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Written Statements

Volume 634: debated on Thursday 18 January 2018

Written Statements

Thursday 18 January 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Departmental Contingent Liability Notification: HM Land Registry Digital Mortgage Service

Today I will lay before Parliament a departmental minute describing a new digital mortgage service, to be launched by HM Land Registry (HMLR) in 2018, and a resulting contingent liability.

It is normal practice when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability of £300,000 and above, for which there is no specific statutory authority, for the Department concerned to present Parliament with a minute giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances. It is also normal for the Department to refrain from incurring the liability until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

HMLR’s new digital mortgage service will enable borrowers to sign mortgage deeds digitally, speed up the re-mortgage process and improve the customer experience. A new liability risk arises with this service because HMLR will certify the identity of a borrower when that person provides a digital signature in advance of registration. This liability sits outside of the scope of HMLR’s existing statutory compensation scheme (schedule 8, Land Registration Act 2002).

The risk of the new liability occurring is considered low. The new process, where the borrower’s identity has to be verified through GOV.UK Verify combined with HMLR’s independent security processes, should in fact reduce the overall risk of fraud. To date GOV.UK Verify has not identified a single example of fraud despite in excess of 1.25 million citizens’ accounts having been created using the GOV.UK Verify service.

As with the existing indemnity, any costs incurred from this extension will be covered by HMLR’s resources as a trading fund.

Subject to no objections being received, I intend to authorise the proposal to undertake contingent liability for the digital mortgage service, after the usual 14 parliamentary sitting days.

The Government will be taking further steps to improve the home buying and selling process, following the publication last year of a call for evidence.



UK Military Support

I wish to inform the House of the Government’s intent to deploy three CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters to Mali to provide logistical support to French operations in the Sahel region, following French requests for additional support for Operation Barkhane. This deployment forms an important element of our agreement at the Sandhurst Summit to work more closely with the French to counter terrorism and instability in the Sahel, and strengthen our co-operation in this region. We will continue to co-ordinate the deployment with the French and update the House in due course.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council: 22 January

I will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 January. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting will be held in Brussels.

The agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) is expected to include a breakfast with the president of the European Investment Bank as well as discussions on the post-Cotonou agreement, Libya and the middle east peace process (MEPP). There will be a lunch with the President of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas.

The HRVP is expected to cover Iran, conclusions on Iraq, Zimbabwe, the integrated approach of the EU global strategy and EU priorities at the Council of Europe in her introductory remarks.


Ministers will discuss developments in the negotiations on a post-2020 agreement with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) which will replace the current Cotonou agreement.


The EUVP will debrief on the outcomes from the European Union-African Union-United Nations (EU-AU-UN) taskforce meeting that took place on 14 December and outline the next steps. A substantial discussion on Libya will follow covering politics, migration, counter-terrorism and common security and defence policy. Ministers will discuss the latest political developments, including obstacles in the peace process, perhaps with particular reference to the challenges facing the UN Special Representative Ghassan Salame.

We will be encouraging EU members to continue supporting the UN-led process and will continue to offer our support to the EU-AU-UN taskforce.


Ministers will host Palestinian President Abbas for a lunch and discuss prospects for the MEPP, including longstanding EU support for a negotiated two-state solution and EU support for Palestinian reconciliation.

Council conclusions

The FAC is expected to adopt conclusions on Iraq, Zimbabwe and the integrated approach of the EU global strategy.


Health and Social Care

Health Technology Update

On Monday 15 January 2018 EMIS Group plc (EMIS) notified NHS Digital regarding under-reporting of issues with their general practice clinical systems provided under the General Practice Systems of Choice (GPSoC) contract.

The Department of Health and Social Care was informed by NHS Digital, which manages the contract, on Tuesday 16 January. EMIS has today informed the London Stock Exchange of this matter.

EMIS’s chief medical officer has confirmed that an internal clinical safety review found no issues of concern. A review by NHS Digital’s clinical safety team has found no evidence that patient safety has been put at risk.

NHS Digital is conducting a detailed investigation to establish both the cause and accountability for the under-reporting with the full co-operation of EMIS. Any settlement or other actions will be dependent on the outcome of this process. NHS Digital will also consider what lessons can be learned more widely.

I will provide a further update to Parliament once this important work is complete.


Home Department

Criminal Finances: EU Directive on Fraud and Counterfeiting

The Government have decided that the UK will not opt in to the directive on combating fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment.

