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Written Statements

Volume 639: debated on Monday 23 April 2018

Written Statements

Monday 23 April 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Business Update

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is the regulator responsible for financial reporting and corporate governance in the UK, as well as the designated Competent Authority for independent audit in the UK.

The Government have invited Sir John Kingman to conduct a comprehensive independent review of the FRC. Sir John Kingman has a wealth of private and public sector experience which he will bring to bear in his independent review. He will be supported by an advisory board which he will convene.

The review is part of the Government’s industrial strategy aim of creating a business environment that works for everyone, in which independent and effective regulation plays a key role.

The UK has a strong reputation as a dependable place to do business, but this needs to be continuously updated, and it is important to ensure that our regulators continue to drive high standards.

The root and branch review will assess the FRC’s governance, impact and powers, to ensure it is fit for the future. It is intended that the review will include a call for evidence, and will be completed by the end of 2018.

Further detail regarding the scope of the review is set out in its terms of reference, which have been placed in the House Library.

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Intellectual Property Office: Performance Targets

As an executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Intellectual Property Office sets targets which are agreed by Ministers and laid before Parliament. For 2018-19 its targets are:

At least 85% of our customers will rate us 8-10 or higher in overall satisfaction.

We will have prepared the systems supporting our trade-marks and designs services for the UK’s exit from the EU and the implementation of the EU trade mark directive.

We will offer faster handling of patent applications, by providing an examination report with a search report when both are requested at the application date, and meeting at least 90% of requests for an accelerated two-month turnaround for search, publication and examination.

We will ensure that all of the Intellectual Property Office’s Statutory Instruments relating to EU exit are drafted and ready for laying as required by the legislative authorities.

Sixty per cent of the businesses we reach and survey confirm that they have made an informed decision on their IP.

We will deliver our part of the creative industries sector deal and alongside industry develop appropriate voluntary measures targeting: online market places, social media and digital advertising.

We will develop and launch ‘The Deal’, clarifying the mutual expectations between IPO and its employees.

We will externally validate and benchmark our provision for the mental health of our people.

We will demonstrate an efficiency gain of at least 3.5%.

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Defence

Contingency Liability

I have today laid before Parliament a departmental Minute describing a Contingent Liability (CL) in the region of £150 million associated with the Initial Airport Services Contract (IASC) at RAF Brize Norton. This initiative is part of programme GATEWAY, which was established to develop an enhanced operating model for the station.

The IASC will ensure the continuity of existing contracted technical support services following the expiry of the current Multi Activity Contract (MAC) on 30 September 2018. It will also offer benefits through the contractorisation of additional services, including elements of ground engineering, logistics and support administration. By expanding the existing MAC service provision, it will release military liability to meet the strategic defence and security review 2015 growth plan and release civil service posts in support of the planned civil service headcount reduction. It will also provide a value for money service contract through rationalisation and economies of scale.

The maximum CL is in the region of £150 million, which ensured healthy competition from prospective tenderers. There is also a further CL of £2,880,000 associated with the indemnity given to contractors for terminal redundancy liability associated with ex-authority staff.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before the House, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the Minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

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Submarine Delivery Agency

In the strategic defence and security review 2015, the Government committed to creating the dedicated submarine delivery body in order that we can better manage the complex submarine procurement, support and disposal programmes. We have established the Defence Nuclear Organisation, led by the Director General Nuclear, in the Ministry of Defence and the Submarine Delivery Agency was formally established as an executive agency on 1 April 2018.

We will create a high-performing delivery organisation capable of managing industry to schedule and cost in order to provide world-class capabilities to support our deterrent and submarine operations. The agency has the authority and freedom to recruit and retain the best people to manage the submarine enterprise.

The SDA is held to account through performance indicators and metrics under the following themes:

Corporate performance. To confirm the SDA is delivering the benefits associated with being established as a dedicated delivery organisation focusing on the submarine enterprise; and to ensure that the SDA has the right people with the right skills in the right place to deliver the agreed programme of work.

Performance against the acquisition programme. To provide confidence in the SDA’s ability to deliver the programme to the agreed performance, time and cost.

Performance against the in-service support programme. To provide confidence in the programme.

Supply chain. To assure the SDA’s relationship with industry and the supply chain to achieve cost-efficient delivery for the SDA’s customers, as well as protecting our ability to deliver underwater capability in the future.

Safety and security. To confirm that the SDA is embedding a culture that achieves continuous improvement in safety and security through a robust and consistent application of processes and development of lessons learned.

Further details of the SDA’s governance structure, function and policies are contained in the framework document. The agency’s strategic objectives are set out in the corporate plan. I have placed copies of both documents in the Library of the House.

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Media

On 11 April 2018, under section 57(1) of the Enterprise Act 2002, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) formally brought to my attention the acquisition by Trinity Mirror plc of certain publishing assets of Northern & Shell. The CMA considered that the transaction may raise public interest considerations for the Secretary of State under section 58 of the Act. The CMA has also launched an initial investigation into the competition aspects of the merger.

Having considered a broad range of evidence, I have today written to the parties to inform them that I am minded to issue a public interest intervention notice on the basis that I have concerns that there may be public interest considerations—as set out in the Act—on two grounds that are relevant to this merger that warrant further investigation.

The first public interest ground is the need for free expression of opinion, and concerns the potential impact the transfer of newspapers would have on editorial decision making. In coming to this decision I have given consideration to the issue of formal mechanisms to ensure that editorial independence is maintained at the acquired titles.

