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Written Statements

Volume 638: debated on Monday 26 March 2018

Written Statements

Monday 26 March 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Energy Policy

In a written ministerial statement of 11 January, the Government set out their two-fold strategy for Euratom exit. This strategy included a commitment to put in place all the necessary measures to ensure that the UK can operate as an independent and responsible nuclear state upon the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom, at which point the UK will be legally responsible for its own nuclear safeguards regime.

These measures include the negotiation of bilateral safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These new agreements—a voluntary offer agreement and an additional protocol—will replace the current, trilateral, safeguards agreements between the UK, the IAEA and Euratom.

We have made good progress in these negotiations. Both the UK and IAEA are clear that the new agreements should follow the same principles and scope as the current trilateral agreements. We will continue to offer a comprehensive facilities list to the IAEA, enabling them to designate and inspect their chosen sites for the purposes of international verification.

In order to ensure continuity for the nuclear sector, on 22 March the Government notified the IAEA that the UK will be taking legal responsibility for its own nuclear safeguards regime in the long term and started the process of seeking formal IAEA agreement to a new voluntary offer agreement and accompanying additional protocol for the UK. We expect these agreements to undergo UK ratification later this year. The agreements will only come into force once existing agreements no longer apply.

We will continue to seek a close association with Euratom, including the possibility of future co-operation on nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards, and any potential role for Euratom in supporting the establishment of the UK’s own domestic safeguards regime.

The written ministerial statement of 11 January included a commitment to report back every three months about overall progress on Euratom to keep Parliament updated. I am pleased to confirm that the first such update has today been provided to Parliament. The paper is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The next update on progress is scheduled for June 2018.

[HCWS586]

Home Department

Fire Reform

I am pleased to announce that I have approved proposals from the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) for Cambridgeshire (Jason Ablewhite), Staffordshire (Matthew Ellis) and West Mercia (John Campion) to take on governance of their local fire and rescue services.

I have carefully considered each proposal, taking into account representations made by the public, police and fire personnel, and relevant local authorities in response to each PCC’s local consultation. In each case I obtained an independent assessment of the PCCs’ proposal, carried out by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA), which I have had regard to and today publish in the interests of transparency. A copy of each of the independent assessments will be placed in the House Library and published on www.gov.uk shortly.

Having had regard to this material, I am of the view that in each case, a transfer of fire governance to the PCC is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, and that there is no adverse effect on public safety.

These PCCs will join Roger Hirst of Essex, who became the country’s first Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in October 2017. My officials will now prepare the necessary statutory instrument to give effect to these proposals in the coming months.

As directly accountable leaders overseeing both fire and policing, each PCC can increase efficiency and effectiveness, maximise available resources and improve the service delivered to the public. I look forward to seeing the benefits this will bring to each area.

[HCWS585]

Communities and Local Government

Local Plan Intervention

On 16 November 2017 I made a statement to the House with an update on local plan progress. Up to date plans, including local plans, are essential because they provide clarity to communities and developers about where homes should be built and where not, so that development is planned rather than the result of speculative applications. I made clear that a lack of progress will no longer be tolerated.

The Government have abolished top-down regional planning. But a locally-led planning system requires elected local representatives to take the lead, listen to local residents and business, and set out a clear framework to build new homes, support the local economy and protect the environment. Local plans also provide the framework within which groups can prepare neighbourhood plans to shape development at local level. Most councils have seized the opportunity that localism provides; a small minority have not.

I wrote to 15 local planning authorities to commence the formal process of intervention in areas that had either recently failed the duty to co-operate or failed to meet the deadline set out in their local development schemes, the public timetable that all local planning authorities are required to put in place.

Local authorities had until 31 January 2018 to put forward any exceptional circumstances, which, in their view, justifies their failure to produce a local plan under the local planning regime, as amended by the Localism Act 2011 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

I have now considered these responses. I am pleased that since my letter of 16 November, four local authorities, Liverpool, North East Derbyshire, Runnymede, and York have published their draft local/plans. In Basildon, Bolsover, Brentwood, Calderdale, Eastleigh, Mansfield and St Albans, while I have not been persuaded that there are exceptional circumstances to justify the failure to get a plan in place, I note some progress has been made to get their plans in place and at this time do not consider that intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating their plan production. We will monitor these areas closely and any further significant delays in meeting their published timetables will inevitably give rise to considerable doubt over the ability of these authorities to make the necessary progress on their local plans. If there are further significant delays I will reconsider my decision not to intervene. In Northumberland I am asking the council to produce a clearer timetable and to accelerate plan production.

In three areas, Castle Point, Thanet and Wirral, I am now particularly concerned at the consistent failure and lack of progress to get a plan in place and have not been persuaded by the exceptional circumstances set out by the council or the proposals they have put forward to get a plan in place. We will therefore step up the intervention process in these three areas. I will be sending a team of planning experts, led by the Government’s Chief Planner, into these three areas to advise me on the next steps in my intervention.

I have a number of intervention options available to me which I will now actively examine. As it may prove necessary to take over plan production, subject to decisions taken after the expert advice I have commissioned, my Department has started the procurement process to secure planning consultants and specialists to undertake that work so it can commence as quickly as possible. My Department will also be speaking to the county councils and combined authority with a view to inviting those bodies to prepare the local plan in these three areas as well as exploring the possibility with neighbouring authorities of directing the preparation of joint plans.

[HCWS580]

Justice

Justice Update

I have today signed a Justice Devolution Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with London Councils and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

This agreement will fundamentally change the way the criminal justice and offender management systems interact with local partners in London. We are moving towards a model where greater local influence is seen in a number of key delivery areas, including victims and witness services, future probation services, innovative use of electronic monitoring technologies, and specialist services for young offenders and women in the criminal justice system. We have also committed to explore jointly more ambitious options, such as budget devolution for certain groups of offenders in custody.

