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Written Statements

Volume 617: debated on Wednesday 16 November 2016

Written Statements

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Culture, Media and Sport

EU-US Umbrella Agreement: Scrutiny Override

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for the Government’s participation in European negotiations on the EU-US Umbrella Agreement which is a comprehensive data protection framework for criminal law enforcement co-operation. Due to rapid decision making at EU level the explanatory memorandum on the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, submitted for scrutiny to Parliament, was submitted late on 23 May 2016. Decisions on the signature text of the Umbrella Agreement were made by the Council of Ministers before Parliament could complete the process of scrutiny on the agreement. The proposals were:

Proposal for a Council decision on the signature, on behalf of the European Union, of an agreement between the United States of America and the European Union on the protection of personal information relating to the prevention, investigation, detection, and prosecution of criminal offences (8491/16).

Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of an agreement between the United States of America and the European Union on the protection of personal information relating to the prevention, investigation, detection, and prosecution of criminal offences (8245/16).

The UK voted in favour of the signature part of the agreement at JHA Council on 20 May. This decision to vote in favour of the signature at Council and the delay in submitting the explanatory memorandum on the Umbrella Agreement resulted in a scrutiny override being triggered.

The reason for the delay in submitting the explanatory memorandum was due to negotiations of the Umbrella Agreement being brought forward at short notice, leaving member states with less time than usual to assess the text. I am very sorry that this shortened time scale did not allow normal scrutiny procedures to be followed and I hope that the House understands the reasons.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Ministerial Correction

My speech on the Opposition motion on the conflict and humanitarian situation in Yemen on 26 October contained two inaccuracies which I wish to correct.

I stated that “President Hadi had formally requested military action to restore his Government, while the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council had both called for “all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter Houthi aggression”. I should have said that President Hadi had formally requested action, as noted in UN Security Council 2216 (2015), “from the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the League of Arab States to immediately provide support, by all necessary means and measures, including military intervention, to protect Yemen and its people from the continuing aggression by the Houthis”.

I also stated that “last month my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development hosted an event in New York that raised $100 million for the people of Yemen, on top of the £100 million contributed by the people of this country.” I should have said that in September my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development hosted an event in New York that raised $100 million for the people of Yemen, which included an additional package from the UK of £37 million of support to Yemen, bringing the total humanitarian funding for the crisis this year to £100 million contributed by the people of this country.


Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Baroness Anelay of St Johns), has made the following written ministerial statement:

On 1 and 2 November, I chaired the fifth meeting of the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council in London. The council was attended by elected leaders and representatives from Anguilla, Ascension Island, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St Helena, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Tristan da Cunha and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The key themes of discussion at this year’s council were the implications of the UK leaving the European Union, international trade and building the economic development of the territories, anti-corruption and beneficial ownership, governance, human rights and child safeguarding, climate change, pensions and health. Ministerial colleagues from the Departments for International Development, Exiting the European Union, International Trade, Health, Work and Pensions, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as the Solicitor General, attended the discussions. The Minister for Europe and the Americas, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), met the Member of the Falklands Islands Legislative Assembly. Territory leaders also met the Foreign Secretary.

The council agreed a communiqué which identified priorities and set out a number of important commitments and areas for joint work in the year ahead. On the important issue of implications for the overseas territories of the UK’s exit from the European Union, we agreed to take forward future engagement through a new framework, the UK-Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations (JMC-OT EN), to meet for the first time in the first quarter of 2017. Gibraltar will engage separately with the UK on EU exit issues given its different status under the EU treaties. We also agreed a shared ambition for a new UK-overseas territories economic partnership, in particular to take the priorities of the overseas territories into account as the UK looks to establish future trade and investment arrangements with the wider world and to explore the inclusion of the overseas territories in future UK bilateral investment treaties.

The communiqué reflects the commitment of the Governments of the overseas territories and the UK to continue to work in partnership to achieve the vision set out in the June 2012 White Paper: “The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”.

In line with our commitment in the White Paper, we will continue to report to Parliament on progress by Government Departments in implementing the commitments in the communiqué.

A copy of the communiqué has been published on the website: overseas-territories-joint-ministerial-council-2016-communique.

I have arranged for the communiqué to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


British Indian Ocean Territory

My right hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns), has made the following written ministerial statement:

On 24 March 2016 the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) informed the House that the Government would be carrying out further work on their review of resettlement policy in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). I would now like to inform Parliament of two decisions which have been made concerning the future of BIOT.

Parliament will be aware of the Government’s review and consultation over the resettlement of the Chagossian people to BIOT. The manner in which the Chagossian community was removed from the Territory in the 1960s and 1970s, and the way they were treated, was wrong and we look back with deep regret. We have taken care in coming to our final decision on resettlement, noting the community’s emotional ties to BIOT and their desire to go back to their former way of life.

