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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
23 July 2018
Volume 645

Written Statements

Monday 23 July 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Business Policy

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I will this morning lay before Parliament a draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill which establishes a register of the beneficial owners of overseas entities that own UK property. This follows the commitment made at the anti-corruption summit in 2016 to establish such a register, in order to combat money laundering and achieve greater transparency in the UK property market.

Overseas entities will be required to register their beneficial ownership information with Companies House before obtaining legal title to UK property via the land registries. Overseas entities that own UK property when the requirements come into force, as well as any overseas entities that subsequently acquire UK property, will be required to register (and regularly update) their beneficial ownership information before they can undertake certain transactions with that property, such as selling or leasing the land, or creating a legal charge over the land, such as a mortgage.

This will deliver a world-first register, and builds upon the UK Government’s global leadership in tackling corruption, ensuring that the UK continues to be a great place to do business.

The draft Bill will be published with accompanying explanatory notes, an overview document and impact assessment and research report on the potential impacts. The draft Bill will undergo pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that it is robust and workable. The Government intend to introduce the legislation early in the second Session of this Parliament.

[HCWS897]

Cabinet Office

Engaging the Devolved Administrations

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I wish to update the House on recent and ongoing engagement between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations and my intentions for maintaining and strengthening intergovernmental relations moving forward.

The UK Government are committed to strong and effective relations with the devolved Administrations of the United Kingdom. As we leave the EU, and in the years ahead, we must continue to strengthen the bonds that unite us, because ours is the world’s most successful union.

It is imperative that, as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the EU, the needs and interests of each nation are considered and that the UK Government and devolved Administrations benefit from a unified approach wherever possible. That is only possible through the strength of our relationships and continued constructive engagement through a number of fora at ministerial and official level.

As chair of the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU negotiations (JMC(EN)), I seek to provide through these meetings the opportunity for meaningful engagement at the right time, to focus discussion on the most pertinent issues, understand where positions between the Administrations differ and find and build on common ground. JMC(EN) has met on five occasions so far this year, to discuss the progress of EU negotiations as well as domestic issues arising from the UK’s departure from the European Union. It is my intention to convene another meeting in September and that the Committee should continue to meet regularly as we approach exit day.

Meetings of JMC(EN) have allowed for considerable progress in a number of shared priority areas, including agreement on a set of principles for establishing common UK frameworks for certain powers as they return from the EU. They also enabled an agreement with the Welsh Government on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the establishment of a new ministerial forum on EU negotiations (MF(EN)) and official-level technical working group sessions to enhance engagement with the devolved Administrations on the UK’s negotiating position. This forum has met on two occasions—in Edinburgh and London—since it was set up in May. The next meeting is due to take place in Cardiff on 1 August and the forum will continue to meet regularly, while remaining flexible to the emerging rhythm of negotiations.

Meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on Europe (JMC(E)) also continue to be held in advance of each European Council meeting, providing a forum to discuss the UK Government position on issues being discussed at the European Council that are of an interest to the devolved Administrations.

Officials from all Administrations continue to work together to take forward EU-exit related programmes of work including on frameworks. Recent frameworks engagement has included a number of substantive multilateral discussions on areas where legislative frameworks are envisaged, in whole or in part. We will continue to discuss these areas with the devolved Administrations over the summer.

UK Government officials worked closely with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to develop the provisions that are now in the EU (Withdrawal) Act. While we were able to reach agreement with the Welsh Government, it is disappointing we were not able to reach that same agreement with the Scottish Government. The Northern Ireland civil service has been kept fully informed of the progress of discussions, but it would be for an incoming Northern Ireland Executive to engage with this agreement. This agreement is without prejudice to the re-establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive and the intergovernmental agreement remains open to incoming Ministers in a future Northern Ireland Executive. The Government remain committed to the full restoration of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, as the Prime Minister clearly set out to the people of Northern Ireland and the political parties, during her visit of 19-20 July.

The UK Government will continue to seek legislative consent for Bills according to the established practices and conventions, listen to and take account of the views of devolved Administrations, and work with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland officials on future legislation, just as we always have.

