Tuesday 27 February 2018
Banking Act 2009 Reporting
The Treasury has laid before the House of Commons a report required under section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 covering the period from 1 April 2017 to 30 September 2017. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office.
Armed Forces Pay Review Body
I am pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has invited Mr John Steele to continue to serve as Chair of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body for a further two-month term of office, commencing on 1 March 2018. This allows Mr Steele to draw pay round 18 to a conclusion.
I would also like to take this opportunity to announce that the Prime Minister has appointed Mr Peter Maddison as the next Chair of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. His appointment will commence on 1 March 2018 and run until 28 February 2021.
Both the extension and the appointment have been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
Military Field Hospitals: Civilian Casualties
In all combat operations the Ministry of Defence does everything it can to minimise the risk to civilians through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of the armed forces. We recognise, however, that there is always the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties, particularly in complex and congested urban environments.
The Ministry of Defence places a significant value on the preservation of life, both to our own forces and also to civilians. When a field hospital is deployed in support of either combat or humanitarian operations, our armed forces regularly and indiscriminately treat civilian cases, to save life, limb or eyesight. This lifesaving work deserves to be acknowledged.
Recognising the important work being done by a number of UK-registered charities, including Every Casualty Worldwide, Save the Children, and AirWars, to ensure that all lives lost to armed violence anywhere in the world are properly recorded, the Ministry of Defence is making a commitment to increase transparency by publishing the number of all civilians admitted to UK military field hospitals. This information will detail the following:
Type of civilian (e.g. UK civilian, local civilian, detainees. The split by type of civilian varies depending on the nature of the operation)
Casualty type (e.g. battle injury, non-battle injury, disease/natural causes)
Disposal (e.g. death in hospital, discharged home, discharged to another hospital)
The information provided will be counts of casualties and not details of individuals (names etc.).
The Ministry of Defence hopes that the release of this information will provide the public with an informed picture of the efforts the UK Government take while undertaking operations to provide urgent medical care to civilians.
Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations
I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations (RFCAs) combined annual report and accounts for 2016/17. I am very grateful to the RFCAs for their valuable work in support of the Reserve Forces and Cadet organisations.
Mathematics and English: Subject Content
Functional skills are qualifications that enable people to develop and demonstrate a good standard of mathematics and English for success in life and work. They are an important part of education provision, particularly for students over the age of 16, apprentices and adults seeking to retrain and improve their skills later in life. The Government are reforming these qualifications to make sure that they give people the best possible preparation for employment, further study and everyday life. We also want new functional skills qualifications to provide employers with a reliable measure of students’ skills, knowledge and achievement.
As part of these reforms, today I am publishing revised subject content for mathematics and English functional skills qualifications. This follows extensive engagement with employers, teachers, subject specialists, and a public consultation which ran from the 12 September to the 7 November 2017.
The new content includes the skills employers tell us they need in their workforce and sets out the learning aims, requirements and standards of each functional skills qualification, moving from entry level 1 to 3 up to levels 1 and 2. Functional skills level 2 is currently accepted as a completion requirement for level 3 apprenticeships and higher, as an alternative option to a GCSE standard pass. Across all levels in both subjects we have improved how students learn to read, write, communicate, use numbers, measures, handle mathematical information and solve problems. In English, by level 2, students are required to read, write and communicate using straightforward and complex instructive, descriptive, explanatory and persuasive texts on a range of technical and non-technical topics. In mathematics, by level 2, students are required to use numbers of any size and form, including ratios, fractions, decimals and percentages, construct, interpret and handle a range of statistical information and data, and use their knowledge and skills to obtain solutions to complex problems.
The new content will be taught from September 2019. These changes aim to ensure that people have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their mathematics and English skills through accessible, practical, rigorous and well-respected qualifications.
The mathematics and English functional skills subject content documents, the Government’s response to the consultation and the equality impact assessment can be viewed online as attachments: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-02-27/HCWS490/
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Farming and our Countryside
I am publishing today the first consultation on a wholly domestic agriculture policy in nearly half a century. “Health and Harmony: The future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit” sets out our ambitions for farming in England and seeks the views of all readers on its proposals.
Leaving the European Union marks an unprecedented opportunity for fundamental reform of agriculture in the United Kingdom. The farmed environment is a source of food that nourishes the body and a landscape that nourishes the soul. We want an agricultural policy that values not only the great British food farmers produce but also the unique public goods that farming, horticulture and forestry provide.
