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Written Statements

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 13 December 2022

Written Statements

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Health and Social Care

Genome UK: England Implementation Plan

This is a joint statement with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

In 2020, the Government published Genome UK, the UK’s genomic healthcare strategy, setting out a vision to create the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world, underpinned by the latest scientific advances, to deliver better health outcomes at lower costs. The strategy made 45 commitments to be delivered over 10 years to achieve this vision. Delivering this vision will help people to live longer, healthier lives, reduce the burden of illness on the NHS and make the UK a world leader in data-driven healthcare research and innovation.

I am delighted to inform the House that we are today publishing the “Genome UK—England Implementation Plan 2022 to 2025”, which sets out how we will further progress delivery of Genome UK in England during the current spending review period, taking us to the halfway mark of our ambitious 10-year strategy. In order to allow us to reflect advances in this fast-moving field, we have adopted a phased approach to implementing the strategy, with implementation plans published in line with spending review periods.

This publication follows the previous “Genome UK: 2021 to 2022 Implementation Plan” in May 2021, and “Genome UK: shared commitments for UK-wide implementation 2022 to 2025” in March 2022. Through extensive collaboration with partners across the genomics community we have set out our priority actions, showcasing the outstanding research and policy work that will take place across England to develop, evaluate and implement new genomic technologies across the health and care system and life sciences sector. As part of this, I am pleased to announce:

The £105 million of Government funding for a landmark research programme, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, to study the effectiveness of using whole genome sequencing to speed up diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic diseases in newborn babies, potentially leading to life-saving interventions for thousands of babies.

The £22 million of Government funding for Genomics England to tackle health inequalities in genomic medicine through tailored sequencing of 15,000 to 25,000 participants from diverse backgrounds by 2024-25, as well as extensive community engagement work to build trusting relationships with traditionally excluded groups of people.

The £26 million of Government funding for an innovative cancer programme, led by Genomics England in partnership with NHS England and the National Pathology Imaging Co-operative, to evaluate cutting-edge genomic sequencing technology and use artificial intelligence to analyse genomic data alongside digital histopathology and radiology images to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis for cancer patients.

Up to £25 million Medical Research Council-led funding for a four-year functional genomics initiative, working across UK Research and Innovation and other stakeholders to establish an industry-partnered world-class offer on functional genomics, building on already existing infrastructure and UK research expertise

These are just a few of the many actions that are set out in the implementation plan, which also covers how we will engage with patients and the public; develop the genomics workforce; support industrial growth and explore a possible UK model for how to apply ethical standards in genomic healthcare and research.

Together, these actions will pave the way to bringing improved approaches to disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to people and patients, transforming healthcare and improving the health of the nation. Through these actions we will also increase private sector investment, by ensuring that the UK is the best location globally to conduct genomic research and grow new genomic healthcare companies.

Patients and the diverse UK population are at the heart of our journey to the world’s most advanced genomic healthcare system. Equally, this vision cannot be achieved without the support our talented healthcare workforce. I therefore want to emphasise that open engagement with the public, patients and workforce will continue to be central in the delivery of our 10-year vision.

This implementation plan has been agreed with the Genome UK Implementation Co-ordination Group and the National Genomics Board, which are made up of senior life sciences stakeholders and delivery partners from across the NHS, the charity sector, research, and industry. The devolved Governments will be publishing their own implementation plans, to ensure that genomic healthcare is able to flourish across the UK. Over the next three years we will continue to work with our partners, including the devolved Governments, via the Genome UK Implementation Co-ordination Group and the National Genomics Board, to ensure that we can continue to create the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world.

[HCWS439]

Home Department

Modern Slavery Statutory Guidance

On 10 February 2022 Lord Stewart of Dirleton KC updated the House of Lords that potential victims of modern slavery would be provided with at least a 45-day recovery period, or until a conclusive grounds decision is made, whichever comes later. When Lord Stewart made this statement, this was the Government’s intention.

However, since becoming Minister for Immigration, I have made clear the Government’s renewed commitment to reviewing and reforming the national referral mechanism (NRM) to ensure that opportunities for abuse and inefficiencies, which have contributed to decision making and processing taking far too long, are addressed.

Given this necessity for NRM reform and in line with our obligations under the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings and the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, the Government will, effective immediately—13 December 2022—be amending guidance to make clear the minimum recovery period will be 30 days rather than 45. The 30 days is the amount of time requested by the convention and is the standard recovery period for many ECAT-signatory states.

The Government remain committed to ensuring potential victims of modern slavery can access appropriate needs-based support during the recovery period in line with international and domestic legal obligations.