The UK Government and devolved Administrations are also working together to amend laws that would not work appropriately when we leave the EU to ensure we have a fully functioning statute book.

The Cabinet Office works closely with the Scotland Office, the Wales Office and the Northern Ireland Office in overseeing intergovernmental relations and the devolution settlements, as well as in ensuring the UK Government advance the interests of each nation within a stronger United Kingdom. The territorial Secretaries of State engage not only with the devolved Administrations but with stakeholders across the devolved nations, ensuring that the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are fully and effectively represented in the UK Government.

The UK Government also recognise the need to ensure our intergovernmental structures continue to work effectively. The Prime Minister led a discussion on the issue at the plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee on 14 March, attended by the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales. Ministers agreed that officials should take forward a review of the existing inter- governmental structures and the underpinning memorandum of understanding and report their findings to the Committee in due course. This work is now under way, with UK Government officials working closely with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations.

My Cabinet colleagues of course continue to engage with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations on a regular basis on a wide range of policy matters relating to EU exit and ongoing Government business.

[HCWS905]

Defence

Reserve Forces and Cadets Association External Scrutiny Team Report 2018

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I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of a report into the condition of the reserves and delivery of the Future Reserves 2020 programme compiled by the Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations external scrutiny team.

I am most grateful to the team for its work. In particular, I thank Lieutenant General Robin Brims, who has led the team since 2012, as he leaves that role. I will take some short time to consider the report’s findings and recommendations and will provide a full response to the team in due course.

[HCWS903]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council

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The United Kingdom’s (UK) permanent representative to the European Union, Sir Tim Barrow, represented the UK at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC). It was chaired by the High Representative and Vice President of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.

Current Affairs

Ministers reviewed the situation in Gaza and the meeting of the Joint Commission of the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPoA) in Vienna on 6 July. The UK reported on the Western Balkans summit that took place in London on 9 and 10 July. Ministers noted that the EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting and Somalia Partnership Forum would take place in Brussels on 16 July.

Eastern Partnership

Ministers discussed the Eastern Partnership ahead of the Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting that will take place in October. They reaffirmed the commitment of the EU to the region, to the reform agenda, and to the priorities identified as the ‘20 deliverables for 2020’, to achieve a stronger economy, governance, connectivity and society. The Council confirmed the continuing relevance of a tailor-made and differentiated approach for each of the six countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) in their relations with the EU. Ministers noted the progress made in the six countries but also underlined the need to step up reforms in areas such as governance, justice, the fight against corruption, economic reform and the business environment. They expressed particular concern over the situation in the Republic of Moldova. Finally, Ministers highlighted the importance of using the opportunity that the 10th anniversary of the partnership in 2019 would present, to highlight the EU’s commitment to the region.

Libya

The HRVP reported back on her visit to Libya on 14 July. Ministers reiterated their support for the Secretary General of the United Nations’ (UN) special representative, Ghassan Salame. Ministers stressed the need to accelerate work towards elections and that a proper constitutional and legal framework must be in place before they take place. They welcomed the resolution of the recent crisis in the oil crescent but underlined the importance of addressing the causes. Ministers agreed that the EU should increase its work with the UN to ensure that revenues from oil are distributed in a transparent manner and highlighted the results of the EU’s work on the ground on migration.

Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea

During discussions on the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), Ministers reiterated their full commitment to support efforts towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the EU’s readiness to facilitate steps towards this objective. In line with the EU’s policy of critical engagement, Ministers underlined the importance of continuing to maintain pressure through sanctions, while keeping channels of communication open. They also agreed to encourage the DPRK to sign and ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty.

The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council adopted conclusions on the International Criminal Court on the 20th anniversary of the statute of Rome;

The Council adopted a decision and regulations on Maldives restrictive measures;

Iran: blocking statute: The Council indicated its intention not to object to the Commission delegated regulation;

The Council adopted a decision on the extension of tariff preferences to the Western Sahara in the association agreement with Morocco to the Western Sahara;

The Council endorsed the Common Foreign and security policy report 2018;

The Council adopted negotiating directives for the HRVP to negotiate an enhanced partnership and co-operation agreement with Uzbekistan;

The Council approved the opening of an EU delegation to Turkmenistan;

The Council agreed the proposal to open an EU delegation to Kuwait;

The Council concluded the partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Singapore;

The Council adopted al-Qaeda restrictive measures.

