Wednesday 19 December 2018
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Higher Activity Radioactive Waste
As a pioneer of nuclear technology, the UK has accumulated a legacy of higher activity radioactive waste. The UK’s radioactive waste inventory is currently stored securely at various sites. However, each of these sites requires constant maintenance and protection to keep it safe and secure. Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest way to dispose permanently of higher activity radioactive waste.
Today I am publishing the policy paper, “Implementing Geological Disposal: Working with Communities: An updated framework for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste”. This document sets out the Government’s overarching policy framework for managing higher activity radioactive waste through implementing geological disposal and how we will work with communities to find a location for a geological disposal facility. Alongside publishing this policy paper, the Government are also today launching a new national consent-based process to find a site to host a geological disposal facility (GDF).
A GDF will be a highly engineered structure at a depth of between 200-1,000 metres, which will be used to isolate radioactive waste behind several barriers to ensure that no harmful amount of radioactivity ever reaches the surface environment. The structure will feature vaults and tunnels built inside a suitable, stable rock, within which packaged solid waste in purpose-built containers will be emplaced and then backfilled and sealed.
The GDF will be a multi-billion-pound infrastructure investment and will provide skilled jobs and benefits to the community that hosts it for more than 100 years. Delivering a GDF to dispose permanently of the UK radioactive waste inventory is a responsible public service to future generations and will contribute to the Government’s industrial strategy, which identified the key role the nuclear sector has in increasing productivity and driving clean growth.
There is no preferred location for a GDF and we are adopting a consent-based process to identify a suitable area to host the facility. A suitable site will be determined jointly by the willingness of a community to host a GDF and the suitability of the geology in the area. The process to find a location for the GDF will be led by RWM (Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority), who will work in partnership with local authorities and other community representatives to find a suitable location. Local authorities will have a key role in the decision-making process and will be required to test public support in the local area for a GDF being located there before construction can proceed.
The policy paper we are publishing today applies to England only. Although the “Working with Communities” consultation was published jointly by the UK Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, as the Northern Ireland Executive is currently suspended, a decision cannot be made at this time on further involvement by Northern Ireland in the geological disposal programme. Future policy decisions in relation to geological disposal in Northern Ireland would be a matter for the Executive.
The Welsh Government consulted in parallel with the UK Government on a similar process for engaging with communities and is separately publishing a summary of the issues raised, and their response to the consultation. Scotland has a different policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste and is not participating in the geological disposal programme.
Alongside the policy paper, I am also publishing separately a summary of the responses to the working with communities policy consultation that took place between 25 January and 18 April 2018 and the Government’s response to the key issues raised. The responses to the consultation demonstrated broad support for the approach to engaging with communities. We have accepted the feedback we received on the benefit of providing additional detail and clarity on parts of the process for working with communities, particularly in relation to the role of principal local authorities.
Alongside this, RWM is publishing a suite of documents that include detailed guidance on how they will work with communities and regional reports from its national geological screening exercise, which will provide communities with information about the geology across the country. RWM is also publishing a draft site evaluation framework document for consultation, which describes the factors that it will take into account in evaluating prospective sites for a GDF.
The response to the consultation on the draft national policy statement (NPS) for geological disposal infrastructure and the BEIS Select Committee report on the NPS will be published separately in due course, alongside a revised proposal for the NPS. Overall, the draft NPS is fit for purpose and contains the adequate levels of guidance and details needed by the developer.
The Energy Council will take place on 19 December 2018 where the deputy permanent representative to the European Union will represent the UK.
The presidency will provide an oral report on those elements of the EU clean energy package which have already been agreed: the regulation on governance of the energy union; the directive on energy efficiency; and the directive on renewable energy. It will also provide an oral report on the state of play on those elements of the clean energy package which have yet to be agreed: the regulation on the internal market for electricity; the directive on common rules for the internal market in electricity; the regulation on risk-preparedness in the electricity sector; and the regulation on the Agency for the Co-operation of Energy Regulators. An oral report will also be provided by the presidency on the state of play on the regulation on the Connecting Europe Facility.
The European Commission will give a presentation on the strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction in accordance with the Paris agreement. This will be followed by an exchange of views.
