Tuesday 1 November 2016
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Government-owned Company: Provision of Indemnity
On 2 October 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 steel works 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.
The Department is establishing a Government company, known as the South Tees Site Company, in order to take forward the safety and security of the site from the OR. STSC will have a management team as well as a board of directors, accountable to the BEIS Secretary of State. In order to allow the board of directors and management team to carry out their duties BEIS has agreed to indemnify them against all claims, proceedings, costs—including the cost of defending proceedings—and expenses.
Over the summer recess the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy identified a need to provide the indemnities immediately. As a result the Department wrote to the Chairs of the Public Accounts Committee and the BEIS Select Committee on 2 September outlining our intention, asking for any objection to be notified within five working days. I can confirm that neither PAC nor Select Committee raised any objections to the issuing of these indemnities.
I would also like to take this opportunity to inform the House that there is an agreement in place between SSI in liquidation and STSC concerning the management of the site. BEIS has clarified to the OR that his indemnity of 2 October 2015 indemnifies him for any claims, proceedings, costs and expenses raised against or incurred by the OR as a result of a breach by STSC of the agreement.
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 laid a departmental minute for both Houses explaining the procedure followed and containing a description of the liabilities undertaken.
National Cyber Security Strategy
Today the Government are publishing the national cyber-security strategy 2016-21. This strategy sets out the Government’s objectives for strengthening the security of the UK in cyberspace over the next five years.
Cyber is a tier 1 threat to the UK’s economic and national security. The policies, institutions and initiatives developed under the previous strategy have helped to establish the UK as a leading global player in cyber-security. However, the scale and dynamic nature of cyber-threats, and the increasing dependency of our economy and society on digital products and services, mean that our current approach to cyber-security needs to be further strengthened. Therefore, the Government are today publishing the new five-year national cyber-security strategy, which defines our vision and ambition for achieving a UK that is secure and resilient to cyber-threats; prosperous and confident in the digital world.
The strategy sets out a series of ambitious policies and initiatives across the following themes:
Defence against the threat;
Deterrence of hostile actions against the UK, its people, businesses and allies;
Development of our cyber-security industry, enhancement of our cyber-security skills and strengthening of our scientific research base.
This activity will be supported by international action to invest in partnerships to shape the global evolution of cyberspace in a manner that advances the UK’s cyber-security interests.
At the heart of the strategy is the creation of a new national cyber-security centre (NCSC)—a world-class centre of excellence to co-ordinate the national cyber effort and provide a unified source of advice and support for the private and public sector.
This strategy will be delivered through Government working in partnership with the devolved Administrations, the wider public sector, industry, academia and the public. It is supported by the £1.9 billion national cyber-security programme.
The National Cyber Security Strategy 2016-2021 can be viewed online at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-11-01/HCWS229/.
Culture, Media and Sport
Draft BBC Charter and Draft Framework Agreement
On 15 September 2016, I announced the publication of the draft BBC royal charter and draft framework agreement.
The debates in the devolved legislatures and both Houses on these important documents have now concluded. I have listened with interest to the views raised and the debates have very much shown how far we have come. I am pleased today to announce the publication of updated versions of the draft royal charter and draft framework agreement on www.gov.uk which will shortly be submitted to the Privy Council.
The updated versions take into account and reflect the outcome of the debates and contain some minor and technical changes to the initial draft versions I published on 15 September 2016.
I can confirm that a copy of the royal charter and a copy of the framework agreement will be laid before the House if approved by Her Majesty. A copy of the royal charter and a copy of the framework agreement will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses when ready.
I am pleased to publish this statement about the safeguarding of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children jointly with the Home Office Minister of State for Immigration (Mr Robert Goodwill).
The Government are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, and providing help for those in genuine need of international protection. The UK takes their responsibilities towards children extremely seriously, and we already have a comprehensive approach to safeguarding children, including unaccompanied children.
We recognise that the number of unaccompanied and refugee children arriving in the UK has risen over the last few years, including through the transfer of hundreds of children from Calais. Some of these children can be among the most vulnerable in society. That is why we are, today, committing to publishing a strategy, by 1 May 2017, which will set out further detail on how these children should be safeguarded and their welfare promoted. This strategy will complement and build on existing safeguarding guidance and procedures, in recognition of the increased numbers and specific needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children already in the UK, unaccompanied children who we transfer to the UK from Europe, and unaccompanied children who we resettle directly from outside Europe. It will also set out the practical steps the Government will take to implement this plan.
In recognition of the important role fostering plays in caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children the strategy will set out plans to increase the number of foster carers. This will include evaluating the need for any additional training needs required by foster carers and support workers in looking after unaccompanied children. Supported lodgings, where young people can live in a shared and supportive environment, can also play an important role in meeting the needs of these children as well as ensuring placement capacity so we will set out our plans to encourage provision of this type.
We recognise that these children may have family or potential carers with whom they are seeking to be re-united, under the Dublin regulation. The Department for Education and Home Office will work together to make sure the system for identifying these children and uniting them with family or potential carers is further strengthened bearing in mind that the primary responsibility of all involved must be safeguarding and promoting the best interests of the child. We are already working closely with the Local Government Association and local authorities where children are arriving, and will look to build on these strong relationships. Specifically, we will regularly review funding to support and care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children, working closely with the LGA and local authorities.
