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Written Statements

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 17 November 2016

Written Statements

Thursday 17 November 2016

Communities and Local Government

Housing Policy

This week it was announced that almost 190,000 new homes were delivered in 2015-16, with over 30,000 of these as a direct result of “change of use”. This is welcome progress but we know that there is more we need to do. That is why we are working on a housing White Paper that will include measures to ensure more land is available in the right places, incentivise and speed up development, encourage a more diverse housing market and deliver support for ordinary working-class people.

The Government are absolutely committed to building more homes and will be making further announcements in due course.

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Culture, Media and Sport

Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council (21/22 November)

The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council will take place in Brussels on 21 and 22 November 2016. Shan Morgan, the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, will represent the UK at the youth section of the Council. I will represent the UK at both the culture and the sport sections of the Council.

Youth

The Council will be asked to adopt draft conclusions on promoting new approaches in youth work to uncover and develop the potential of young people. The conclusions will recommend the need to promote effective and innovative cross-sectoral policies that can help young people realise their full potential. The UK intends to support the adoption of the conclusions.

The presentation will be immediately followed by a policy debate on youth engagement.

Culture

The Council is expected to present a progress report on the proposals for the revised audiovisual media services directive. The audiovisual media services directive seeks to ensure the effective operation of the internal market for television broadcasting services by ensuring the free movement of broadcasting services throughout the EU.

This will be followed by first reading on the proposal for a European year of cultural heritage (2018). The objective of this initiative is to raise awareness of the opportunities that cultural heritage bring, mainly in terms of intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and economic growth. At the same time, the European year aims at drawing attention to the challenges that cultural heritage is facing, including environmental and physical pressure on heritage sites and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. The UK intends to support this proposal.

The Council will then be invited to adopt a proposal to amend the European capitals of culture for the years 2020 to 2033 to extend access to EFTA/EEA countries. The UK Government are supportive of this proposal.

Finally there will be a public debate, “towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”. This will discuss how the EU and its member states can co-operate to bring about a more strategic approach to culture in external relations.

Sport

The Council will seek adoption of its draft conclusions on sport diplomacy. The conclusions will acknowledge that sport is a possible tool in supporting intercultural, economic and political co-operation, and that its potential can be part of extending and strengthening contacts between the EU and third countries. The UK intends to support the adoption of these conclusions.

This will be followed by a public debate on the impact of sport on personal development. The UK intervention will be to demonstrate the work the UK is already carrying out in this area through participation, Olympic legacy and the sport strategy.

Other business

The French delegation will present information on reform of the European copyright framework. This will be followed by the Croatian and Irish delegations on the European capitals of culture 2020. The Italian delegation will then present information on “Facing crisis in Europe: Investing in Culture”.

The Council will also be presented with information on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting in Glasgow (19-20 November). This information will be provided by the EU member states representatives in WADA: Belgium, UK and Malta. This will be followed by the French delegation on development and specific features of the organisation of European sport. Finally there will be information from the Maltese delegation on the work programme of their incoming presidency.

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Health

NHS Professionals Ltd

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) has made the following written statement:

I am today updating the House on the future of NHS Professionals Ltd (“the Company”).

The Company was set up as a limited company fully owned by the Secretary of State for Health in 2010. While it is the largest single supplier of flexible staffing to the national health service, with a bank of over 90,000 workers providing more than 2 million shifts every year, it currently works with only around a quarter of NHS trusts.

The Department of Health has therefore concluded that the Company requires significant investment to enable it to expand, so it can deliver improved services to even more NHS trusts and reduce their reliance on expensive agency staff—the bill for which is currently £3 billion annually, which diverts resources that could be better used for substantive staffing and improved patient care.

At the moment the Company works with 55 NHS trusts. As the largest provider of bank staff to the NHS, the Company is in a prime position to respond to the NHS’s need for more cost-effective and better planned temporary staffing. It currently saves the NHS approximately £70 million a year by supplying bank staff to hospitals which are more affordable than those staff supplied by expensive agencies. We want to see the Company take advantage of this opportunity to expand its business, acting as a true alternative to expensive agencies. But the Company cannot do this without substantial investment to improve the services it offers.

Over the last year the Department has therefore been exploring a range of potential options to help the Company drive further value for the NHS.

Today I can announce that, following market analysis and a thorough appraisal of a business case, the Department’s preferred option is to create a joint venture partnership to bring in the necessary investment and expertise to the business and give the Company greater operational autonomy. The Department will sell a majority shareholding so that the Company is run and controlled by the new partner, which will carry the majority of the finance and operating risks of the business.

Contractual mechanisms will be used to ensure that the dual aims of creating a profitable business model while meeting the needs of NHS customers—delivering savings and a high-quality service—are correctly aligned and fully agreed upon.

The Department’s retention of a minority shareholding will also ensure there are no significant changes to the agreed purpose and/or objectives of the Company. This is backed up by the right to take back ownership of the Company in the event of any serious breach of the agreed main objectives.

A tendering process to find the right partner is being launched through an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Potential investors will be subject to detailed evaluation to ensure value for money to the Government.

There will be no immediate impact on the approximately 600 corporate staff who are employed by the Company. The Company’s bank workers will also continue to book and work shifts for NHS trusts as usual.

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International Trade

Department for International Trade (Non-executive Board Members)

I wish to update the House on the appointment of non-executive board members (NEBMs) at the Department for International Trade.

I am pleased to announce to the House that three independent NEBMs have been appointed to sit on our departmental board. A further NEBM has been appointed as chair of the board for UK Export Finance, who will also sit on our departmental board.

Those NEBMs are:

Mr Simon Walker, outgoing director-general of the Institute of Directors, as lead non-executive board member and also chair of the Nominations Committee.

Ms Julie Currie, chief financial and reporting officer at the Lloyds Bank Foundation, who alongside her duties as a non-executive board member will chair the Audit and Risk Committee.

Dr Pippa Malmgren, founder of DRPM Group, a respected political analyst with trade policy experience who will act as a non-executive board member.

Ms Noel Harwerth, current chair of GE Capital Bank Europe, who will join the UK Export Finance Board as chair, and will also be a NEBM on the DIT departmental board.

This is a significant milestone for our Department and I am proud of the talent and expertise represented on the board. Our NEBMs’ extensive business knowledge and experience of global trade and corporate governance will be of huge value to me and the Government as we shape the Department and forge the UK’s trade agenda and promote the UK as a place to do business with.

The new board members will work closely with me, my ministerial team and the executive team to provide independent scrutiny and advice and to assist the Department in delivering our priorities, which include an effective long-term strategy for the UK’s trade policy; promotion of UK exports; inward and outward investment; take-up of UK export finance; and promotion of the UK through the GREAT campaign. They will also advise on performance and the effective management of the Department.

These appointments come at the end of a highly competitive process. We launched our search for NEBMs in July through advertisements on the Centre for Public Appointments and Women on Boards websites. We received 181 applications, including exceptionally well-qualified individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, demonstrating the high level of interest there is in international trade.

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Work and Pensions

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

Following the recent Supreme Court judgments relating to the removal of the spare room subsidy, and to ensure the facts of the cases are fully understood, I would draw colleagues’ attention to the following entry in Hansard:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-11-14/debates/D5D5E72C-3772-46E6-8A4F-15A8F8EBA19A/Under-OccupancyCharge

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