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Written Statements

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 26 April 2017

Written Statements

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Education

Higher Education and Research Bill: EVEL Analysis

I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government’s analysis of English votes for English laws in relation to amendments made to the Higher Education and Research Bill in the House of Lords.

The English votes for English laws process applies to Public Bills in the House of Commons. To support the process, the Government have agreed that they will provide information to assist the Speaker in considering whether to certify a Bill or any of its provisions for the purposes of English votes for English laws. Bill provisions that relate exclusively to England or to England and Wales, and which have a subject matter within the legislative competence of one or more of the devolved legislatures, can be certified.

The memorandum also provides an assessment of Government amendments tabled in lieu of Lords amendments, for the purposes of English votes for English laws. The Department’s assessment is that the amendments do not change the territorial application of the Bill.

This analysis reflects the position should all the Government amendments be accepted.

The memorandum can be found on the Bill documents page of the Parliament website at: http://services. Parliament. uk/bills/2016-17/highereducationandresearch.html and I have deposited a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS616]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Syria: Provision of Equipment

The situation in Syria remains extremely fragile. An estimated 400,000 people have been killed since the war began six years ago, many of them innocent civilians. The Assad regime continues to use the most barbaric military methods and tactics available, including the use of indiscriminate artillery fire, chemical weapons and barrel bombs. The UK remains committed to doing all it can to promote a political settlement to end the conflict, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering, and to protect UK national security through countering terrorist and extremist threats.

In November 2015, my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), issued written statements setting out our plans to give equipment and training to groups selected from the moderate armed opposition’s (MAO) southern front, creating a border force and casualty evacuation capability in opposition-controlled areas of southern Syria. The Southern Front border force (SF-BFOR) working together with other MAO groups and in co-ordination with the Jordanian authorities, has interdicted Jordanian citizens illegally entering Syria. They have also stopped smugglers carrying money, weapons and narcotics from Syria to Jordan, and Daesh fighters attempting to carry weapons, explosives and money in and out of the besieged area of the Yarmouk basin. The Southern Front casualty evacuation capability (CASEVAC) is designed to provide vital medical support to the MAO and has, to date, established and equipped three medical teams with a command and control element attached to each. Primarily designed to support MAO fighters, they have provided treatment to over 100 injured MAO personnel in recent fighting in Dera’a city. These teams have also provided treatment to civilians wounded in the fighting often working alongside the Syrian Civil Defence. Other international donors have contributed to both initiatives.

The UK intends to continue its support to these programmes by providing targeted operational equipment —for patrolling and observation, and for provision of medical care to wounded fighters—as well as building the command and control capacity. We will give £3,438,338.54 in equipment to SF-BFOR and £2,779,970.30 in equipment to the CASEVAC medical units. For SF-BFOR the list of equipment includes vehicles; day/night observation aids; communications equipment; metal and line detecting equipment to find and avoid improvised explosive devices; uniforms; and combined load carrying/protective vests. The list of equipment for the CASEVAC medical units includes vehicles; communications equipment; medical treatment equipment; uniforms; and load-carrying/protective vests. We expect to spend a total of £10 million this financial year on both programmes of support.

The use of these funds to cover the costs of the programme has been approved by the Syria conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF) board, the middle east and north Africa CSSF regional board and operations committee. The equipment has been scrutinised to ensure that the provision of this equipment is consistent with export controls and complies with our international obligations. Recipients have been carefully selected and vetted to prevent equipment being given to those involved in extremist activities or human rights abuses. All equipment transfers are approved by HMG immediately before delivery. All our assistance is carefully calibrated and legal, is aimed at alleviating human suffering and supporting moderate groups and is regularly monitored and evaluated. We monitor the situation on the ground carefully.

[HCWS617]

Syria: Provision of Equipment

The situation in Syria remains extremely fragile. An estimated 400,000 people have been killed since the war began six years ago, many of them innocent civilians. The Assad regime continues to use the most barbaric military methods and tactics available, including the use of indiscriminate artillery fire, chemical weapons and barrel bombs. The UK remains committed to doing all it can to promote a political settlement to end the conflict, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering, and to protect UK national security through countering terrorist and extremist threats.