Today I am also updating Parliament on forthcoming changes to the guidance for modern slavery reasonable grounds decision making, which will go live operationally in January 2023. In January, the guidance will be included in “Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for England and Wales (under s49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015) and Non-Statutory Guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland” and published on www.gov.uk'>www.gov.uk.

The updated guidance will mean decision makers now base their assessments on objective factors to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe a person is a victim. This will ensure that decision makers can make timely and robust evidence-backed decisions and that assistance and support are focused on those who most need it.

A copy of the draft statutory guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will also be made available on www.gov.uk when it becomes operational.

[HCWS441]

Prime Minister

Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2021-22

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today laid before Parliament a report covering the work of the Committee between August 2021 and March 2022. The 2021-22 annual report demonstrates the wide-ranging work of the Committee across a number of important issues. While there have been changes in Government between the final drafting and publication of this report, I reiterate the Government’s gratitude to the Committee for its continued independent oversight and scrutiny of the UK Intelligence Community, and I look forward to working together.

The membership of the Committee has changed during the period covered by the report, and I would like to thank the right hon. Dame Diana Johnson MP and the right hon. Mark Pritchard MP for their work on the Committee, and welcome the new Members, Maria Eagle MP and the right hon. Sir Jeremy Wright MP into the role.

The Government continue to support the Committee on its ongoing inquiries on international partnerships, China, cloud technologies, and Iran, and look forward to seeing the conclusions of the Committee’s subsequent reports. The Government reiterate their thanks to the Committee for its thorough inquiry and detailed report, “Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism”, published on 13 July 2022, and will respond formally in due course.

The Government value the scrutiny the Committee provides through its inquiries, and this oversight is vital in ensuring the public can have confidence that our agencies are operating in full accordance with the law. Protecting the operational capabilities of the agencies and wider intelligence community to ensure the safety and security of our nation remains a critical priority for the Government. We will continue to engage constructively with the Committee to ensure its effective public oversight, in line with its powers as set out in statute, while balancing scrutiny and accountability with the need to protect our operating capabilities.

The Government consider the current memorandum of understanding with the Committee to be sufficient to enable the Committee to conduct its statutory oversight duties to provide effective scrutiny and robust oversight of the agencies and wider intelligence community. The Government note the Committee’s comments regarding the provision of sensitive information to parliamentary Select Committees. There is existing guidance establishing that classification is not a reason for Government to withhold information from parliamentary Committees and there is an agreed process in place to provide sensitive information to any Committee as required.

I would like to again thank the Committee for its work, and I look forward to working with it as it continues its vital oversight duties.

[HCWS440]

Transport

Rail Services: North of England

Members will be aware that, in July 2022, Avanti West Coast experienced an immediate and near total cessation of drivers volunteering to work on passenger trains on rest days. In response, it has had to reduce its timetable to provide greater certainty for passengers.

Similarly, TransPennine Express services continue to be impacted by the loss of rest day working, higher than average staff sickness levels, and historically high levels of drivers leaving the business.

The current rail services in the north have therefore been unacceptable, and on November 30 I met with the northern Mayors in Manchester. In that meeting, we agreed that the rail industry is not set up to deliver a modern, reliable service, and that we need both short-term and long-term measures to address this.

As a short-term measure, Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express have both been rapidly increasing the number of drivers they employ. This is helping Avanti restore the services that it was forced to withdraw. Services increased in September, and have now increased to 7 trains per hour, restoring the full Manchester-London service. It is therefore disappointing that passengers will not see the full benefit of these changes until the current wave of industrial action is over. I was pleased to see the RMT call off the strike action scheduled for Avanti West Coast on 11 and 12 December, as sustaining this level of service will require the support of the trade unions.

I have also given TransPennine Express and Northern the scope they need to put a meaningful and generous rest day working offer to ASLEF. However, giving operators a mandate is only the first step. ASLEF needs to enter negotiations, and put any new deal to its members and, if accepted, do all it can to make that deal work. TransPennine has made a generous revised offer to ASLEF and it was almost immediately rejected without being put to members. It is up to the unions to decide if they want to improve services, for the good of passengers and the wider economy in the north.

Today, the RMT is on strike across the country again, disrupting services and driving passengers away from the railway. In my meeting with the Mayors, we all agreed on the need for a reliable railway seven days a week. That means not having fragile rest day working agreements and breaking the railway’s dependence on rest day working altogether. No modern and successful business relies on the good will of its staff to deliver for its customers in the evening and at the weekend. I want a railway with rewarding jobs, contracted to deliver every service promised to the public. I want to encourage passengers back to a financially sustainable railway.

[HCWS442]