Information will be provided by the presidency on the revision of the gas directive and by the presidency and Commission on the follow-up to the hydrogen initiative which was launched at the informal meeting of energy ministers in September 2018. The European Commission will provide information on European leadership in renewables in relation to marine energy and recent developments in the field of external energy relations. Information will be provided by the Italian delegation on the 2019 election of the next international renewable energy agency (IRENA) general director. The Romanian delegation will provide information on the work programme of the incoming Romanian presidency.
Government Transparency and Accountability
Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the public and the media to hold public bodies to account. Such online transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and to ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.
In December 2017, the Prime Minister wrote to Cabinet colleagues setting out her priorities to progress the Government’s transparency agenda. In support of this agenda, the Cabinet Office has created a central transparency data team to oversee transparency leads and publishers across central Government Departments.
Progress has been made by central Government Departments in publishing core transparency data. The Government also continue to look at how the range of information published by Government can be improved and made as useful as possible to the public, press and Parliament.
The following subject areas include documents and data that the Government are due to publish, or which have recently been made available.
Diversity in public appointments
In the public appointments diversity action plan published in December 2017, we published diversity data on current public appointees for the first time and committed to updating this annually. Figures for 2018 were published on 3 December 2018 on gov.uk alongside the report from the Lord Holmes review about opening up public appointments to disabled people.
Alongside the routine quarterly ministerial data on external meetings, gifts, hospitality and overseas travel, the Government are publishing today an updated list of ministerial responsibilities.
The Government are publishing an annual update to the salaries of Ministers, which confirms the entitled and claimed salaries for ministerial posts, and reflects the ministerial pay freeze since 2010.
The Government are also making available the agenda and the meeting notes of July’s co-ordination committee meeting between the Government and the DUP.
Transparency of senior officials and special advisers
Special advisers are a critical part of the team supporting Ministers. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support. The Government are currently reviewing how special advisers’ terms can be made clearer and more consistent, such as by adopting a guide on parental leave rights. The Cabinet Office will today be publishing the annual list of special advisers and their costs.
Departments are also publishing routine quarterly data on gifts and hospitality received by special advisers, as well as information on special adviser meetings with senior media figures.
Alongside quarterly data on the travel, expenses and meetings of senior officials and on business appointment rules advice, the Government are also publishing the annual list of salary details for senior public officials in Departments and arm’s length bodies earning £150,000 and above, reflecting the enhanced scrutiny we have put in place for these most senior posts.
Transparency in the civil service
The Government will be publishing new annual figures on gender pay differentials across the civil service. The overall civil service gender pay gap continues to narrow and we will continue to work hard to balance out wages at all levels of government.
The Government will be publishing the civil service people survey results. The people survey is an annual survey of our employees’ attitudes and experiences of working in the civil service. The survey ran across 102 civil service organisations in October. A total of 302,170 people participated in the survey, an overall response rate of 66.4%.
The Government will also be publishing the 2018 fraud landscape annual report, which is part of their continuing commitment to be transparent in the way that they fight fraud in the public sector. The report highlights the progress the Government are making as part of their strategy to find more fraud in central Government, by initiatives such as raising standards and building counter-fraud capability.
The Government will also be publishing the annual state of the estate report, which gives an overview of progress made on improving the efficiency and sustainability of the Government estate during 2017-18.
Copies of the associated documents will be published on gov.uk and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008, “State of the Estate in 2017-18”. This report describes the efficiency and sustainability of the Government’s civil estate and records the progress that the Government have made since the previous year. In 2017-18 the central estate reduced in size by 2% and is now 7.7 million square metres and central estate operating costs reduced by £22 million, in real terms. At the same time, vacant space across the Government estate is just 1.4%, compared to 7.1% in the private sector. The estate continued to contribute to sustainability targets set by the Government, showing a 39% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 55% reduction in paper use and a 40% reduction in waste since 2009-10. The report is published on an annual basis.
Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations Scrutiny Team
I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of a letter that I have sent to Major General Simon Lalor, the chairman of the reserve forces and cadets associations external scrutiny team, to respond to the recommendations contained in the team’s 2018 report. I am most grateful to the team for their work.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
25 Year Environment Plan
Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill
This Government have made a commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. This landmark environment Bill—the first in over 20 years—will be an essential step towards this goal. We will support increased biodiversity and thriving plants and wildlife. We will continue to clean up our air and our water, creating a healthier environment. We will cut down unnecessary resource use and waste, reducing our impact on the world and shaping a more efficient, sustainable and competitive economy.