[HCWS896]

Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care Update

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The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) published its second annual report on 4 May 2018, which covered the period from 1 July 2016 to 30 November 2017. The programme is led by the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Bristol and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of NHS England.

As I outlined to the House on 8 May (Official Report, 8 May 2018, Vol. 640, Col. 545), the report makes a series of national recommendations that are aimed at NHS England, as well as health and care commissioners and providers.

This Government are committed to reducing the health inequalities that people with learning disabilities face, and reducing the number of people with learning disabilities whose deaths may have been preventable with different health and care interventions.

There is already a considerable amount of work underway to address the issues raised in the second annual report of the LeDeR. The Department is working with NHS England and other system partners to agree meaningful actions to each of the nine recommendations, and our response to the report will be published after summer recess.

[HCWS906]

Home Department

EU Settlement Scheme

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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary laid before Parliament on Friday 20 July a statement of changes in immigration rules [Cm 9675] concerning the EU settlement scheme for resident EU citizens and their family members. The Government also laid before Parliament on Friday 20 July the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, which provide for the fees and fee exemptions for the scheme.

As set out in the statement of intent published on 21 June 2018, and in my oral statement that day about the scheme (columns 508-520), the EU settlement scheme will be opened on a phased basis from later this year and will be fully open by 30 March 2019, and this will be preceded by a private beta phase to enable us to test the relevant processes and ensure that they work effectively. These measures, together with the Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 on biometric enrolment for the scheme, which were laid on 2 July under the affirmative procedure, will enable this private beta phase to begin from 28 August 2018.

I am very grateful to the 15 public sector organisations set out in the statement of changes in immigration rules which have agreed to take part in the private beta phase. They are 12 NHS Trusts and three universities in the north-west of England, whose relevant employees and students will, if they wish, be able to apply for status under the EU settlement scheme during this period, It is appropriate that the national health service and the higher education sector, which both benefit so greatly from the contribution of EU citizens, should help in this way to establish the EU settlement scheme. As indicated in the statement of intent, we will provide further details in due course of our plans for the phased roll-out of the scheme.

We also continue to expand our wider communications about the EU settlement scheme to ensure that EU citizens and their family members living in the UK are aware of it and of how it will operate, but are also reassured that, in line with the draft withdrawal agreement, they will have plenty of time (until 30 June 2021) in which to apply for status under the scheme.

[HCWS901]

Government Transparency Report

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I have today laid before the House the third iteration of the Government transparency report on the use of disruptive and investigatory powers (Cm 9609). Copies of the report will be made available in the Vote Office.

In view of the ongoing threat from terrorism, including five attacks in the UK since the previous publication of this report, and the persistent threats from organised crime and hostile state activity, it is vital that our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies can use disruptive and investigatory powers to counter those threats and to keep the public safe. This report sets out the way in which those powers are used by the agencies and the stringent safeguards and independent oversight which governs their use.

As this report shows, there has been a marked increase in the use of certain powers since publication of the second iteration in 2017. This is largely a reflection of our commitment to disrupt and manage the return and threat posed by UK-linked individuals in Syria and Iraq.

This Government remain committed to increasing the transparency of the work of our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and this next iteration of the transparency report is a key part of that commitment.

Publishing this report ensures that the public are able to access, in one place, a guide to the range of powers used to combat threats to the security of the United Kingdom, the extent of their use, and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure they are used properly.

[HCWS900]

Justice and Home Affairs Post-Council Statement

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The first meeting of EU Interior and Justice Ministers during the Austrian presidency took place on 12 and 13 July in Innsbruck. A senior Government official represented the UK for Interior day. The Secretary of State for Justice represented the UK on Justice day.

Interior day focused on the follow-up to the June European Council on migration. Discussion reflected on the progress made since the 2015 migration crisis, and the challenges that the EU continues to face. There was broad consensus on the need for strong external border protection, as well as the establishment of regional disembarkation platforms. Member states agreed that the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) reforms, including Dublin IV, should be negotiated as a package. The UK continues to support a comprehensive approach to migration but does not support a mandatory redistribution system within the EU and has not opted into the Dublin IV regulation.

