Monday 16 April 2018
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
I hereby give notice of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s intention to seek an advance from the contingencies fund in the amount of £4,626,000 for FY 2018-19 to provide financial cover to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
This cash advance is sought to enable the ONR to undertake project activities planned for FY 2018-19 (i.e. from April 2018 onwards) to ensure the UK can have a domestic nuclear safeguards regime that meets international nuclear safeguards standards in place from day one of exit.
ONR has already made progress towards delivering this regime with financial support provided from the previous contingencies fund advance, notice of which was given on 2 February, and which covered the period up to the end of March 2018.
The Government’s commitment to establish a new domestic safeguards regime was announced on September 2017 and forms a vital part of this Department’s EU exit preparations for the UK’s nuclear industry.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £4,626,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £4,626,000 will be met via repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.
The cash advance will be repaid upon receiving Royal Assent on the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and the Supply and Appropriation Bill.
Mechanised Infantry Vehicle
I am pleased to inform the House that on 31 March the British Army took a major step forward in securing a potential deal to get a fleet of new armoured vehicles by re-joining the Boxer programme, which could support at least 1,000 British jobs. The UK will re-join the programme and explore options to equip the Army with the state-of-the-art 8x8 troop carriers (mechanised infantry vehicles) to modernise its vehicle fleet. The UK played a major role in the design, development and testing of Boxer, and would reassume the rights it had as an original project partner, thus allowing the option for the vehicle to be built and exported from the UK. The intention would be for at least 60% of the manufacturing to be within British industry, sustaining and developing UK industrial capabilities, facilities and skills.
A capable mechanised infantry vehicle is integral to the Army’s new strike brigades. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) conducted a comprehensive market analysis of mechanised infantry vehicles in-service, entering service and in development. The analysis was guided by the British Army’s requirements and how best to deliver them. The Boxer is the stand-out performer across a wide range of requirements including protected mobility, capacity, flexibility, utility and agility, and is a worthy choice for the British Army, who deserve the very best equipment. With the ability to rapidly adapt to suit our soldiers’ needs and perform across multiple climates and terrains, the Boxer would provide the British Army with a credible medium capability, enabling commanders to provide an appropriate level of response to emerging threats.
The MOD is now taking forward negotiations with the organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) and Artec to look at options to purchase the vehicles. Any deal will be subject to commercial negotiation and assessment in 2019 and the aim is to have the first vehicles in service with the Army in 2023.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council: 16 April 2018
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 16 April. 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 Luxembourg.
The FAC will discuss current affairs, Russia, Iran, Syria, western Balkans and the European neighbourhood instrument.
Foreign Affairs Council
Ministers will have a substantive discussion of the EU’s five principles on Russia to follow up on the robust conversation at the March European Council on the challenges Russia poses, particularly in light of the Salisbury incident. The five principles are full implementation of Minsk agreements; closer ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbours; strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats; selective engagement with Russia on certain issues; and support for people-to-people contacts.
Ministers will discuss the political situation in the western Balkans ahead of the EU28-Western Balkans summit in Sofia. We can expect the discussions to focus on the EU-facilitated dialogue on Kosovo/Serbia as well as the risks of instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, if there is no agreement on electoral reform ahead of October’s elections.
Ministers will discuss shared concerns around Iran’s destabilising regional activity and the EU’s role in responding to this.
Ministers will discuss recent developments in Syria.
European Neighbourhood Instrument
Ministers will discuss the European neighbourhood instrument (ENI) and the next Multi-annual financial framework (MFF). The UK will have leave the EU before the MFF comes into effect and does not therefore expect to have a strong say in decisions but will note the importance of dedicated funding for the European neighbourhood in the next MFF.
The FAC is expected to adopt conclusions on Syria, South Sudan, malicious cyber-activities and chemical disarmament and non-proliferation.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Building Safety Update
In my update on building safety on 15 March 2018, I informed the House that a glazed fire door from Grenfell Tower manufactured by Manse Masterdor, around five years ago, and marketed to resist fire for at least 30 minutes failed testing after approximately 15 minutes.
The Government immediately sought advice from the independent expert panel on the test findings to see whether any action was required as a result. The panel consulted representatives from the Metropolitan Police, the Government’s chief scientific advisers and the National Fire Chiefs Council. Following that, the Expert Panel advised that there was no change to the fire safety advice that the public should follow, and further investigations into doors from Manse Masterdor and others should be undertaken.
As I outlined in the statement on 15 March, we have taken forward further investigations. These investigations are focusing on fire doors manufactured by Manse Masterdor. This company is no longer trading and is not associated with organisations of a similar name.
We are engaging with the industry, and have also established a technical group of experts who are able to provide us with specialist advice on fire doors.
We have secured capacity to test fire doors at accredited test houses and testing is ongoing.
We are working closely with devolved Administrations and are engaging with local authorities who are supporting us in our investigation.
We continue to consult the expert panel as these investigations progress. I committed to updating the House before the end of April and can confirm that at the present time, the Expert Panel’s advice remains unchanged.
As a result of my Department’s investigations to date, the Expert Panel has advised me that further testing is required, which will take time. I intend to update the House further as and when the expert panel provides further advice, or no later than the end of May.
I want to reassure hon. Members that my Department is doing all it can as quickly as possible to properly investigate these issues and to make sure that where needed appropriate action will be taken.
As part of our wider effort to ensure that people are safe now and in the future I commissioned an independent review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt to look at the regulatory framework around construction, maintenance and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety. The Government welcomed an interim report, published in December 2017, and has already taken action to implement some of its recommendations, including by recently publishing a consultation on the use of desktop studies to assess the fire performance of construction products. A final report is expected in the late spring and the Government stand ready to consider and respond to this report. Public safety is paramount and I will continue to keep the House updated on progress.