The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill is one key aspect of this ambitious broader environment Bill that will be introduced early in the second parliamentary Session. These draft clauses will put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of Government. It will create a framework for environmental governance, demonstrating this Government’s strong commitment to maintain environmental protection as we leave the EU. The draft Bill applies to England and to reserved matters UK-wide.
First, these draft clauses include a set of environmental principles to guide future policy making. It also requires the Government to publish a policy statement which sets out how Ministers should interpret and apply these environmental principles. Ministers will need to have regard to this statement when developing their policies. Through this approach, we will firmly embed practical and proportionate environmental considerations in policy making.
Secondly, these draft clauses commit Government to have a plan for improving the environment and to regularly review progress on this plan, publishing a set of indicators. This creates a strong, long-term, economy-wide incentive for action on our landmark 25-year environment plan, which sets crucial changes in motion to improve the environment within a generation.
Thirdly, the draft Bill creates a new, statutory and independent environment body: the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). This new domestic body will support and uphold standards as we leave the EU. The OEP will be able to scrutinise and advise on environmental legislation and the current 25-year environment plan; investigate complaints; and take enforcement action, including through legal proceedings if needed. Establishing the OEP will ensure that this and every future Government benefit from the expertise vested in a consistent, long-term, independent body on the environment.
In developing these draft clauses, we have drawn on the views and expertise of as many stakeholders and members of the public as possible. We held a 12-week consultation on “Environmental Principles and Governance after EU Exit” from May to August 2018. The monumental 176,746 responses we received are proof of the strength of public interest in this new legislation.
We welcome the forthcoming parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that these draft clauses makes the best possible contribution to protecting our environment as we leave the EU. By creating a new, independent body to hold the Government to account on environmental law, incorporating environmental principles in law, and committing the Government to making and reviewing plans to improve the environment, we are taking unprecedented steps forward to help secure a cleaner, greener future.
Water conservation report: action taken and planned by Government to encourage the conservation of water
Today I am also laying before Parliament the water conservation report. This report provides an account of the work done by the Government to encourage the conservation of water since the publication of the previous report in 2014. The report will also set out the Government’s current plans for water conservation and policy options for demand management in the future.
The report sets out the importance of demand management, including leakage, in securing resilient water supplies to respond to future challenges including climate change, population growth and the need to protect the environment better. These changes are needed alongside new water resources infrastructure, including reservoirs and water transfers, to provide a plentiful supply of water for future generations.
The report commits the Government to launch a call for evidence on setting an ambitious target for personal water consumption. Alongside this, we will hold a consultation to examine the policy options required to support the target. This will include exploratory questions around the labelling of water-using products, improving building standards, the future role of metering, and behaviour change including improving information for consumers.
The report also endorses the water companies’ commitment to reducing leakage by 50% by 2050.
The next EU Environment Council will take place on 20 December, in Brussels. I will be attending to represent the UK. The Scottish Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment (Mairi Gougeon MSP) will also attend.
On environment items, the main legislative focus will be on the partial general approach on the regulation on LIFE (the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU).
The primary focus for climate items will be a general approach on the regulation on C02 standards for heavy-duty vehicles, followed by an exchange of views on the Commission’s long-term strategy for EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Any other business (AOB) will include information from the presidency on the following legislative proposals:
regulation on taxonomy;
directive on single use plastics;
regulation on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (recast);
regulation on the alignment of environmental reporting obligations;
directive on drinking water (recast);
regulation on C02 standards for cars and vans.
The Commission and presidency will then report on the following two recent international meetings:
convention on biological diversity (CBD) (Sharm EL-Sheikh, Egypt, 17 to 29 November 2018)—including an update from the UK on the outcomes of the London conference on the illegal wildlife trade held on 11 and 12 October;
COP 24 United Nations framework convention on climate change (Katowice, Poland 2 to 14 December).
The Commission will then provide information on the implementation of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change.
Following this, there will be an update from the presidency on the outcome of two discussions held at the informal meeting of Environment and Transport Ministers (Graz, 29 and 30 October 2018):
the future of European environment policy—towards an eighth environment action programme;
Graz declaration—“Starting a new era: clean, safe and affordable mobility for Europe”.