The lunch debate was centred around anti-Semitism and European values. A number of Jewish organisations presented to Ministers their view of the situation for Jews in Europe. Ministers agreed on the importance of combating anti-Semitism in all its forms, and noted the importance of combating online hate speech. The UK condemns all forms of extremism.

Community policing and human trafficking was the final discussion on Interior day, where Ministers discussed practical methods to improve trust between police forces and communities.

Justice day began with a consideration of the Commission’s e-evidence proposals. The UK is currently considering whether to opt in to the e-evidence regulation. Member states considered the opportunities and challenges in negotiating a bilateral EU agreement with the US to enable direct execution of requests for electronic evidence, including concerns over fundamental rights. The Secretary of State for Justice intervened to set out the progress to date on the UK-US agreement, noting the passage of the CLOUD Act in the US and offering to share UK experience to support the Commission.

During the discussion on “Enhancing judicial co-operation in civil matters”, the Commission urged ambition in adopting e-Codex (e-Justice Communication via Online Data Exchange) and the greater use of videoconferencing under the two proposed regulations on service and taking of evidence. The Secretary of State for Justice noted that the proposed regulation for taking of evidence would mean that where evidence is being obtained directly by a court from a person domiciled in another member state, the person from whom the evidence is requested will be compelled to provide it, and that the implications of this will need to be considered. He also expressed the UK’s view that consideration needs to be given to the proportionate costs of e-Codex in relation to requests being served through unsecure post.

Justice day ended with a working lunch on “Mutual recognition in criminal matters”, during which Ministers discussed the areas of judicial co-operation that would require a strengthening of mutual trust.

[HCWS899]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Local Government Update

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Professor Alexis Jay’s report (2014) into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and Louise Casey’s follow up report (2015) exposed the serious systemic failures by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to protect vulnerable children from sexual exploitation.

In response, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the then Secretary of State for Education took immediate action to protect the children of Rotherham. In February 2015, they appointed commissioners to take over all of the authority’s executive, and some of the non-executive, functions and drive a programme of improvement.

With the support of commissioners, the council has made steady and significant progress in its improvement journey. As a result, my predecessors were able to return functions to the council on four separate occasions: 11 February 2016, 13 December 2016, 21 March 2017 and 12 September 2017.

In her recent progress reports (February and May 2018) and letter (21 March 2018), lead commissioner Mary Ney has recommended that the intervention in Rotherham can now be concluded: “the political and senior officer leadership of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is able to function and continue its improvement without the need of Commissioner oversight.”

The evidence provided to support these recommendations, includes the report of the independent health check, which was undertaken in February 2018 and supported by the Local Government Association. Furthermore, in January 2018 Ofsted rated Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s children’s services as ‘good’.

As this is a joint intervention with the Department for Education, together with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), I have carefully considered the evidence put forward by commissioners. We have also met with them to discuss their recommendation in more detail. In addition, we have also met the Leader and Chief Executive of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council in person and received assurances from them that they are confident the council is now in a position to drive forward and deliver its own improvement agenda.

As a result of this robust evidence provided by commissioners and the positive conversations with the council, I am pleased to announce that I am minded to exercise my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to revoke the Direction of 26 February 2015 as amended, and remove commissioners from the council and hand back the remaining executive functions to the council.

However, I am mindful that the decision to hand back the remaining functions, particularly children’s services, is a significant one. Therefore, I am also announcing that I am minded to put a new Direction in place which requires Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to undertake an independent review before 31 March 2019 when the new Direction expires. This will enable a last check of the council’s performance once the commissioners have left.

I am inviting the council to make representations on these proposals, which will be considered as part of my final decision.