This comprehensive programme of work included an independent feasibility study followed by a full public consultation in the UK, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

I am today announcing that the Government have decided against resettlement of the Chagossian people to the British Indian Ocean Territory on the grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer. In coming to this decision the Government have considered carefully the practicalities of setting up a small remote community on low-lying islands and the challenges that any community would face. These are significant, and include the challenge of effectively establishing modern public services, the limited healthcare and education that it would be possible to provide, and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly job prospects. The Government have also considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility—a vital part of our defence relationship.

The Government will instead seek to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live. I can today announce that we have agreed to fund a package of approximately £40 million over the next 10 years to achieve this goal. This money addresses the most pressing needs of the community by improving access to health and social care and to improved education and employment opportunities. Moreover, this fund will support a significantly expanded programme of visits to BIOT for native Chagossians. The Government will work closely with Chagossian communities in the UK and overseas to develop cost-effective programmes which will make the biggest improvement in the life chances of those Chagossians who need it most.

Parliament will also be aware that the agreements underpinning the UK/US defence facility will roll over automatically on 31 December if neither side breaks silence. In an increasingly dangerous world, the defence facility is used by us and our allies to combat some of the most difficult problems of the 21st century including terrorism, international criminality, instability and piracy. I can today confirm that the UK continues to welcome the US presence, and that the agreements will continue as they stand until 30 December 2036.


Home Department

National DNA Database Ethics Group

I am pleased to announce today’s publication of the eighth annual report of the National DNA Database Ethics Group. The group was established on 25 July 2007 to provide Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the National DNA Database.

I am grateful to the Ethics Group for their strategic advice concerning the use of biometric identifiers and for their continued oversight of the work of the National DNA Database Strategy Board which contributes to ensuring that robust procedures are in place to minimise DNA contamination and remove systematic errors in the forensic use of DNA.

The Ethics Group’s annual report can be viewed on the website of the National DNA Database Ethics Group and I am arranging for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.


Surveillance Camera Commissioner

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying a copy of the 2015-16 annual report of the surveillance camera commissioner before the House, as required by section 35 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The report has also been published on the commissioner’s website.

The surveillance camera commissioner is an independent role appointed under section 34 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 to encourage compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice, review the operation of the code, and provide advice about the code—including changes to it or breaches of it.

The current commissioner is Tony Porter, whose was appointed on 10 March 2014.


Northern Ireland

Non-Jury Trial Provisions: Northern Ireland

Today my Department is launching a public consultation on Northern Ireland non-jury trial provisions contained within the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007. Sections 1 to 9 of the 2007 Act provide for a system of non-jury trial, applicable in particular circumstances, in Northern Ireland. These are temporary provisions which may be extended by order for a period of two years. The non-jury trial system was last extended in July 2015 and will expire on 31 July 2017 unless the “effective period” during which the provisions are in force is extended by order for a further two years.

The provisions for non-jury trial under the 2007 Act allow the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland to certify that a trial on indictment is to be conducted without a jury in a specific case, provided a strict statutory test has been met. Today in Northern Ireland, there is a strong presumption for jury trials in all cases, with less than 2% of all Crown court cases per year held without a jury. However, the severe threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism and the presence of violent paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland continues to pose risks to the criminal justice system which can necessitate non-jury trials in a small number of cases.

This Government remain fully committed to seeing an end to non-jury trials in Northern Ireland, when safe and compatible with the interests of justice. There are no limits to the number of times non-jury trial provisions under the 2007 Act may be extended. However, the temporary nature of the provisions reflects the Government’s view that this is an exceptional system that ought to be reviewed on a regular basis and be kept in force for as short a time as necessary to uphold the effective administration of justice.

The public consultation being launched today on and running for a period of 12 weeks will allow us to gather the widest possible set of views on the non-jury trial provisions in Northern Ireland. The responses will be used to inform my final decision on whether to seek to extend the provisions once again in Parliament next year.


Work and Pensions

Universal Credit

Across Great Britain we now have a solid foundation of universal credit delivery in every jobcentre and local authority. Over 400,000 claimants are receiving the new benefit and are being supported to build better futures for themselves.

Alongside this we are continuing our successful rollout of the universal credit full service for all new claimants. On 20 July 2016 I announced our rollout plans through to completion of the programme, including the jobcentres receiving the new service through to March 2017.

Today, I can announce the schedule for the remainder of the jobcentres through to completion of the rollout in September 2018. At this stage the vast majority of people will no longer be able to make a claim to income-based jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance, income support, housing benefit or tax credits.

Details of the sites are in the table and they will be published later today on the website.

Publication of these plans meets the Department’s commitment to give local authorities six months’ notice of implementation plans in their areas. The Department will make further announcements early in December on local authority funding for housing benefit support.

My Department will bring forward the relevant legislation for these sites in due course.