There are currently three member state led AOBs:
adoption of measures at EU level to create the conditions for discontinuing the use of environmentally problematic substances contained in plant protection products (tabled by Belgium);
intermediary sessions of the meeting of the parties to the convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context (Espoo convention), and the protocol on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) (Genevea, 5 to 7 February 2019) (tabled by Lithuania);
the environmental and climate ambition of the future common agricultural policy (tabled by Germany, supported by Luxembourg).
Finally, the Romanian delegation will provide information on its upcoming presidency.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
OSCE Ministerial Council
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director-General Philip Barton represented the United Kingdom at the 25th Ministerial Council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Council was held in Milan on 6 and 7 December and hosted by Italian Foreign Minister and OSCE chairman-in-office Enzo Moavero Milanesi. The Council is the key decision-making body of the OSCE and was attended by Ministers and senior officials from across its 57 participating states. A number of new commitments were agreed at the Council, including on safety of journalists, combating violence against women, combating human trafficking (with a focus on unaccompanied children) and on control of small arms and light weapons and stockpiles of conventional ammunition. Strong focus at the Council was also maintained on the crisis in and around Ukraine.
Philip Barton’s intervention at the Ministerial Council highlighted threats to sovereignty, threats of confrontation and threats to democracy and fundamental freedoms. He reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United Kingdom continues to condemn Russia’s destabilising actions in eastern Ukraine and their illegal annexation of Crimea. I have stated this position clearly at previous OSCE Councils, and recent events in the sea of Azov meant it was important to strengthen this message and call on Russia to release the 24 detained crew members immediately and unconditionally. The EU, US and Canada reiterated this request, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland directly challenging Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Russia’s violations of international law. The UK co-sponsored a side event hosted by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the militarisation in Crimea and the sea of Azov. Barton discussed with other officials how best to promote peace and stability in Ukraine and met FM Klimkin to highlight the UK’s support for Ukraine. The UK is the second largest contributor of secondees to the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, with 68 UK citizens currently seconded, which plays a crucial role in monitoring the security situation. Following an international recruitment competition a UK secondee joined the mission this autumn as deputy-chief monitor.
The UK national statement also highlighted the need to work through the OSCE to resolve protracted conflicts. In Milan, Barton and other “Friends of Georgia” met Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani to express support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Philip Barton also expressed strong support for the OSCE “Human Dimension”, underlining the importance of implementation of OSCE commitments on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms for security and stability across the OSCE region.
In the Human Dimension there was significant progress at the Council on media freedom, with a consensus decision of all 57 countries addressing the role of the OSCE with respect to safety of journalists. The decision reaffirms the importance of free media and of protecting the safety of journalists, recognises the increased and evolving risks to which journalists are exposed and calls on all OSCE states to condemn unequivocally attacks and violence against journalists and take effective measures to end impunity for such crimes. This is the first new OSCE human rights commitment since 2014 and negotiations were led by the UK ambassador as chair of the OSCE Human Dimension Committee. OSCE representative on freedom of the media Harlem Desir welcomed the decision as a strong signal of support to journalists exposed to difficult conditions in the OSCE region and praised the UK role in helping to deliver it. The result is both timely and in line with the Foreign Secretary’s decision to raise the profile of media freedom as a UK policy priority.
In the OSCE’s political-military dimension, the UK, along with NATO allies, repeated calls for modernisation of the Vienna document, an instrument increasing transparency of military activities. Barton underscored the value of the structured dialogue as a confidence building process aimed at reducing risk and rebuilding trust. He regretted the Ministerial Council’s failure to agree a decision on risk reduction.
The OSCE is an important regional organisation charged with enhancing security and co-operation from Vancouver to Vladivostok, with a network of field operations in western Balkans, central Asia and the Caucasus. An important element in the international rules-based order, the OSCE’s substantial body of commitments extends across its comprehensive security remit. The UK welcomes the progress made in Milan to reaffirm the role played by the OSCE in this regard.
The global coalition against Daesh has continued to make significant progress in recent months. Since counter-Daesh military operations began, the coalition and its partners in Syria and Iraq have recaptured the vast majority of Daesh territory.
Daesh now remain in control only of a small pocket of territory in eastern Syria. Progress has been made towards forcing Daesh out of Hajin town; the RAF and coalition forces are helping to consolidate contested areas and push out towards outlying Daesh positions.
In Iraq, we are proud to have played a leading role in supporting Iraqi security forces to liberate their country a year ago. A new Government of Iraq have now been formed following the elections in May. I congratulate President Saleh and Prime Minister Abdul Mehdi. We look forward to working with them and their Government.
