracy.
Second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
In 2017, the Government published the first ever statutory cycling and walking investment strategy, which covered the period between 2016 and 2021.
The first report to Parliament on the delivery of the strategy and on the progress made towards meeting its objectives was published in February 2020. Much has changed since then, including the publication of “Gear Change: a bold vision for cycling and walking” in summer 2020, and the new commitment to £2 billion of additional funding over this Parliament—the largest amount of dedicated spending ever committed to increasing walking and cycling in England. To date we have created Active Travel England, led by Chris Boardman, and are providing local authorities with funding to deliver 134 first-rate schemes to develop new footways, cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings across England.
Today, I am publishing the second statutory cycling and walking investment strategy—CWIS2—which covers the period between 2021 and 2025. The strategy includes new and updated objectives, including doubling cycling, increasing levels of walking across the community, and walking to school, while also setting out the funding in place to achieve these. It includes the projection that a total of nearly £4 billion will be invested in walking and cycling over the CWIS2 period, delivering new and improved walking and cycling routes across England and behaviour change programmes.
Alongside this, I am laying before Parliament the second report to Parliament on the progress made in delivering CWIS1. This shows that good progress was made in delivering the 26 actions outlined in CWIS1, including the delivery of the Cycle Ambition Cities programme and a range of behaviour change programmes. It also highlights that more than twice as much funding was invested into walking and cycling schemes over the CWIS1 period than was originally anticipated when CWIS1 was published in 2017. It also outlines the progress we have made on other measures, including those set out in the Gear Change plan. Both CWIS2 and the report to Parliament are publicly accessible online through the www.gov.uk website. A copy of CWIS2 will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Work and Pensions
Mid-Life MOT Offer: Expanded Delivery
The mid-life MOT is a policy intervention designed to assist participants’ wealth, work and wellbeing. It provides access to tailored information to allow older people to return to or remain in work.
Through the face-to-face programme, the mid-life MOT will provide a holistic assessment of an individual’s health, by making sure they are able to access the necessary services; skills, by helping older people access upskilling and retraining opportunities; and finance, by empowering individuals to take control of their retirement planning.
In the winter 2021 budget, the DWP secured more than £5 million to develop and deliver more extensive pilots and development of the mid-life MOT. This follows private sector success led by the likes of Aviva, and the developing of an online version and 10 local enterprise partnership small pilots in 2021. I believe the mid-life MOT will improve participants’ wealth, work and wellbeing.
The DWP has been committed to growing the mid-life MOT since its introduction in 2019. In 2021, 10 local enterprise partnerships received grants of up to £40,000 to develop and deliver local mid-life MOTs in partnership with local business. In these tests, the local enterprise partnerships worked with MOT content delivery partners, voluntary organisations, and community-based organisations to deliver support on health, skills and finances tailored to the needs of each region.
We will build on this work to develop and deliver mid-life MOTs for people aged 45 to 55 across three new workstreams. This forms part of the wider autumn Budget and spending review 2021 announcement to develop a new, enhanced offer for older people to ensure they receive the support they need to return to or remain in work:
The Department will develop and enhance the Government’s digital MOT offering. We are working in partnership with the Money and Pensions Service to deliver an online digital mid-life MOT over the course of the spending review period. This is match funded by both organisations and building on previous online iterations.
We will deliver mid-life MOTs through our UK network of Jobcentre Plus offices, utilising the expertise and networks of our 50-plus champions to help older jobseekers address barriers to work associated with common challenges related to health, skills, and finance. Delivery in jobcentres will start in the summer and run across Great Britain.
The Department has launched a market engagement exercise to identify providers for a holistic, face-to-face mid-life MOT programme delivered through employers and direct to employees in three pilot areas—the North East of England; Cornwall and Devon; and East Anglia. Providers will be identified via a commercial tender process. More information can be obtained by emailing: 50PLUS.Choices@dwp.gov.uk.
These new measures are part of DWP’s £22 million package to help over-50s find new careers and earn more money, including by boosting time with work coaches and bringing in specialist support.
This increased support will be furthered by 37 50-plus champions covering every district across England, Wales and Scotland who will work with local employers to help them fully utilise the talent of older workers.