The second ground is the need for a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers, to the extent that it is reasonable or practicable. In coming to this minded-to decision I have taken into account that the merged entity would own the largest share of national titles within the UK newspaper market, owning nine out of 20 national newspaper titles, and become the second largest national newspaper organisation in circulation terms, with a 28% share of average monthly circulation based on circulation figures for 2017 among national titles, including daily and Sunday titles.

Any decision to intervene would require Ofcom to assess and report to me on the public interest considerations and the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction.

In line with the guidance that applies to quasi-judicial decisions, I have invited written representations from the parties and will aim to come to a final decision on whether to intervene in the merger shortly.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

NATO Parliamentary Assembly

The right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) has replaced my hon. Friend the Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

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Safe Schools Declaration

I am today announcing that the UK will endorse the Safe Schools Declaration underlining our political support for the protection of schools during military operations and armed conflict. Furthermore, the UK will encourage relevant international partners to endorse the declaration.

The Safe Schools Declaration is a pledge; an assurance from Governments to take all feasible measures to protect schools during armed conflict.

The provision of education in conflict zones and humanitarian situations puts affected populations back on track, establishes routine and purpose, shapes belief in the future, and supports the process of reconstruction.

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Prime Minister

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Last week I hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (19-20 April)—the largest summit of its kind in our country’s history. Leaders from 53 countries gathered together with over 15,000 delegates, including at 90 side events, demonstrating that the Commonwealth is united not only by a common history, but by a common future.

We put young people at the heart of the summit, recognising the need to ensure the actions we took would renew the Commonwealth and promote its relevance to its people, 60% of whom are under 30.

We agreed a range of actions to build a Commonwealth which is fairer, more sustainable, more secure and more prosperous. These commitments were captured in a communiqué and accompanying leaders’ statement. I have placed a copy of both in the House of Commons library.

A central theme of our leaders’ meeting was our resolve to stand together in defence of the rules-based international system.

To build a more secure future, we expressed our unanimous opposition to the use of chemical weapons, and committed to strengthen the effective implementation of the chemical weapons convention. We also agreed the ‘Commonwealth Cyber Declaration,’ the world’s largest and most geographically diverse intergovernmental commitment on cyber-security co-operation and capacity building, helping to protect our people and businesses from ever-more sophisticated digital threats. The UK has committed £15 million to help member states boost their cyber-security capabilities.

To build a more sustainable future, we celebrated every nation of the Commonwealth having now ratified the Paris Agreement, and recommitted to pursuing efforts to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We also took specific action to protect our oceans and launched the Commonwealth Blue Charter, supported by the UK and Vanuatu’s Clean Oceans Alliance. A number of Commonwealth countries have made a series of commitments to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, including Papua New Guinea, which has banned plastic bags; Belize, which has banned plastic bags, forks and other single-use items by 2019; and New Zealand, which has announced a ban on microbeads. The UK pledged to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, as well as announcing funding for research into tackling marine litter. With over 90% of Commonwealth citizens living in malaria-affected countries, leaders pledged to halve malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023.

To build a more prosperous future, we made a unanimous statement on the need to fight protectionism —the first Commonwealth summit to do so. We launched initiatives to break down barriers to trade through the promotion of common standards across the Commonwealth, to address systemic barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the economy, and to boost youth employment through a new Commonwealth apprenticeships programme. We also pledged to ensure that all girls and boys across the Commonwealth will be able to access at least 12 years of quality education and learning by 2030. The UK has committed a further £212 million to ensure no child is left behind.

To build a fairer future, we agreed the critical importance of the full social, economic and political participation of all our citizens for democracy and sustainable development to thrive. In my speech to the joint forum plenary on Tuesday 17 April, I set out that nobody should face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love, and announced a programme of support for any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that permits discrimination, including against same-sex relations.

The week also provided the opportunity for bilateral meetings with Commonwealth leaders. I met Caribbean leaders on Tuesday 17 April and gave an absolute commitment that the Government will do whatever it takes—including, where appropriate, payment of compensation—to resolve the anxieties and problems which some of the Windrush generation have suffered. My right hon Friend the Home Secretary will be providing a further update in Parliament later today.

We expressed deep gratitude for everything that Her Majesty the Queen has done to nurture this remarkable organisation, and agreed that the next Head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

As we begin the UK’s two-year chair in office, I look forward to working with all our Commonwealth partners in fulfilling the commitments we have made, and preparing for the next meeting in Rwanda, in 2020.

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Transport

Light Dues

A strong and growing maritime industry is vital to the economy of the United Kingdom and it is critical that we treasure and protect this vital artery if we are to remain a world-leading maritime centre.

The work of the General Lighthouse Authorities, which provide and maintain marine aids to navigation and respond to new wrecks and navigation dangers in some of the busiest waters in the world, is crucial to underpinning that vision while maintaining our vigorous safety record and continuously improving standards of safety.

Reductions in the three General Lighthouse Authorities’ running costs have enabled the UK to reduce light dues for four successive years. For 2018-19 I intend to freeze light dues rates at 37.5p per net registered tonne. This will mean that light dues will have fallen by 28% in real terms since 2010.

Light dues rates will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that the General Lighthouse Authorities are challenged to provide an effective and efficient service which offers value for money to light dues payers.

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