In developing our strategy we will evaluate the procedures for, and speed of, transferring unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children who have been identified for transfer from Europe. We will also ensure that the strategy is informed by evidence from other immigration programmes, including the measures in place to ensure sufficient safeguarding and security checks are undertaken on those being transferred to the UK.
We recognise the particular vulnerabilities of these children and will review the information currently provided to asylum-seeking and refugee children about their rights, their current circumstances, and the role of local authorities in caring for them.
We will also consult the devolved Administrations to ensure a joined up approach across the United Kingdom. We will also consult with all relevant public bodies on the strategy, including local authorities in England, NGOs, the Children’s Commissioners for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In doing so, we will seek the views of local authorities to identify any further action that might be taken to prevent unaccompanied asylum-seeking or refugee children going missing and we will consider whether to introduce a new set of standard actions for the police on first encountering an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child. We will also consider arrangements for Children’s Commissioners across the UK to make representations on behalf of children transferred where appropriate and consistent with their statutory remit.
In taking forward this work my Department will also revise the statutory guidance published in 2014 on the care of unaccompanied and trafficked children so it covers the safeguarding of children transferred under Dublin provisions and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who arrive spontaneously who then explain that they have family in the United Kingdom with whom they wish to live.
Finally, in recognition of the importance of this issue, we commit to updating Parliament annually on delivery against the strategy and providing quarterly updates to the Children’s Commissioners for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ensuring transparency and appropriate scrutiny. We will also commit to publishing regular updates on the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children transferred to the UK.
The Government’s strategy has been to support efforts to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the refugee crisis; we must deal with the root causes of this crisis, as well as respond to the consequences. The UK has been at the forefront of the response to the crisis in Syria and the region. The Government have pledged over £2.3 billion in support of the crisis in Syria; our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. Under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement (VPR) scheme, the Government have committed to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees direct from the region. Around 2,800 people have arrived in this country since the Syrian VPR scheme began, around half of them children, and we are on track to meet this landmark commitment. The Government have also established a new resettlement scheme focused on children at risk in the Middle East and North Africa, the first of its kind focused on the region and which will see up to 3,000 people, of all nationalities, resettled to the UK over the next four years. We have worked closely with the UNHCR to develop this scheme and it reflects their advice on how best to safeguard the children caught up in this conflict.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
October Agriculture Council
The UK was represented by deputy permanent representative to the European Union, Shan Morgan, at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 10 October in Luxembourg.
Commissioner Vella gave a presentation on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), which focused on the poor and deteriorating state of the swordfish stock. He noted that immediate and remedial action was needed, including the introduction of a catch quota. A number of member states intervened with differing support or opposition. The presidency concluded by noting the positions, and said a more detailed preparation of the EU position would take place at working group level.
Commissioner Vella promised full transparency for the EU/Norway fisheries negotiations, as well as discussions with coastal states which feed in to this. He wanted to ensure a balance between the interests of different member states, in particular those who wanted to maximise the quota for arctic cod and those who have traditionally had to pay for it in terms of exchange of quotas with Norway. A number of member states, including the UK, underlined the importance of accessing additional quota for choke species, to avoid any disruption connected to the introduction of the landing obligation.
The Council also agreed on the 2017 catch quotas in the Baltic.
Commissioner Hogan presented the omnibus regulation, as a tool for simplification of the four common agricultural policy regulations. The Commission wants the regulation to enter into force by 1 January 2018, so that there are three years of stability before the next multi-annual financial framework. The main proposals include: a sector-specific income stabilisation tool; simpler rules for loans and financial instruments aimed at young farmers; an optional national flexibility of the “active farmer” definition; and easing the process for undue payments. Most member states indicated that they needed more time to assess the details and submit comments, but noted some proposals were not simplification. The UK welcomed flexibility on the active farmer definition, and wider access to the income support tool. Commissioner Hogan underlined that this regulation was a big opportunity but that all comments would be taken on board.
Any other business items
Items on the market situation and sugar were taken together. Commissioner Hogan made a presentation on the current market situation, noting that the milk market observatory had reported an improvement in the dairy market, and the milk production reduction scheme will further improve the situation. He also made it clear that sugar quotas will come to an end in October 2017.
Poland presented a joint statement which it had co-ordinated outlining concerns of new greening proposals. This was supported in advance by 18 other member states, including the UK. Commissioner Hogan understood a number of measures were not supported, and offered four concessions which will be discussed at the next Special Committee on Agriculture.
Austria argued that international financial institutions are not taking animal welfare in to account when they make lending decisions.
Slovenia reported from their conference entitled “The Customer has the Right to know”, which highlighted the advantages of country of origin labelling.
The Council took note of the Dutch presentation outlining the conclusions of the 39th conference of directors of paying agencies.
Commissioner Hogan gave a short explanation on a European Court of Justice case (C-113/14), and confirmed that the necessary amendments to the fixing regulation were being arranged as quickly as possible.