Wednesday 12 October 2016
National Infrastructure Commission
I wish to update the House on the establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission as an Executive agency, and an associated Contingencies Fund advance.
The purpose of the National Infrastructure Commission is to provide expert, impartial analysis of the long-term infrastructure needs of the country. The Commission reports on high-priority issues and produces an in-depth, independent assessment of the UK’s major infrastructure needs on a 30-year time horizon.
The Government consulted earlier this year on establishing the Commission using primary legislation. The Government consider that the Commission can achieve the same objectives without legislation.
The Government will therefore proceed to establish the Commission on a permanent basis as an Executive agency of HM Treasury. It will operate independently, at arm’s length from Government, and will come into force in January 2017.
The resources for the operating costs of the Commission will form part of HM Treasury’s supplementary estimate 2016-17, which is not expected to receive Royal Assent in the associated Supply and Appropriations Bill until mid to late March 2017. HM Treasury will therefore be utilising the Contingencies Fund to finance the Commission’s operating costs that become payable prior to Royal Assent.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £5,000,000 for this new spending will be sought in a supplementary estimate for HM Treasury. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £5,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.
A copy of the Charter for the National Infrastructure Commission has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Communities and Local Government
Site Assessment Industry
On 2 Oct 2015 the SSI steel works in Redcar was placed into compulsory liquidation and an official receiver (OR) was appointed as liquidator. On 12 October, following no buyer for the steelworks being found, the decision was taken by the official receiver to set about the hard closure of the site. Since that time the official receiver has been undertaking a protracted liquidation of SSI, and in the absence of an owner, he has been overseeing the safe and secure hard closure of the site. Government, through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, are currently providing an indemnity to the OR so that he can carry out his duties as liquidator of the company and ensure its ongoing safety and security.
As recommended in Lord Heseltine’s report on the Tees Valley “Opportunity Unlimited”, in order to understand the scale and complexity of the site it is necessary to carry out a number of site assessments, which my Department has asked the Homes and Communities Agency to take forward. These site assessments will help inform: costs to decommission the site, costs to regenerate the site and provide the necessary due diligence to enable the future mayoral development corporation—subject to legislation, local processes and agreement—to take forward the regeneration of the area.
These site assessments do not fall within the current indemnity that Government are providing. Therefore Government will be providing an indemnity to the OR to indemnify him against all liabilities, costs, expenses, damages and losses suffered or incurred by him that are arising out of the site assessments. In the coming months the safe management of the site will move to a new Government-owned company with a new site manager. At this point the indemnity will be transferred to indemnify the new management.
It is not possible at this stage to accurately quantify the value of such indemnity. HMG has considered the risks of this indemnity and I believe the likelihood of such indemnities being called upon is low. The indemnity is limited to liabilities arising as a consequence of the site assessments and the current BEIS indemnity remains in place. If the liability is called upon, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.
As a matter of record I have attached a departmental minute for both Houses explaining the procedure followed and containing a description of the liabilities undertaken.
Attachments can be viewed online at:
http://www.pariiament.uk/business/publications/written-questions- answers-statements/written- statement/Commons/2016-10- 12/HCWS182/.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong (Sino-British Joint Declaration)
The latest six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was published today. It covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2016. The report has been placed in the Library of the House. A copy is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:
I commend the report to the House.
Justice and Home Affairs Pre-Council Statement
The first formal Justice and Home Affairs Council of the Slovak presidency will take place on 13 and 14 October in Luxembourg. The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), will attend the justice day and I will attend the interior day.
The interior day (13 October) will begin with a progress report on the implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard, which came into force on 6 October. As a Schengen measure, the UK does not participate. However, the Government support action by Schengen states to improve management of the external border and will support the European Border and Coast Guard’s operations by mutual consent.
The presidency will then provide a progress report on information technology measures related to border management, including the proposal to introduce systematic checks at the external border and the revised smart borders policy proposal for an entry-exit system (EES). The presidency will also ask the Commission to update on plans for the evolution of the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II) and the forthcoming proposal for an EU travel information and authorisation scheme (ETIAS). We will intervene to support those member states arguing that systematic checks should be the default at all external borders and to argue that future amendments to SIS II should support more effective police co-operation within the EU. As Schengen measures, the UK does not participate in the systematic checks at external borders and EES measures, and will not participate in the ETIAS proposal.
Next on the agenda will be a discussion on migration. This is likely to focus on implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, with updates on the wider migration situation. We will reaffirm that the UK is continuing to play its part to address the migration crisis through our support for practical work to strengthen the EU’s external borders, including hotspots.
Over lunch, the presidency will hold a discussion on progress towards establishing new migration partnership frameworks with five priority countries—Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. We will welcome the emphasis on addressing migration issues as a major element of the European Union’s relations with third countries, but caution against limiting that approach to the current priority countries. We should look strategically at which regions and countries offer the most opportunity for impact, including in the horn of Africa, middle east and Asia.
After lunch, the presidency will provide a progress report on the six proposals relating to reform of the common European asylum system (CEAS). This is likely to focus on law enforcement access to Eurodac and the extent of the mechanism for monitoring and assessing the asylum and reception systems of member states in the EU asylum agency proposal. The UK has not opted into the EU asylum agency proposal and is considering whether to opt into the other five proposals. We will encourage the Council to support easier law enforcement access to Eurodac.
Following this, there will be a debate on a proposal for a common EU resettlement framework. The Government have previously stated that resettlement schemes are best operated at the national level.
Under any other business, the presidency will update Ministers on the third ministerial conference of the Prague process, in which the UK does not participate, and on the progress of current legislative proposals.
The justice day (14 October) will begin with a progress report and policy debate on the proposal for a directive on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law (PIF directive), with a view to endorsing the development of a compromise that would bring serious VAT fraud within the scope of the directive. The UK has not opted in to this proposal on the grounds that it would infringe on member states’ competence to control their own taxes.
The presidency will seek member states’ support for a partial general approach on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). The UK will not participate in an EPPO.
Under any other business, the Commission will provide information on combating hate crime in the EU, specifically on the framework decision on racism and xenophobia, in which the UK does not take part as our law provides similar levels of protection, and the presidency will update the Council on current legislative proposals.
Over lunch, the presidency intends to discuss the role of Eurojust in relation to counter-terrorism. We will make the point that the UK values the work of Eurojust in helping to co-ordinate investigations and prosecutions, including counter-terrorism cases, but clearly any activity should be within its remits.
Modern Slavery: Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group Report 2016
Today, I am publishing the 2016 report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Modern Slavery. This group acts as a national rapporteur for the purposes of Article 19 of the European directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. The report sets out an assessment of the scale of modern slavery in the UK and outlines the actions being taken to combat it. The report covers the whole of the UK and has been drafted in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.
A copy of the report will be placed in the Library of the House and also made available on the gov.uk website.