In June 2016, my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond), issued written statements setting out our plans to give equipment to Syria Civil Defence and the Free Syrian Police teams operating in opposition-controlled areas of Syria. The UK subsequently distributed the equipment to both teams along with comprehensive training packages. Syria Civil Defence teams have now saved over 70,000 lives by rescuing civilians trapped in damaged buildings, fighting fires and providing emergency first aid. The Free Syrian Police continues its valuable work to prevent looting and to support the distribution of humanitarian aid. Other international donors have contributed to both initiatives.

The UK intends to continue its support to these programmes by increasing their communications capability and mobility of the teams, providing more targeted operational equipment—whether for search and rescue, or tracing explosives—as well as building up the capacity of these organisations to deliver on the ground. We intend to give £2 million in equipment to Syria Civil Defence and £4 million in equipment to the Free Syrian Police. For Syria Civil Defence, the list of equipment includes cutting and rescue tools; personal protective gear including helmets; uniforms; communications equipment; medical supplies; equipment for the disposal of unexploded ordinance; office supplies; vehicles; and fire-fighting equipment. For the Free Syrian Police, the list of equipment includes vehicles; communications kit; traffic signs and cones; uniforms; and generators. We expect to spend £19 million this financial year on both programmes of support.

The use of these funds to cover the costs of the equipment has been approved by members of the middle east and north Africa conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF) regional board. The list of equipment has been scrutinised to ensure that the provision of this equipment is consistent with export controls and complies with our international obligations. Recipients have been carefully selected to prevent equipment being given to those involved in extremist activities or human rights abuses. All equipment transfers are approved by HMG immediately before delivery. All our assistance is carefully calibrated and legal, is aimed at alleviating human suffering and supporting moderate groups and is regularly monitored and evaluated. We monitor the situation on the ground carefully.

[HCWS618]

Home Department

Immigration

In 2016, the UK granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children. By the end of 2016, the UK had resettled more than 5,000 people under the Syrian vulnerable persons’ resettlement scheme and the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme, as part of our commitment to taking 23,000 people by 2020. Our resettlement schemes allow children to be resettled with their family members, thereby discouraging them from making perilous journeys to Europe alone. In 2016, we transferred over 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from within Europe to the UK, including more than 750 from France as part of the UK’s comprehensive support for the Calais camp clearance. And over 200 children have already arrived in the UK under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016. The UK has pledged over £2.3 billion in aid in response to the events in Syria and the region—our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. Within Europe, the UK has also established a £10 million refugee children’s fund to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe. The fund includes targeted support to meet the specific needs of unaccompanied and separated children.

In my written statement of 8 February 2017 I announced that, following consultation with local authorities, the Government would transfer the specified number of 350 unaccompanied children from Europe to the UK under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.

The Government have very recently become aware that, due to an administrative error as part of collating the figures, one region pledged 130 places which were not accounted for in setting the specified number. As part of the consultation local authorities were asked to let their strategic migration partnerships know how many places they could offer, and then the strategic migration partnerships provided the regional number to the Home Office. The Home Office continued to work with the strategic migration partnerships throughout the consultation process, and believed that two regions in England had not provided responses after the consultation closed. Both of these regions had already stepped up to take a number of children from over-burdened councils elsewhere in the country so it was assumed they would continue to support the national transfer scheme as and when they could, but were not able to provide specific numbers which the Home Office could then allocate to section 67 cases. The Home Office recently discovered that one of the regions had sent a return and we are now including their pledges in the specified number for the purposes of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.

In order to ensure the specified number of children to be transferred is a true reflection of the responses to that consultation, I am today announcing that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government are increasing the specified number from 350 to 480. As outlined in my original statement, the specified number includes over 200 children already transferred from France as part of the Calais camp clearance. It does not include children transferred to the UK pursuant to the family reunion criteria of the Dublin III regulation.

The Government remain fully committed to the implementation of our commitment under section 67 to transfer unaccompanied children to the UK from Europe and no eligible child has been refused transfer to the UK as a result of this error. The Home Secretary has written to her counterparts in France, Greece and Italy and we are working closely with member states, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and NGO partners so we can identify and transfer children to the UK as soon as possible. Home Office officials have met with their counterparts in each of the countries in the past few weeks to plan future transfers. We have secondees in Greece and Italy working on transfers of unaccompanied children to the UK under both the Dublin III regulation and section 67 and we published the criteria for future transfers on 10 March. Over the coming months, the Government will continue to work with EU member states and partners to implement section 67.

[HCWS619]