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Written Statements

Volume 628: debated on Thursday 7 September 2017

Written Statements

Thursday 7 September 2017

Defence

Armed Forces Pay Review Body Appointments

I am pleased to announce that I have invited Brendan Connor JP and Professor Ken Mayhew to continue to serve as members of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body for a further three-year term of office, commencing on 1 March 2018. I have also invited Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Jon Westbrook to continue to serve as a member of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body for an additional one-year term of office, commencing on 1 March 2018. These appointments have been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

FCO Services

FCO Services operates as a trading fund of the FCO. I have set it the following performance targets for 2017-2018:

A return on capital employed of at least 3.5% (statutory commitment);

An in-year surplus before financing and dividend costs;

A productivity ratio of at least 80%, measuring actual billable hours vs. available billable hours;

A customer satisfaction result of at least 80%;

An overall improvement on the average 2016 index Your Say score for “Employee Engagement” measuring above 58%; and

An overall improvement on the average 2016 index Your Say score for “My Manager”, measuring above 62%.

FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets through its annual report for 2017-2018.

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Lebanon: Border Assistance

The United Kingdom is strongly committed to supporting Lebanon’s peace, stability and prosperity. Through a long-standing Conflict Stability and Security Fund project worth £22.6 million over three years, the UK is helping the Lebanese armed forces (LAF) secure the Lebanon-Syria border. This includes building 30 border watchtowers and over 20 forward operating bases along the border. Our ambition is for Lebanon to have complete authority over its border with Syria.

In order to reach this objective, in August this year, the British embassy in Beirut placed an order worth £1,818,096.02 for equipment—“Hesco” border defensive barriers—to support the construction of LAF Land Border Regiment towers. The decision was taken to order the materials in August, albeit during the parliamentary recess, to ensure that the materials would arrive in time to allow construction before winter.

The provision of this assistance is fully in line with the Government’s security and stability objectives in the middle east. FCO officials carry out regular reviews of our programmes in Lebanon to ensure funding is not directed to non-state actors.

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Health

NHS Recruitment

I am today updating the House on the future of NHS Professionals Ltd (the company).

The Department of Health has today announced that NHS Professionals Ltd—a company which supplies flexible staffing to the NHS—will remain in wholly public ownership, after offers to buy a majority stake in the company undervalued its growing potential.

In November 2016, the Government decided to instigate a sale of a majority share in NHS Professionals Ltd as a potential path to providing it with the extra expertise, technology and investment it needed to work with more hospitals and drive greater savings for the NHS. However, after careful consideration, the Government have concluded that none of the offers received for the company through the open, rigorous bidding process reflected the company’s growing potential and improved performance.

NHS Professionals was established as a limited liability company by the last Labour Government in 2010, with a specific intention to give it greater commercial freedoms and “prepare it for sale” (Department of Health, “Explanatory Memorandum to The NHS Professionals Special Health Authority (Abolition) Order 2010”, February 2010). It currently holds a bank of over 90,000 workers filling more than 2 million shifts, saving the NHS £70 million every year. However, it only works with around a quarter of trusts, meaning that many others rely heavily on more expensive agencies to supply additional staff. We would like more trusts to work together to fill shifts via collaborative banks, and there will be opportunities for NHS Professionals Ltd and others to support this work.

Since the decision was taken to seek offers for the company, NHSP has significantly increased its performance such that audited profit before tax for the year ended 31 March 2017 was 44% higher than in the previous year. This improvement in financial performance continues to be built upon in the first quarter of the current year. The company’s improved financial and operational performance means it can now invest in improved IT infrastructure, expand its services to the NHS and transform into a world-class provider of flexible staff while remaining under public ownership—generating further savings for the NHS, all of which will continue to be reinvested in frontline services.

The Government are fully committed to providing world-class NHS services that are free at the point of the use, now and in the future.

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Justice

Justice Update

Earlier today, I notified the market via the London Stock Exchange Group that I would today lay a Command Paper “The Personal Injury Discount Rate How it should be set in future Draft Legislation” (Cm 9500) before Parliament.

The paper invites comments on draft legislation to give effect to the Government’s proposals to change the way in which the personal injury discount rate is set in England and Wales. If enacted, the proposals will lead to the rate being:

set by reference to expected rates of return on a low risk diversified portfolio of investments rather than very low risk investments as at present.

reviewed promptly after the legislation comes into force and, thereafter, at least every three years.

set by the Lord Chancellor following consultation with an expert panel (other than on the initial review which would be by the Lord Chancellor with advice from the Government Actuary) and, as at present, HM Treasury.

The proposals have been developed in the light of the responses to the consultation paper “The Personal Injury Discount Rate: How it should be set in future”, which was published on 30 March, and related research. It is not possible to predict accurately now what the rate will be when it is set under the proposals, as this will depend on decisions made in the light of the then current circumstances. Nonetheless, without restricting the future exercise of the proposed power, the Government might expect, based on the evidence currently available and using illustrative assumptions, that if a single rate were set today under the proposals the real rate might fall within the range of 0% to 1%.

I am also publishing today:

the Government’s response to the consultation;

an impact assessment in relation to the proposals prepared by the Ministry of Justice;

the Government Actuary’s Department’s report “Ministry of Justice Personal Injury Discount Rate Analysis” (dated 19 July 2017); and

the British Institute of International and Comparative Law “Briefing Note on the Discount Rate applying to Quantum in Personal Injury Cases: Comparative Perspectives” (dated 20 March 2017).

I will place copies of all these documents in the Libraries of both Houses and they will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/personal-injury-discount-rate-how-it-should-be-set-in-future and

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/personal-injury-discount-rate/.

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Transport

Airports National Policy Statement

In my statement on 13 July this year, I said I would set out the next steps of the draft airports national policy statement (NPS) process following the summer recess.

The Government consulted on a draft airports NPS between 2 February and 25 May this year.

We received over 70,000 responses, and work to analyse them is ongoing. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to feed in their views.

In the consultation document, my Department was clear that further work was under way to update the evidence base, including revised aviation demand forecasts and the Government’s final air quality plan. It was intended these documents would be presented for consideration during the initial consultation, but the timing of the general election meant this was not possible.

I am therefore confirming that there is a need to conduct a short period of further consultation to allow this updated evidence to be taken into account. This further consultation will focus mainly on the specific elements of the NPS affected, and is expected to begin later this year.

I appointed the former Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, to provide independent oversight of the consultation process. I am very grateful to him for his hard work in helping to ensure that the consultation was as open, fair and transparent as possible. Today I am publishing his report on the initial consultation, and can announce that he has agreed to oversee the period of further consultation.

In my statement in July I said that the timing of the election—in particular the need to re-start the Select Committee process—meant we now expect to lay any final NPS in the first half of 2018 for a vote in the House of Commons. This Government remain committed to realising the benefits that airport expansion could bring, and I can confirm that we do not expect this additional period of consultation to impact on the timetable for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPS.

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