We are determined to protect children from harm, and we will do everything we can to prevent this from happening again—either in Rotherham or elsewhere. Government Departments are working collectively to ensure that the National Crime Agency’s Operation Stovewood, and victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, have the support that they need. The Home Secretary has written recently to Rotherham and the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner confirming Government’s commitment to working closely with Rotherham over the coming years to assess the demand on services, to encourage as many victims as possible to come forward and to provide support—financial and otherwise—where it is appropriate to do so. To date, the Home Office has provided £12.4 million of police special grant funding towards Operation Stovewood. The Department for Education is providing additional funding of up to £2 million to Rotherham’s children’s social care services, over the four year period 2017-21, for additional social workers to work with children in need of support as identified through Operation Stovewood. The Ministry of Justice has provided £1.6 million to the Police and Crime Commissioner to commission additional services locally and also committed around £549,000 extra funding to provide specialist support, including for the provision of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers. NHS England has worked with regional Health and Justice Commissioners and partners to reconfigure existing resources to support victims in Rotherham, providing £500,000 from 2018 to 2020 to support the sustainability of this project.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.

[HCWS904]

Prime Minister

Intelligence Policy Oversight

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The 2016-17 annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee was laid before Parliament on 20 December 2017 (HC 655). I responded to this on the same day in a written ministerial statement. The Government have given additional consideration to the Committee’s many important conclusions and recommendations, and I have today laid a further Government response before the House (Cm 9678).

Copies of the response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS902]

Women and Equalities

Government Response to Caste Consultation

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No one should suffer prejudice or discrimination on any grounds, including any perception of their caste. In March last year, the Government launched a consultation on “Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law” to obtain the views of the public on how best to ensure that appropriate and proportionate legal protection exists for victims of caste discrimination. The consultation ran in total for six months, closing in September 2017.

I am publishing the Government’s response to that consultation today, together with an independent analysis of the consultation that provides an assessment of all the responses. This report should be read in conjunction with the Government’s response.

The consultation considered different ways of protecting people from caste discrimination. The first option was to implement a duty, which was introduced by Parliament in 2013, to make caste an aspect of race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The second was to rely on emerging case law which, in the view of Government, shows that a statutory remedy against caste discrimination is available through existing provisions in the Equality Act, and to invite Parliament to repeal the duty on that basis.

The consultation received over 16,000 responses, showing the importance of this issue for many people in particular communities. About 53% of respondents wanted to rely on the existing statutory remedy and repeal the duty, 22% rejected both options (mainly because they wished the Government to proscribe the concept of caste in British law altogether) and about 18% of respondents wanted the duty to be implemented. The arguments put forward for these different views are set out in the Government’s response and in more detail in the analysis.

The Government’s primary concern is to ensure that legal protection against caste discrimination is sufficient, appropriate and proportionate. After careful consideration of all the points raised in the consultation, we have decided to invite Parliament to repeal the duty because it is now sufficiently clear that the Equality Act provides this protection. The judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Tirkey v. Chandhok shows that someone claiming caste discrimination may rely on the existing statutory remedy where they can show that their “caste” is related to their ethnic origin, which is itself an aspect of race discrimination in the Equality Act.

The judgment is binding on all who bring a claim in an employment tribunal, has status equivalent to a High Court decision, and is based on the application of case law decided at a higher level. The Government consider, having also taken into account the consultation responses, that the Tirkey judgment serves as a welcome clarification of the existing protection under the Equality Act—helping to deter those inclined to treat others unfairly or unequally because of conceptions of caste. We believe that the decision makes the introduction of additional statutory protection in the Equality Act unnecessary.

In light of changed circumstances since 2013, we intend to legislate to repeal the duty for a specific reference to caste as an aspect of race discrimination in the Equality Act once a suitable legislative vehicle becomes available .

We recognise that this is an area of domestic law which may develop further, and have carefully considered the full terms of the Tirkey judgment. We will monitor emerging case law in the years ahead.

To make clear that caste discrimination is unacceptable we will, if appropriate, support a case with a view to ensuring that the higher courts reinforce the position set out in Tirkey v. Chandhok.

In order to ensure that people know their rights and what sort of conduct could be unlawful under the Equality Act, we also intend to produce short guidance before the repeal legislation is introduced. We want this to be of particular use to any individual who feels they may have suffered discrimination on grounds of caste. It should also help employers, service providers and public authorities who are outside those groups most concerned with caste and who may have little awareness of caste divisions.

I am placing a copy of the response and accompanying report in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS898]