This is a crucial area of focus for the Government. Spending on criminal justice in London is significant, estimated at £3.3 billion per annum across at least 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level. Reoffending costs £2.2 billion in criminal justice costs alone. London accounts for almost 20% of offenders and reoffenders, at 76,000 and 19,000 respectively, and has a prison population accounting for a similar proportion but which is spread across 40 institutions nationally. Crime and the impact of crime is not felt equally across London, with the most vulnerable wards having three times as many victims of burglary, robbery and sexual offences as the least vulnerable wards.

In summary, the MoU covers the following areas:

Victims and witnesses

Work will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the point a crime is reported to the criminal conviction and beyond. Our ambition is to establish a more integrated service for victims and witnesses in London where victim support would be provided by a single person rather than several agencies. To help ensure a more seamless service for victims and witnesses before trial, we will devolve commissioning of support for witnesses at the pre-trial stage to MOPAC by April 2019.

We will also use the findings from the MOPAC-commissioned review of compliance with the victims’ code of practice and the provision of victim services in London to improve accountability and to inform local, regional and national policy and commissioning.

Reducing reoffending

This section of the MoU commits my Department to working with local partners to ensure that the right interventions are in place to reduce reoffending in the capital. This will include delivery of a joint review of probation services in London, and testing the co-commissioning of through the gate’ services.

Further to this, the MoJ, MOPAC and London Councils will undertake a joint programme of work around robust community sentence options, including considering opportunities to co-commission and better integrate services for the most complex, violent and persistent offenders, and developing a London strategy to make the most effective use of electronic monitoring.

A new approach to managing vulnerable cohorts

More women are sentenced to short custodial sentences in London than in the rest of the country, and the overall London youth reoffending rate of 47.5% remains stubbornly higher than the rate for England and Wales, which is currently 42.6%. This section sets out how we will work in partnership to address the complex needs of these vulnerable cohorts.

The MoU sets out a specific commitment to work collaboratively to align priorities and budgets on female offenders within London, exploring the scope for co-designing credible alternatives to custody. On young offenders, the MoJ will facilitate joint analysis with an aim of improving outcomes, with particular focus on addressing BAME disproportionality across the system. MoJ, MOPAC and London boroughs will pursue joint work programmes in relation to resettlement provision, transition to the adult estate, and the opportunities to co-commission a secure school for London.

Financial devolution

Finally, we are seeking, in the longer term, to foster a whole-system approach to offender management where powers, resources and decisions are better aligned and early intervention and prevention is incentivised. The MoU sets out our intention to work with MOPAC and London Councils to explore ways in which financial models can incentivise greater investment in preventative services which reduce demand on the CJS, particularly considering opportunities with specific cohorts, including female offenders and 18-25 year old offenders.

This summary covers the main commitments of the MoU, which is available in full at: https://www.london.gov.uk/mopac-publications-0/memorandum-understanding-london-cjs. Work will begin now to ensure we jointly deliver these commitments as quickly as possible.

[HCWS584]

Transport

High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill: Additional Provision

I would like to inform the House about the introduction of an additional provision to the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill, which is currently before the Select Committee.

The additional provision proposes a number of changes to the powers in the Bill for the Select Committee’s consideration. Those directly and specially affected by these changes may petition against them, and once any petitioners have been heard, the Committee will decide whether the amendments to the Bill should be made. The petition period, set by the Chairman of Ways and Means, finishes on 27 April.

One of the changes in the additional provision relates to a minor change in the alignment of the Phase 2a route near Stone. Other changes relate to ongoing design discussions with utility companies, to highway works on junctions to address traffic and safety issues, and requirements for additional land for environmental mitigation works. In some cases, these changes affect land some distance from the line of route.

Full details are shown in the plans and sections deposited alongside the additional provision. Affected landowners will receive formal notification this week, including information on how to petition against the changes if they should decide to do so.

Standing Orders require that an estimate of expense be prepared, to a prescribed format. This sets out the gross costs of the land and works in the additional provision. However, the costs of works and land avoided through these amendments is expected to produce an overall reduction in the costs of the scheme.

I am also publishing an environmental statement setting out any likely significant effects from the changes in the additional provision, alongside a supplementary environmental statement reporting new environmental information relating to the scheme. In accordance with Standing Orders, there is a public consultation on these documents which will run until 14 May. The documents will be put in the Libraries of both Houses, and will also be made available in locations open to the public in all local authorities and parishes affected by changes.

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Maritime and Coastguard Agency Business Plan 2018-19

I am proud to announce the publication of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) business plan for 2018-19. The MCA does vital work to save lives at sea, regulate ship standards and protect the marine environment. The Agency affects not just those working on the coast or at sea, it upholds the legacy of our great maritime nation.

The business plan sets out:

the services that the agency will deliver and any significant changes it plans to make;

the resources the agency requires; and

the key performance indicators, by which its performance will be assessed.

This plan allows service users and members of the public to assess how the agency is performing in operating its key services, managing reforms and the agency finances.

The business plan will be available electronically on www.gov.uk and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS583]

Motoring Agency Business Plan 2018-19

I am pleased to announce the publication of the 2018-19 business plans for the Department for Transport’s Motoring Agencies - the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

The business plans set out:

the services each agency will deliver and any significant changes they plan to make;

the resources they require; and,

the key performance indicators, by which their performance will be assessed.

These plans allow service users and members of the public to assess how the agencies are performing in operating their key services, managing reforms and the agency finances.

The business plans will be available electronically on www.gov.uk and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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