In Syria, the conflict has entered its eighth year. Our ongoing counter-Daesh efforts there, while successful, are part of a wider context of a brutal civil war. We are playing our part in alleviating humanitarian suffering across Syria. We also continue to push for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and protects all Syrians. To that end, we remain committed to supporting the UN-led Geneva process.
As I have previously made clear to the House, the Government are prepared for Daesh to evolve and change its form as it loses territory. Over the past year, we have seen that beginning to take place. Daesh is no longer operating in the open. It is beginning to transition to a clandestine network.
Much remains to be done in the global campaign against Daesh and we must not lose sight of the threat from Daesh. This Government will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people and our allies and partners. I will provide an oral update on our counter-Daesh efforts in the new year.
Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, are today publishing the 2018 annual report on progress against the UK’s fourth national action plan on women, peace and security.
Published on 18 January 2018, the national action plan sets out the Government’s objectives on the women, peace and security agenda for the period 2018-22. This is the UK Government strategy for how we will meet our women, peace and security commitments under UN Security Council resolution 1325 to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution and in building peace and security.
The report published today outlines our progress against the national action plan over the last 12 months, including our work in our nine focus countries of Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Syria. It is centred around seven strategic outcomes where we expect to see progress over the five year duration of the NAP.
Electronic copies of the annual report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and it is available on gov.uk.
Attachments can be viewed online at: https://www.parliament. uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-12-19/HCWS1208/.
College of Policing
The 2017-18 annual report and accounts for the College of Policing (HC 1767) is being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
On 25 April 2018 the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse published its interim report [HC 954] . I am pleased to announce that the Government are today publishing their response [Cm 9756] .
Tackling the horrors of child sexual abuse is a priority for this Government. I warmly welcome the work of the inquiry in helping us to understand what has gone wrong in the past and learn lessons for the future. The interim report is a significant step in that process. We have responded to all the recommendations directed at Government. These cover: the child migration programme: the civil and criminal justice systems; the health sector; our international obligations; the police; children’s homes; disclosure and barring; and support for victims and survivors.
I am particularly pleased to announce that the Government will establish a scheme to ensure that former child migrants receive a payment as soon as possible in recognition of the fundamentally flawed nature of the historic child migration policy.
I would like to pay tribute to all the victims and survivors who have come forward to share their experiences with the inquiry and without whom the inquiry’s work would not be possible.
A copy of the Government’s response will be available on gov.uk and copies will also be available in the Vote Office.
EU Documents and Evidence Regulations
The Government have decided to opt into the amendment to the EU service regulation but not at this stage to the amendment to the EU taking of evidence regulation.
The Government recognise that both regulations underpin the effective operation of the EU civil judicial co-operation framework by providing rules that enable documents to be transmitted between and served in other member states and that enable evidence to be obtained from witnesses in one member state for use in proceedings in another member state.
The decision on whether to opt into these proposals was made in the context of the UK’s objective to seek a mutually beneficial arrangement for the continuation of an effective civil judicial co-operation framework as the UK leaves the EU.
The Government are conscious also that there are a number of issues in both proposals that will need to be resolved during the negotiations, not least the question of the expense of the proposed system to digitise the means of transmission and communication under both regulations. It recognises that the time is right to consider updating both regulations to facilitate the greater use of IT but the exact way of doing that needs to be examined further.
While the Government are content to opt into the proposal regarding the service regulation, they decided that their concerns with the revised taking of evidence regulation proposal need to be resolved before the UK can consider participating in that proposal. In particular, the Government are concerned about the proposal’s removal of the requirement of voluntary participation of witnesses giving direct evidence to a court of a different member state, and the resulting implication that coercive measures could be used in such circumstances.
Notwithstanding the opt-in decision relating to taking of evidence, the UK Government consider it is in the interests of the UK to participate in negotiations on the amendment of both regulations.
In the event of the negotiations leading to a successful resolution of the Government’s concerns, and should the taking of evidence proposal be adopted during the proposed implementation period, the UK may decide to seek a post-adoption opt-in at that point.
Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017
The Ministry of Justice is today publishing a consultation paper: Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 Implementing the Act. The paper seeks views on the Department’s proposals for bringing the Act into force with the object of implementing the Act as smoothly and successfully as practicable. The consultation period will be eight weeks. The consultation paper is available free of charge on gov.uk.