The UK’s domestic legislation is already compliant with the majority of the directive’s measures, and in relation to the offences and sentences set out in the directive, the UK goes further than the standards set within the directive for:

The effective co-operation for the fraudulent use of payment instruments, and;

The preparatory offences, the use of information systems and other tools to support fraudulent use.

Following careful consideration we have concluded that there would be no benefit to the UK opting in to this measure.

The UK strongly supports international efforts to tackle fraud. The UK works closely with other EU member states and will continue to do so despite the decision not to opt in. The UK has consistently advocated that international co-operation is required to tackle fraud, and we are committed to supporting member states, and other countries, in this regard.


Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures

Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

TPIM notices in force (as of 30 November 2017)


TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 30 November 2017)


TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)


TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)


TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)


Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)


Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)


The number of current subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (as of 30 November 2017)


The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The most recent TRG meetings took place on 4, 6, 26 and 27 September. The next round of TRGs will take place during December 2017.

On 11 October 2017 a TPIM subject was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment following an earlier guilty plea to two breaches of the association measure of the TPIM notice.

The case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v. LF [2017] EWHC 26859 (Admin) was heard at the High Court between 17 and 21 July 2017. In a judgment dated 30 October 2017 Mrs Justice Laing upheld the Secretary of State’s decision to impose a TPIM notice on LF. In the same judgment Mrs Justice Laing ordered a minor variation to LF’s police reporting requirement. This judgment can be found at



Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service

Together with the senior judiciary, the Government are committed to modernising the justice system. HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s long-term reform programme is already delivering benefits by making access to justice quicker and easier while ensuring fairness. HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s £1 billion reform programme is ambitious, ensuring justice is accessible but proportionate and making use of the technology available in the modern world. It will provide modern IT and processes, and focused services to support those who require court services. It covers all jurisdictions and touches every aspect of the system, including making more effective use of its physical places, spaces and buildings.

Courts and tribunals estate

It is important that when the programme of reform is complete we have the right buildings in the right places that can take full advantage of the opportunities that modernisation brings. They should be flexible, efficient and offer the best possible environment for those who seek justice, and our approach should reflect the greater use of digital services.

I am, today, announcing the publication of six separate, but related, consultations about the HM Courts and Tribunals Service estate.

Consultation on future estates strategy

The first consultation, “Fit for the future: transforming the courts and tribunals estate”, provides an outline of reform activities which are either under way or planned. It outlines the three core principles behind our approach—ensuring access to justice, providing value for money for the taxpayer and ensuring efficiency in the long term— and a proposed approach to future consultations on changes to the estate as HMCTS reform initiatives deliver results.

Consultations on court closure proposals

While consideration of the demands on the courts and tribunals estate in the context of reform is important, we also need to assess the existing estate to make sure it is efficient and offers value for money to taxpayers now. To this end, a key consideration in management of the estate is that we only operate buildings that we need, eliminating duplication and overlapping service provision, with the savings recycled back into the reform programme.

I am therefore today announcing five separate consultations on proposals to close eight courts. These proposals are being made under the existing courts and tribunals estates principles and current processes and workloads.

The courts are:

Banbury magistrates’ and county court and Maidenhead magistrates’ court (in a single consultation for the court estate in the Thames valley),

Cambridge magistrates’ court,

Chorley magistrates’ court and Fleetwood magistrates’ court (in a single consultation for the court estate in Lancashire),

Northallerton magistrates’ court, and

Wandsworth county court and Blackfriars Crown court (in a single consultation for the court estate in London).

All consultations will begin on 18 January 2018 and run for 10 weeks. A response to the consultations will be published following proper consideration of all views submitted.

A copy of the consultation documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Work and Pensions

Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Levy 2017-18

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (Levy) Regulations 2014 require active employers’ liability insurers to pay an annual levy based on their relative market share for the purpose of meeting the costs of the diffuse mesothelioma payment scheme (DMPS). This is in line with the commitment by the insurance industry to fund a scheme of last resort for sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma who have been unable to trace their employer or their employer’s insurer.

I can announce today that the total amount of the levy to be charged for 2017-18, the fourth year of the DMPS, is £33.5 million. The amount will be payable by active insurers by the end of March 2018.

Individual active insurers will be notified in writing of their payment amount (i.e. their share of the levy), together with how the amount was calculated and payment arrangements. Insurers should be aware that it is a legal requirement to pay the levy within the set timescales.

I am pleased that the DMPS has seen three successful years of operation, assisting many sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma. The third annual report for the scheme was published on 30 November 2017 and is available on the website. I hope that members of both Houses will welcome this announcement and give the DMPS their continued support.