We believe these proposals could work for the whole of the UK, but we recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. We will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations to establish common frameworks, where these are necessary, in order to enable the functioning of the UK internal market or so that the UK can negotiate, enter into and implement new trade agreements. Overall, it is the Government’s expectation that the process will lead to an increase in decision-making powers for each of the devolved administrations.
UK farmers and land managers have operated within the constraints of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for decades. While the CAP has pioneered some of the world’s first agri-environment schemes, which have helped to protect our wildlife and habitats, it remains flawed. Paying land owners for the amount of agricultural land they have creates an unjust, inefficient system that can drive perverse outcomes. The bureaucratic structure of the CAP has constrained our ability to deliver genuine improvements to our countryside and natural environment.
We now have an opportunity to transform agricultural policy. Our proposals are underpinned by the ambitions we have set out in the Government’s 25-year environment plan, so that we leave the environment in a better state than we found it for future generations. We want to incentivise methods of farming that improve soil health, create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk and better mitigate climate change and improve air quality by reducing agricultural emissions.
Good environmental land management has benefits beyond improving the natural landscape. Human life can be enriched by a deeper connection to our countryside, be it through the air we breathe or access to public footpaths. Farmed animals are also an integral part of our countryside. We have a responsibility to maintain their health and welfare throughout their life and we want to safeguard the welfare of our livestock, building on our existing reputation for world leading standards.
We are proud to have some of the most productive and innovative farmers in the world. Leaving the EU presents a huge opportunity for UK agriculture to increase its competitiveness. This paper proposes various methods by which the industry could achieve this, including developing the next generation of food and farming technology, adopting the latest agronomic techniques, reducing the impact of pests and diseases, investing in skills and equipment, and collaborating with other farmers and processors. We will ensure that in future public money is paid for public goods—principally environmental enhancement, but these could also include improving productivity, providing public access to farmland and the countryside, enhanced welfare standards for livestock and measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities.
In England, direct payments will continue during an “agricultural transition”. So that we can support farmers to prepare for change, we will need to redistribute some existing funds. To do this, we propose to apply reductions to farmers’ direct payments, starting with the largest landowners, to free up money to pilot environmental land management schemes and to help farmers unlock their full potential for sustainable production.
We recognise that some sectors may find it more difficult than others to adapt—for example, those located in the most remote, wild and beautiful parts of England. The upland way of life, the unique food produced, and the great art and literature that these landscapes have inspired attract visitors from around the world. In this paper, we ask how these rural communities can be supported for new generations and what the right support should be during the transition and into the future.
For the first time in more than 40 years, the UK will also have its own trade policy. We want to maximise our trade opportunities globally and across all countries—both by boosting our trading relationships with old friends and new allies, and by seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU. We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Maintaining and enhancing our high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection will remain paramount.
We will introduce an Agriculture Bill that moves away from the CAP, providing us with the ability to set out a domestic policy that will stand the test of time.
This consultation marks the exposition of a new settlement for agriculture. As we leave the European Union, this is an historic chance to do something economically sound, socially just, and environmentally essential.
New figures published on Thursday 22 February show that the UK is more than half way towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people through the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme (VPRS) by 2020.
The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled on the VPRS, one of the largest global resettlement programmes, since it began.
The VPRS is just one of the routes by which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK—a 19% increase on 2016—with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Five hundred and thirty nine people arrived under the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme (VCRS) which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the middle east and north Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.
As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety. Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.
The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The UK’s resettlement schemes are just one of the ways the Government are supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
Independent Police Complaints Commission
I am pleased to announce that today my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I are publishing the annual report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) [HC 798]. Copies of the report have been laid before the House and will be available in the Vote Office.
This is the 13th annual report from the IPCC, covering their work during 2016-17. This period has been pivotal for the IPCC as they prepare for their transition to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) headed by a director general and unitary board set out in the Policing and Crime Act 2017. They have continued to increase the numbers of independent cases they take on (590) and complete (496) while maintaining the average time to complete cases at around 11 months. A major milestone was reached with the Hillsborough investigation, when following referral to the CPS, six people were subsequently charged.
As well as covering the police, the annual report also includes a section on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.